Years ago at Berean we were a much different church. The Deacon Body, at that time, was the administrative authority instead of the office of Elder. On that Deacon Body were good men who nonetheless did not have the spiritual qualifications of elders and that often led to difficulties.
One day, a couple of the Deacons complained to the pastors about a song we had sung in the worship service that week (a worship chorus; at a time that worship choruses were still new to Berean). In an attempt to discredit all worship choruses, they gave the example of this one song we had sung…that did not even mention the name of God in it! My response to them was, “Oh, you mean like the book of Esther…because Esther does not mention even one time the name of God. Would you like us to make sure we take Esther out of the Bible?”
Sure enough, the book of Esther never refers to the name of God. But only a hyper-literal view of that fact can fail to recognize God and his sovereignty in the narrative of Esther. For instance:
- Was it just happenstance that Vashti, the Queen of Ahasuerus, refused to come to the Kings feast that he might show his guest her beauty; which led to her dismissal as Queen?
Note: Some have attempted to “virtu-ize” Vashti’s decision at this point saying that she was justified in refusing the King’s request because she was virtuous enough to refuse to be paraded before a bunch of drinking guests at the King’s feast. That is reading too much into the story. The cultural sensitivities of 21st century Americans should not be read into the text at this point. In that culture the King was doing nothing that was not the cultural norm. Besides, while the King was giving his “drunken feast”, Vashti was giving one of her own for the women. Let’s not lionize something the text does not.
- Was it simply luck that Esther, through her extraordinary beauty, was brought into the “new queen sweepstakes” even though she was a Jewess?
- Was it a mere accident that the King chose her to be Queen?
- Was it a fluke that Mordecai discovered the plot by two eunuchs to kill the king and foiled the plan which was then recorded in the chronicles of the King?
- Was it mere chance that by the time the wicked Haman hatched his plot to eradicate the Jews, Queen Esther and her uncle Mordecai were well placed to address the threat?
- Was it a “fluke” that the King’s sleeplessness one night would lead him to finally recognize the good Mordecai had done for him in exposing the aforementioned assassination plot?
- Was it only a coincidence that Esther had been placed where she was “for such a time as this” in order to deliver her people, the Jews?
- Was it just dumb irony that led to Haman being hanged on his own gallows which he had built for Mordecai?
- Was it just a fortuitous circumstance that led to not only the deliverance of the Jews but the destruction of their enemies who had determined to exterminate them?
Can we not see the sovereign hand of God at work in all these circumstances even though God is not mentioned even once by name in the narrative? Only one who is oblivious to the hidden hand of God in the circumstances of life could deny that Esther has an important message for us all and gives a startlingly clear picture of the God who is not once literally named in the text.
I wonder if we are so pedestrian and uninitiated in biblical nuance that we fail to see the hidden God in the circumstances of life. God’s presence in Ester may be nuanced, but it is definitely there. Do we need overt affirmations of God’s presence, statements of intent from Him, and corroboration from learned ones in order to be able to trace the sovereign hand of the “hidden” God? God is not always so obvious and clearly stated in so much of our lives. But he is there. We can trace his hidden hand without having to always have literal verification of every move he makes. Our dynamic with God is many times more visceral and instinctive than that.
So, God’s intentions and purposes are not always laid out in black and white terms. Sometimes, God remains “behind the scenes” and we need to recognize and trace the hand of the hidden God. Of course, every circumstance must be evaluated and understood from the perspective of God’s revealed Word. God’s hand will never move contrary to his Word. But sometimes, we need to just recognize that God’s work and presence is not so overtly obvious to us and learn to trust his sovereign workings to reveal his plans and purposes for us.