Esther, a tragedy?

I'm reading through Esther these days, and I'm reminded of what I'd thought a few years back, that there is quite likely sadness inside her story, or rather the rest of her story. We romanticize the story, the beauty pageant winner who comes away with the grand prize of queenship. And then the drama of Haman's plot and her counterplot to save the Jews from death.

But what was the rest of her life like? How satisfying was her marriage? The social system enabled her husband to indulge any whim he ever had for all the other attractive women surrounding him. Any time she failed to fascinate, he could restage another pageant and enthrone a new charming faced winner. What kind of marriage was it really when she still faced death any time she wanted to come to him and he didn't want to talk? Twenty, thirty years later, did she view her marriage as a Cinderella romance, or as being trapped in a gilded cage?

Did she have children? None are recorded. If she had, the system surely forbade her to have much of a role raising them. They certainly weren't given a Jewish upbringing. A daughter, raised to be another harem beauty? A son, raised to enjoy harem beauties?

What was her life like when she was sixty? Queen Mother, ritually honored but effectively ignored? Could she still manage to believe she was born for such a time as that? By God's grace she could have, she could well have been sustained by the astonishing goodness of peace and joy despite circumstances. But it would not have been easy.

But perhaps in outward loneliness, she learned and experienced the great truth that God is with us, and comforts us in any affliction. Maybe in heaven she was rewarded for more than saving the people from Haman.

Gospel core values

What is the core of the Gospel? That God shows mercy on unworthy people, forgives them, adopts them as his own and makes them his people.

So what should I believe about this personally?
  • I can believe that by God's grace I have been chosen, imperfect as I am, to a significant role in God's Kingdom. He has chosen me, knowing my imperfections and takes upon himself the task of qualifying me for this. I will pursue this calling in relationship to God, opening my heart and laying bare my soul with its imperfections to him, because he knows about them already, and has chosen me anyway. I have seen that his grace in my life is bigger than my shortcomings. I can lay my longings and frustrations, both good or evil, before him, and experience his peace, even when in my life the good longings are not yet met and the evil longings have not yet gone away. I will continue in this faith I have learned, to walk in emotional honesty with God and trust his peace in my difficulties. The peace of pleasant circumstances is good when it happens but cannot be relied upon.

  • This same grace and calling I rejoice in is also given to my brothers and sisters. So I will not disbelieve in their calling when I perceive them as imperfect, but seek to understand their hearts, consider that I as well as they might be imperfect in the issue at hand, and pray for them that God helps them in their weaknesses.

The law of sequels: two exceptions

Everyone says that sequels are never as good as the original. I agree that the generalization holds up pretty well. Two exceptions do come to mind.

1) The Lord of the Rings books. These were written as a sequel to the Hobbit. And they are better. The Hobbit is good, but the LOTR books are better.

2) The New Testament. Perhaps strictly speaking we shouldn't call it a sequel, since both the Old and New Testaments are actually anthologies of various books. But there is a sequel-like effect in the books that describe Jesus Christ and the New Covenant, a retelling and recasting of the story of God and his chosen people, Abraham and his descendants.

As a sequel, it attains something quite remarkable. In one sense it is a better story, but it also renews my curiosity to go back and read the original story as well.