December 3, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“Later when King Xerxes’ fury had subsided . . . the king’s personal attendants proposed, ‘Let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king. Let the king appoint commissioners in every province of his realm to bring all these beautiful young women into the harem at the citadel. . . . Then let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.’ This advice appealed to the king, and he followed it.”—Esther 2:1–4 (NIV)
As the story of Esther continues, we see King Xerxes’ wrath subside, and he decides it’s time to move on from his previous wife, Queen Vashti. How does he replace her? Well, his advisors come up with a plan to gather the most beautiful women from the king’s realm and let him decide. Xerxes was on board with this idea and the search for Vashti’s replacement began.
It’s when the kingdom is combed for its most beautiful women that we’re introduced to two of the key characters: “Now there was in the citadel of Susa a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, who had been carried into exile from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. . . . Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. . . . Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died” (Esther 2:5–7 NIV).
Enter Mordecai and his younger cousin Hadassah, who we’ll know as “Esther” from this point forward. Here’s what we need to know about these two: They were Jewish exiles living in a foreign land. About 100 years earlier, King Nebuchadnezzar invaded Jerusalem and forced it’s Jewish population into exile in Babylon. Over time, the Babylonian Empire gave way to the Medo-Persian Empire of which Xerxes is now king. So, when we meet Mordecai and Esther, we now understand they’re living in a land that isn’t their ancestral home, among a people who aren’t their people.
This is a big deal if you’re Jewish, because from the inception of your nation, God called you to be separate and distinct among all the other nations of the earth (Leviticus 20:26). Why? So the Lord could be revealed to the rest of the world through the uniqueness of the Jewish nation, acting as a light of His salvation to attract and save others (Acts 13:47). All to say, it was essential for the Jewish people to maintain their sense of identity as God’s chosen people, regardless of their circumstances.
This is precisely what we see demonstrated in the lives of Mordecai and Esther. Despite knowing nothing but a foreign land and culture for their entire lives, they retain their true sense of identity. They didn’t blend into the world around them or allow it to define them. Instead, they were defined by the identity God had given them—and this grip on their true identity will be a vital part of the story of Esther.
Now, let’s lift this principle out of Esther and apply it to our own lives. As those who are “in Christ,” we’re also in a foreign land. As far as this world goes, spiritually speaking, we’re “in it” but not “of it.” It’s so easy to forget this, to blend in with this world and to allow it to start defining our sense of identity. But the call on our lives is to not let that happen (Romans 12:2). We’re to do as Mordecai and Esther did, which is be defined by God’s Word, not the world.
Regardless of circumstance or trial, we are who the Lord says we are. That’s how we need to see ourselves, according to what He, not the world says—and He says we’re His no matter what we may encounter on our earthly sojourn.
Pause: What were Mordecai and Esther defined by?
Practice: Consider the things that influence your own sense of identity and how it matches up with God’s definition of who you are.
Pray: Lord, we come before You asking You to help us, by the power of Your Spirit, to see ourselves as You see us and to make the daily choices in the way we think about ourselves that agree with Your heart towards us. Let us be secure in who You say we are and not strive after what this world says we need to be. Empower us to choose the identity You provide in Christ. Amen.
Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.