Some people say Esther’s story doesn’t relate to them: “I won’t ever find myself in such outrageous circumstances,” or “I doubt my faith will ever be tested like that.” If you’re in that camp, I hear you.
And I could yark when someone reduces Esther’s story to a cliché like “bloom where you’re planted.”
Are we missing this book’s most important takeaway? I venture yes—because if we do, we fall short of how God wants us to read the entire Bible.
If that sounds audacious, please hang with me while I explain.
The Old Testament contains twelve books of history, starting with Joshua and ending with Esther. After that come poetry and prophecy. Then the New Testament starts. Why would Esther bookend the HISTORY section? The answer is central to the book’s most important takeaway.
The art of Esther’s story: four viewpoints
The book of Esther is like gazing at a masterpiece of art. You appreciate a glorious painting differently if you stand close to it or step back from it. We need to do both to discover its elusive takeaway.
(1) When we look at Esther from the viewpoint of her internal struggle, we gain valuable insights:
- Die to self.
Lay aside your dreams, goals, priorities … anything you think you deserve. Give God a blank canvas to work with.
- Consider others’ good above yours.
- Trust that God Almighty is at work even when He feels absent.
- Believe God can and will do what only He can do.
(2) When we look at Esther from the viewpoint of saving her people (the exiled Jews) from annihilation, we gain additional insights:
- You are always essential somewhere—but there are moments when God brings a blessing to others precisely through you.
- Place yourself at the disposal of the King to bless His people.
- You can be a light that pierces the deepest darkness.
(3) When we step back a dozen paces, we can look at Esther from the viewpoint of history.
Haman and his ancestors, the Amalekites, had wanted to eliminate the Israelite nation since its inception. The Amalekites first attacked the Hebrews right after they crossed the Red Sea. Brutal attacks continued on Israel’s southern border. God stayed His hand of judgment until the Amalekites’ wickedness reached a level He would not tolerate. More than 400 years after the Exodus, God told King Saul, “now is the time to utterly destroy the Amalekites.” But Saul botched the job. Six centuries later, Haman entered the picture, and Esther—one of Saul’s descendants—was born. Hold this thought: Exodus to Esther spanned about 1050 years.
(4) History nudges us to step back even farther from the painting so we can look at Esther from God’s viewpoint.
Esther was born in exile in Susa when Persia, the world’s biggest superpower, controlled countries from Ethiopia to India. Esther’s great-uncle was King David. When Esther foiled Haman’s plot, she not only saved Persia’s Jews from genocide but also preserved the lineage through which Christ would be born.
Positioning Esther at the end of Old Testament history is God’s memo to His people: you may hunger but won’t starve. You may live in peril but won’t perish. Because I cannot forget you. I AM always working on your behalf—but for greater purposes than you realize.
The ultimate takeaway of Esther’s story
Esther recaps more than a thousand years of history—and the Hebrews’ identity with God. The God who works through history but sees beyond it. Whose purposes prevail beyond time. That leads us to our ultimate takeaway: If we read the Bible as the story arc of God’s unified, unbroken plan, we can see how all its pictures, promises, and prophesies point to the fulfillment of His plan in the redemptive work of His Son. God’s brushstrokes are beautiful, but He also wants us to see His entire painting.
Reading the Bible as one story arc also gets us closer to how the Hebrews view Scripture: in terms of generations.
Reading Esther and the Bible from a generational viewpoint of God’s unfolding plan flips the script on how we perceive everything about ourselves and God.
- Don’t try to interpret the events of your life solely in terms of their immediate impact or personal relevance.
- Consider your spiritual heritage—and lift your eyes!
God grafted you into His eternal family. You are part of His glorious adventure. Stand back from His painting to see that bigger picture.
- God works everything out according to the counsel of His will.
- Know that what happens to you is more than just about you.
God is making your life matter throughout generations in ways you can’t foresee.
Hallelujah!Positioning Esther at the end of Old Testament history is God’s memo to His people: You may live in peril but won’t perish. Because I always work on your behalf—for greater purposes than you realize. Click To Tweet
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“Life is but a Weaving” (The Tapestry Poem)
by Corrie ten Boom
My life is but a weaving between the Lord and me.
I may not choose the colors; He knows what they should be.
For He can see the pattern upon the upper side
While I can see it only on this, the underside.
Sometimes He weaves in sorrow, which seems so strange to me.
But I will trust His judgment and work on faithfully.
For not till the loom is silent and the shutter ceases to fly
Shall God unroll the canvas and explain the reason why
The dark threads are as needed in the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver in the pattern He has planned.
More about Israel’s divided kingdom, who conquered who, and when:
After King Solomon’s death, around 975 B.C,, the Israelite nation was divided into two kingdoms: the Northern Kingdom (called Judah) and the Southern Kingdom (called Israel or Ephraim). About 150 years later, the Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom. About 220 years after that, the Babylonians conquered the Southern Kingdom. Then the Persians conquered all that and more. In Esther’s day, Persia was the world’s biggest superpower [map]. Spanning three continents, it stretched west to Ethiopia, east to India, and north to present-day Turkey and parts of southwestern Russia near the Caspian Sea.