Any evangelical who has a passing knowledge of the book of Esther immediately thinks of Esther and her Uncle Mordecai’s courage and exemplary moral character. Children shows like Veggie Tales and film adaptations such as One Night with the King reinforce this interpretation.
About a year ago, I listened to a podcast where Mike Cosper suggested that the book of Esther provided unique insight to our cultural situation not because of her courage and moral fiber, but because of her lack of both. I was intrigued.
Cosper delivers in spades on this promise in Faith Among the Faithless. Among the parallels Cosper notes between our situation and Esther’s is the secular-exilic environment of both. In our secular world we have shrunk the place for the transcendent. Cosper notes, “Secularism is today’s incontestable god.” He continues, “We’re creatures looking for meaning and purpose, and these pursuits can quickly become pseudo-religions that offer some sense of meaning or a hint of longed-for transcendence.”
Similarly, any reference from God is absent from the book of Esther. Esther has not just given into the promises of the world, she is the very embodiment of worldly success. Esther is the Kim Kardashian of ancient Persia, Cosper suggests.
Cosper notes that while we have often turned to Daniel’s exilic situation in Babylon, Esther is a more similar referent to us. While Daniel lived a pure life of rejecting the lures of his world, Esther and Mordecai assimilated to the Persian world, masking their Jewish identity. Cosper says, “So this is not a story about virtue and character, but about someone who has become acclimated to a godless world and has grown quite comfortable with it. It’s about compromise and crisis, and God’s way of preserving and renewing faith in the midst of it all.”
Both Mordecai and Esther eventually choose to make a bold decision to follow God and both choices are marked by vulnerability.
Ultimately the book of Esther reminds us that while God may seem missing, he is faithful. He never leaves his children. Cosper points us to 2 Timothy 2:13, where Paul reminds us, “if we are faithless, he remains faithful.” Cosper concludes, “I may not see his hand or hear his name, but I know he hasn’t left us.”
A year later, we are preaching through the book of Esther at New Life. The more time I spend in Esther, the more I appreciate its nuanced layering and the poignant word it speaks to our context today. I encourage you to dig deeper through Cosper’s excellent book Faith Among the Faithless.