The story of Esther in the Bible has it all. An exotic location. A powerful king. A sinister villain. And a breathtakingly beautiful heroine.
It's a rags-to-riches love story about an orphaned girl who becomes queen of the most powerful empire on earth.
It's a political thriller filled with palace intrigue, assassination attempts, whispered conspiracies, jealousy, revenge, and unpredictable plot twists.
It's the story of God's chosen people, marginalized, oppressed, and facing literal genocide. In their darkest hour, all hope is lost. Then, they are unexpectedly SAVED...just in the nick of time!
The Book of Esther truly reads like a Hollywood movie script.
If you haven't read the book in a while, I encourage you to do so, as I did for the first time in a long time just a few days ago. And you will find something absolutely astounding.
GOD DOES NOT SUPERNATURALLY SAVE HIS PEOPLE
In Genesis, God spoke directly to Noah, told him how to build the ark, brought the animals to him, and miraculously saved His people. During the life of Joseph, God miraculously saved His people from starvation by giving Joseph the supernatural ability to see the future in dreams. When the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt, God Himself bombarded Pharaoh with plagues, then literally split the Red Sea in half to save His people. In the wilderness, in the conquest of the Promised Land, in the time of the judges and kings, again and again God miraculously intervened to save His chosen people from destruction.
And yet, in the time of Esther, God did not act. (Fun trivia fact: God is not even mentioned in the entire Book of Esther.) The King of Persia was tricked into signing a law giving the enemies of the Jews the legal authority to murder every single Jew in the world and steal their property. Murder. Every. Single. Jew. Dead. If there was ever a time for God to arrive on the scene with powerful miracles to save His people...this would have been the time!
ESTHER DID NOT SAVE HER PEOPLE EITHER
"But," you might be saying, "God raised up Esther for such a time as this to save the Jews." I respond by pointing out that Esther did not save them either. She had to be prodded into action by her uncle Mordecai. Sure, Esther took a risk by approaching the king to plead for her people. But in the end, she was the adored wife of the king. He was not likely to order her death simply because she visited him unannounced. In reading the story, King Xerxes actually seems pleased to see Esther approach him. Why wouldn't he be pleased to see the most beautiful woman in his empire! Furthermore, we shouldn't be surprised that the king heard Esther's plea, since he had been swindled into signing the genocidal law in the first place.
No, we really can't credit Esther (or even Mordecai) with saving the Jewish people. They played their part. But considering all the other facts presented in the story, we shouldn't be surprised that King Xerxes receives Esther warmly and agrees to act on her behalf.
KING XERXES DID NOT SAVE THE JEWISH PEOPLE
By now you've guessed that we also cannot give the credit for saving God's people to King Xerxes either. Certainly, there are many bold actions he could have taken. He could have tried to revoke his previous law permitting the genocide of the Jews; although the Book of Esther makes it pretty clear that a Persian law, once passed, could not be revoked. In that case, the king could have dispatched his soldiers, governors, and law-enforcement officials to protect the Jews. But he didn't do that either. Alternatively, the King could have signed a new law, making it illegal for a private citizen to carry a sword, spear, or weapon of any kind within the Persian empire, creating the world's first (and biggest) "Weapon Free Zone." But that didn't happen either.
In fact, King Xerxes actually handed over the decision of what to do to Esther and Mordecai. He gave them his official ring and said, "You guys can write whatever law seems best to you." No, King Xerxes does not get the credit.
What then saved the Jews? What kind of law did Esther and Mordecai write to save God's people from annihilation? To what principle did they turn for salvation?
THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS...
In case you don't believe me, read it for yourself. Esther 8:9-13. Esther and Mordecai turned to the fundamental principle of self-defense, the right of human beings to protect their families, their neighbors, and their property from attack. The right to use force, even deadly force, if necessary. Obviously, in order to do so, the people would have to be armed at least as well as their attackers. Esther and Mordecai wrote the Persian equivalent of the 2nd Amendment. The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
Numerous Scripture passages make it clear that self-defense is permitted, in proportion to the danger. Exodus 22:2-3 and Luke 22:36-38 are examples. The Sixth Commandment, in its prohibition of murder, also carries with it the affirmative command to protect the weak, the marginalized, and the innocent. Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 107 enlightens us by stating that when our neighbor faces harm from an attacker, "God wants us...to protect them from harm as much as we can." This natural law of self-defense (and even more importantly, the defense of our neighbor) is strongly supported by Scripture and by our Reformed teachings.
REPLACE FEAR WITH KNOWLEDGE
Gun control and the 2nd Amendment are controversial topics, but we should not be afraid to discuss them. I wrote this blog knowing that many Christian Reformed readers probably oppose guns, and favor gun control. I get that. If you're in that place, I encourage you to seek out a family member, friend, or member of your church who is a responsible hunter or concealed-carry holder. Be honest with them. Tell them you would like to learn more about guns. Ask them to attend a "Hunters' Safety Class" with you, an essential start to learning firearms safety, even if you never plan on hunting. After completing the safety course, ask this person to take you to a shooting range or their favorite target shooting site for an hour. Actually fire a few guns. Ask questions. You might find that you enjoy it. And the knowledge you gain about firearms will begin to replace your fear of them.
In the end, people who personally oppose guns may not change their minds. That's OK. But those people should not unfairly attempt to bind the consciences of others, or restrict their neighbors' God-given ability to defend themselves and others. Likewise, those of us who read Scripture and see a clear endorsement of the right to keep and bear arms should not think less of our brothers and sisters whose consciences are not comfortable with weapons, and should be sensitive to their viewpoint.
Scripture is clear. We are called to love our neighbors. That means being prepared to protect them.