Similar to Daniel, the book of Esther tells the story of Israelite people living in exile. Esther takes place in Persia, roughly 100 years after the exile -- when many of the Israelites have returned to Jerusalem with Ezra and Nehemiah. It is the final narrative book of the Old Testament, telling the story of two Israelite people, Esther and Mordecai.
The book of Esther reads like a novel. Through an odd series of events, Esther becomes the queen of Persia. Her cousin, Mordecai, learns of a plan by Haman, one of the king’s officials, to kill all the Jewish, or Israelite, people in Persia. The unfolding story is the account of God using Mordecai and Esther to save the Israelites in Persia.
As you read Esther, notice that God is never named -- not once. Nonetheless, the book of Esther shows us that God is always at work, in all circumstances, advancing His will in His world. He delights in using faithful and obedient people to bring about His purposes for His glory. Mordecai states as much in likely the book’s most recognizable verse. As Esther is nervously considering her role in saving her people, Mordecai emboldens her by saying, “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place...And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14) The obvious answer to Mordecai’s question is that God knows. He always knows. He knows the ways in which His plans will unfold and who He will use to bring them about. We see God’s sovereignty clearly in the story of Esther and we can trust it fully in our lives today.
Esther 3:1-6; 4:1-17
Love & Respect
Once again, God is the main character in this story, even though He is never mentioned. The two Jewish characters are Esther, an orphan growing up in exile in the kingdom of Persia, and her cousin Mordecai, who raises her. We also have the Persian king, Xerxes, (who marries Esther), and the wicked Haman.
By the king’s orders, everyone is commanded to bow down to Haman. Mordecai refuses. Worship belongs to God alone. This so infuriates Haman that he begins to plot how to kill Mordecai and all the Jewish people. Mordecai calls upon Esther to come to the aid of her people by approaching the king. At the risk of her life (if the king refuses to see her, she will be executed) Esther goes to the king. In this story, we see the love and respect Esther shows to Mordecai. We see the love and respect of Mordecai when Esther requests his help in fasting and praying for her success. We even see Mordecai’s love and respect toward God in refusing to bow down. When the family ingredient of Love & Respect is constant in our home, it will lead to love and respect in times of distress.
- Why was Haman so angry with Mordecai? Why did Mordecai refuse to do what Haman wanted?
- What did Haman decide to do?
- Who can change the law to kill the Jews? What does Esther risk in going before the king?
- How did Mordecai encourage her to go to the king?
- What are examples of times you need to be brave when people want you to do things you should not do?
Activity: Teaching Respect through Role Play
It is difficult to find practical ways to teach your family how to be loving and respectful. Here are some fun role plays to try.
- Let others go first. Pretend you are at a party, food is served buffet style. Take turns letting each other go first.
- Give up your chair for adults or others. Pretend all of the chairs are full when an adult character comes into the room. Practice saying, “Would you like my chair?”
- Open doors for others. Take turns opening door for each other.
- Don’t interrupt. We teach our kids this by having them put their hand on our leg when we are engaged in conversation and they want our attention. We respond by putting our hand on theirs. This indicates that we are aware. I stop my conversation to respond as soon as possible. Role play by engaging one child in conversation and the other child practicing getting your attention in a respectful way.
For more ideas, visit meaningful mom and search "Teaching Respect Through Role Play."
Small Group Discussion
- What promise is there to claim?
- Esther is one of many people in Scripture that point to Jesus. Esther 9:1 “On the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, the reverse occurred: the Jews gained mastery over those who hated them.” And so it happened at the cross. At the very moment when the enemy of God hoped to gain mastery over Jesus, the reverse occurred: Jesus gained mastery over the ones who hated him. What does His sacrifice mean to you?