Imperfect people

After our first week in the Book of Esther, a friend asked me “So what’s up with Esther having 75k people killed at the end of the story?” He had read ahead, specifically referring to chapter 9 in which it states, “They gained relief from their enemies by killing 75,000 of them.”

What a great question, and it begs for more than I can respond to in this blog. But here is a short reply.

One of the things we have to realize when reading the Bible is that human weakness is portrayed throughout. Even the heroes of the Bible (like Esther) were imperfect. They do great things for God, then, they do something off the wall.

Many times the Bible is silent in terms of commentary. In other words, the author of Esther does not say her actions were over the top, that power got to her head and she should not have pushed for an extra day of killing her enemies. We’re left to wonder about her motivation, and what God thought about it.

Esther was an imperfect Jewish girl, elevated to the position of Queen of Persia. Against Jewish laws she had sex with a pagan king, married him, did not practice many ritual laws, and kept her faith private. I’m guessing she wrestled with all of this but I’m not sure how much.

However, God used her in a mighty way to spare the Hebrews from annihilation.

The Bible is still a story of redemption history, how God was and is intervening in this imperfect world and ultimately will set everything right.

When reading the Bible, we have to be careful to avoid interpreting silence on a matter as validation. We have to guard against putting people on pedestals as though God were endorsing their every action. Only when it clearly states they were doing what God asked and it is consistent with the overall teaching of the Bible do we embrace it as an example to follow.

We look to Jesus, who was in himself the exact representation of the Father. He fulfilled the law of God perfectly. He also reinterpreted much of the law, revealing the intentions of God (“you have heard it said…, but I say unto you…”).

So in the Esther story, we read through the lenses of “loving your enemies” and “praying for those who persecute you” and “entrusting yourself to God.” We rejoice in God’s deliverance and we leave judgment in His hands.

We can learn from Esther’s courage, from Mordecai’s character, and from God’s sovereign hand in working everything together for good. And with God’s help, the whole counsel of Scripture, and being in loving community, we can sort through understanding what applies to us.

And we can avoid putting people on pedestals by realizing gifting does not validate behavior. What a hard lesson to learn…

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