Sunday, February 19, 2006

Esther - shining star?

Five Festal Garments
Esther. Calvin and Luther didn't preach it. John Piper hasn't published a sermon on it... though he has written two narrative poems on it. I really wish he would give us more on it - 200 on Romans, and none on Esther... C'mon, please show us how to do this book in a God-exalting way!!

Anyways, its a bit of a challenge. Its a book in the Bible that doesn't mention God, and yet we want to say that every book is about God. So how does that work?

Most of time its treated as an exemplary book for girls - "be like Esther"... except Esther is a really questionable hero. A Jewish girl who colours herself beautiful so she can be the wife of a foreign king. Commentator Barry Webb suggests that that makes her barely Jewish anymore. She and her step-dad/cousin Mordecai are both masters of deception and manipulation. Hardly models of godliness for Christian living...

So what do we do with it? I've come around to thinking that they key is in who the story is about. What? Well it starts with Mordecai who is a Benjamite, Son of Kish. The most famous Benjamite Son of Kish is King Saul. Up against the Son of Kish is Haman. Haman plots to destroy the Jewish people, trying to have them killed off. Once again God's people under fire. But there is more going on. Haman isn't just some enemy of God. Haman is an Amalekite, and moreover a son of Agag.

In Exodus 17 the Amalekites attacked Israel and war is declared against them in the LORD's name because they delayed Israel's progress into the promised land. Later in 1 Samuel 15 Saul, Son of Kish goes to war with Agag of Amaleke. Saul is sent to destroy the Amelekites but King Agag is preserved. For this Saul is rejected as King. And so when it comes to Esther we're plunged back into that old conflict once more. Only this time the Agagite is vanquiushed and the Jews are preserved by the Benjamite.

In Five Festal Garments, Webb suggests that Esther is a "garment of deliverance", a celebration of God's rescue of his people. In Esther we see God save the children of Isaac rather than have them destroyed by the sons of Esau (from whom Amalek comes). The memory of Amalek is blotted out and God's people can once more find rest - even as they stand in exile at Susa (Iran). God's people are judged but preserved. They are outside the hope of rest with God, and yet that promise remains. The hope of eternal rest for God's people with God still stands, Esther reminds us of that.

Today as we read Esther we are drawn to that same promise of rest - a promise that finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. A star shining much brighter than Esther, (whose name means "star")... Jesus shines at the blazing centre of all things for eternity. The hope of rest is the hope of Jesus Christ.

Is that all? What else? How does this shape our Christian worldview? And what do we do with that today, or on Monday morning? At work, at play? Esther is God's word useful for believers today.... gotta find out how...

Relatedly, something useful from David Field: God cares for cattle.