by Dr. Foster H. Shannon
The book of Esther in the Old Testament tells us of the situation of the Jews in Persia. At that time Persia was the greatest empire in the world, stretching from India in the east to the Mediterranean in the west. Xerxes I (Ahasuerus in the biblical text) was king with absolute power and great wealth. Queen Vashti was deposed, and search was made for a new queen. Esther, a beautiful young Jewess was taken into the king’s harem, and in due course chosen by him to be the new Queen of Persia. She had been left an orphan, and had been adopted by Mordecai, her cousin, an official in the Persian government.
Anti-semitism has been an evil plague throughout history, manifesting itself in many attempts to persecute and destroy the Jews. Our first knowledge of governmental persecution of the Jews is told in the book of Esther. Haman, a Persian nobleman, had a rapid rise to power to become second only to the king. He hated Mordecai, and through him hated the tens of thousands of Jews in the Persian Empire. By deceptive means, he received authority from the king to destroy all of the Jews in the Empire. This placed Esther and Mordecai in grave danger, along with all of the other Jews. No one was to enter the throne room of the king without invitation. Those who came uninvited did so at the risk of their lives. Esther knew the rules, nonetheless, was told by Mordecai to reveal to the king that she was a Jew, and of the evil consequences that would befall her and all of the Jews. She had risen to a preeminent position in the world. She was now asked to risk all that she had achieved and her very life in order to save her people. Mordecai set the issue clearly before her: “For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:12,13) She undertook three days of fasting (seeking the Lord) to make her decision. She entered the palace, her presence was known to the king, he stretched out his scepter toward her indicating forgiveness for her serious breech of protocol. She invited Ahasuerus and Haman to a banquet that she would prepare, and then to a second banquet in which she accused Haman for his deception and wickedness. The result was the execution of Haman and his family and protection for the Jews.
Some things come upon us unwelcome and unexpected. The entire matter rested on one woman’s decision, which she made at the risk of her life. We need to recognize that there will be times in our lives that will challenge us. They are of such a nature that we regret having to deal with them. At such times we must do what we believe to be right. We must pray—we must think—we must refuse to go against what our conscience tells us. We must do what is right, even when it appears not to be in our interest. These principles are deeply embedded in the example and teaching of our Savior.
Foster H. Shannon
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Foster H. Shannon, Brief Biographical Note
Dr. Foster Shannon received his degree from the University of California, Berkeley in Political Science, and went on to obtain a Master of Divinity at Fuller Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry from San Francisco Theological Seminary, with emphasis on church growth.
He is currently Interim Pastor of True Light Presbyterian Church in Alhambra, CA. He is the author of seven books and a Sunday School curriculum. He is the President of Green Leaf Press, a non-profit Christian publishing company, which he established with others in 1981. Green Leaf Press, Inc. publishes and markets Christian books with special emphasis on Bible Study, Church Growth, and Christian Evidences. The website is: www.gogreenleaf.com. He enjoys riding his bicycle and swimming weekly. He likes both classical and popular music. He roots for the CAL Bears and the Chicago Cubs.
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