Esther: Steps in Spirit Warfare
Gaining Favor - Esther 2:8-11
As young, eligible women from the farthest reaches of Persia arrived at the harem under Hegai's care, don't you wish you could have been a fly on the wall to see and hear all the commotion? Certainly the harem had lots of flies, for Susa was HOT in the summertime---that may be why it housed the winter palace of King Ahasuerus!! No wonder the girls needed lots of perfume!!
What did those girls feel when they left their families and traveled to the capital city? Their custom of pre-arranged marriage may have meant some proud and perhaps greedy fathers had made sure their daughters were noticed by the beauty scouts. Every dad believed his daughter would outshine the rest and become nobility!! But only one would gain the coveted crown---only one!
The rest would live in the harem of the king's concubines after their sampling by Ahasuerus. Some may have viewed that as prestige or luxury. Others must have grieved the fact that they'd never become wives and mothers in typical families of their own. They had left their families, communities and ways of life behind forever. Life would never be the same for any of them.
Among the young ladies brought to the harem at Susa was Hadassah, later called Esther. Something about Esther distinguished her from the others and caught the eunuch Hegai's attention and favor.
Right away he brought her to the head of the line for her necessary cosmetics and portion of food staples. He assigned seven choice ladies-in-waiting from the palace staff to be Esther's personal care assistants, and moved them into the choicest apartment in the building! That's favor!
Life In The Harem
It's hard to imagine daily life in the harem. Maybe it was much like dorm life with each girl living in her own room. However, the harem must have had common areas where they could mingle. Surely there were times when Hegai or different teachers coached the girls as a group. Slowly, they became acquainted with each other...and let's face it...women talk!! They talk about themselves and each other. They're verbal!! They brag about their families and origins of birth, they commiserate about their common experiences, and they also up-stage each other.
Surely, other virgins in the harem were beautiful, charming, and some were even Jewish like herself. What was it about Esther that singularly captivated Hegai? Maybe that secret is wrapped up in "Esther did not make known her people or her kindred, for Mordecai had instructed her that she should not make them known." In other words, Esther kept her mouth shut with unpretentious humility!!
Esther was still submissive and obedient, even though she no longer lived under Mordecai's direct supervision and authority. Now she maintained obedience by her choice and practice, although he was not present to wield his influence.
Meekness, not Weakness
Mordecai's discipline throughout her childhood enabled Esther to willingly become what she was expected to do into what she wanted to do. She displayed the rare qualities the book of Galatians calls the fruit of the Spirit:
- Love: "Esther did not..., for Mordecai had instructed that she should not..." She loved and respected her father and his word more than anyone or anything else. She was bent on obeying him rather than making an impression on Hegai or the other girls.
When the Holy Spirit tempers a believer in the flame of the refiner's fire, He allows their love for everything else to char until they are devoted to Him alone. That's strength, not weakness!
- Joy: Esther possessed the satisfaction and poise originating from right relationship to her father.
Because of that relationship, she also had a right love for herself--and for others. Not relying on happenings around her for happiness, she could be consistent in her composure and demeanor even in keeping Mordecai's commandment.
- Peace: Esther was satisfied in her present situation.
She didn't look back with homesickness or nervously borrow tomorrow's "what ifs" so that she lost her cool and talked too much. The apostle Paul wrote: "I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am."
- Patience: Esther remembered all her father had taught her and walked in that path, not veering.
During the entire year of her purification, Esther took each day for itself. She endured the unfamiliar practices, no matter how they conflicted with God's teachings. She persevered and learned all she needed to meet the king, rather than getting to the end of her rope and blowing it!!
- Kindness: Esther must have been kind to everyone.
- Goodness: Esther did not operate from ulterior motives nor put herself on a pedestal.
Though she kept silent about much of her personal background, she did not do it with fear or an air of superiority. Instead, she went out of her way to bless others, so they knew they could trust her consistently. Esther sweetly treated others better than herself.
- Faithfulness: She believed her father and believed IN him, in his wisdom and knowledge.
If he told her not to tell, he must be right whether or not she understood why. Therefore, she was not encumbered with fretting about what might happen to her or about why she was in the harem in the first place. Though she was sequestered there, she trusted God for her strength.
- Gentleness: Esther stood strong and grew stronger, but was always gentle toward others.
One commentator says she was passive and weak. According to Webster:
- showing patience and humility;
- being kind or gentle;
- being easily imposed upon as being submissive or spineless
Jesus was gentle and meek, but He was not spineless nor was Esther. A weakling would have succumbed to the pressures.
How hard it must have been for Esther to worship God as a Jew without revealing her faith among so many pagan and idolatrous peers. She exercised careful personal discipline to maintain and build right relationships with those in the harem while staying true in her personal love for God and her father. That was gentleness!
- Self-control: Here is the clincher! Not until she left the security of her father's home and had to stand alone did Esther reveal her true character when she continued to obey him.
While Esther was under Mordecai's roof, she submitted to his authority. What she had been at home is what she continued to be in the harem. She didn't need her father, family or surroundings to exact obedience. Instead, her willingly obedient spirit influenced and changed people and her surroundings. Esther was ready to take on the coming challenges.
No matter how exasperating and 'foreign' some of the protocols, image worship or behavior of the other girls around her were, her kindness is hinted at farther in the chapter: "And Esther found favor in the eyes of all who saw her." She was not catty or a backstabber--that reputation would have gotten back even to Hegai. Instead, she kept things to herself without appearing to be a snob or reacting against the people who said or acted contrary to her personal perferences.
Mordecai A Picture of The Holy Spirit
During Esther's year of preparation and purification, Mordecai never missed a day of walking past the harem and looking up at her window. Certainly they had worked out a sign, perhaps some token Esther put at the window to let him know all was well. And as she looked down when he passed daily, she drew strength from his glance up at her, however fleeting.
Mordecai's love sustained Esther silently, but visually, and her face at the window let him know she was standing true to his teaching. As a child she had received his embrace, but now his knowing look was all she needed for support.
Pardon this aside, but there is a story of a man who dreamed he saw three people seated in a room. When Jesus came into the room, He stopped and hugged the first person before moving to the second individual. This person He touched on the shoulder. When Jesus came to the third person, He merely smiled at him before leaving.
An observer asked why Jesus treated each one so differently from the others. This was the reply: The first person was a new believer and needed much encouragement, so Jesus gave him an assuring hug. The second person was maturing in his walk, so Jesus just patted his shoulder in approval. The third person was mature in his walk. Jesus was a close friend by that time and only had to give him a smile to communicate His love.
Surely, reader, you have seen the parallels between Esther's learning the disciplines of Mordecai, and the heart and will of the believer submitting to the calling of the Holy Spirit until He becomes the fabric of our character
Even as Esther overcame the temptations of childhood while in her father's house, now in the palace compound she used that foundation to encounter and mingle in the world with its allurements and diversities. At the same time her strength increased, because she was submissive and obedient to her father's instructions.
There is a great lesson here for believers who lean on the church or religion for security and support. While the church family is essential for fellowship and corporately enjoying the presence of the Father (family), Jesus commissioned His Body to go into the entire world and be witnesses of Him.
In these Last Days we must leave the 'safety' of the four walls and hit the streets with the Gospel!! Learn the lessons of submission and obedience to the Holy Spirit, so you can stand strong and faithful, not needing more than His glance of approval as you bear the message of the Good News to those who are perishing!
Had she chosen to, Esther could have reneged in her obedience to Mordecai's instruction and become just like any other girl in the harem. But she would not have gone on to bear the mature fruit of the Spirit through perseverance and faithfulness illustrated by the "good soil" of the Sower parable we discussed in Part 4.
...and she would not have moved into the circle of being chosen.
More about that next time!
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