Pastor and freelance writer Shawna Atteberry has a sermon posted on her website about the Book of Esther that dovetailed with my recent musings about the role of Christianity in fiction. She notes that Martin Luther would have excluded this book from the Old Testament canon because it looks like a purely “secular” story. God is not mentioned anywhere in this narrative, as full of melodramatic coincidences as a Dickens novel, about how a heroic queen saved the Jews from persecution by her pagan husband. Shawna rightly takes a broader view:
If Esther is read historically and literally God can be left out all together. It is truly a book of coincidences. That is why we need Esther. To often we think that just because there is no obvious working of God in the world that God is not working. Esther’s discreet witness says otherwise.Read the whole thing here.
And we need these reminders. We need reminders that God working in our world is not always obvious—even to those in the church. We also need reminders that God uses harem girls to accomplish His purposes….
There are always those times in life when we wonder where God is. Esther reminds us that there are times that God is firmly behind the scenes, and we may not see how He has been working till well after what is taking place now. Part of our walk with God is realizing that God is with us regardless of circumstances or how we feel. The Jews had to have felt abandoned as they saw the decree that would take all of their lives. But seven years before they even realized they were going to need a deliverer, God had made sure a Jewish queen was in the palace. Even in the worst the world can throw at us, God continues to walk with us and provide ways of deliverance for His people. He walks with us through the messes as well as the celebrations.
The book of Esther seems to be driven by whims, accidents, and coincidence. But is it? The underlying, almost invisible, current running through Esther is that God is working His purposes out for the world—He can even use a harem girl and an arrogant, pagan king to do this. The book of coincidences is really a book of grace. In one of the most pagan places possible—the palace of a pagan king who does not even know that he has married a Jew, nor does he know that a decree has went out in his name to destroy his wife and her people, God is working.