Emma Reilly – Gdansk, Poland
The story of Esther and Mordecai in the Old Testament has some beautiful things to teach us about men and women partnering together for the advance of God’s Kingdom.
The story takes place around 500 years BC. Esther is a young Jewish girl, living in the Persian city of Susa, after the Jews have been taken captive from Jerusalem many years earlier. Her parents have both died (we don’t know how) and she is being raised by her older cousin Mordecai. When the King of Persia becomes displeased with his wife and decides to dismiss her, Esther is taken to the palace, along with many other young virgins, to see if she will please the king.
As a young woman, she has lost her parents, her homeland and her freedom, and now she finds herself taken captive again, and about to lose her virginity to the King. Yes, she has 12 months of beauty treatments, but this is not the ultimate spa experience! She becomes a sex slave to the King, a man much older than her. She cannot marry another, and she can only see the king again at his invitation. What a loss of her hopes and dreams.
Mordecai also suffers here. We read that he raised Esther as his own daughter. He too would have had hopes for the future. Maybe to have family around in his old age, perhaps grandchildren. But Esther is taken from him, and he can no longer see her, face to face. What heartache and loneliness, after all he’s poured into her life.
But it is in this context that we see Esther and Mordecai partnering together to fulfil God’s call on their lives to rescue the Jewish nation from destruction. When Haman issues a decree to kill all the Jews, Esther approaches the King to beg for her people to be saved. Both Esther and Mordecai have a distinct part to play and neither can fulfil their role without the other. This is a Godly woman and a Godly man, walking well together in the purposes of God. I want to pull three things out of this story.
1) Operating from our new identity
Esther moves from being an unknown, Jewish girl to becoming the wife of the King of Persia. She takes on a whole new identity and operating from it is crucial in this story. She could have harboured resentment for the change that was forced upon her. She could have refused to fulfil her role as Queen, like her predecessor. But she doesn’t.
As Queen, she approaches the King to plead for her people to be saved. She recognises that her new identity is God given and for His purposes. She acts with great wisdom and grace in the way she approaches the King and she doesn’t dishonour him.
Mordecai too has a new identity at the beginning of this story. There’s no mention of him having a wife or children of his own, but he becomes a dad to Esther. And he operates throughout the story with a Father’s heart for her, even when she is taken from him – he visits the palace courts every day (for at least a year) to see how she is doing. The part that he plays flows from his new identity too, and his relationship with Esther is crucial in the story.
We too have been given a new identity in Christ. A royal position! We have been chosen as sons and daughters of the King and we each have a unique and shared role to play in advancing God’s kingdom on earth. As men and women, our new identity in Christ must totally shape our way of relating to one another. We are made for partnership, we are made to live and work in tandem.
Whatever our past or our natural tendencies, let’s operate from our God given identities and encourage one another to be all that God has called us to be.
2) People of courage
Despite knowing her new identity, Esther needs great courage to approach the King and beg for her people. The law states that anyone who goes before the King without a summons will be put to death, unless the king shows favour. Esther faces huge risk and shows amazing courage!
What about Mordecai? He asks Esther to go to the King, though he also knows the law and the risk. He loves Esther dearly and could very well keep her out of this, for he has faith that God will save the Jews by some other means if Esther doesn’t go to the King (Esther 4:14). His heart must have been heavy to involve her. And yet he does. He sees God’s unique calling upon her, and encourages her to step into it.
We need to be people of courage. I say this especially to us as women. Stepping into God’s unique call for us requires mountains of courage. Pressing on in the face of disappointment, fear and risk is no light thing. In the area of partnering with men, you may have faced difficulties. You may have been overlooked. But I want to encourage you to draw fresh courage from God to boldly embrace all that He has for you and to step forward.
And men, boldly release the women in your world to walk in the fullness of God’s call on their lives. You also need fresh courage. To partner well is to feel the risk and be willing to share the spotlight. But God has a unique role for you too to call out what God has placed in the women in your world – in your family, in your church – and to partner with them. God calls us all to be people of courage.
3) Mutual obedience
There is evidence in this story of mutual obedience too.
Esther obeys Mordecai when he tells her not to reveal her race (2:10, 2:20). But when he sends word about Haman’s wicked plan, and commands her to go to the King, they understandably exchange words! Mordecai challenges her, reminds her of her position and calls out the strength in her.
“Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”(4:14)
And her response? She tells Mordecai to organise a city wide fast – no food or drink for three days, after which she will go to the King. And we read, “Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.” We don’t read him debating that, hatching a fresh plan, just gathering the guys. He calls out the strength in her, she responds with faith and leads, and he follows her.
What a beautiful picture of partnering for the kingdom. What humble submission.
Ephesians 5:21 says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
1 Peter 5:5 says, ” All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.”
Esther and Mordecai act with humility and mutual submission toward sone another, and God indeed exalts them at the proper time. Esther continues as Queen and Mordecai becomes second in rank to the King. And a nation is saved.
Let’s be men and women who know who we are in Christ, encouraging one another to boldly press forward into all that God has purposed for us together.