…their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration. Esther 9:22

 

What do you get when you play a country song backwards?…. You get your truck back, you get your dog back, and you get yer girl back.

I’ll bet you didn’t know that the book of Esther was the first-ever country song.  =)

My adoration for these 10 chapters in the Bible can only be equated to the awkward abandonment of a Star Wars convention.  It goes beyond regularly definable levels of passion.  I have no idea why EVERYONE isn’t talking about this book.

For lots of Christians, the book of Esther is tainted with obstacles and contradictions too hard to explain… even scholars put the book down and slooowly back away.  For one, the name of God is not in any fashion, form or pretense, EVER once mentioned.  Add a Bachelor-esque beauty pageant, blatant sexual indiscretion, not to mention a female heroine, and voilà, even the makers of “Veggie Tales” don’t know how to honestly tackle this particular life-lesson.

YET, like a low and steady rumble, waiting breathlessly beneath the surface of it’s pages, one of the greatest secrets of our redemption lies right here.  Sometimes, when I sit alone and read these words, I feel like the geyser beneath them might erupt its way into my tangible world and I’ll finally lie, soaked to the very bone, in the truth of its mysteries.

This isn’t a story about being in the right place at the right time.  It’s not about the seething hate of one man against another.  This isn’t a platform for girl-power or even a rule book on hard choices.

It is about OUR Reality VS God’s Reality, and what a big flipping difference there is between them.

In Esther, profound literary principles collide in such a way that will make you want to don brown suede pants and a worn leather fedora (Epic Music playing in stereo surround).  The heart of this book isn’t worn on its sleeve, it’s too intimate for that:

The first principle is called CHIASM (ky′-az-um) – A pattern which uses repetition to drive a point home.  What’s more, the repetition, as though a mirror, plays out in reverse fashion.

Easily more than 2,000 times in the Bible the principal of CHIASM is put to use, but we rarely take notice.

Here’s an example from Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV):

A:   Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, (28a)
B:   and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you (28b,29a)
X:   and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, (29b)
B′:  and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy (29c,30a)
A′:  and My burden is light. (30b)

In Esther it’s not just a verse or two, but the entire book that’s been laid out in a Chiastic format.  Pretty cool, eh?  However, it’s when CHIASM is combined with another literary effect called PERIPETY that minds start to blow…

PERIPETY  – the sudden turn of events which REVERSE a rightfully expected outcome.

The events of Esther are centered around one critical pivot-moment.  From this point forward, God’s answer to the death sentence on the Jews unfolds in a dramatic reversal of sequences, shown here:

3:10 The king gives Haman his ring —> 8:2 The King gives Mordecai the same ring
3:12 Haman summons the king’s scribes —> 8:9 Mordecai summons the king’s scribes
3:12 Letters written and sealed with the same ring —> 8:10 Letter written and sealed with the same ring
3:13 The Jews, even women and children to be killed on one day —> 8:11 The enemies, even women and children to be killed in the same day
3:14 Haman’s decree publicly displayed as law —> 8:13 Mordecai’s decree publicly
3:15 Couriers go out in haste —> 8:14 Couriers go out in haste
3:15 The city of Susa is bewildered —> 8:15 The city of Susa rejoices
4:1 Mordecai wears sackcloth and ashes —> 8:15 Mordecai wears royal robes
4:1 Mordecai goes through the city crying —> 6:11 Mordecai led through the city in honor
5:14 Zeresh advises Mordecai’s death —> 6:13 Zeresh predicts Haman’s ruin

Suddenly, this story of redemption takes on a new form.  God’s covenant to the Jews on Mt Sinai was a long time ago.  And this “chosen nation” had failed to keep their end of the bargain again and again (and again).  Now, scattered across the massive empire of Persia, many of them had altogether abandoned the tradition and inheritance of their forefathers.  They had not been faithful.   It begs the question, “When God is nowhere to be seen, does He still care?”.

In our modern time we approach this book with hindsight at hand.  God did show up.  The playing field wasn’t just made level… the Jews DESTROYED their enemy.  They weren’t just spared, they were PROMOTED.  They weren’t just saved, they were REDEEMED.  God didn’t dish out what they deserved, He REVERSED the rightful sentence of death on their heads and, through unmerited faithfulness, He abundantly RESTORED His favor on them.

And what, might I ask, was the pivot point of Esther?  What event swept the momentum of Satan’s master plan into fierce revival of God’s grace towards His chosen people?  Was it when Mordecai didn’t bow?  No.  When Esther laid her life on the line and approach the King unrequested?  No.  Was it when Haman’s seething hate put that 75 foot stake in the ground to kill his greatest enemy?   No, it wasn’t.

The pivot point happened when a man couldn’t fall asleep.  The King of Persia laid looking at his ceiling, desperate for rest that wouldn’t come.  Instead of calling on one of his 400 virgins, he, quite simply, felt like reading a book.  In those pages, he was reminded of a man – A man who had once saved his life and, 5 WHOLE years later and had never been rewarded.   One night there was a 75 foot pole erected on which to stake Mordecai, and the next morning the very man who planned to put him there, placed a royal crown on his head and led him through the streets shouting “This is what the King does for the man who honors him”.

What changed the course of the Jews?  Sleeplessness.

The point of Esther in our lives?  We have an expected outcome for the state of this fallen and broken humanity to which we cling so tightly.

But a pivot-point came.

One that no person, no movement, no choice could have created.  Like a sleepless night, Christ snuck in and took the 75 foot pole Satan had placed in the ground for each one of us, then, through the ultimate act of grace, replaced our fate with whitewashed royal robes.  Jesus didn’t just save us from our certain death, He has REDEEMED us for an eternity that RESTORES all that Satan has relentlessly tried to steal from His people.  And your circumstances, no matter how grim, will never change the Sovereignty of a God, who controls the rumbling beneath the surface of this present darkness.  It is not a matter of “if” He will save us.  It’s a matter of how we let Him.

And THAT is why I’m obsessed with this book. 😉


The Jews took it on themselves to establish the custom that they and their descendants and all who join them should without fail observe these two days every year, in the way prescribed and at the time appointed.  These days should be remembered and observed in every generation by every family, and in every province and in every city. And these days of Purim should never fail to be celebrated by the Jews—nor should the memory of these days die out among their descendants.  Esther 9:27-38