Silence. Usually, when preachers like me write or talk about silence, we say things like, “We should all spend more time in silence,” or “God speaks to us when we are quiet enough to hear him.” It isn’t all that often that you hear a preacher say the opposite, but today’s OT lesson (Esther 4:4-17) proclaims loudly, “Speak up!”
As you’ll remember, Esther is a Jew who lived as a queen in the Persian palace. Her story—one of great and bold faithfulness—revolves around another Jew named Mordecai and an evil, selfish Persian named Haman. The latter had conceived a scheme by which all the Jews in Persia were to be eradicated, a treacherous deed in exchange for which Haman would give the king a large sum of money. Mordecai was openly protesting this plot, and, when Esther heard about it, she faced a dilemma.
If she spoke up and approached the king, she faced almost-certain death. No one, we read, was allowed to come into the presence of the king without being called, and it had been thirty days since Esther had been invited to see him. If she stayed silent, she might escape death—perhaps her identity as a Jew would be overlooked during the purge. But, as the only person inside the palace sympathetic to the plight of her people, Esther knew she had a duty to speak up. Helping her overcome her reticence, Mordecai declared, “For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father's family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” Now was the time for her to speak, so she decided to risk her life and go to see the king.
I love Mordecai’s words, “Who knows? Perhaps you have come…” Although he does not claim to know exactly what God’s purpose and plan are, he invites Esther to consider whether her whole life has been orchestrated for this moment. Maybe he’s stretching there, but I don’t think so. It might not be as simple as that, but I do believe it is our duty as people of faith to ask that profound question: “What is my purpose here?” Through odd circumstances, Esther found herself in the palace of the Persian king, and she was called by a prophet Mordecai to ask why. Upon reflection, she discovered that silence would not suffice.
We are all in positions and relationships. Often, we discover that we got there by chance—a seemingly haphazard sequence of events that could have gone in any other direction. But to remain in that place of indeterminism and not search for a God-directed meaning in the circumstances is to remain silent. However we got here—random collisions of atoms and molecules or predestined orchestration—we still must speak up when we find ourselves in a place where our voice is needed.