Genocide is a serious charge to make but surely we have an example of it in the actions of Haman and the unwitting approval (driven by money 3 v.9) of the king. However as the account provided for us in the Book of Esther unfolds, the situation is turned round by the brave actions of ordinary people. Haman is revealed as the man behind the planned destruction of the Jews in Persia, both in the capital Susa, and across the 127 provinces of the empire.
In this particular situation, the mass genocide was averted as the king, now understanding the situation, issues a new decree in response to Esther’s humble plea.
If it pleases the king… and if he regards me with favour, and thinks it is a right thing to do, and if he is pleased with me, let an order be written overruling the dispatches that Haman son of Hamedatha, the Agagite, devised and wrote to destroy the Jews in all the king’s provinces. For how can I bear to see disaster fall on my people? How can I bear to see the destruction of my family?
To this the king responded by passing the responsibility for this new decree to Mordecai, to whom he owed his life, putting at his disposal the entire government and communication systems to get the message out.
The new decree was measured and not vindictive. It did not give the Jews the right to take the law into their own hands but gave them royal authority to defend themselves. In spite of the decree some 500 were killed while attacking the Jews in Susa and 75,000 across the provinces. Esther then requested a further day in Susa in which the Jews could again defend themselves against their attackers and ‘sorrow was turned to joy’ 9.22.
It is challenging to be writing this today against the backdrop of the Ukrainian people taking up arms against the Russian aggressor to defend themselves but unlike the situation in Esther’s day, paying a high cost as lives are lost, ordinary people are maimed and injured and with the prospect of things getting worse.
I have no doubt that the question which has headed each of these devotions from the Book of Esther ‘Where is God in all this?’ is on the lips of many and perhaps especially among those who name the name of Christ. This is a question to which it is too easy to give a glib answer and as believers we need to grapple with it so that we think, speak and act in a humble and God honouring way.
I commend to you today the following link and urge that we think these things through and make every effort to ensure that our responses are God honouring and guided by his word rather than simplistic, knee-jerk reactions.
We must pray for both sides, Ukraine and Russia asking God to intervene. For as we have seen in Esther God works through ordinary people, (more of this in our final devotion from the Esther on Saturday) so we as God’s people have a real and vital part to play in this conflict.