Esther: The Story Within the Story

So we find ourselves studying yet another story in the Bible. I don’t know about you, but I think Esther is fascinating! No wonder they dramatized it for a movie several years ago. Though, if you’ve seen the movie, you might have already found some differences as you’ve been reading along with the sermon series.

The Esther and Mordecai of the Bible aren’t as good and heroic as the movie might have us believe. We’ve seen that they have “assimilated” into their culture, and pay little attention to the God of their ancestors. Yet, going into chapter 4, we see the tension in the story building—so much so that in chapter 4 Mordecai leads the way of repentance, and heavily alludes to God’s providence as he encourages Esther to participate in the salvation of the Jews.

It’s at this moment we need to stop, and take a look at the bigger picture.

This is the moment that sets us up for the big, climactic point of the whole story—the moment where all the Jews are saved and the curse over them is reversed. A curse has been pronounced over them because of one man’s refusal to bow to his superior, and now they all await death. Though, even in the face of death, something is happening; repentance is taking place, and a savior is being prepared. This savior will deliver the people from the wrath of the king, effectively reversing the curse.

Why does that language sound so familiar? Of course! I’m using the language of some of my previous posts to make a point here.[1] This language is often used to describe the Story of the whole Bible. But even more, this is the language Paul uses in Romans 5!

God created everything for his glory, including man. But, man sinned (rebelled against God; refused to bow to his Superior) so God cursed man, which cursed Creation. So it was through this one man that death came to all men. However, God immediately began a process of reconciliation by which the curse would be reversed. That could only happen through a Savior who could deliver Creation from the wrath of the King. Salvation can now come to all because of this one Savior.

It’s pretty easy to see the correspondence here between the story of Esther, and God’s redemptive Story in the Bible, right? The story of Esther may even typify one’s personal faith-journey—through repentance, salvation will come.

But as easy as this connection may be to see, some questions arise. Why is the correspondence between Esther and Jesus so significant; couldn’t it just be a happy coincidence? And, how does Esther actually fit into the overall Story of the Bible?

Well, the striking correspondence is important because the story itself is meant to direct its readers to see that God delights in saving his people, even people who are imperfect. Ultimately what that does is cause the readers to reflectively ask, “What has God done to save me?” The answer is found in Jesus, because Jesus is God’s plan for saving his people. He used Esther at a specific time, in a specific place, in a specific culture to save his people from certain death. But one day, he would send an even greater Savior to save his people from eternal death, whose accomplishment is effective for all times, places, and cultures.

But also, Esther fits into the overarching biblical Story by showing us an incredible instance of God’s preservation of Israel. That is significant because his plan was to bring this greater Savior about through the Israelite people. If the Jews had been destroyed, there would have been no Jesus! God is always faithful to ensure that his plans are accomplished.

And so, we see that Esther is even deeper that we might have imagined. Yes it’s a good story, but it was written to point our hearts toward a greater Savior; one who can reverse the curse we experience in our own lives everyday.

Enjoy Esther’s beautiful story, and the illustration of God’s greater redemption for your soul; and, be encouraged that he is faithful to save.

Carter Mundy wrote his masters degree research thesis on the relationship between Story and the gospel. He now works as the Outreach Director at the Greensboro Pregnancy Care Center, and is a community group leader in Mercy Hill Church.

[1]    See “The True Story of the Whole World” blog on December 7, 2012; and “The Story of a Kingdom Coming” on February 1, 2013.

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