Have you ever read a novel and couldn’t put it down until you reached the very end?
Stories, carefully crafted, contain detailed beginnings, weaving middles and rewarding ends, planting just enough tension to bring satisfying resolution to the problem or mystery. It’s what makes a great story, right?
When it comes to the story of our lives, however, the tension of the in-between is an increasingly uncomfortable place to be. It feels as if knowing the outcome would be so much easier than living under the strain of ambiguity.
We’re left to wonder…
Will they ever forgive us?
Will I get the job?
Will their heart turn to Jesus?
Will this treatment cure my cancer?
Our circumstances sometimes feel as though life is spiraling out of control-not unlike the Jews living in Persia.
When It Looks Like Evil Wins
Esther and Mordecai save the life of the king from a couple of angry tyrants, the very next move he makes is to hand out a sparkling promotion to a Jew-hating man named Haman (Esther 3).
Could’ve been a lot to swallow for Mordecai.
Not only did Haman get a promotion when it was Mordecai’s faithful intervention which preserved the king’s life, but the animosity between them seems birthed out of both tribal and personal rivalry. Mordecai refuses to honor him in his new role, which really gets on the nerves of Haman. Like showing up at a potluck without a casserole, Mordecai just wouldn’t take part, unlocking a chain of events that would throw the lives of all Jewish families into chaos.
As Haman’s anger grew, so did his evil plan. Unsatisfied with revenge on merely the single man, he became deadly intent on destroying that man’s entire race; quite a shocking escalation. Yet, the proposal goes before the king and gains the stamp of approved, in what seems like the blink of an eye.
Signed and Sealed In The Eyes of Man
They summoned the scribes, sealing the lethal proclamation. The date for destruction set for a mere eleven months away. As Haman and the king sit down to drink after a hard day at work, news descends across the land and mass confusion spreads within the city.
Now, for those who are familiar with the book of Esther, it’s easy for us to gloss over this piece of tension because we already know the rest of the story.
But, sit here a minute.
A neighbor runs over with the news, flabbergasted, unable to even tell it; before the year over, their parents, their children, aunts, uncles and cousins will be slaughtered-an entire people entirely gone.
Until then, how will they be treated in their communities, among their non-Jewish neighbors? Their possessions earmarked by onlookers for the day of their death. Should they try to escape? Where could they go? This deadly tension seems overwhelming.
How do you keep on living when it seems you’ve been given a death sentence?
Remember The Great Rescue
A thread of hope lies in the details.
Haman signs the proclamation for genocide, on the eve of a grand celebration for the Jewish people-the Passover.
A remembrance of God’s deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt, by his mighty hand. Through miraculous signs, the Lord made himself known to his people, rescued them, and took them on a journey to fulfill his promise to make them a great nation.
What a timely reminder on this chaotic night.
Though we know the rest of the story, they didn’t. In the same way, we can find ourselves sitting on the brink of fear, pain and suffering, without knowing how the Lord will bring deliverance; the diagnosis that looms over you, the broken relationship no longer holding by even a thread, or the farmer’s desperate search for rain in the middle of drought.
In the middle of our suffering, when life launches into confusion and we don’t know how this part of the story will end, we can always celebrate God’s deliverance.
See, it’s not just in the chaos we face a death sentence, it’s our natural condition. In his commentary on Esther, Landon Dowden writes, “make no mistake, in Esther 2:19-3:15 God’s people found themselves in the same position we have always found ourselves in since the garden of Eden. A decree of death hangs over us from which we cannot deliver ourselves.”
Here's the living hope. We were dead in our sin. Separated from God. Yet in his great love he purchased our salvation for the price of his son; the obedient sacrifice of our savior, who gave himself for us, swallowing up death for all time (Is 25:8) and exchanging it for life. This “hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom 5:5) and “to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe” (1 Tim 4:10). No death sentence has a hold on us any longer.
Our hope is alive because our Savior is.
When life brings trials, tribulations, and suffering, our firm and constant hope is he will deliver us; whether it’s from our suffering, through our suffering, or into our suffering and thus to eternal glory. We are assured a seat at his heavenly table because of the gracious gift of salvation.
So, “let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Heb 10:23).
That is how our story will end.