Monday, March 14, 2011

Ignoring the Humanity of the Bible

In the Bible, the book of Esther is all about human choices. If you read this story outside of a Biblical context, ignoring the common "God working in all things" motif Esther clearly shows, I think you would experience an endearing story of a protagonist struggling to overcome her fears to save her people from an overbearing, jerk of a king. You would fall in love with, and desire the same attentions from the mentor and encourager, Mordecai. He would show you what faith, love and support really can inspire in your life just as he did for Esther.

But let me look at some of the humanity in this book of Esther. A king, as many in positions of power do, flaunts his power and wealth in a huge party. The king demands of his wife, the Queen to share her beauty with his good buddies as they drink way too much. The queen, in a righteous stand against the king's wrongs, refuses to indulge him even though she knows it could mean her own life. The king banishes her for her disobedience. So, in short, a selfish man thinking much too highly of himself treats a woman as if she is of no value beyond her body. When she proves her real value and morality, he sends her to the streets without a thought. I take it he probably did this in a hefty rage of anger. I think if this story was real life today, it would just be another Hollywood fan-fare plastered in the media. And, like that Hollywood life, God is likely not to be easily seen.

In Esther though, we find an alternate side of humanity. We find a woman who against her instincts makes a tough choice. She makes perhaps the toughest of choices. In full view of the recent events of the queen being banished, she too goes to the king outside of the normal, approved ways. She basically tells the king he did something really stupid. Esther has to know this could mean she will be killed or banished to a life of nothingness, but still she chooses to stand up to the king. She risks her safety, her palace life, her position of power, and puts it all on the line for what she believes is the right course of action for the people she loves. Isn't that a beautiful picture of some of the greatest human traits? Love, self-sacrifice (or at least the willingness to do so), BOLDNESS. And you have to know that all of that was at odds with Esther's fear, desire for the good life, security, and comfort. How would I fair in that situation I wonder? I don't think I would have had the boldness to stand up as she did knowing all I had to give up.

Of course, the book of Esther IS in the Bible, and we DO have the Biblical backdrop for the story. So, Esther is all about humanity making good and bad choices, but it is also about God's working for us even when we make choices against what He wills. Esther found herself in the position she was in at least in part because of the bad decisions of a king, good decisions of a queen, and good decisions of Mordecai. Had it not been for those human choices, I don't think this story exists. Had the king chosen to hold his temper and not even ask his queen to entertain his drunk buddies, perhaps the book of Esther is not even in the Bible today. But, he did, and it is. We have a perfect example of our bad choices being managed by God to bring His ultimate good. We also have great examples of just how horrible and wonderful humanity really is.

Last thought on this little Hollywood Bible story: Why do I think (actually I know) I would make the same stand as the queen or Esther? Maybe it's because I don't have that Mordecai type character to encourage me to stand strong. Maybe it's because I just don't have as much desire for the righteous over the desirable. Whatever the human reason though, I truly believe it is really about the lack of acknowledgement of the Holy Spirit in my life. I mentally know He is in there trying to work on me, through me, for me, but in my heart I don't really give credence to His presence. I pretend He isn't there. So, even if I don't have Mordecai physically there to warn me, remind me, encourage me, I have the Spirit of God INSIDE me! I just have to listen and pay attention. I also need to make sure I don't let other voices squelch that Spirit when He moves and directs me (more on that next time). I know Esther acknowledged Mordecai, and she listened to his direction and guidance. It's high time I started doing the same.