One of the helpful ways to think through the book of Esther is to do it thematically. In other words, rather than work through it chronologically, one looks at themes that thread their way through the book. I prefer this way of thinking through Esther, so on to my next theme: Divine Providence.
Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Theology defines Divine Providence as: Providence, then, is the sovereign, divine superintendence of all things, guiding them toward their divinely predetermined end in a way that is consistent with their created nature, all to the glory and praise of God. This divine, sovereign, and benevolent control of all things by God is the underlying premise of everything that is taught in the Scriptures.
Karen Jobes says that the grand theme of the book of Esther is: The major theological point of Esther is that throughout history God fulfills his covenant promises through his providence.
Where does one see God’s providence in Esther? Short answer: Everywhere.
- Esther is chosen queen over all of the many other candidates for the post (Esther 2:15-18).
- Mordecai discovers the plot to kill the king (2.21-23). It is an interesting side bit to the story, until we get to Esther 6, then the author springs on us the surprise, that it is not just an interesting tidbit, but a central act in the unfolding drama.
- The lots cast by Haman to decide when to destroy the Jews come up with a time much later in the year, thus providing enough time for Mordecai and Esther to act (3.7-15).
- The king welcoming Esther before the throne after ignoring her for a month (5.2)
- The king’s insomnia that brought to light Mordecai’s deed that saved the king’s life (6.1ff). This is the crucial act upon which the whole drama turns, a king who cannot sleep.
- The king agreeing to honor a Jew, whom he had given permission to Haman to slaughter (6.10-14)
Here is how one commentator works out Divine Providence in Esther: “The book of Esther, then, serves the purpose of showing how Divine Providence overrules all things; even in a distant, far country, God’s people are yet in His hands” (Young).
This is all the more amazing when one considers that individual human choices by people, some of who believe in God and others who do not, result in God’s will being accomplished. No character in the book of Esther would claim that God coerced them to do what they did. They all made their own free choices, and yet those choices resulted in God’s will being accomplished! That is amazing and should not be passed by too hastily.
Does God seem silent to you? Does it seem like he doesn’t care about your situation, or has forgotten about you? Does it seem like he has withdrawn his favor? Then the book of Esther is worth your study. Indeed, I would argue that the book of Esther is one of the most contemporary books in the Scriptures because it speaks so clearly to our own situation. We live in a secular country. God has left us the Scriptures, but does not speak to us in dreams and visions or by the spoken word (as a general rule – though Iran (ironically enough Ancient Persia) is a different story). Our faith is under assault by the broader culture. Is God in control? Does he care? Is he going to do anything? Read Esther and find out.