So it came about when the command and decree of the king were heard and many young ladies were gathered to the citadel of Susa into the custody of Hegai, that Esther was taken to the king's palace into the custody of Hegai, who was in charge of the women. Now the young lady pleased him and found favor with him. So he quickly provided her with her cosmetics and food, gave her seven choice maids from the king's palace and transferred her and her maids to the best place in the harem. Esther did not make known her people or her kindred, for Mordecai had instructed her that she should not make them known.
Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials, to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal family and of the nobles, youths in whom was no defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king's court; and he ordered him to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king appointed for them a daily ration from the king's choice food and from the wine which he drank, and appointed that they should be educated three years, at the end of which they were to enter the king's personal service ... But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king's choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself. Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials. (Esther 2:8-10 & Daniel 1:3-5, 8-9, NASB)
Imagine young people taken from their homes and deposited in a foreign land. Take it a step further and imagine them growing up a generation or even two removed from their homeland. In each case, there is a fire within that burns for the life and country left behind, even if it has been known only through stories passed down from earlier generations. And for each, the reality is the same ... they are strangers in a strange land.
Two stories stand out for me when I think about the Israelites living in captivity under the rule of Babylon (and its successors). Those stories share the common threads mentioned above, yet each has a unique twist to it as well. Both Esther and Daniel find themselves conscripts under the scrutiny of the king of the realm. I highly doubt either one would have chosen their situations, yet their stories tell of choices they made in the midst of those situations. Each one turned to the same God who honored them and used them as instruments of His work.
Esther, under the counsel of her uncle, didn't reveal that she was a Jew. And following his advice, she found herself favored by the man who was running this little "replacement queen" project. The risk, from her perspective, was huge ... one night with the king and then, if he didn't care for her, she was off to an exile of an entirely different kind. Yet, though her story never once mentions God by name, it is abundantly clear He was present through all Esther went through and used her greatly.
Rewind in time to Daniel's story. He and many young men like him were segregated, had their education planned, and had their lives regulated almost to the degree of military training. Their food, wardrobe, and every aspect of their lives were planned out as directed by the king himself. And yet, Daniel felt uneasy with parts of it. He and his three closest friends asked for special dispensation to go on a strict vegetarian diet. Because he had found favor with the man running the program, they got their chance and God worked in miraculous ways through Daniel and the "fiery three".
In each case, we find an egotistical king, a willing servant, a person of influence who found "favor" with our heroes, and the same God who works His ways using those who love Him. Esther got the best food and accessories. Daniel chose to restrict himself. Both had ears for God and were sensitive to His leading. And in the end, the arrogant kings lost at least some of their swagger. Different choices; different tasks; same God.
As I walk the Crooked Path, I need to be careful I don't pigeon hole God into a particular way of working through me or others around me. God is not bound by me or anything I may choose. He very well may ask me to do something that is outside of my thinking, but I can be assured it will not be outside of His own character. He wants me to be an attentive, obedient servant who is ready to do His work at any time. I may never be asked to risk my life such Esther and Daniel were, but I should be willing to serve Him with the same attitude they showed. In the end, it is my own Crooked Path and God is still God. I think I can live with that.
- Have you fallen into a pattern of thinking God always acts the same way for you and everybody else? Do you think perhaps you've put limits on God that aren't really valid?
- When you consider the stories of Esther and Daniel, what do you think about? Can you see beyond the Sunday school version and recognize the same God working through them both?
- How has your perspective of God changed based on what He has asked you to do? Can you see that He takes an individual interest and approach to you and your situations?