Here She Is…
“This young woman, who was also known as Esther, had a lovely figure and was beautiful.” –Esther 2:7b
When I was growing up, one of our favorite events on TV was the yearly Miss America Beauty Pageant. My sister and I would eagerly watch for Miss West Virginia, always hoping that this would be the year she would win the coveted crown and the scholarship that went with it. But for a young woman known as Esther, far more was at stake than winning a crown or a scholarship when she was brought to the palace of King Xerxes of Babylon to compete to be his new queen.
At the insistence of her Uncle Mordecai, a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, we know that Esther did not reveal her family background and nationality when she came to the citadel of Susa and was assigned to the harem under the care of Hagai. But we do know that she pleased Hagai and won his favor. And in turn, he saw to it that she was provided with beauty treatments and special food for an entire year.
Of course, it’s at this point in the story that most of us women have to battle with at least a little touch of envy. A year of spa treatments? What’s not to love about that? But for a young virgin like Esther, there had to be a certain amount of anxiety, nervousness, and stress at the idea of meeting the king. After all, she carried a very scandalous secret about her identity. What would happen if she was found out? The King had already ousted his former queen and banned her from ever again entering his presence. And what of Esther’s Uncle Mordecai? Would he be punished for his part in the deception?
Our God had other plans, didn’t he?
Though he is never mentioned by name, God’s hand of providence is seen everywhere in this story of Esther, Mordecai, and a villain named Haman who is soon to enter the picture. When Esther’s turn came to go to Xerxes for the night, the king is attracted to her “more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval…” Can you hear the music? Here she is, Miss… Oh, sorry, different time, different pageant!
Any yet, so similar! King Xerxes sets the royal crown on Esther’s head, gives a great banquet in her name, proclaims a holiday throughout the provinces, and distributes gifts with royal liberality. It’s like a fairy tale, the fantasy of any girl’s dreams. And yet, around the next corner, jealousy, hatred, and evil lurks. And a young woman discovers just why she was born “for such a time as this.”