There are so many iconic women we could celebrate during Women’s History Month. In a recent video interview with award-winning author Carolyn Custis James, we discuss the biblical and iconic character Esther and her import for Women’s History Month today. You can find the entire “New Wine Tastings” video interview at the close of this post.
Carolyn shares that we need stories today that will stiffen the spines of little girls, young women, and older women to say “no” to abuse and say “yes” to being agents of God’s all-powerful love, truth, and justice. Esther’s story is one such account.
Given that around ninety percent of the stories in the Bible are about men in light of the patriarchal backdrop, Carolyn encourages us to put an exclamation point next to Esther’s narrative. Esther’s dramatic growth as a leader and her blessed alliance with Mordecai serve as sources of inspiration for all of us as we seek to live faithful lives in trying times.
My favorite passage in Esther is found in chapter 4. In view of the wicked Haman’s plot and ensuing royal edict to exterminate the Jewish people, her relative Mordecai urged Esther in her role as Queen to go to the King and plead for their deliverance. At first she resisted due to the risk to her own life. But Mordecai, who had raised her after her parents’ death, persisted:
And they told Mordecai what Esther had said. Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him (Esther 4:12-17; ESV).
Esther responded like a young lioness and at great risk to herself. With cunning and courage, she was successful in winning the king’s favor and delivering her people from destruction. If Esther could rise up as a great leader in her context as a young woman in exile in a patriarchal society that was oppressive toward her own people, how might girls and women of various ages lead in the present time–“for such a time as this”? And for those of us who are men, what can we learn from Esther and Mordecai’s blessed alliance in service to those experiencing crisis situations? Likely all of us can benefit from having stiffer spines toward injustice and softer hearts toward people in need. This is a message for Women’s History Month and throughout the year.