Pastor Martin Niemöller spent seven years in Nazi concentration camps. At the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., his words are on display: “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
In today’s reading, Esther faced a similar moral and spiritual challenge. Haman had plotted and the Persian emperor had decreed genocide against her people. Would she speak out? Would it do any good?
Esther’s uncle, Mordecai, told her to plead to the king for mercy. Such a course of action involved risking her life, for if she entered the king’s presence without being summoned and if he then didn’t pardon her by extending his scepter, she would be killed. (The king already considered queens to be disposable; see Esther 1.) When Esther pointed this out, Mordecai responded that the bigger risk was God’s disfavor. If she remained silent, He would save His people by another means, while she and her family would perish (vv. 12–14). Remaining silent would be a choice of fear, not faith. Saving her skin would be possible only by denying her own identity and ignoring the possibility that God had placed her where she was “for such a time as this.”
Esther bravely chose to do as her uncle advised, but she did not act alone (vv. 15–17). She asked all the Jews in the area to fast and pray with her for three days. Then she would go to the king and see what God would do.
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