Queen Esther was one of only two influential women in the Bible with a book in her name. She was a Jew born in exile in Persia during the reign of Xerxes, ruler of the powerful Medo-Persian Empire extending from India to Ethiopia. Esther became queen of Persia when she won the beauty contest in search of a replacement for the dethroned Vashti because she disobeyed her ruler-husband’s order.
In his third year, King Xerxes held a great party lasting seven days to show off his riches and majestic glory to all the princes, army officials, and nobles in his kingdom. On the last day, the king ordered his eunuchs to bring Queen Vashti to the party to “display” her beauty to all the people. When the queen refused, the furious king consulted his advisers and banished the queen to set an example to all women so they “will give honour to their husbands.” (Esther 1:20)
Esther became queen because another queen disobeyed her king. She was chosen not only for her beauty but to also serve as model of a respectful wife.
What greatness did Esther achieve? She saved her Jewish people from being massacred by Haman – a high official the king promoted with authority over all the princes in his kingdom. Every servant of Xerxes at the palace gate bowed in respect to Haman – all except Mordecai, Esther’s cousin and guardian. This enraged Haman to the point that he hated all the Jews because Mordecai was a Jew. Hence, Haman planned to destroy all the Jews throughout the empire. (3:1-5) This launched the crisis of the Jewish people – the threat of racial extinction.
What can we learn from a woman who saved an entire race from annihilation? What kind of a person was she? What leadership principles can we draw from her life?
A leader is called to model humility and submission.
Esther obeyed Mordecai. Even when she was already a queen, she followed Mordecai’s advice to keep her identity a secret (2:10,20).
She also listened to Hegai. As a contestant, she must complete 12 months of beauty treatments. She could ask for anything she wanted to take to the king’s palace but she asked for nothing other than what Hegai suggested (2:12-13,15).
Esther was obedient to legitimate authority without violating God’s moral standards.
She became an esteemed queen of influence. But her feet were planted firmly on the ground even as the king offered to grant her half his kingdom. She was married to the most powerful man in the world at that time – one who liked to show off – his wealth, his glory and his beautiful queen (1:4,11-12). A proud king such as Xerxes needs a submissive wife. She became queen to be an example to all women on how to respect their husbands (1:20). As with every commoner, she humbly subjected herself to the rules of the land – risking death for anyone going before the king without his summon. As queen who subjected herself to the king, Esther exemplified humility in her words and actions.
“My petition and my request is: if I have found favour in the sight of the king, and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and do what I request…” (5:7-8)
“If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me as my petition, and my people as my request;” (7:3)
Esther asked the king for favor. She sought his pleasure. She was a queen who pleaded with the Persian ruler for her life and that of her people. This is a humble stance of purpose.
Leadership needs a balance of pride and humility; of power and submission.
Being a woman, let me reflect on the role of women as God intended it to be. God created Eve to be a helper to Adam. He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Gen. 2:18) Esther was chosen to be queen and to honor her husband – a seemingly opposing role of power and submission. Hers was a high position of influence with a humble stance of purpose. And she held her crown with pride and meekness.
We can all be leaders in our own rights like in our family, friends or organization. What kind of leader are you? Are you one to insist on your own way? A self-absorbed leader? An oppressive leader? A self-serving leader? Are you a leader for others? A leader who consults and values the opinion of others? A leader who submit to others regardless of their status? Are you submitting to legitimate authority that is according to God’s moral standards?
A leader wisely achieves purpose with commitment.
If I perish, I perish (4:16b). Esther answered the call to save her people with determination whatever the outcome may be. It was her “que sera sera” moment – whatever will be, will be. It took courage for Esther to declare, “If I perish, so be it.”
Esther accepted Mordecai’s challenge to be queen for such a time as this.
Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” (4:13-14)
What leadership principles can be drawn from this challenge?
A position of power is not a security blanket. Mordecai told Esther, “Do not think you are safe because you’re the queen.” A leader never hides behind his position to keep his comfort zone. Are you feeling cozy and secure thinking everything is fine? How do unpleasant events in our community affect you? Do you perhaps claim, “It’s not my job.”?
A leader is not indispensable. Mordecai pointed out to Esther, “If you do not do something to help, help will come from another place. There will be consequences for you.” Every problem is an opportunity for the leader to make a difference. If he forfeits his opportunity, it goes to the next person willing to take up the challenge.
Esther saved her people, the Jews from extinction. She had a hand in making history because eventually, from the Jews came Jesus – the Saviour of the world. If she were to do nothing, God would still find a way for his plan to be fulfilled. If she were silent, she missed the opportunity to make a difference in the account of her people.
Reflect: what might happen if you stay silent when someone needed your encouragement and comfort? Think about how your indifference might affect your relationships wherever you are. Is your apathy causing mediocrity and laziness in your workplace?
A position of power serves a purpose. “Think about why you are queen,” Mordecai prompts Esther. Today, who are you? Why are you where you are? Are you just occupying a useless space in the grand picture of life? How can you make a difference in such a time as this? What kind of influence do you have in your world today?
Is your wife secure in your love? Are you a helper to your husband? A model, perhaps to others to honour and love their spouses? Are your children growing into responsible members of society? Is your workplace a reflection of your integrity? What can you do to bless your church? How can you make your country proud?
As passionate parents at home, motivating movers in any organization, inspiring influencers in the church and community, wherever we are in places of position, power and impact, we must rise to the need of the hour. It is important to be relevant – to be the right person, to do the right thing, in the right manner, at the right place and time, above all for the right reason – the cause of God.
Wise and Patient
The queen planned well. When Esther went to see the king, he extended his golden scepter to her. “What is troubling you, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even to half of the kingdom it shall be given to you.” (5:3)
Esther did not rush to tell the king her concern. Instead, she invited the king to attend her banquet with Haman. At the feast, the king again offered half of the kingdom to her. “Let Haman and my king dine with me again.”
Why wait? Perhaps Esther was making sure of the king’s favour. She needed to test the king’s response to her request. Why did she include Haman in the party? She wanted her enemy to be present when she asked the king for help. For two nights, her invitation to Haman made him beam with pride. To his friends and wife, he bragged how the queen invited only him to dine with the king! (5:12)
Esther was wise. She prepared the enemy well. She struck when Haman least expected it. She let him think he was in favor with her and the king.
How do you respond to crisis? Do you prefer to solve things quickly? Why do you find it hard to wait? How does your attitude towards waiting reflect your dependence on God? On others? Are you impatient and self-sufficient? How can you practice being cautious and patient when making crucial decisions as a leader?
Esther stayed true to her purpose. On the second night, the king asked her for the third time: “What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to half of the kingdom it shall be done.” (7:2)
If a king were to offer his queen half of his kingdom three times, what would have been the more reasonable, expected answer? How tempting – to be presented with half of the greatest kingdom in the world! Yet, Esther’s only goal was to save lives – her own and that of her people. She remained focused on her objective.
What temptation distracts you from God’s purpose for you? How will you overcome this temptation in order to achieve your goal as a leader? Are you committed to your responsibility to help others? What will you do to show you are a faithful leader?
I might not be a queen but as a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend, and a follower of Jesus, I too can make a difference. I distinguish myself with pride and in humility. I can influence other wives to honour their husbands. I can model to my daughters how to submit to their future husband.
In submission, I hold a position of power to promote peace and harmony in the home. I am a woman of God – created to help my man, to love God and love my neighbour as myself. God calls me to gently fulfil His purpose with wisdom, courage, commitment, and diligence in complete dependence on Him who reigns. After all, He is my true King.
Dear Lord, help me to rise above the challenges of life to be your servant-leader. Whatever role you give me to play, wherever you lead me to be, at such a time as this, empower me to be brave to do the right thing, in the right way, for the right cause – for your glory and the good of my neighbour. Amen.