If you’ve been tracking with me a while, you know I joined a group that is reading through the Bible chronologically through 2020. It can be painful. And I mean that in the most respectful way. To get through the whole collection of 66 books in a year can be a lot of reading. It can be rather large chunks of reading through … let’s say … more dry … lists of names … or the repetitive portions of Israel’s history … it can be tough. But this week, we started (and finished) Esther. I’ve always loved Esther.
For some reason, I was a little extra captivated this read through so I wanted to share a few thoughts and have a conversation with you. If it’s been a while since you’ve taken a walk down the Esther lane, read Esther 1-5:8 for this post.
To recap the first several chapters, King Xerxes calls for Queen Vashti, but she refuses to come to the king. Xerxes asks his advisors how to handle that situation, and they advise him to banish her and find a new queen. Insert Esther, the cousin of Mordecai. She goes, gets pampered and becomes queen. Meanwhile, Haman devises a plan to eliminate the Jews (nod to future history). Haman gets the king to agree to a date when all provinces can attack any local Jews and keep any of their possessions for themselves. Mordecai is obviously upset and approaches Esther to ask the king for mercy. The problem is, there is this law:
“Anyone who appears before the king in his inner court without being invited is doomed to die unless the king holds out his gold scepter.”
Esther expresses her concern, but Mordecai challenges her with probably the most preached on phrase from this book – that she was made for “such a time as this.” She asks Mordecai to have the community fast and pray for three days and seals the agreement to her future risk with, “If I must die, I must die.”
How epic is all of this!? And we’re only half way through the story!
So many layers to this narrative, but I want to zoom in to verse 5:1.
“On the third day of the fast, Esther put on her royal robes and entered the inner court of the palace.”
On the third day. As I read, I was thinking, what would those three days have felt like (other than hungry).
I’ve had a similar thought about Mary, the mother of Jesus.
An angel appears to this “young woman” and tells her she is pregnant with the Messiah. She gets this insane life altering new in verse 28 of Luke’s first chapter – body changing/engagement wrecking/society impacting/possibly being stoned information, and by verse 46 she’s singing a song about how great God is. That’s not generally how I respond to difficult scenarios.
In the Bible, we read paragraphs and lines that can represent days, years or generations. What we read in one page can cover hundreds of years of struggle, history, peace or war. What takes us five minutes to read might be encapsulating the story of five or more generations. I think we lose sight of this sometimes.
In Luke 1:28-46, after her angelic encounter, we read about Mary journeying to visit Elizabeth, an 81 mile hike/donkey/camel/cart ride. It would have probably taken about 3 days.
Just think of all the thoughts and emotions that would have swirled around Mary, or Esther over those three days. Then, I think about how impatient I am, how reactive I can be. I can easily run ahead with my initial response rather than allow myself to take the journey for a few days and sort through my thoughts and feelings.
I realize not all decisions or responses can be managed with a delay, but I wonder if more of our responses wouldn’t benefit from a 3 day pause. “Give me a few days” might fit way more scenarios than we want to muster the patience for. And when I say “pause,” it’s an active pause. I imagine these women wrestling with God, having this inner dialogue that acknowledges fear, worry, panic, honor, possibilities, pride.
I imagine in Esther’s mind she envisioned herself approaching the king, rehearsing through scenes of possible outcomes. I think about how Mary would have been bracing herself for people’s responses as she began to show, asking God so many questions, sharing so many doubts.
My point is, we usually give about a 3 to 30 minute reaction, maybe even just 3 seconds. Would things look differently if we took a 3 day trip with Jesus, sharing what we were thinking and feeling? How might that time shape our responses?