Reflections on Faith, God & Isolation
A Lockdown Devotional for the start of a New Year:
Wednesday 13th January 2021: #13 Esther
Click here for link to the video
The life of faith can contain far more instances of ‘living in the grey’ than we may want to admit. Yes, there are some things that are black and white; there are a few clear ethical norms and the command to worship the Lord and Him alone is unequivocal and has proved the deciding factor for many Christians around the world and over the centuries who have paid with their lives for refusing to say “Caesar is Lord”. However, such are the realities of modern politics and economics in an imperfect world, that there are many careers and vocations where it is virtually impossible to hold down a job and be 100% sure that you are not in some way being compromised, at least through your company’s or government’s policies.
God is at work: even in the grey.
This is not new. Take Esther for example. Being effectively kidnapped and brought into the harem of the foreign king Xerxes was hardly the recommended career path for an upright young Jewish girl, and yet, like some young Christian sisters in Nigeria recently, she had no choice. The “sex and relationships” talk from her youth group must have felt rather irrelevant to her in her predicament. She must have felt incredibly alone, and lost. In spite of the fact that the word God does not appear in the text, the book of Esther radiates his sovereignty. God was at work, even in “the grey’.
One of the pivotal points in the book comes when Esther’s adoptive father Mordecai asked her to intervene on behalf of her threatened people and she replied that it would be too dangerous to do so – it wouldn’t be politically safe. Mordecai famously says: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (4:13-14) The truth of Mordecai’s words, that Esther’s position within the royal household was indeed providential for that time, is borne out by how the story unfolds.
For such a time as this.
we are members of a royal household far greater than that of Xerxes. Who knows, but that we have come to our royal position for such a time as this?
Is it possible that we find ourselves alone at the moment, and wonder how could God redeem our circumstances? You have no-one living with you, you are not at work, you are certainly not in a king’s palace, what does ‘for such a time as this’ mean for you? I remember Eugene Peterson often saying this when referring to Old Testament narrative – whether it was about about Jacob, or Moses, or David – or Esther: “These characters were often concerned about what God was doing through them; God was much more interested in what he was doing in them.”
I write this during a global pandemic lockdown. If you find yourself alone and not able to do very much, could it be that God wants to work in you at such a time as this? If you find yourself alone with your family, what is God working in you all, and could your being forced to spend more time together be ‘for such a time as this’?
For those who are working in the caring professions or have the strength to go and help isolated neighbours or think of creative ways to bring a whole neighbourhood together, has God brought you to your street or apartment block ‘for such a time as this’?
For all of us, let us not forget that we are members of a royal household far greater than that of Xerxes. We are a royal priesthood (1 Pet.2;9; Rev.1:6) charged with representing God to our world in witness, and representing our world to God in prayer. Who knows, but that we have come to our royal position for such a time as this?
Lord Jesus whether I am finding myself alone and feeling useless, or whether I am suffering great restrictions to my freedom and feel that my opportunity to ‘do ministry’ is greatly diminished, or whether I am working in an environment where I feel acutely the potential for ethical compromise at every turn; open my eyes to your power to work in me. Help me interpret these days and this space which you have called me to inhabit, and enable me to see how I may have been placed here ‘for such a time as this’. Amen