By Steven Brownfield
At first glance, Esther appears to be a thoroughly secular work, unconcerned with spiritual things. It tells the intriguing story of how the exiled Jews avoided annihilation through the courage and tact of the Persian queen, who was herself secretly a Jew. In ages past, many of the Jewish Rabbis refused to accept the divine inspiration of the book of Esther. This may have been for many reasons. Part of the cause for a partial repudiation of this God-breathed book may have had to do with the woman hero for which the book is named, but mostly, some did not accept the book as being inspired because it never mentions Jehovah God. In fact, there is no mention of the supernatural at all. Some may have wondered why this book, which seems to have nothing to do with God at all, should be included in the Canon of scripture.
Obviously, Esther won out in the Canon debate, for the obvious reason that God wanted us to have it. His reason for inspiring this work is clear. Esther, more than any other Old Testament book, shows how God’s divine providence works in the everyday world of regular people.
First Esther shows how that God’s power, though unmarked by mortal men, rules over the affairs of the nations to effect his will on the earth. The author never mentions God for this very reason. The hand of God is an unobtrusive thing. Many expect God to work in their lives in some spectacular fashion. The modern charismatic movement has much of this element in it. They desire a miraculous, sensationalistic experience with the Almighty and are not satisfied when the Holy Ghost uses the more mundane vehicle of his word to effect salvation. Contrast that with how the story of Esther describes the way ordinary men and women, through the courage of their convictions bring about God’s will, and further the course of his kingdom.
Secondly, Esther shows how God’s particular providence for his special people is enacted through the ordinary day to day affairs of this world. God’s will is not always accomplished with the splitting of oceans, or the rumbling of mountains or the working of marvelous signs. God’s providence is carried out through the laws of nature, through the currents of history, with the hands of people. The author tells us how the Jew’s deliverance is assured, with Esther’s help or without it.
Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews. For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this? (Esther 4. 13-14).
The implication is clear. God will deliver his people. No miracle will be essential, no marvelous sign given. God will use the faithful to enact his will. This same principle is demonstrated in the New Testament in Acts 5. Gamaliel, counseling moderate treatment of the newly arisen church, reminds his fellows of recent history and previous splinter groups that came to nothing because God was not with them. He says in verse 38: “And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.”
No man can spite God. We can rebel against his will, refuse to further the cause of his Kingdom, and enslave our selves to sin, but Jehovah’s will cannot be withstood. We may refuse ourselves to be his servants and enter his kingdom, but he will find others who will obey. Make sure you are part of his program.
Finally, Esther is a valuable book not in spite of its lack of divine references, but because of it. Esther does not need to directly allude to God to teach about his providence. It implies it on every page. In so many ways, the Bible teaches us not by its direct statements, but by its implications. Many brethren today are denying this. I have had men who are elders in the Lord’s church stand in the very meeting house of churches that claim to be sound and stood against institutionalism and rail against me for preaching the apostle’s hermeneutics. Direct command, approved example, and necessary implication are the rules of men, they say. Those things will split the church, they say. That kind of old time preaching is for another time, long past, and to insist on the principles of Bible authority is Pharisaism and legal-ism, they say. I’m not talking about so called “liberals” either. These are men who are preachers in a “conservative church.” Necessary inference is not the invention of men. When God implies something in his word, we must infer it. Esther is a case in point. Even had the author mentioned God in every line, he could not have made a more emphatic case for divine providence than he does with Mordecai’s appeal to Esther that implies God will deliver.
Let us marvel at the manifold providence of God, who through the intercession of his Son atoned for us, through the preaching of the Spirit’s gospel regenerated us, who through the illumination of his doctrine edifies us. Let us listen carefully to everything the Bible has to say whether by direct statement or divine implications.
Guardian of Truth XL: No. 24, p. 13-14
December 19, 1996