Dedication to Catherine Engelbrecht - Pillar of Strength in Modern Times
As you read the inspiring Biblical story of Esther, a beacon of courage and divine providence, my heart draws a parallel to a contemporary warrior, Catherine Engelbrecht, who echoes Esther's valor and tenacity - my best friend, the soul behind True the Vote.
Much like Esther, she has faced mountains of adversity in her pursuit of justice and fairness in the American electoral system.
Today, as she stands trial, a David against the Goliaths of deceit, we remember her unwavering dedication, her role as an exemplary mother, and the friend to thousands she has become.
In the pages of history, heroes emerge in times of crisis, and today, she is our Esther, our symbol of hope, and our testament to the fact that righteousness can indeed challenge the tides of injustice.
As you delve into Esther's story, let it be a reminder of the heroes amongst us, standing tall in the face of adversity.
Ordinary individuals, under God’s divine guidance, can catalyze extraordinary change in the culture around them. As long as they’re willing to bravely stand for justice, God will lead and protect them. One of the most beautiful displays of this promise is in the Book of Esther. Though he Book of Esther never directly mentions God, His providence is evident throughout. Esther showcases the attributes of righteousness in the face of evil and lives the promises of God steadfastly and humbly; she plans carefully before she acts, she uses the advice of others to her advantage, she conducts her life with grace and kindness, and she trusts in God to save her from evil. The Old Testament is filled with narratives of heroes and heroines who exemplify faith, courage, and obedience, but Esther stands out uniquely, not just as a Jewish woman who became a queen, but as a vessel of God’s divine providence during a critical juncture of Jewish history. The crisis our nation finds itself in today is great, but faithful, courageous women will still answer the call.
The historical narrative focuses on the life of a woman named Hadassah, or Esther, and her cousin Mordecai during a turning point in Jewish history. The events of the book take place during the time of the Persian Empire, specifically under the reign of King Ahasuerus (commonly identified as King Xerxes I) who ruled from 486-465 BC. The Jewish people, having been exiled from their homeland over 100 prior, were scattered throughout several Persian provinces. Though some, like Nehemiah, had returned to Israel, many more Jewish people were still living apart from the promised land. It’s here we meet Esther.
Esther, an orphaned Jewish girl raised by her cousin Mordecai, experienced a meteoric rise to prominence early in life (Esther 2:7). She was one of many women brought before King Ahasuerus as potential candidates to become queen, but Esther instantly stood out among them all for her astounding beauty and grace, and was quickly afforded every luxury the kingdom could offer (2:8-9). For months she underwent beauty treatments and special diets to prepare herself to meet the king. Interestingly, Mordecai told her not to reveal her Jewish identity to anyone — an element that would later play a pivotal role in the unfolding drama (Esther 2:10). Esther herself was exceedingly wise and adroit, consistently demonstrating keen forethought and patience. On one occasion, Esther had the opportunity to bring with her anything she wished before she met the king. She used the advice of Hegai — chosen by the king to be the keeper of the women — to inform her choice (2:15). Esther’s wisdom and quick-thinking gave her favor with everyone who saw her, and with the king himself. She won favor and approval from King Ahasuerus, and she was declared the new queen (2:17).
After Esther was named queen, the king promoted a man named Haman to be his top official (Esther 3:1). Haman was a power-hungry, bitter man who harbored a deep hatred for the Jews, especially Mordecai. When Haman ordered all the king’s staff to bow down and pay homage to him at the gate, Mordecai would not. Day after day, Mordecai would not bow down and Haman became so irate that he planned to kill him, but once he discovered Mordecai’s ethnicity, he decided to eradicate all the Jewish people throughout the kingdom (3:5-6). In his wrath, Haman convinced the king to issue a decree to annihilate all Jews, and the king consented to his request (3:8-15).
When this decree was made, Mordecai was overcome with grief. He wore sackcloth and ashes and cried openly in the streets (Esther 4:1). Esther heard about this and was overcome with fear for him and quickly sought to understand the situation. Through a third party, Mordecai explained the dire situation of the Jewish people. Mordecai urged Esther to appear before King Ahasuerus and plead for mercy on behalf of her people (Esther 4:8). It’s difficult to convey the terror that Esther must’ve experienced at this request. It was well known that the law stated no person could approach the king uninvited — the penalty for doing so was death. Esther hadn’t been invited by the king in weeks and was certain she would die if she approached him. In one of the most poignant moments in the Bible, Mordecai responds to Esther’s fear with God’s truth, “who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).
Driven by her love for her people and trust in God's providence, she chose to act. She asked Mordecai to unite all the Jewish people in their region in prayer and fasting for three days; she and her servants would do the same (Esther 4:16). Esther took a significant risk, understanding that it might cost her life, but after three days had passed, she dressed herself in her royal clothing and went before King Ahasuerus (Esther 5:1). Esther instantly found favor in the king's eyes and he promised to do anything she asked. In a fascinating twist of cunning and preparation, Esther didn’t ask the king to spare her people, instead she implored the king and Haman to attend a feast she had planned (Esther 5:4). The king quickly set about fulfilling her request, and during the feast the king again told her he would do anything she asked. Ever-patient and savvy, Esther asked the king and Haman to join her for another feast the following night (Esther 5:8). The next night, the king implored her, again, to ask for anything she desired, and it was then that she revealed the truth of Haman’s plot to kill the Jewish people (Esther 7:3-6). The king was incensed at this discovery and had Haman put to death (Esther 7:10). He told Esther to write any law she wanted in favor of her people and he would stamp it with his seal, so it was enacted that the Jewish people had the right to assemble and defend themselves from their attackers (Esther 8:11). In an absolutely ingenious move, Esther was at once able to save the Jewish people and destroy those who opposed them under the law of the land. What could have been a massacre turned into a victory, due to the brilliance of a woman who feared God.
Though God is not mentioned once throughout the entire book of Esther, His preeminence is obvious in the unfolding drama. The absence of His name is a poetic reminder that God remains even when He isn’t seen. Regardless of the culture or location of His people, He is always lighting and guiding the way to prosperity for those who trust in Him; it was Esther’s bravery and the providence of God that led to salvation for her and the Jewish people. This historical triumph demonstrates faith, courage, and wisdom, all on the shoulders of a woman who stood proud in the Lord. Her bravery is still celebrated today in the Jewish celebration of Purim, which commemorates the Jews' deliverance from Haman's plot (Esther 9:28-32). Purim a yearly reminder of God’s faithfulness through the life of a woman of faith.
Esther's boldness serves as a timeless example of courage in the face of adversity. Though she feared greatly for her life, she wasn’t overtaken by her fear. She knew God’s salvation would come to the Jewish people, but she saw how she could be a part of His plan and followed that path, regardless of the threat on her own life. Esther's story is a testament to the fact that ordinary individuals, when placed under divine guidance and driven by faith, can make an extraordinary impact. God can use the strength and grace of brave women to save people from the wickedness of others. Esther is marked throughout the world and across generations as a woman who stood bravely against evil, and many brave women today follow in her example of faith and bravery. Her life shines as a beacon of hope, reminding us that when faced with challenges, we can rely on God's providence and our innate strength to champion the cause of justice and righteousness.