I wonder how often you have asked this question in the last couple of years or so. You look at the news media and bad news seems to predominate both locally, nationally and internationally. The world is in a constant state of upheaval and as one issue fades slightly another one raises its head. We have been through the Covid pandemic with fear tactics being used to keep us in line, and as this eases we immediately have another reason to fear as the prospect of war between Russia and the West is talked up over Ukraine and so we could go on. But these and many other issues raise the question
‘ Should Christians be afraid?’
We have noted before that one of the frequent challenges of Scripture is encapsulated in the exhortation ‘fear not’ and such an approach to what is happening around us on a daily basis surely depends on our understanding of how God works in his world.
There are many theological volumes that have been written on this key theme but I simply want to share some thoughts on the subject from the Book of Esther which I pray will help us to strand firm and without fear as we see God at work ‘behind the scenes’ as it were, in the machinations of those who are in power.
It is a well known Trivia question as to which book of the Bible makes no mention of God, and Esther is the answer but I want to show simply that he is actually at the centre of all that happens so that holding this truth we might see the same is true today.
The story begins (Esther chapter 1) in the Court of Ahasuerus, (Xerxes) King of Persia. He is an absolute ruler of a huge kingdom and as such he does as he pleases without reference to others. He celebrates his power and wealth in a wildly extravagant display of all that is his, over a period of 180 days which period culminates in a lavish banquet in surroundings which were designed to create a sense of awe and wonder among the guests. At the same time his Queen, Vashti, lays on a similar banquet for the women.
‘So what?’, we might say. That is the way massive wealth has always operated and had that been the end of the matter we would not have known about it. But on the last day of the men’s banquet, the King ‘in high spirits from wine’ decides to summon his Queen to show off her beauty to what were likely to have been at this stage in the celebrations, the lascivious eyes of the men.
The response to this summons was that for reasons unstated, Queen Vashti refuses to come and is banished from her royal position for fear that her, I suspect principled stand, would be copied by the women of the nobility, thus undermining the position of their husbands. She is therefore dealt with, with the intended result that every man might be secure as ruler over his own household.
Lets avoid being side-tracked by 21st Century equality legislation for this is just one example of many that can bring about unintended (from a human standpoint) consequences.
The situation at the end of Chapter 1 appears at first sight, to have no more significance than any other decree uttered by an absolute ruler. But like many decisions made before and since events inaugurated by men without God have deep and serious consequences for God’s people. How that came about in this case we shall pursue in the next instalment of this series. In the meantime, we do well to engage with world and more local events, seeking to apply to them a Christian mind in order to understand where God is in each situation, for in each situation, he most surely is!