Esther was a Jew who grew up as an exile in Persia hundreds of years before Christ.
King Xerxes was the powerful King at the time who ruled over 127 provinces.
Queen Vashti was the beautiful wife of Xerxes who refused to show off her beauty in front of King Xerxes party guests which set in motion the rise of Esther.
Mordecai was Esther’s older cousin.
Haman held a royal title with the Amalekites, who were long standing enemies of the Jews.
These are the characters of an epic story that brings us from a wicked, evil plot to a risky, life-saving commitment.
At the end of a 7 day binge party, with the King’s judgment impaired by alcohol, Xerxes makes an arrogant and voyeuristic order to have Queen Vashti, his extravagantly beautiful wife, to parade provocatively in front of all of his guests.
Sadly, the Persia of Xerxes’ day was much like what too much of our world is today. Women were used, abused and exploited with very little rights.
She refuses to do it, which infuriates and embarrasses the King and she is banished from his presence, demoted and no longer queen.
The King begins to look for a new queen.
Those who become candidates to become the new queen have to go through twelve months of beauty treatments before being seen by the king.
Esther becomes one of the candidates.
And because of her beauty Esther is chosen by King Xerxes to become queen.
Meanwhile Mordecai, Esther’s older cousin, saves the King by alerting him of an assassination attempt on his life. This heroic deed is recorded in the record books, which becomes an important part of this story.
At the same time, Haman is given a high position in the kingdom by the King and becomes annoyed when Mordecai refuses to kneel down to him. Haman’s anger leads him to plot the execution of all the Jews of the kingdom.
Here’s the CRISIS: The extermination of the Jews.
To try to stop the execution of all the Jews, Mordecai calls on his younger cousin, Queen Esther to intercede to the King.
There are two problems to that request.
One, the King does not know that Esther is a Jew.
Two, she could be killed because it was illegal, upon penalty of death, for anyone, even her, to appear before the king uninvited.
As a Jew, Esther is convicted to do something, but there is much risk to actually following through.
And here we have this very familiar, human tension: We have CONVICTION, but will it turn into a COMMITMENT to act?
In the words of Thomas Carlyle, “Conviction is worthless unless it is converted into commitment.”
Esther is queen and she knows the right thing to do. But life is good, life is comfortable and here in lies the tension.
Have you ever known the right thing to do, but you are comfortable, and to do the right thing might inconvenience you?
Mordecai is concerned about this tension between conviction and commitment and he sees Esther’s reluctance to approach the King so as an older cousin he challenges her with some stern, challenging words.
“If you keep quiet at a time like this, God will deliver the Jews from some other source, but you and your relatives will die; what’s more, who can say but that God has brought you into the palace for just such a time as this?”
With these words, Esther makes the COMMITMENT to appeal to the King.
And the COST is she could be demoted as queen
The CONSEQUENCES could be she could be killed.
Before she approaches the king, she asks Mordecai to organize a time of prayer and fasting for her. She is well aware that she needs God’s favor if she is to succeed.
She needs another C word: COURAGE
To do anything significant and worthy we must allow courage to win over fear.
In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.”
The great 20th century theologian Karl Barth is famous for saying, “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”
Meanwhile, Haman’s hatred for Mordecai is growing so he has a special gallows built beside his house on which to hang Mordecai.
At the same time, King Xerxes cannot sleep and asks for the record books to be read aloud to him. (I could think of better bed time reading material.)
But while the record book was being read out loud the deeds of Mordecai in saving the king in the past are read.
In an ironic and almost humorous twist of fate, the King asks Haman what should be done to a man who the King wants to honor and Haman, in his arrogance, thinks the king is referring to him and advises a lavish display of wealth and praise to be bestowed on the man publicly.
The King orders Haman to do this for Mordecai. Imagine the shock and humiliation Haman must have felt,
COURAGE: Esther finally goes to the King and reveals that she is a Jew and Haman has plotted to kill them all.
CHANGE: The kings responds by not killing Esther, but honors her request and save the Jews and Haman ends up getting hanged on the gallows he had built for Mordecai. (That is the definition of irony!)
God brought Esther into the palace for such a crisis as this so that the Jews would be saved, but she had to go through the 6 C’s of CHANGE, where a conviction had to move to a commitment where she had to count the cost and be willing to face the consequences.
It’s an amazing story of a crisis that led to a miraculous change:
But there is another CRISIS I would like to talk about. It’s a modern day crisis that you and I are in the middle of.
There are 163 million orphans in the world and counting
Every 14 seconds a child is orphaned by AIDS
There are over 400,000 children in the U.S. foster system
There are over 100,000 children in U.S. foster system waiting to be adopted
An estimated 80% of children who are sex trafficked come from the U.S. foster system.
When children “age-out” of orphanages around the world they often become homeless or become part of the slave trade or sex trade.
My nephew and niece, Jacob and Kelly Ricketts adopted two beautiful boys, who were 1 and 2 years old at the time and the boys had already been in 8 different foster homes.
The plight of abandoned and orphaned children in our world globally and locally is the CRISIS of our day.
CONVICTION: From the teachings of the prophets to the teachings of Jesus and those who followed him, the scriptures have been very clear that we should live with a deep conviction to be a defender of the orphan.
“Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families.” Psalm 68:5-6
“Defend the cause of orphans…” Isaiah 1:17
“…speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.” Proverbs 31:8
“Pure, unstained religion, according to God our Father, is to take care of orphans and widows when they suffer and to remain uncorrupted by this world.” James 1:27
“Rescue those who are unjustly sentenced to death; don’t stand back and let them die. Don’t try to disclaim responsibility by saying you didn’t know about it. For God, who knows all hearts, knows yours, and he knows you knew! And he will reward everyone according to his deeds.” Proverbs 24:12
And here we are again at the tension between CONVICTION and COMMITMENT.
COMMITMENT: God is asking those of faith to move from conviction, knowing the right thing to do, to commitment, actually doing the right thing.
God is asking us to get involved in another C word, and that is to CARE!
Change the future of a vulnerable child.
Accept an orphan or vulnerable child into your family.
Reinforce orphans and the families who have accepted them.
Energize others to care for orphans.
Change the future of a vulnerable child globally by sponsoring a child through Compassion International, by supporting a home that rescues girls from the horrors of sex trafficking or invest in an orphanage where abandoned children are given love and support.
Change the future of a vulnerable child locally by being a mentor through Big Brothers, Big Sisters, or volunteer at a local Boy’s and Girl’s Club or sign up to be a student leader at your local church.
Accept an orphan into your family globally by adopting the most vulnerable and at risk children.
Accept an orphan into your family locally by adopting or fostering a child or becoming a SAFE family.
Reinforce orphans and the families who have accepted them by taking mission trips to orphanages and supporting adoptive, foster and SAFE families. Become a CASA. (Court Appointed Special Advocate)
Energize others to care for orphans by sharing with others what you have learned, being a voice and an advocate to get those around you involved.
What will this commitment cost us?
COST: Our TIME, TALENTS and TREASURES.
But I don’t know what could be a better investment of these things?
Jesus said, “Don’t invest your time, talents and treasures in temporary things that are fragile and vulnerable to going away.”
Jesus gave great investing advice when he said, “Invest in things that will outlast this world. Invest in heavenly treasures where the dividends continue to pay throughout eternity.”
ORPHANS are those eternal treasures he was talking about.
If those of us who call ourselves followers of Christ lead the way humbly, we can change this crisis.
Imagine if every person of faith made a COMMITMENT in this CRISIS to CARE?
Hundreds of millions of volunteers using their time, talents and treasures would be mobilized.
If 1 out of every 3 churches in America would find 1 family to adopt 1 kid there would be no orphans in America.
History has shown that people of faith have tended to be late to arrive to the major crises of the world, but it’s not too late.
There is a Chinese Proverb that says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.”
If the 138 million Americans who call themselves serious, committed followers of Jesus would engage locally and globally in this CRISIS, we will begin to see some miraculous CONSEQUENCES:
The consequences in the words of the prophet from the 58th chapter of Isaiah will be, “Those of us of faith will be known as those who can fix anything and we will be known as restorer of old ruins and re-builders and renovators who are making our communities livable again.”
Jesus said that when we have that kind of reputation, then God will be glorified.
And the orphans and most vulnerable will be the leaders of CHANGE:
Dr. Scott C. Todd gives us some prophet words when he writes,
“No major spiritual, social or economic change of any significance can happen in this world without the permission of children.
We tend to think of children in terms of needs and vulnerabilities. They need guidance, education, nourishment, and protection from the evil threats of this world. Absolutely true. But we also need to recognize the catalytic power in children for change. They are God’s agents and opinion-shapers. We need to engage, invest, sacrifice and re-focus and recognize the power of children to change the world.”
From CRISIS to CHANGE.
It will take COURAGE and CARE.
You may be wondering why I shared with you the Esther CRISIS before I shared with you the orphan CRISIS.
Well, one reason is because it’s a powerful study of COURAGE, but the main reason was because Esther was an ORPHAN and her older cousin, Mordecai adopted and invested in her.
I wanted you to see the power of an orphan.
An orphan saved an entire nation, but it took someone believing in her.
History is full of orphans who have made this world a better place.
Moses, who left a comfortable, safe life and led Israel out of slavery, was an orphan
Esther, who had the guts to stand up to a king and risk death to save a nation, was an orphan
Saint Nicholas, the patron saint and protector of children, was an orphan
Founding U.S. father, Alexander Hamilton and two U.S. presidents, Andrew Jackson and Herbert Hoover, were orphans.
Nelson Mandela was an orphan.
Eleanor Roosevelt was an orphan.
J.R.R. Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings and the key to leading C.S. Lewis to become a follower of Jesus which led to so many important Christian writings, was an orphan
Musicians, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, Johann Sebastian Bach, Ella Fitzgerald, Faith Hill, Tina Turner, were orphans.
George Washington Carver, scientist, inventor, was an orphan, and if he really invented peanut butter, then I owe him an eternal debt.
For all of you addicted to your cell phones, Steve Jobs was an orphan.
The power of an orphan! The power of a child!
God leads by example on this because spiritually, we were all orphaned, and God adopted us.
“His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for us. And he did this because he wanted to!” Ephesians 1:5
And when we defend and adopt, we are being exactly like God.
He doesn’t want us to defend the orphan out of guilt, but out of love, because like God, we want to.
This is not about obligation but about opportunity.
This is not a burden but a blessing.
Don’t be overwhelmed by the numbers and statistics. Just take a step forward and do what you can.
“I am only one. But still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something: Yet, just because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something I can.” Helen Keller
MAY WE HAVE THE COURAGE OF ESTHER TO DO SOMETHING TRULY GREAT! May Esther 4:14 be paraphrased for our generation.
“If we keep quiet at a time like this, God will deliver defenseless orphans from some other source, but our spirits will shrivel and God’s credibility will die; yet who can say that God has not brought us, our global knowledge, our compassionate hearts and our blessed resources into this generation to defend the orphan and change the world for such a time as this?”