As God’s people in Persia experience salvation, they respond with celebration, the Jewish festival of Purim. All the stories, deliverances, promises, foreshadowings, and types of the Bible—including those in the Old Testament and Esther—lead us to Jesus. When we see deliverance and salvation, we think of the greater deliverance and salvation that Jesus brings. The whole Bible is about Jesus.
In life and at the cross, God works through reversals. Repentance from us plus reversals from God equals rejoicing. God’s people in Persia were sentenced to death, but in a reversal, they put their enemies to death. With this reversal, God’s people went from mourning and fasting to rejoicing and feasting. Our sin brought us death, but in the greatest reversal, Jesus’ death brought us life.
If you’re a Christian, you’re a missionary, sent into school, work, business, or neighborhood. Esther and Mordecai weren’t in vocational ministry—they were politicians—but they were effective missionaries because they were in the pagan culture. To be a missionary is to be simultaneously faithful to the Word of God and to be in the context of pagan people, like Jesus was. Who are you evangelizing?
Jesus is a better Esther who came into human history as one of God’s people. God’s people in the Persian Empire were spared death because Esther finally identified with them, but all of God’s people are spared eternal death because Jesus Christ identifies with us. We are all Haman; we will either hang on our own cross for our own sin like him, or Jesus hung on a cross in our place for our sin.
Through the story of God’s covenant people in Esther, we learn to not question God’s providence, but assume it. “Coincidence” is the non-Christian’s word for providence. We learn from the examples of Haman and Mordecai that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. And grieving accomplishes nothing without repenting, as we see when Haman only has worldly sorrow and never truly repents.
Your identity—who you think you are—determines how you live. Esther now sees herself as one of God’s people. Haman’s identity, though, is in his idolatry: his glory, power, honor, recognition, and success. If you’re one of God’s people, your identity isn’t achieved, it’s received. Your identity doesn’t need to be in your idolatry, like Haman’s, because Jesus gives a better identity.
Mordecai and Esther aren’t perfect, but they’re making progress and changing. Mordecai’s faith is activated in mourning and weeping. He trusts that God is always with his people, and that God is in control. Esther’s faith is action in the face of opposition and possible death. Only she can serve as mediator to reconcile Xerxes and her people, just as Jesus is the one mediator between God and men.
Our lives are marked by sins, mistakes, and tragedies. The story of King Xerxes, Haman, Mordecai, and Esther is no different. Mordecai and Esther fail to walk faithfully with God, Xerxes cares more for money than people, and Haman decrees the murder of all Jews. Though there is no evidence that God shows up to deliver his people, there remains hope for the coming of a greater King.
King Xerxes chased glory but received misery, trying to replace God with a woman to use, not love. We meet Mordecai and his adopted daughter, Esther, who are part of the compromised, worldly, disobedient people of God living away from Jerusalem. Esther wasn’t walking with God but God still walked with her, giving her favor, changing and saving her heart and life so that she could save his people.
Xerxes was the greatest king in the history of the world to his day, but in his kingdom, addictions were fed, men were castrated, and women were mistreated. Every generation chases the same foolish myth: if we could just get a good king with a good kingdom, then we’d have a heavenly life on a fallen earth. But when fallen, faulty, flawed sinners sit on a throne, you never get a glorious kingdom.
King Xerxes was the most powerful and wealthy man on the earth during his reign over the vast Persian Empire. He was worshiped as a god. He throws a 6-month, all-expenses-paid party to show his own glory. There’s something in us that wants to be king and have all the glory, too—the difference between Xerxes and us is the wealth and resources at our disposal. Jesus is a better King than all of us.