The Courage of OneFebruary 24, 2021 - 12:00 am
“Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish” — Esther 4:15-16
This month, Jews around the world celebrate the observance of Purim, which commemorates the biblical story of Queen Esther. In these devotions, I share with you the lessons of courage found in this story that are from my book, Generation to Generation: Passing on the Legacy of Faith to Our Children. Purim is celebrated at sundown Feb. 25 to sundown Feb. 26.
One of my father’s favourite things to do when my sisters and I were young was to read books to us — and not just any books, but books with messages that would inspire us to believe in ourselves. Two bedtime classics in our home were The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper and The Value of Believing in Yourself: The Story of Louis Pasteur, by Spencer Johnson. Through these books I was introduced to a little blue train engine who kept repeating, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can,” and a pioneering chemist whose constant refrain was: “I believe I can.”
The heroes of my bedtime stories were successful in accomplishing things great and small because of the one thing they had in common — both believed in themselves, and consequently had the courage to pursue goals others thought impossible to achieve. And my father taught my sisters and me that with God in our lives, we, too, could accomplish anything we put our mind to, if we would have courage and believe in ourselves.
For most of the story, Esther was a passive character. She was raised by Mordecai, taken against her will to the palace, forced to marry King Xerxes, and then followed the rules set out by Mordecai regarding her conduct in the palace. When confronted with the task of saving the Jews, her immediate reaction was to reject it because she feared for her life.
The Courage of One
However, once Mordecai made his case, Esther rose to the occasion and proclaimed, “And if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16). In that moment, she realized that there was something much larger at stake — the very life and continuity of the entire Jewish nation. This was the turning point for both Esther and the Jews. For the first time, she became assertive, despite her fear, and commanded Mordecai to call a three-day fast on her behalf.
I always found it curious that the Jewish people commemorate the biblical Fast of Esther the day before the Purim holiday when in reality, the original fast was held 11 months earlier in the year (see Esther Chapter 3). However, according to Jewish teachings, while the story of Purim is about God’s providence, it is also about the courage of one individual. Before we celebrate God’s salvation on Purim we must first appreciate and learn from Esther, a young orphan girl who stepped out in faith and bravely did her part to save her people.
We, too, must be willing to trust God and believe in ourselves when we are called to serve His purposes. Then, when we have done all that we can, He will surely help us achieve our goal.
Your turn: What is God calling you to do for Him today? Take a moment to pray and ask for the courage to serve Him.