"Just Do It" has been a successful and popular slogan the past few years for the athletic company Nike. It refers to getting in shape and participating in athletics no matter what the physical or mental strain. But the slogan brings something else to my mind after spending time in the book of Esther: it reminds me to just do it—just do the right thing no matter what the consequences.
In the book of Esther we see the lives of several characters played out. There are those people who are selfish and prideful, seeking only personal recognition, and there are those who risk everything for others and choose integrity in the face of great opposition. Esther is a book about developing godly character. In the midst of a culture which emphasizes doing what is right, this book speaks to us in profound ways.
As we read through the events of Esther, we are given a description of what godly character is and what it is not. But there is another very strong theme that weaves in and around the theme of character. It is the idea that God is working in the circumstances and events of people's lives to bring about his plans. God is the director, the conductor, the weaver. As God works in our lives, we must choose what is right so that we can be a part of God's plan.
The events of this powerful book take place in Persia during the reign of King Xerxes from 486 to 465 B.C. It has been over one hundred years since the beginning of the exile, and some Jews have returned to Jerusalem. The story is set in the city of Susa, which is where the king has his winter palace. It involves the whole of the Jewish people, but revolves around the lives of King Xerxes; Esther; her cousin, Mordecai; and Haman, the king's highest noble.
Esther's story presents the last major threat to the Jewish people in the Old Testament period. The threat and the Jews' deliverance is recorded in this book. The Jewish festival of Purim, which is still celebrated today, is established in Esther, which accounts for the book's great popularity among the Jewish people. It is a wonderful story of God's providence and the character of his people told with humor, irony, repetition and contrast.
Esther will stir us to examine our character, the deep aspects of our hearts. It will encourage us in taking a stand for what is right and give us courage that God is still in control. It is a book that we need to study so that we can glorify God with our whole beings and begin to be witnesses in our world because of our integrity. If we allow the themes of Esther to penetrate our lives, we will begin to stop and question our actions and thoughts and align them with God's desire.
May your study in Esther produce in you a longing for consistent godly character.