From An If Woman To An Even If Woman: The Story of Esther
So many times we are an IF people. I will love God, IF he does what I ask. I will follow God, IF it’s not too uncomfortable. I will trust God, IF he provides me with the blueprints. But God wants to make us into EVEN IF people. I will love God, EVEN IF I don’t get my way. I will follow God, EVEN IF it’s hard and humbling. I will trust God, EVEN IF the storm rages and I can’t see in front of me. This is the story of Esther. A woman who went from being an IF person to an EVEN IF person.
King Ahasuerus, who ruled 127 provinces from India to Cush, was a very wealthy king. He had a haram of women, but he also had a queen, Queen Vashti. One day during a weeks long party, he summoned her to appear before him and friends so he could show her off because she was very beautiful. But she refused. This angered the king, and so he made a royal decree that she could no longer come into his presence and that he would find a new queen. Ouch! So, his officials were sent out to find all the eligible virgins for him to pick a new queen. Sounds like a Cinderella story doesn’t it? Okay, maybe not quite.
Out of all the virgins, he finds Esther to be the most beautiful and she finds the most favor among him and all the palace officials. But what they don’t know is that she is a Jew. She has been raised by her uncle Mordecai and he had told her not to reveal that she was Jewish. So, she didn’t.
Some time after Esther became queen, Mordecai had discovered that two of the King’s men were plotting to kill him and he told Esther. She warned the king and he had these men hanged. But Mordecai never received any special recognition for this. But it probably did help Queen Esther gain favor in the eyes of the King since she had warned him of this plot.
But during this time, the king did honor another man. His name was Haman and he was promoted in rank and given a higher position than all the other officials. The king had even commanded that the royal staff bow down to Haman. Mordecai, being a Jew, didn’t bow down to anyone but God. EVEN IF it meant that this would bring him trouble. This enraged Haman and it made him enraged at all Jews because of this, so he vowed to destroy all Jews throughout Ahasuerus’s kingdom.
So, one day he went to the king and told him that there is a group of people throughout his kingdom keeping themselves separate and not obeying the king’s laws. He tells them they have their own laws they obey and that it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. He told the king that he could take care of this problem for him and asked him to issue an order authorizing their destruction. The king removed his signet ring and gave it to him as a symbol to go forth with his plans to destroy these people.
So, Haman sent out official letters to all the provinces designating a specific day when this destruction would take place and that they were to destroy, kill, and annihilate all the Jewish people and plunder their possessions on a single day. The thirteenth day of the twelfth month.
As you can imagine there was a great mourning amongst the Jewish people upon hearing this. So, what did they do? They fasted. They wept and moaned and grieved. They put on sackcloth and ashes. And when we hear bad news, don’t we do the same? Although maybe we have never faced the news of our own impending doom, many of us have faced heartbreaking news that sure felt like death. And we cry, we grieve, and wail. We may not put on sackcloth and ashes, but maybe we don’t shower. Maybe we don’t have an appetite.
Maybe we lay around in the same clothes from the day before. And the Bible also says they fasted. Why did they fast? Why do people fast? I’m going to tell you something…you don’t fast unless it’s serious. I don’t think most people just up and decide to fast because they’re really hoping the circus is coming into town. People fast when they are begging for a move from God. And all the actions of the Jewish people point to a crying out to God.
Mordecai wept bitterly over this. He stood at the King’s gates wearing sack clothes and ashes and cried loudly. Now, Esther’s female servants reported this news to her that her uncle and all the Jewish people are crying and mourning and wearing sackcloth and she is overcome with fear. She doesn’t understand why? But she knows something terrible must’ve happened. And fear is usually the thing that grips us when we hear bad news. It’s usually one of the first feelings we feel. I remember when my dad passed away, I laid in bed that night overcome with horror and fear of what the next day, week, month, and year would bring. I remember when the world trade centers were hit, the feeling of fear that everyone felt of what’s going to happen to our country? Fear tends to follow horrible news.
So, Esther has her servants bring Mordecai clothes and find out why he is crying bitterly and standing outside the gate wearing ashes and sack cloth. Mordecai refuses to change his clothes and sends her a copy of the written decree explaining the destruction of the Jews that has been ordered. As you can imagine, Esther’s fear probably doubles at this point. He tells the servant to command Esther to approach the king, implore his favor, and plead with him personally for her people.
Esther sends word back to Mordecai and says “all the royal officials and the people of the royal provinces know that one law applies to every man and woman who approaches the king in the inner courtyard and who has not been summoned -the death penalty- unless the king extends the gold scepter, allowing the person to live. I have not been summoned to appear before the king for the last 30 days.”
Now Esther is basically telling Mordecai – Look, IF the penalty of approaching the king wasn’t death, maybe I could do it. IF the king didn’t have such a temper, maybe I could risk it. I mean remember how he disposed of Queen Vashti so easily. IF the king had been sending for me, maybe I could talk with him, but he hasn’t sent for me in a month. IF your plan didn’t rely on me putting my own life at risk, I would do it. IF I thought it would work, it would be worth a try, but who am I? I’m not anyone special here. IF as the queen I had more power, I would do it, but I don’t.
Fear has a way of making us IF people. Fear has a way of making us hide. Step back and step down. It has a way of oppressing us. Making us feel immobile and incapable of action.
But Mordecai upon hearing these words from Esther says this in response, in verses 13-15 “Don’t think that you will escape the fate of all the Jews because you are in the king’s palace. If you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will come to the Jewish people from another place, but you and your father’s family will be destroyed. Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.”
This is a mic drop moment. This is a wake-up call to Esther. Mordecai’s comment is like the defibrillator you put on the chest of a heart that’s frozen in fear. He is calling her out from her fear. Calling her out of being an IF woman to an EVEN IF woman. And he does this in 3 ways. First, he reminds her that her inaction won’t help her. Doing nothing isn’t going to save you. IF people do nothing, but EVEN IF people set out to do what is right, even when it’s hard. IF people have conditions, but EVEN IF people continue forward in doing the right thing EVEN IF the conditions aren’t desirable. He’s basically saying “Wake up woman! Don’t think your inaction will save you. I know you’re afraid, but this is not the time to be silent and do nothing.
The second thing he says to her points her away from herself and to God. Because IF people keep their eyes on themselves, but EVEN IF people put their eyes on God. EVEN IF people trust in God. He is saying to her -Look. There’s something greater at work here. And that’s God. Now, he doesn’t mention God. He never says anything about God. But we can surmise from this passage that Mordecai is a man of God. He is fasting. He is crying out to God. He is believing that God is going to deliver the Jewish people from this impending doom. And he’s basically telling Esther – Look, you can either be a part of this…you can be a part of what God is doing or will do to rescue his people… or God will raise someone else up to do it, but you won’t get to be a part of it. You won’t be included in what God is going to do.
And the third way he encourages her to step out from being an IF woman to an EVEN IF woman is, he encourages her to remember how she’s been blessed. How’s she’s been provided for. He is encouraging her to see the bigger picture. He’s basically saying “Who do you think it is that has gotten you here thus far? He is encouraging her to take a step of faith. Mordecai, says “who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.” This is huge. He is saying – Look, why do you think you’ve been given favor here? Why do you think you are in the position you have found yourself? By who’s hand was it really?
IF people have tunnel vision. EVEN IF people see that larger things are at play here. They recognize that God has a plan for their life and wants to use the things that happen to us to grow us and change us for His glory. IF people like to stay in their comfort zones. IF people don’t usually step out in faith. They’re not used to operating IN faith. They’re used to operating out of their own strength. EVEN IF people operate out of God’s strength. They believe God is going ahead of them and making a way for them to walk. They believe he is going to catch them when they fall or he will use their fall for something greater. In essence, EVEN IF people have EVEN greater faith.
Maybe we need to look around at our own lives and becomes aware of our own positions and how God wants to use us in them. God always has a plan. And it’s bigger than just us. Maybe God has made your family financially stable so you can be a blessing to someone who’s not. Maybe God’s given you time to be at home so that you can be of help to a mom who’s not able to be at home. Maybe you can offer to babysit her children during the week or assist her when she has an appointment by watching her kids. Maybe you’ve been given the gift of encouragement so that you can pour into another woman who struggles with confidence. Maybe you’ve been placed right next door to those crazy neighbors, so that you can speak life into them and love on them. Maybe you’ve been hurt and betrayed, so that you can seek God for healing and then tell others where they can turn to be healed, too.
Upon hearing what Mordecai has had to say, Esther reacts not as an IF woman but as an EVEN IF woman. She tells Mordecai “Go and assemble all the Jews who can be found in Susa and fast for me. Don’t eat or drink for three days. I and my female servants will also fast in the same way. After that, I will go the king EVEN IF it is against the law. If I perish, I perish.”
EVEN IF women are brave, even when they’re scared. EVEN IF women do what is right, even if it’s hard. EVEN IF women stay the course, even when it’s difficult. EVEN IF women lay it all on the line with God, even if it means things don’t turn out the way they want. EVEN IF women trust and obey and pray.
And so, what happened?
Esther goes before the king in the courtyard and as soon as he sees her the word says “she gained favor in his eyes” and he extended the golden scepter.
Why? Because God goes before EVEN IF people. He can make a boss have favor on you. He can make events turn your way.
The king is so delighted to see Esther that he says “What is it, Queen Esther? Whatever you want, even half the kingdom, will be given to you.”
Esther didn’t even have to be the one who broached the subject. He asked HER what she wanted. Why? Because God goes before EVEN IF people. He swings wide the doors that he opens.
Esther invites the King and Haman to a banquet in a few days. She is preparing to reveal her Jewish status to the king and ask him to spare her people. So, Haman gets word that he is invited to this banquet and he is happy and joyful as he is looking forward to this. But while Haman is on his way home, he passes by the king’s gate and sees Mordecai sitting there because this is where he’s been hanging out for days crying and grieving. But this time when he sees Mordecai, he sees that Mordecai isn’t trembling in fear like he has been the days before. He sees that Mordecai is not unnerved by his presence.
Why? Because Mordecai knows that God is at work. Because Mordecai is an EVEN IF person. And he’s been praying and fasting and he is fully armed in his faith and he believing and trusting and he is waiting expectantly for a move from God. Because when EVEN IF people put their eyes on God, fear loses its grip on them and hope rises.
This enraged Haman and on the advice from his wife and friends he decides to build some tall gallows to hang Mordecai in before the banquet. Because after all he has found great favor in the eyes of the King. Haman had been given a special title and a special promotion and he had been granted his special request to kill the Jews, but what he doesn’t know is that God has been working behind the scenes. And one night the king can’t sleep and he has his scribes read him an account of the last month or so and he hears how this man named Mordecai has saved the king’s life by telling on the two men who had plotted to kill him. And he decides that something wonderful needs to be done for this man. Because EVEN IF it had looked like Mordecai’s good deed had been overlooked, God doesn’t overlook us.
So, the next day when Haman comes into the palace for the banquet, he sees Mordecai being given the full royal treatment. He is being dressed in the king’s robes and crowns. Then, the King commands Haman to bring Mordecai a horse and parade him around the city so that everyone can see how honored he is by the king. And to add insult to injury he commands Haman to do this while announcing over and over again, “This is what is done for the man the king wants to honor.” But really, we know that this is what is done for the man that God wants to honor!
Now you can just imagine how Haman must’ve wanted to just die of humility here. This is the man he can’t stand and he has even built gallows to hang this man in. This is the man that sparked his plan to destroy all the Jews in the country.
Why has this great thing happened to Mordecai?
Because God goes before EVEN IF people.
Because man’s promotion is nothing compared to God’s promotion. When God promotes you, he does it in the presence of your enemies and he makes it very clear who has his favor.
Haman, feeling ashamed and embarrassed, goes to the banquet where Esther reveals to the king Haman’s evil plans. The king has Haman hanged in the very same gallows that he had had built for Mordecai.
Why? Because God goes before EVEN IF people. He goes with us, fights for us, and gives us the victory.
Now, the royal edict can not be denied because once the king has signed it, it can not be taken back. BUT the king signs another edict written by Mordecai that states the Jews have the right to defend themselves on the day of the destruction intended for them.
And what do you think happens?
What do you think happens to these fasting, crying out to the Lord, praying, expecting God to show up, EVEN IF people?
The Jews put all their enemies to the sword killing and destroying them. And Esther even asked the king for an extra day to finish and he granted it. That is why the Jewish people still celebrate a holiday to this day called Purim, which commemorates the events of this story, which were brought forth by their fasting and crying out to God, so they will not forget what God can do through EVEN IF people.
God wants to take all of us from being IF people to an EVEN IF people so that we can experience what it’s like to be solely dependent on our God who is wholly sufficient. Wherever you are IF’n it right now in your life, start EVEN IF’n it and see how God is utterly in control and longs to show up for His people.