She was an unlikely queen.
The orphaned daughter of Jewish parents, Esther was raised by her uncle Mordecai in Shushan. As the years passed, Esther grew into a stunningly beautiful woman. Yet she never dreamed she would someday wear a jeweled crown. She never imagined she would bear the weight of her people’s destiny on her slim shoulders.
After King Xerxes banished his first queen for disobedience, he ordered his officers to bring all the fair young women of the land to his harem. He wanted to select a new queen. Because of her beauty, Esther was taken into the palace of Xerxes.
Surrounded by the opulence and idolatry of Persia, Esther likely felt lost and alone. She had no fellowship with her people, no chance to attend the synagogue or hear the sacred scrolls of the Torah read aloud. Instead, she was surrounded by hundreds of beautiful women, all competing desperately to win the king’s favor. To a Jewish girl from a humble background, it must have been a huge culture shock.
By the grace of God, Esther found favor in the king’s eyes. She was crowned queen of Persia. Because of her uncle’s advice, she never revealed her Jewish heritage. Yet, beneath the swirling current of life in the royal court, trouble was brewing.
After Mordecai refused to bow to him, a powerful politician named Haman was very offended. Enraged, he decided to punish Mordecai and his entire people. After getting carte blanche from the king, he arranged for a wholesale massacre of the Jews.
Desperate, Mordecai and every self-respecting Jew in Shushan dressed in sackcloth and began to fast and pray. Word reached Esther in the palace from Mordecai. He explained the dire situation and pleaded that Esther go before the king and intercede for her people.
At first, Esther refused. After all, the king had not summoned her for thirty days. What if he was angry with her? If she simply walked into his throne room, she risked immediate death.
But Mordecai appealed to her with a heart-wrenching plea that rings through the ages.
“…Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14)
Humbled, the queen sent word back to Mordecai. She would go in to the king. “And if I perish, I perish.”
As we are thankful to know, this story ends happily. When she approached the king, he held out his royal scepter and offered her anything she wanted. Esther courageously invited the king and Haman to two banquets, where she begged the king to spare her people’s lives.
Surprised, King Xerxes granted her request. Haman was punished, the Jews were saved from genocide, and Mordecai was promoted. Ever since, the Jewish people celebrate Esther’s courage in a yearly feast called Purim.
So what does Queen Esther teach us about courage?
1) Courage stays true to its own.
Even in the luxury of the palace, Esther never forgot where she came from. Though separated from her people, she remained a loyal Jew. She never lost her faith or her identity as one of God’s people.
2) Courage leans hard on God’s strength.
Before Esther went in to ask the king, she instructed Mordecai to gather all the Jews of Shushan. She wanted them to fast and pray for God’s intervention. And she and her maids did the same. When she approached King Xerxes, she went in the strength of her God.
3) Courage acts prudently.
Using her God-given wisdom and experience, Esther carefully planned the best strategy for asking the king. She didn’t blindly rush into the throne room. Instead, she prepared a rich banquet, trusting that God would hear her prayers and grant her an audience with the king.
4) Courage knows which voices to ignore and which one to obey.
If Esther had listened to the inner voices of doubt and fear, she would never have dared to go before King Xerxes. Yet she’d learned long before to ignore those voices. She knew there was only one still, small voice that mattered. And that was the voice of God. When her very life was on the line, Esther chose to trust God’s wisdom and yield her life to him.
What about you? Are you facing a tough situation in your life right now? The secret to Queen Esther’s courage was not her beauty, or wisdom, or position. It was her faith in an unshakeable, unstoppable, unchangeable God.
If you want to have courage, remember whose child you are. Walk in his strength and wisdom. And, above all, learn to listen for the still, small voice of God. And when you hear it, obey.