Queen Esther: Actions Speak Louder than Words
It is commonly said that actions speak louder than words. I believe such is the case with the story of Esther from the bible. In this story, there are four main characters, Mordecai, Esther, King Xerxes, and Haman, each with a unique personality and purpose.
This story can be found in the Old Testament book of Esther. I love this story! It’s one of both beauty and courage where the just are promoted and the unjust are punished.
Each of the main characters in this book display very different actions. Mordecai is solid and faithful. Haman is self-serving and corrupt. Esther is obedient, cautious and wise. King Xerxes is impulsive and easily swayed by the advice of others.
There are several things that we can learn from these characters that lived long ago. Let’s take a quick look at the individuals and see how what their actions said about them.
“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
Mordecai is the older cousin of Esther who shows compassion in adopting his young cousin when she was orphaned. He obviously cared very much for her as he stayed nearby the palace to see how she was doing when she was chosen as a possible bride for the king. He must have been a good role model as Esther “continued to follow Mordecai’s instructions as she had done when he was bringing her up.” (Esther 2:20)
Mordecai was also well respected among the Jewish people and held an official position that kept him close to the palace. Since the Jewish people were not a well liked minority in this region, Mordecai's seat at the king's gate would have been quite an accomplishment.
He was also a faithful servant of God. When commanded to bow down and pay honor to Haman, he refused day after day. How much easier would it have been for Mordecai to have complied? Easy or not, Mordecai would only worship God.
I'm sure that at the time Esther became queen, Mordecai did not know all of God's plans. Yet we will read this week that when danger loomed, Mordecai knew what to do and why things had worked out as they had.
Mordecai led the faithful life of a humble servant of God. He did not seek fame or glory. He did not try to elevate himself. Yet at the end of the story in Esther 6, we see that he was honored by the king with a royal robe, a horse that the king had ridden and Haman leading “him on horseback through the city streets, proclaiming before him, ‘This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor.’” (Esther 6:11)
“But many who are first will be last,
and many who are last will be first.”
What a contrast to the good, humble, and faithful servant of God, Mordecai! Haman is the exact opposite. He is prideful, arrogant, self-important, self serving and power hungry.
Haman certainly had great accomplishments. He was honored by the king, given a seat of honor higher than any other noble, and all the royal officials were to bow down and pay honor to him. But the praise of the king, the other nobles and the royal officials were not enough. When Mordecai, just one guy, would not bow down to him, his pride suffered. He got angry and he became determined to retaliate.
While Haman’s actions may seem extreme, we too can let our pride get out of control. Sometimes we get discouraged when we work so hard and no one seems to notice or appreciate us. When we allow that discouragement to make us angry at others for not noticing our accomplishments, we are being prideful like Haman.
I know we don’t exactly expect our friends and family to bow down and worship us. I know that we don’t plot their annihilation when we don’t get the respect we feel we deserve. Yet I still think we can learn a couple of lessons from Haman’s prideful actions.
First of all, Haman wasn’t serving his king, he was serving himself. We need to remember that all the work we do is for God, our families, and our neighbors. It absolutely cannot be for self glory. Second, Haman's life shows us the negative results that self-seeking glory can bring. (If you want to know what happens to Haman, read Esther 7:10.)
What can you do right now?
- Who can you encourage?
- Who can you teach?
- Who can you hold accountable?
- Who can you serve?
The story of Esther is truly one of my favorite stories. I’ve secretly always wanted to be a beauty queen and Esther is just that. In the beginning of the book of Esther, we can read that the original queen Vashiti displeased the king and was banished. He was advised to find a new queen by way of a beauty contest. Esther, who was an orphan and a Jew was selected among the beautiful virgins and made queen. She did not tell them of her nationality under the instructions of her cousin, Mordecai.
When a crisis arose and a royal edict was declared that every Jew in the kingdom of Xerxes would be killed. Esther was forced to make a decision. She could have done nothing. She could have sat in the king’s palace surrounded by riches and maids and kept quiet. No one knew she was a Jew, at least not yet.
But she didn’t do that. When Mordecai, her older cousin who had raised her since the death of her parents told her in 4:14 that perhaps she had “come to royal position for such a time as this” she sprung into action risking her royal status and her very own life for the sake of the Jewish people.
God had put Esther in a position to do something great. Take a look at your own life. What can you do for God from where you are? Don’t say, If I were a little younger… if my kids weren’t so little… if my husband would just show a little support…
What can you do for God right now?
There is such a difference between the actions of Esther and her husband. His actions were quick. He based them on how he felt at that moment. He also allowed the people around him to have influence over his important decisions.
Esther’s actions were much more cautious. She didn’t act until after she spent time with God in prayer and was certain of His will. She didn’t allow people to influence her decisions, she allowed God to lead her actions.
On what basis do we make our decisions? Do we pray about them and seek God’s leading; or are we quick and easily influenced by others? When we have important decisions to make, we need to pray and spend time with God before we act. Let’s not allow other people to guide us. Ask God for guidance instead.
These four characters represent four very different personalities. Which one do you identify with? Are you a humble servant like Mordecai? Are you prideful and self-serving like Haman? Do you prayerfully make difficult decisions? Are you impulsive and quick to heed unwise counsel?
Read the book of Esther. Ask God to speak to you and show you how to be more humble, faithful, and obedient.