By Roy Ciampa, Ph.D.
Armstrong Chair of Religion, Samford University
MORDECAI AND ESTHER
Esther 2:5–7; 4:8–17
The book of Esther does not explicitly mention God but rather implies that God works providentially to save His people. It includes a notorious example of someone manipulating the legal and political system for wicked purposes and several examples of people who engage in civil disobedience at the risk of their own lives to stand up for justice.
Queen Vashti risks death by refusing to be treated merely as a sexual object and as a result is thrown out of the palace and publicly shamed. Mordecai, out of commitment to his Jewish convictions, refuses to bow down to a government official, and that conscientious objection nearly results in his death and the deaths of all the Jews in the Persian kingdom.
Esther breaks the law by entering the king’s inner court uninvited, which could have resulted in a death sentence. Meanwhile Haman, a wicked official, manipulates the king as well as legal and political processes to destroy innumerable Jews out of a sense of personal spite and desire for revenge against one perceived opponent.
Our influence should be felt first and foremost in the family. (2:5–7)
Mordecai is shown to be a godly man who stepped up to serve as an adoptive father to his orphaned cousin. As a Jew living in exile with his people, he may well have had his own challenges in navigating life as part of a minority culture.
However, he understood he was responsible for his relatives, including members of his extended family who found themselves in need of help.
Here, early in the book, Mordecai acts boldly for the sake of his vulnerable relative. Later it will be Esther who acts boldly for the sake of Mordecai and all her vulnerable relatives. Seeing these two relatives taking turns at taking risks to help each other and others in need reminds us that our first responsibility is to have a positive influence within our family, including our extended family and our spiritual family.
We are called to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ who find themselves in need of our assistance. While our influence should extend beyond our family members, it begins with them.
Challenge others to do what is right. (4:8–14)
The wicked Haman had manipulated the king into ordering his government officials to destroy all the Jewish people because of his prejudice against Mordecai and his people. Mordecai informed Esther of the threat and urged her to plead with the king to save her people.
When Esther explained that taking that course of action could cost her very life, Mordecai challenged her to do what was right, regardless of the cost, reminding her that her life was in danger either way and that perhaps she had come to her position of power just for this moment of crisis.
Pray and fast for those you mentor. (4:15–17)
As in many mentoring relationships, wisdom and instruction did not flow in just one direction between Mordecai and Esther, but in both directions, given their mutual respect.
In these verses, it is Esther who directs and Mordecai who obeys. Esther stressed the need for fasting (with prayer implied) as the key to the success of her risky plan. Esther reminds not only Mordecai but us as well of the need to pray and fast for those we mentor and for the advancement of God’s Kingdom purposes through them.