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Esther – an Orphan and a Slave

Welcome to the penultimate episode of our animated video series, where we journey through the stories of children at risk in the Bible. Today, we’re diving into the captivating narrative of Esther that resonates deeply with the modern-day children who face trauma, injustice, and danger. Just as Esther once shielded her people, we, too, can make a lasting impact in the lives of vulnerable children.

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Today we’re talking about Esther. She is another child at risk from the Old Testament. Esther’s story is a complicated one, and the history of the book is almost as dramatic as the text itself.

In Fire has a 125-year legacy of working in high-conflict areas across the globe, turning children at risk into powerful peacemakers who can transform their own communities from within. We stand in the line of fire for children at risk.

Martin Luther once said, “I’m so great an enemy to the book of Esther that I wish it had not come to us at all.” Luther did tend towards the dramatic but he struggled because Esther’s only one of two books in the Protestant canon that doesn’t mention God even once.

Now Rabbi Rachel has a very beautiful quote about this. She says God is never mentioned in the Megillah which means the scroll that the book of Esther would have been written on and read from on special days. But she goes on to say the divine presence permeates the story. The fact that Esther’s story doesn’t directly speak of God actually provides incredible insights on how to be salt and to be light in dark places, even when it is not wise to mention God directly.

This reflection from Herschel York really brings to light why Esther makes so many of us uncomfortable. He says, “I remember when I was a kid in Vacation Bible school and we used to sing a song about Daniel. There to be a Daniel. There to stand alone. There to have a purpose firm. There to make it known.

Well, what would you sing about Esther? There to be an Esther. There to please the king. Wear your cosmetics. Watch your figure and you’ll be a queen. It is a strange book, I tell you. That’s his take on it, would you be comfortable singing those words about Esther for yourself?

The story of Esther is another example of children at risk in the Old Testament. If you haven’t seen it yet, go watch the overview video that we did to get a broader perspective of children at risk in the Bible and that’ll help tie this picture in. Now when you think of children at risk, does a remote jungle village come to mind or maybe an industrial urban apartment complex. Vulnerable children are really everywhere we look. Just have to gain eyes to see.

Among these children are the next generation of leaders. They are some of the most open to God’s love through the church and have the potential to impact places that others might never have access to.

This is why it’s so important to learn about how God uses children at risk for his purposes and how we can align ourselves with the heart of God to encourage and protect and empower children at risk right now.

In her time, Esther was placed in a compromised position that makes most of us squirm at different points in the narrative, if we’re being honest. The Bible’s purpose though, is not to make us feel uncomfortable, but rather it’s to declare our calling as salt and light for the glory of God.

As with all of our children at risk, Bible heroes, we can carefully fill in the gaps of Esther’s story. But with humility, I want to note, we may not be right about all this.

The Three Social Status Challenges

So we will delve into the three social status challenges in the life of Esther: as a young girl, a woman, and an orphan.

Now, Esther may have been 12 or 13 when she was taken from home. Girls were typically married in their mid to late teens. And in the Hebrew culture, girls could marry at 12 or whenever they hit puberty.

And Esther, as a stunning young woman would have likely been married off early. So 12 or 13, it’s a reasonable guess.

A young girl like Esther had very little choice about what happened in her personal life too.

Though there are bright exceptions, daughters were valued as property of their fathers until they were the property of their husbands. So they could be bought and sold.

And even in our Bible text, the preceding queen Vashti was forever banished are possibly executed for defying the Emperor’s drunken wishes that she would come show off her beauty for his friends and officials.

So later in the story when Esther goes to request help from the King, she acknowledges it’s at the risk of her life. And that caution offers us a pretty good indication of that cloud of danger in the backdrop of her life. She had to navigate three social status challenges.

As a woman, she has little choice about who she married or how she worked. As an orphan, she lacked the backing of her family group and was low in the social order. And this is often the case still today, even when adopted into a family in Middle Eastern cultures. And as a child of the diaspora from armed conflict that was against her people, she was a second generation alien.

She was torn between two cultures. And this is evidenced by her two names, the Jewish one, Hadassah, and the Persian one, Esther.

The fact that Esther moves from an orphan alien in Susa to a queen is a huge stand on your head moment, but it came with its challenges too.

She had to hide her racial identity because racism was at large here. And she was the second object to the royalty. The virgins slept with the king as they were called upon. And that activity was part of the beauty contest.

In the patriarchal world, this wasn’t necessarily seen as a deep wrong, but a harem of roughly a thousand virgins and concubines reflects the ultimate and often abusive power of the king.

Once again, as we overview children at risk in the Old Testament, we see a child face terrible risks while learning how to navigate in a dark situation.

As I face terrible injustice, first I’ve got to be extremely careful not to judge the situation too quickly. I need to look at the assignment from heaven to know how to navigate the injustice. Things may be broken and in crisis, but there’s always a solution in the eternal realm and it doesn’t always align with my first human instinct either.

If I simply try to fight the injustice without falling Holy Spirit, I’m gonna build in the wrong spirit and I’m powerless to bring change. But if I follow my assignment, God is powerful through my obedience.

So what makes this story so impactful and applicable to modern-day children at risk? Esther, like all the youthful Old Testament heroes, had something really unique. It’s called favor. The story of Esther gives us a clue about this favor. When she began her time in the Susa Citadel, the harem of virgins, she won favor with the chief eunuch.

Now this Hebrew word one or nasa means to raise, to take up, or to carry. It’s active and not passive, she raised herself up into Hegai’s attention and his interest. A beautiful thing I’ve learned about some children who face trauma is that they learn to more aggressively chase what they need to be resourceful and resilient.

This is a posture that can find favor among others. The Bible often uses numbers to give us divine clues. We can see favor in the alignment of numbers like the seven eunuchs and the seven maids assigned to Esther. Though people often overuse seeing numbers, sometimes the Holy Spirit will use numbers on a clock or in a dream, or with significant dates to give us clues.

For example, January 15, 1994 was a significant date for us as my wife, and I left Mike Bickle’s church for Southeast Asia from the US at that time.

June 15 was the day we were married. On that day, the largest volcanic eruption in 100 years happened at Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines.

And then January 15, 2022, the biggest eruption since Pinatubo occurred on Tonga sending all these small tsunamis around the world.

And as my wife and I have been praying seriously into the next sending phase that God has for us, things like this should capture our attention and make us more alert and more expectant.

And Esther’s story continues and we see this favor coming to her through these just so happened moments, these divine alignments.

Like when her uncle Mordecai was at the right place at the right time to overhear a plot against the king, or when Mordecai was honored by the king, The same day when Haman had planned to kill him, we see all these coincidental threads weaving together in the story, and we can call this divine alignment or we can call it favor.

Sometimes favor is just like the rain pouring down and you put the buckets out to catch it and you don’t stress, but sometimes it’s more like a mystery to be solved and you need to follow that breadcrumb trail to see what God is trying to teach you.

We can look to Jesus for further examples of favor. Jesus had eternal favor because he was a son of God because he’s a son, he grew up in that favor for his future. Because he has an assignment, he partnered with that favor.

We can see how important favor is in Esther’s story. But what do we need to remember about our own favor? We’re all adopted sons and daughters. This is a gift of grace.

If favor as members of the family of heaven. We all can and should grow in favor like Jesus did. And we all have assignments like he did, purpose, and unique tasks to be light and to be the fragrance of our Father. And the more we align to these, the more favor we’re gonna see.

Favor’s gonna bring some of us in front of kings, in front of rulers, but it also might hands some of us young Esther’s to care for. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

Favor that brings us in front of kings is favor with a risk. It may make us martyrs but the favor we have as a child of God will have an incredible impact. Even if that risk hits us now Esther was a hero because she protected her people from a racial genocide an ethnic cleansing but at the end of her story questions about her decisions may linger like Esther chose to extend the massacre of the Jewish enemies into a second day.

Now, maybe there was a divine injunction to protect the diaspora from further harm, but when we study our Bible characters, they’re often uncomfortably like us.

They lash out in self-protection when the power struggle is reversed. Has God given you an assignment of working with the rising generation? And our work with children have come out of slavery or abuse, a sign of true success is that they become peacemakers. That is, they become a person that is no longer ruled by survival instincts, but by the peace of the cross and the power of the resurrection favor that inflames their souls.

Now, I’d like to share a story where I’ve seen this to be true. It’s a story of a young female assassin in Mexico.

At the tender age of nine, Tiana was hanging out with friends at a local drug dealer shack and had her first high. And while she was in her drug stupor, the dealer raped her without a second thought. Later she told her mom what had happened and her mom just said, “Get over it.”

Because of this, she became hooked on drugs. It was just trying to numb the pain, and a year later, she started working for the cartel as a hawk to continue feeding her habit. She quickly impressed all her cartel bosses, and soon she was going with them to do jobs, working as a lookout for them, and then a few years down the road from there, she had become an eyewitness to multiple violent murders and rapes.

And then there was a day of opportunity that arrived for Tiana and she was invited to be a part of a group of young girls who worked as assassins for the cartel.

There was a group of about 20 girls all under the age of 16 who were selected and taken through this isolated ranchero where they’re trained as assassins. And the girls were specifically taught to take them into bed and kill them.

Less than a year later, she had already participated in several shootouts and the jobs they were assigned were so dangerous that eight of her enclave were already dead during that time and she decided that if she didn’t escape, she was going to die too.

So she got connected to us through family members who had heard about her program and then Tiana was in her care for a few months, getting to feel the danger in the past.

She started leaving our center to do these small errands at a corner shop every day. And one of these trips, she never made it back to the center, and we were told that four hit men had nabbed her. We searched the city up and down, she was gone, and it was such a heartbreaker.

Do you know anybody who’s 16? Can you imagine that kind of a moment?

It’s not easy to rescue one of these girls, but there’s still so many out there that we’re working to rescue and help through our mission within fire.

A few years later, one of our social workers, who runs the safe house, discovered Tiana again.

And we were so excited to find her. And we found out she had accepted working with the cartel again, but she had drawn a line with certain things like assassinations.

And Tiana said she was doing this to protect her younger sister from ever leading the following of her path. And her mom, who was still working as a prostitute, begin to attend church.

Now, Tiana was still working in dangerous places, but she was beginning to fight for what was right. Even in a complicated, compromised situation, can you see the chains that Tiana was creating in her own family?

We received this really shocking news that the cartel had literally chopped her head off because she refused to do an assassination for them. So this was our second heartbreak time then we were like, oh man, Tiana died.

But this time she really did die. She died an amazing martyr, trying to make the right choices, fighting for her family. And her impact has not ended as we’re a few years down the road now and her mom remains a follower of Jesus and her sister still does not work through the cartel.

Justice not always easy. And sometimes, the cost very high but transformation often begins here with blood like sea and ground.

It’s honoring to be able to see how God reaches the lives of children at risk and raises them for such a time as this, like Esther. If God has called us as leaders and builders in our spheres of society, then may we start with those who the world sees as the most expendable, just like God loves to do.