Even when God’s name is taken out, God is still working

There is a wave of anger tinged with fear trying to rise in certain circles. With what seems like a swift insurgence, the pressure is mounting in America against Christians. I say “with what seems like” because if we are being honest, the attack on Christianity has not happened overnight as some would propose. Rather, it has been a slow chipping away of purity and goodness in America. Christians have been comfortable for far too long, and comfort often has a way of blinding us to the dangers that lurk around in the dark.

As a parent raising teenagers, I sometimes find myself thinking, Things sure do look different for my children than they did for me. But, is it really? I grew up as a teenager in the mid-80’s – early ’90s. Madonna was scantily clad singing lyrics such as, “Papa don’t preach I’m in trouble deep” (in response to a crisis teen pregnancy) and “like a virgin touched for the very first time.” Michael Jackson was singing “she’s just a girl who claims that I am the one, but the kid is not my son.” Movies like Animal House, Porky’s, and Sixteen Candles were shaping the minds and choices of teenagers. Long-haired metal bands were wild and very open about their drug and alcohol use. Parents couldn’t track their child’s every move on the Life 360 app. Pornography, while not as easily accessible, was available and not only was it available, pornographic magazines lined the shelves of every convenience store and grocery store for any, and every, eyeball to see. Bullying existed, even if it was deemed “normal childhood behavior” and it was sometimes harder to find out about because it was much more hidden (no one could screenshot the bully that backed you into a corner every day during gym time when no one else was looking).

To add to all that did exist then, the rise of more television channels, including MTV, created faster access to media. CD’s and VHS tapes allowed a person the opportunity to listen to songs and watch movies over and over. No longer did one need to wait for a song to come on the radio or a show or movie to air. It was “on-demand.”

Fast forward to today and instead of being a people who are required to patiently wait for the seasons to change, we can get access to almost anything at a click of our fingers. We think we are in control of our lives and everything around us. Yes, it may seem that way on a superficial level, but the sovereign God of the universe is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Just because our lives today move at lightning speed, doesn’t mean God changes His ways.

That’s a surreal thought, right? I mean, if our lives today look so very different from the lives of those who lived 1,000 years ago, how in the world is God still the same? Doesn’t He have to change to keep up?

Nope, He doesn’t.

God is constant. God is sovereign. This is true today and will be true tomorrow. God is still God whether we acknowledge Him or we don’t. God still causes the sun to rise and set regardless of whether we say His name in public or not, and regardless of whether it is allowed or not.

In the book of Esther, we see the heart of a man who hated God and hated His people. Haman was an Amalekite, and Amalekites were sworn enemies of the Jews. Haman wanted nothing more to destroy a man who refused to bow down to him and seize the opportunity to take revenge on the Jewish people. Haman was consumed with power and pride. Haman’s position got him access to the king and the king issued a decree upon Haman’s urging.

But God, even if He is never mentioned in the book of Esther, was at work. What looked like doom for the people of God turned into a victory that is still celebrated to this day by the Jewish people. How amazing is that?

God allowed Mordecai, Esther’s cousin, to overhear the plot concocted by Haman and approved by the king. Who is Esther you may ask? Some of you know who she is because a lot of attention is put on Esther. After all, the book is named after her. But Mordecai, he was someone who slowly and wisely did his job in a place that was very hostile to the Jewish people. He lived in a city that had very little Jews, relatively speaking, and was not overly nice to the Jewish people. Mordecai served as an official to the king and took the time to understand the Persian laws and how things got done but did not compromise his integrity.

Because Mordecai knew the Persian law, he knew the edict by the king could not be taken back. He responded in the only way he knew how; Mordecai “tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly” (Esther 4:1). Others throughout the provinces did the same. But Esther, holed up in the castle, didn’t know what was going on until her maids and eunuchs told her about Mordecai’s behavior. She responded not by asking what was wrong but by trying to send Mordecai some clothes. Sometimes removing ourselves from our people and living among people who don’t share our values tends to numb us to what really matters. Even after Esther finds out what is troubling Mordecai, she responds by saying doing anything on her part would be her death sentence, and she wasn’t signing up for that. She was a queen, after all, and had made her way in the world against all odds as an orphaned, Jewish girl.

Mordecai wasn’t giving up. He had taken Esther in and he was about to lay some guilt on Esther. Mordecai responded to Esther, “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape” (Esther 4:13). Mordecai quickly brought Esther back down to reality. Esther was a Jew and the edict was for all Jews to be killed. The king had not made an exception for her.

How would you have responded?

A better question for you today is, how will you respond?

There are lots of Hamans running around the world today. And, a lot more in America than there used to be.

What I love about the book of Esther is that God’s name never needs to be mentioned because God was associated with the Jewish people and the Jewish people with God. The two were not separate. When Esther finally came to her senses, she responded in the way Jews responded; she fasted. Not only did she fast, but she also said her servants would fast and she told Mordecai to tell the Jews to fast. Fasting was always accompanied by prayer in preparation for something. Esther was taking three days to prepare herself to go uninvited before the king. Without submitting a prayer request, she told the people to fast. The people knew the severity of what was taking place. They would know exactly what to pray. Esther needed courage and she needed favor with the king.

And after three days, she got both.

Eventually, Esther was able to tell the king about Haman’s wicked plot to kill the Jews. And, the king figured out how wicked Haman’s heart truly was. Haman was hung on the gallows he had built for Mordecai. However, even though the king learned of Haman’s wicked plan to kill the Jews, he couldn’t take his edict back. That’s like a gut punch. So, what then? Esther risked her life for nothing? The Jews were still going to be killed?

Not in God’s plan. This whole account in Esther is a huge interplay of God’s sovereignty and human will. How will people react when push comes to shove? Will people fight for what is right? Will people stand up for God and His people despite what could happen to them?

Just like then and just like now, God prepares the place and His people must choose to act.

The king sent out a new edict “granting the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves” (Esther 8:11). Not only was there a joyous celebration because of the new edict, “many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them” (Esther 8:17). The non-Jews knew something big had happened and Someone was on their side. Even before the account in Esther, we’ve seen this time and time again in the Bible. People saw the power of the people and knew it was God, even if they didn’t follow God.

I always hate this next part because I think, I get that the king’s original edict couldn’t be taken back but really, the Jews still had to fight? There was still going to be bloodshed. The Jews were spared but those who came against them were not. And, even though they had been permitted by the king to take the plunder of their enemies, they took none of it. Mordecai was promoted to second in rank to King Xerxes and was esteemed by his fellow Jews because he “worked for the good of the people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews” (Esther 10:3).

No doubt, there were issues of the day facing Esther, Mordecai, and the people living in and near the city of Susa. But the issue that took front and center was hatred toward God’s people. That wasn’t something God was going to stand for. Slowly and methodically, God put all the players into place and waited for them to act. Because make no mistake about it, if they didn’t, God would find someone else who would (just as Mordecai said to Esther in 4:14).

What does this mean for Christians today?

Maybe this means it is our time. Maybe you are the Esther or the Mordecai of this generation. Or, maybe you are just one of the Christians who have been called to fast (and pray) for three days. Either way, we will all be required to assemble and protect ourselves because if we don’t, we risk losing what many of us hold dear (and sometimes take for granted). The Jews were to be killed. We may not have that edict issued for us today, but we might have more and more laws enacted that impact our Christian values and way of life. That cannot happen on our watch. We cannot have our children or grandchildren asking one day, “What in the world were they thinking when they just sat back and let all of that happen? Did they not care or think about us?”

People and the government can take God out of whatever they want, but just because they don’t say His name, it doesn’t mean He isn’t still here. He’s still working and He is still wanting to use those that are willing to stand with Him. Will you?

Erin Olson

Founder and CEO of Sandalfeet Ministries

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