During Queen Esther’s time, an advisor of her husband King Ahasuerus had a deep hatred for the Jews and came up with a plot to annihilate them. Ahasuerus’ advisor’s name was Haman, and he had been so successful at ingratiating himself with the king that he advanced him and established his authority over all of his princes.
Queen Esther’s cousin, Mordecai, played an important role in the story. Esther had been orphaned as a child and Mordecai, who was significantly older, took her under his wing and raised her. He was a devout Jew, and when Haman was at the king’s gate where Mordecai worked, Mordecai refused to bow down to him like all the others. This infuriated Haman, and so he devised a plan to get rid of Mordecai and all other Jews.
The king did not know that his lovely wife Esther was a Jew, because she had been chosen from among many virgins who had been selected to go before the king, and Mordecai had told Esther not to tell anyone of her heritage. Haman didn’t know of Esther’s nationality either, and so he went to the king and told him that the Jews did not have the same laws as the Persians, and did not observe the king’s laws, so it wasn’t in the king’s best interest to let them remain. He suggested that they be destroyed. To the king, this seemed agreeable enough, and so he authorized Haman to go and do so.
Now, the unfortunate thing was that any decree that was written in the name of the king and sealed with the king’s signet ring could not be revoked, and therefore, the plan to destroy the Jews was irrevocable. Mordecai informed Esther of the plot, and she then revealed her heritage to her husband and exposed Haman for the wicked enemy that he was. The king was so angry that he rose and strode out to the palace garden to think about it and determine what to do.
Haman took the opportunity to beg the queen for his life, but somewhere in the midst of the discussion, Haman lost his sense of propriety or his temper, for the Bible says that when the king returned, Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was. (Esther 7:8) It was apparently an assault, because the king accused him of such, and he was subsequently hanged.
Nonetheless, the annihilation of the Jews would commence, because the edict had been issued. So Esther asked the king for a new decree: that the Jews would have the right to assemble and defend their lives. And under the suggestion of Esther, Mordecai was put into the exalted political position that Haman had occupied, and he penned the details of the decree. The decree granted the Jews one day on which they could avenge themselves against those who sought to kill them. A copy of the edict was then issued to every province. Look at what happened next:
Then Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal robes of blue and white, with a large crown of gold and a garment of fine linen and purple; and the city of Susa shouted and rejoiced.
For the Jews there was light and gladness and joy and honor. (Esther 8:15-16)
Don’t you find it interesting that the first word in the sentence above is “light”? This is because they truly felt that the light had broken through in their lives. They had been living under the shadow of impending death, and now, there was light, hope, gladness, joy and honor.
This is what happens when God breaks through the darkness of our world. We may not even realize how dark it truly is because we have become adjusted to it. But then God’s light breaks through and we are dizzy with happiness. Wow, we think. We didn’t realize how dark it was, and how oppressive. All of those adjectives above—light, hope, gladness, joy and honor—are the direct result of God’s presence, and of His lamp over our lives.
I live in the northwest and at least seven months a year, our land is covered with clouds. We get a lot of rain. Not long ago, I was driving and it occurred to me that the scenery outside my windows looked different. It took me a moment to identify what the difference was and then I knew—it had more contrast. The sun had broken through the clouds. I was thrilled to see the dappled light on the leaves and the varying shades of green, and even the shadows on the ground. To those who live in a sunny climate, this sounds a little dramatic, but truly, in the northwest many days will go by with that same grey overhang, when all the colors are muted and dull, and all the greens blend together. Then the light appears and we rejoice.
Consider, then, the kind of rejoicing that occurred when God’s light broke through Persia into the lives of the Jews when they were given the right to stand up to their enemies and fight. They were overcome with the undulating waves of an inner light that nothing and no one could quench. It was the same kind of light the Hebrews experienced in their dwellings while everywhere else in Egypt was the most oppressive darkness the world has ever seen. Yes, God provided them with external light, but God’s light penetrates all the way to the heart, and therefore we know that the Hebrews were the recipients of the happiness of God.
Many people live in dull darkness, even if they reside in a sunny climate. The light of God’s lamp over them is not lit, and no matter how much they bask in the sun and turn their faces upward to receive its warmth, inside them, it is dark. And all around them, on billboards, on TV, in the economy, in the strife within their families, and even in the attitudes of people they meet, it is dark and getting darker. The sun cannot penetrate to their hearts. Only God can light us from within.
Our lives can be filled with light and happiness, regardless of our circumstances:
For he [man] will not often consider the years of his life, because God keeps him occupied with the gladness of his heart. (Ecclesiastes 5:20)
If we look to the Lord, and devote ourselves wholly to Him, His word, and His commandments, He will keep us occupied with the gladness of our hearts. We don’t have to fear the future or regret the past. We can turn our faces upward to the one true Light and feel it penetrating to our very soul, and setting us alight. Praise God.
In the next installment, we will commence with Chapter 6.