Esther's actions in Esther chapter 2 are less than inspiring.
On her way to becoming Queen of Persia, she makes a series of faithless decisions. She essentially writes the book on how not to be a faithful Jew in exile.
She shares the blame faith some of her faithless decisions with Mordecai, who directs her to hide her Jewish identity. Mordecai is also the one who has chosen not to move them back to Jerusalem, although he could have long ago. He's chosen for them to stay in Susa.
And when the king's advisors come up with the contest to find a new queen for Xerxes—a contest that includes each carefully selected virgin spending the night with the king—Esther is in a comply or die situation.
She is taken to the empire's harem. She eats the empire's food. She undergoes the empire's beautifying treatment. All to prepare her to sleep with the empire's godless ruler.
We'd love for her to stand up somewhere along the line and say "No! You'll have to kill me first!" We'd love for her to "dare to be a Daniel", but she never does. Where Daniel stands up against his pagan rulers, Esther falters.
Instead of trusting in the God she cannot see, she dutifully submit to the lesser gods she can. And because she is incredibly beautiful, and sweetly compliant, she is everything that they're looking for.
She pleases the king more than any of the other contestants, and he makes her queen.
It's very difficult to finagle a positive portrayal of Esther from this chapter.
Which makes her one of us.
Because our churches are filled with, and led by, people who have caved under far less pressure than what Esther faced. We have all been guilty of hiding our heavenly identity and submitting to the faithless systems of life around us.
But the point of this chapter isn't to walk away and say "Yup we all mess up sometimes."
Esther chapter 2 has to be read in light of the rest of the book. This same Esther is the one that God uses to save the lives of the entire Jewish nation. She's the one God uses to keep his promise to Abraham. She's the one who God uses to keep his story of redemption rolling.
And not only is he using Esther to accomplish his purposes but he's working on Esther herself as well.
We will see a much different Esther in the chapters to come. Perfect? No. Far from it. But growing in faith and courage for sure.
While Esther was sinfully positioning herself for a lifetime of misery in a marriage to a egotistical, adulterous, godless tyrant, God was sovereignly positioning her for a moment of service to her people.
There are people in our churches who feel like they've backed themselves into a corner. They feel that their failings and temptations are the end of their story.
Let's help them see the messier chapters in their lives in light of the rest of the book. Let's introduce them to the God who saves, changes and uses all kinds of broken people for his glory.
Let's introduce them to the Savior who can make any story a redemption story.