CLICK HERE TO READ THE ENTIRE BOOK OF ESTHER
On my first major travel outside the US, my husband and I hit the capital cities of Europe. Five countries in eight days. You can imagine. Some days we felt overwhelmed. So much to see. So much that felt alien and unknown. Outside of our sense of history. Different customs, different language, different food, smells, money. Different everything.
At one point, we had been walking through Vienna, Austria on our way from one notation on our map to the next. We stopped at a sidewalk café—the type of place where you walked inside, got your food and took it outside to sit at little tables along the street. It was lovely.
Of course, we didn’t speak German and had no idea what the food was. But we had gotten used to pointing, raising the number of fingers to indicate what we wanted and then holding out the strange looking bills and coins for the restaurateur to take what he required.
On this occasion, after several tries of pointing to the sausages we wanted from the glass case before us, we succeeded in making our purchase and settled down at a sunny table outside. We opened our paper bag and retrieved—not the two sausages we thought we had ordered—but two slices of plain, dry bread.
No. We didn’t go back and try ordering again. We humbly munched our bread and headed for a street side sausage cart where there was but one choice in the ordering. We had never felt so much like we had entered a foreign land than that day.
Now there was in the citadel of Susa a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, who had been carried into exile from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, among those taken captive with Jehoiachim, king of Judah. Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother(Esther 2:5-7, emphasis added).
Scripture tells us that the Jews had been taken captive and carried into exile by King Nebuchadnezzar. The Jews living in Susa were away from their home. They were refugees, living in a foreign land among foreign people who had customs, language, and heritage that were different from their own. Although Cyrus the Great had allowed the Jews to legally return to Jerusalem, many remained in Susa. It would have been a hardship to pick up and leave the life they had made in Susa. Nonetheless, the Jews living there, no doubt felt outcast, little more than slaves perhaps. They lived in a foreign land, at the hand of foreign kings, waiting for deliverance from God.
It is in this situation that the story of Esther plays out. She was part of a people in exile where there were fewer protective laws perhaps, and where her status was less secure. Esther’s cousin, Mordecai warned her not to tell anyone that she was a Jewess—for her protection; so she would not be mistreated; so she would not be looked down on or despised.
Esther had not revealed her nationality and family background, because Mordecai had forbidden her to do so (Esther 2:10).
In some situations, at some points in our lives—we too feel like we don’t belong. We too feel as if we are in exile, in a foreign land, perhaps unprotected, mistreated, looked down upon, despised. Spiritually, Scripture tells us we are aliens in a foreign land until we turn to God.
…remember that at that time [before Jesus] you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world(Ephesians 2:12, explanation added).
This verse indicates that those of us who were not Jewish to begin with—we Gentiles—were foreigners to the promises God had given to His chosen people, the Jews. If we had lived in Esther’s time before Jesus, we non-Jews, non-chosen by God would have been exiled from His presence forever. Fortunately, because of Jesus, now…
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).
In other words, once Jesus came and once He became the sacrifice for all people for all sins for all time, us non-Jews got to join God’s chosen people and came out of spiritual exile, able to live forever with God’s people.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household (Ephesians 2:19).
Paul furthers this thought, explaining our desire to live forever with God. Even the Jews of old, says Paul, knew they were looking for a heavenly country.
All these people were still living by faith when they died [before Jesus’ time]. They did not receive the things promised them; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them (Hebrews 11:13-16, emphasis and explanation added, see also Philippians 3:20-21).
God placed in our hearts a desire to be with Him; a desire to spend eternity in His presence; a need to return to the place of our true citizenship: Heaven. This longing—unfulfilled here on Earth—makes us feel like we are exiled in a foreign land.
If Esther were here she would say this was her story. She was an exile, living in a foreign land.
Who are we to God? When we recognize that we are in exile from the presence of God until our eternal return to Him, we understand how He might see His women of faith. We can answer:
I am (like) Esther.
For Thought and Discussion
- Have you ever lived in a foreign country? What are some of the difficulties you might experience living outside your home country?
- How does being with people who don’t share your customs, your language or religion make you feel about yourself?
- What does it mean that your true citizenship is in heaven? How does that affect the way you live your earthly life?
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, sometimes we feel like we don’t belong. When we feel lost, please remind us that this is but our temporary home. Remind us that our true home is in heaven with you, Jesus and that you are waiting to welcome us home one day. Thank you, Holy Spirit for being with us each day until we return home. Amen.
Click HERE to read the entire book of Esther
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us Scripture to meditate on and learn from. Thank you for making us teachable, Jesus, and for not giving up on us as we stumble along in our faith. Show us how you see us as your precious daughters—daughters of the King. Amen.
Carol Peterson, Author, is a member of the Ruby Blogger Team and a regular contributor to the Ruby for Women as a book reviewer. You can connect with Carol on her blog, http://www.carolpetersonauthor.com