The book of Esther reveals a situation in which God's people, the Jews, were in captivity in a comfortable place. After the Babylonians had conquered Judah and that holy City of Jerusalem they took God’s people into bondage in Babylon and though they were in bondage they had a certain degree of freedom. They were allowed to live a normal life in this city, and what an incredible city it was. These captive Jews were brought in and carried past the gates of Ishtar bigger and more beautiful than any architectural achievement they had ever seen. The walls were 40 feet thick all the way around as the Babylonians boasted that they could ride four chariots side by side across the top. The city was full of bright colors and sounds (the blue bricks, for example, that made up the Ishtar gate were difficult to make. The color itself was unusual to find naturally in the mesopotamian world. This place was amazing to the Jewish people who had never seen such sights. They would have continued along a road past the palace with walls even thicker than the walls of the city itself. In the inner most chambers of that palace was where Daniel prophesied. The Jews could see that they were going to have strong leadership. Then they would have seen the temple coming into view, four football fields large on bottom, 2 football fields large on the second level and one football field large on the top - high above the city where they would worship their god’s while involved in drunken orgies. Sadly this would have been carnally enticing to many men. So by the time, years later, the Jews were set free, they had no reason to want to go back to Judah and the City of Jerusalem. They were quite happy and comfortable where they were.
1. COMFORT IS CAPTIVATING - Francis Chan captured it perfectly when he said, “But God doesn't call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn't come through.” Ultimately, Esther's risky explanation of her Jewish genealogy, combined with Haman's wicked plan to kill the Jews, and the kings timely case of insomnia all weave a tapestry of trouble for the God's people and the way God, indeed, came through. That's what it took. The comfort had to go. The same is true for us.
Have you ever found yourself on your knees again pouring out your heart . . . again . . . to God for some sin . . . again . . . and feeling like He no longer can stomach your promises of change? I have. Part of the problem is that our sins are often comfortable. The chains have become more comfortable than crowns. Crowns can be so cumbersome. Chains can even be decorative. I don't mean to get too esoteric, but the point should be clear. It's very comfortable to use your smartphone to look at porn, your Netflix account to watch garbage, your little white lies to make yourself look better or your talent for telling good stories for gossip. We have learned to wear our Babylonian and Persian chains well. They suit us, we imagine. We are too lazy to learn a better fashion. We are comfortable.
2. CRUSADERS ARE CALLED - The Bachelor and similarly smutty reality shows don't shock us anymore. But the story of the king and his search for a new bride (which involved a bunch of beautiful women being given makeovers and spending separate nights with him before being voted out of the mansion) was the original reality contest of this type. If television existed then, the talk of the town would have revolved around which beautiful girl was the favorite. When one of them got voted off, she would appear the next morning on Good Morning Persia and be interviewed by George Stephanopoulos on what life was like inside the Palace walls.
However, God (though His name never appears in the book) had prepared two crusaders. Esther and Mordecai were in the right place for "such a time as this." The same is true for all believers. We must cast off our chains of comfort and recognize that we can no longer continue living like zombies, roaming the landscape intoxicated by carnality, but embody our call to be crusaders for God's plan. You are among people who need you, and they need to hear the message.
3. CONDEMNATION IS CLOSE - For the Jews in the story Haman had convinced the King to order their genocide. The command could not be undone, but they were free to prepare themselves. As a result, the Jews won the day. The same is true for all humanity. Condemnation is close and while we cannot change that, we can prepare the world we live in by reaching others for Christ in the time we have left. If that phrase, "reaching others for Christ" sounds pat and cliche the fact only speaks to the degree to which we have become comfortable with the denigration of conservative Christianity in our own Babylon or Persia. We are here for a purpose. We are here "for such a time as this!"
Below is a scene from the recent film, God's Not Dead. While there are things I like and don't like about the film, this powerful scene speaks to this issue directly.