In the last article, I discuss the necessity of resisting evil by refusing to be silent. The story of Esther illustrates the need for women to speak up and name the enemy. Its ironic then, that while Esther uses her voice to deliver her people, God’s voice is silent.
Not only is God silent in Esther’s drama, His name is also never mentioned. God is not given any credit for orchestrating the events of the story. If you read Esther outside of its Jewish context, you might never know the religious nature of its main characters.
In my search to understand the God who seems awfully silent in my own life, Esther’s story seems familiar. Esther is given center stage in a drama whose Director is absent. Why did the author intentionally write God out of the narrative? Studying the book with this question at the fore reveals a depth of insight that, for me, is relevant.
Is God working even when I don’t experience His direction or presence? Esther leaves that question hanging, because we must each wrestle with a silent God for ourselves.
Coincidence or Providence?
There is more to the story of Esther than is revealed, just as there is more at work in the course of history than meets the eye. Walter C. Smith described God “as silent as light, hid from our eyes” in his famous hymn, “Immortal, Invisible God.” This is an apt portrayal of God in the book of Esther. His silence shines brightly through the author’s coincidental plot twists and random rolls of fate. When insomnia strikes the king and he reaches for the exact book that reveals the heroics of Mordecai, the author welcomes the skepticism forming the reader’s mind. When things are too convenient, the author is hinting that there is something else happening not revealed. He invites the reader to look deeper through faith.
By omitting God’s name, the author also provides an instructive choice for his reader. Those who are looking for God, will find Him.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Mat. 7:7-8
I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me. Prov. 8:17
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jer. 29:13
For those who do not wish to see His hand at work, the author presents the stroke of good luck. When Esther heroically declares, “If I perish, I perish,” the author leaves out any petition for Divine aid. But behind her words, people of faith see implicit trust in God’s will. Whereas those resigned to random fate, might see calm resignation. When the pur was cast, and the date determined for the fate of the Jews (3:7), studious readers of faith recognize the gentle nod to Divine will. Proverbs 16:33 says, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD (NIV).” Was this a random roll or providence?
The author does not decide for the reader.
The author subtly hides the work of God in his writing of the tale, but the coincidences found in the deliverance of the Jews were convincing nonetheless. Even non-Jews believed they had witnessed a supernatural event and converted (8:17). In relating this detail of the story, the author is prompting reflection on the source of the Jew’s special favor.
“Surely…nations you do not know will come running to you, because of the Lord your God…for he has endowed you with splendor (NIV Is. 55:5).”
Is God really at work?
The most poignant application of Esther requires deliberate consideration on the part of the reader. This was the author’s intent in removing all references to God from his story. The seeker will look behind the scenes to see God at work. But what about the skeptic? The skeptic finds that Esther encapsulates the human experience of doubt, and the author invites the reader to interact with the discomfort of a God who is “silent as light, hid from our sight.”
Is God interactive with human drama? Does He know and care? The recognition that God rarely speaks directly with humanity, and that empirical evidence for his mighty power is limited, is reassuring. Esther acknowledges what most of the faithful has experienced, that it is faith itself that is the evidence of the unseen God (KJV Heb. 11:1).
Esther influences the thoughtful reader to examine the accidents and flukes in our own lives; to look in between the coincidence and wonder if God’s hand is at work. Esther assures us it is acceptable to not see the miracle behind every turn of fate, but to trust God is working nonetheless. When God reveals himself with words, we should sit up, take note and believe. But, He does not often work like that. He always works. Sometimes, He is behind the scene, hidden; providing the sound effects or pulling the curtain. He must be looked for. And when he is looked for, He will be found.