“And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” —Esther 4:14
This is the verse most Christians are familiar with from the Old Testament book of Esther, a verse taught to young girls and women around the world to remind them to be courageous, strong, faith-filled, and loyal in the face of any circumstance. I love that verse. It has resonated with me on many occasions. But I think we do Queen Esther a disservice by only remembering this part of her royal ascent.
Esther’s parents died when she was a young girl. It appears that her family was taken captive and exiled to Babylon when King Nebuchadnezzar defeated the southern kingdom of Judah. Since she was orphaned, her cousin, the nephew of her father, took her in and raised her as his own daughter. His name was Mordecai, and he apparently was a wonderful father-figure to this young, unfortunate girl. Scripture indicates that even when Esther was placed in the palace, Mordecai continues to dote over her, making sure she was doing well—safe and cared for. It’s really a beautiful story of selfless love and family devotion.
Throughout the second chapter of Esther, there are verses that particularly stand out as indicators of how grateful and loyal Esther was to her cousin.
Even as a beautiful young woman called into the presence of the king, she remained humble and devoted.
“Esther had not revealed her nationality and family background, because Mordecai had forbidden her to do so.” Esther 2:10
“Every day he walked back and forth near the courtyard of the harem to find out how Esther was and what was happening to her.” Esther 2:11
“When the turn came for Esther (the young woman Mordecai had adopted, the daughter of his uncle Abihail) to go to the king, she asked for nothing other than what Hegai, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the harem, suggested. And Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her.” Esther 2:15
“But Mordecai found out about the plot and told Queen Esther, who in turn reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai.” Esther 2:22
Do you see the progression of obedience and respect between Esther and Mordecai? Clearly, she trusted his advice, and he wanted so much to make sure she was well cared for.
Being raised in Mordecai’s home had taught her humility, kindness, and quiet strength. She cared not for taking credit or for receiving more than was due; she simply reflected respect, honor, and a humble heart. Her strength came from her willingness to listen and learn. Though she could have flaunted the favor she found within the walls of the king’s palace, she chose to rely on what she learned as a child, no doubt teachings from the Holy Scriptures at the feet of cousin Mordecai. That is why she was able to go before King Xerxes (uninvited and under threat of death for doing so) when she learned of Haman’s plot to annihilate her people, the Jews.
Esther’s strength had a deeper source.
She was confident not in herself, but in what she knew to be right and true, and knowing that she could trust the wisdom of Mordecai who had fasted and prayed alongside her, her attendants, and all the Jews in Susa. Who but a person raised on the Word of God could exhibit such bravery?
I think that King Xerxes saw into Esther’s soul as well:
“Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval…” Esther 2:17
Esther’s face likely reflected her humble, kind spirit—perhaps the opposite of Queen Vashti’s (the former queen) personality. Perhaps the king was attracted to Esther on that level as well, grasping that her beauty was more than skin-deep.
Women who have the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22) exude a beauty that the world finds difficult to understand. We want to be seen as gentle, kind, and loving, but we also have that innate desire to prove ourselves, to be strong, independent, and proud. While there’s nothing wrong with those traits in general, specifically our hearts should be bent toward the “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” that Paul wrote about in Galatians.
Real strength comes from recognizing our dependence on God and giving Him control of our lives. It’s in realizing that He puts people in our lives to support, love, and challenge us. When the going gets tough, we get through it because of Who He is and what He has already accomplished—not through relying on our own faltering, ever-changing emotions or intellect.
Esther is certainly a role model for women of all ages and in every stage of life. From the humble home of her adoptive father to the opulent palace of the king, she held true to her family, her people, and her God. May the same be said of us throughout our lifetimes.
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