He Puts Down and Lifts Up

Sound Words graphicThe book of Esther illustrates God’s silent hand of providence working in ordinary ways, using everyday events, and accomplishing his will even through flawed individuals. In the first chapter, queen Vashti rebels against the king and is deposed. The second chapter, describing the king’s selection of a new queen, is a real-life illustration of Psalm 75:6–7. “For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up, but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another” (ESV).

After deposing his queen, King Ahasuerus began to have second thoughts (2:1). As a greedy and lustful man who desired female companionship, he set about acquiring a new queen. The king’s selection criteria were not very rigid—he simply had attractive girls brought to him (2:2). In his lustfulness and greed for power, he chose a new queen (2:3–4). How could God work here?

Since Esther apparently met the beauty requirements of the king, she was taken to the palace as one of the women from which King Ahasuerus was to choose (2:8). Esther does not seem to be a model of purity and conviction (compare her actions with Daniel’s, another Jewish young person in a pagan king’s court). When Esther went to the king, she won this pagan’s heart (2:15–16). He immediately called an end to the parade of women and proclaimed Esther queen (2:17).

Where is God in all of this? Even in what might appear to be random actions, God’s hand is at work, working through (and often in spite of) sinful people, using them to accomplish his will. God silently used a stubborn queen (Vashti) and a lustful king (Ahasuerus) to bring a compromising Jewish girl (Esther) to a position of power. Furthermore, in the first verse of chapter three, we find a treacherous man (Haman) elevated to the second highest position in the kingdom. The crisis Esther would be able to avert was not even on the horizon when she became queen, but God was working all things according to his perfect will.

As a side note, Haman certainly received his comeuppance, but not as a matter of justice or punishment for his wickedness. The king charged Haman with treason for plotting to kill the queen—but Haman didn’t know Esther was a Jew! Then when the king returned, he construed Haman’s actions as inappropriate advances—a total misunderstanding! God used even the king’s confusion to remove Haman from power. The book of Esther is the story of God’s providence, told without even mentioning his name.

Because of God’s sovereign providence, we can say with complete confidence that every person in authority is there because God placed him there.

December 2008

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