The story of Esther raises an interesting question when it comes to our life situations; are we in control or God or both?
Remember the story: Esther was an exile in Babylon and an orphan being raised by her cousin Mordecai in Susa. King Ahasuerus was in search of a new queen. Many young virgins were taken from their homes and brought into the harem in order to find a new suitable queen. Esther was one of these young virgins who over time won the favor of all she was around and eventually became queen. Through this whole process Esther had kept her Jewish heritage a secret because Mordecai had feared for her safety.
While Esther was becoming Queen, Haman was rising to power as a counselor for the King. Haman was power-hungry, and wanted all to recognize his greatness, but Mordecai would not bow to him. This fact infuriated Haman and in retaliation he made a plot to kill as many Jews as possible and had the King sign an edict toward that end. The Jews were in morning over this fate, something had to be done. Mordecai went to Esther and told her as queen she had to do something King. But Esther feared speaking up so Mordecai told her, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
As the story unfolds Esther does approach the King, the plot is unraveled, Haman is destroyed and the Jews are saved. But Mordecai’s question lingers, maybe you have come to your position for such a time as this? Mordecai never says Esther became queen just to save the Jews, he simply ponders, maybe this was the reason. Could it be that the whole reason Esther was taken and that the King liked her was so that she would be in a position to save her people? Or was it that Esther was very talented and beautiful and courageous and she took advantage of the position she had to do good for others? Was it a course that had been set in motion by God and no one could change it or was it someone working for God while they could? Are we just characters that God is moving around a game board and we have no say in the matter or do we make choices and God determines to work through the choices we are making?
This may be a cop-out answer, but could it be both? God is moving all of history towards a telos, towards an ultimate goal, a purpose. At times God clearly moves us around and places us in positions to help move history towards his intended goal? History, both personal and collective, is full of times when God has opened and closed doors to help guide individuals where he wants them. At the same time, humanity has a choice. We can choose to work for good or evil. We can choose to serve our own purposes or God’s purposes. Mordecai acknowledges that Esther could have chosen not to act and God could have delivered the Jews another way. It was not all predetermined. But, God may have placed Esther as queen in order to use her for his purposes.
So what does this mean: Two things. First of all, you are not where you are by chance. Your own decisions, and the decisions of others, have helped lead to where you are today, but you are not there by chance. God is in control and he places humans in situations to advance history towards his ultimate end, his telos. God is working and moving and whether or not you want to be in the situation you are in, God can use where you are for his purposes. Secondly, God wants to use you for his purposes. Everyday we all have chances to work with God toward his ultimate goal. Everyday we have opportunities to take advantage of the situation we are in to work for God. But we must have the courage to act. We must gain a bigger vision of what we are about and look for opportunities to be God’s agent at work.
Perhaps we should start each day by asking some simple questions and then act on them: Why am I in the position I am in right now? What purpose could God have for me? How can I use my influence and voice to help promote God’s ultimate goal for history?