Ever gone through a wrenching time and wondered where God was in all of it? Ever felt piled onto with one problem after another? Ever felt like you were caught in a sailing ship being spun around by the perfect storm?
In the movie by the same name, when the storm hit we could barely see what was going on, barely hear the dialogue over the howling wind, pounding rain and crashing surf. Sometimes we are caught up in such events in our lives so that we can barely catch our breath and think.
Then, years later when there is the chance to look back on such a time, sometimes we can see that the hand of God was guiding the ship all along. God had a plan but used some alarming ways to get the ship to an unknown shore that was His chosen destination all along.
The Old Testament book of Esther will take us on such a voyage. The main characters and the Jewish people will find themselves in the worst part of the storm with evil forces threatening to destroy them. But, though never mentioned by name, God’s hidden hand will be seen directing the events. Even the events of the drunken banquet and bizarre divorce decree from the opening chapter will make perfect sense.
In Esther chapter two we find King Xerxes suffering from a marital hangover. Ever had one of those? You have a blow out argument with your spouse and end the evening not speaking to each other. The next morning you are filled with regret. Xerxes was in that boat. But what could he do?
He declared that Queen Vashti was banished, never to enter his presence again. Where can he find a wife to replace her? The dating scene is out. There’s no match.com or E-Harmony for him. Xerxes opted for a plan from his attendants that is one part beauty contest, one part an American-Idol-like talent search of the empire, and one part The Bachelor reality show. As this is carried out, we meet our main characters: Mordecai and his young cousin Esther.
Mordecai and Esther lived in the citadel of Susa, the heart of the capital city. Terrible tragedy had struck while Esther was a young child, both of her parents had been killed. In those days, that could have resulted in her becoming a beggar on the streets or being sold into slavery, probably forced prostitution.
Rather than let this happen, her older cousin Mordecai stepped in and raised her as his own daughter. He fully committed himself to her care, even through what followed next. A grown up Esther is caught up in the search for virgins to become the new queen. Her beauty became known to all and we are told that “won the favor of everyone who saw her.”
This says a lot about this young woman. Had it said that she won the favor of every man that saw her, that would make sense since she was a knock out. Even the head of the harem knew she was better than all the rest the minute he laid eyes on her. But since she won the favor of even the women who met her, this tells us that she was a humble, gracious and truly kind individual who won over even her competitors.
Esther was put through the same yearlong training and beauty treatments as the rest of the virgins in the harem. They were being prepared for a life as the Queen of Persia. Throughout this time, we learn something profound about Mordecai’s care – “Every day he walked back and forth near the courtyard of the harem to find out how Esther was and what was happening to her.” (Esther 2:11 NIV) He watched over her interests to the best of his ability.
Finally, after more than a year, Esther got her turn and won the king’s heart. You might think that Mordecai would be rejoicing! This is the storybook ending everyone might hope for. From a worldly point of view, Queen Esther is now set.
But a Jewish parent would have much more to worry about. How would Esther’s faith hold up in the pagan environment of the king’s palace? How would it hold up in the midst of the over-the-top materialism? How would she hold up in an intense political climate? How would she handle knowing that her husband as a Persian king would continue to have a harem of young virgins on the side to satisfy his lustful urges?
So, Mordecai kept up his daily patrol to keep tabs on and provide support for his younger cousin Esther. And, doing the right thing at the right time put him in the right place to save the king’s life. Mordecai overheard and was able to stop a plot to assassinate the king.
In this chapter we see God without His name ever being mentioned. Mordecai is our picture of God. His constant care, his hovering compassion and concern are just like God’s, as we see in Psalm 121:3 & 7-8: “He will not let your foot slip— He who watches over you will not slumber nor sleep. The Lord will keep you from all harm— He will watch over your life. The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”
In the well-known Twenty-third Psalm, the Shepherd Psalm, we read, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for Thou art with me.” In those dark times when all is swirling around us, God is still there even though we may not feel Him or see Him. The circumstances can drown out His voice just like the wind, waves and surf in The Perfect Storm.
But just like Mordecai, God is on the job. Mordecai was there to rescue Esther from a tragic life. He was there to tenderly nurture his little cousin. And he was there as she made her way through the contest for the queen and beyond.
In the same way, God is there, waiting for us to cry out for His help. He calls us to rest in Him, knowing that He holds our hand and will lead us through. Even in the midst of death, He will keep evil from coming to us. Death is inevitable; none of us will get out of here alive. But God can prevent the evil of anger and bitterness, loneliness and anxiety from consuming our lives. Rest in God and trust His guidance and soon He will being you to the peaceful shore of His good plan for your life.