If you are new to this series, you can find the Introduction HERE, Part 1 HERE , Part 2 HERE, and Part 3 HERE.
Our Pastor has been going through the book of Esther on Sunday mornings. I've really been enjoying this series and it has prompted me to think about the character of Esther
and her flint-like obedience to God's direction in her life at any cost.
I remember a film that I watched years ago about Queen Esther. I was so disappointed in it because instead of portraying Esther as a beautiful woman strong in conviction and in her God, she was portrayed as flimsy, overly-girly, and trite--characteristics that I never imagined in a woman willing to risk her life to save her people.
Esther, the biblical Esther, was a strong woman, a beautiful woman, a woman of hope and grace, a woman who stood firm in the greatest difficulty.
There is strength in gentleness and true conviction. There is strength in obedience and trust in God. There is strength in waiting and prayer and quietness and then finally, action.
Esther displays all of these virtues in a beautiful, mysterious way. She captivates the king not only with her physical attractiveness, but with her gentle, quiet spirit. She also captivates the king with her strength of character and willingness to place her own life in danger to save her people.
In other words, she feared Almighty God more than the King of Persia. What an example to us.
Esther's people, the Jews, were in grave danger. Their lives were threatened by a wicked man, Haman, who wanted to completely and Satanically, obliterate them.
And so Esther, in a position of power, was called upon. With dignity, grace, and determination, she accepted the plea of her Uncle Mordecai to approach the king and to plead for the lives of the Jewish people.
She went to the king, risking her own life.
And then, Queen Esther used no manipulation, no formula, no pouting or whimpering or beating around the bush when she made her argument. She refused to grovel.
She sensitively laid out her case, using the means of fasting and prayer, showing that her trust was ultimately in God, not in an earthly king.
There is a mystical, spiritual power behind a woman whose hope is in the Lord. And that power is the Holy Spirit, alive and working in and through her to accomplish the will of the Father.
The man heard Esther. Both kings, Heavenly and earthly, stooped to her plea.
Esther and her people were safe.
The will of the Father was accomplished. Her people were saved and the enemy vanquished.
There is something to be said here also for King Xerxes. He could have ignored Esther. He could have pridefully refused to hear her. But he didn't; his heart was moved--the work of the Father God and his own willingness to listen to a woman offering him wisdom. I believe that the beauty of Esther's spirit had softened his heart--and this was all orchestrated by the Lord. But he could have chosen not to be softened.
And I speak to the woman here who thinks--but I've done that! I've tried to walk with the Lord in dignity and honesty and trust. Not perfectly, but in obedience to the Father. I've tried to walk with the Lord as Esther did, and my husband still will not listen to me when I offer him wisdom.
The only answer here is that there is no guarantee. There is no guarantee that a husband will listen. And this is where our relationship with Jesus Christ comes before even that most intimate relationship with our husband. Because Christ is our Heavenly Husband --and our ultimate aim must be to please Him, leaving our husband's heart in His hands and moving forward with the Lord in obedient trust and walking uprightly with the Father. Even if he will not listen. The Lord will honor your obedience, as painful as that situation is . . .
Another strong woman comes to mind.
The woman Delilah--the woman partly responsible for Samson's downfall and shame. The woman whose honey-lips and tantalizing perfume lured Samson to his demise. The woman who stole Samson's heart away from his Heavenly Father for a season.
The woman who Samson just could not resist . . . and yet, could have, had he made different choices leading up to her betrayal.
Delilah used her female charms to pull the so-called "wool" over Samson's eyes, to shroud his heart and to dampen his discernment and resolve.
We are often "hard" on Delilah, but sometimes I wonder if she did what she did partly out of fear. Was her own life threatened by bloodthirsty Philistines who wanted nothing but Samson's utter downfall? They knew of her intimate connection with Samson and were probably threatening Delilah's life--perhaps that of her family, too.
It is natural to act out of fear when our hope is not in God.
So, although this does not excuse Delilah's actions, we may certainly relate to them . . .
How did Delilah get what she wanted? Through careful manipulation.
The difference between Esther and Delilah is extremely important to note--and this can be so helpful to us in our relationships with our husbands and in general. Delilah acted insincerely, underhandedly, deceitfully. Esther acted sincerely, transparently, with complete honesty and openness.
Esther's dependence and hope were in God--not in her beauty, not in the power of her words, not in her power to manipulate the king in any way, but ultimately and utterly, in God.
Whether she lived or died. Whether her husband thought well of her or not. Whether she pleased him ultimately or not.
Her hope and strength were in God.
Delilah's dependence was upon the opposite--upon herself--upon her own powers of manipulation. She used every female "trick" she could muster--whining, pouting, sex, employing her attractiveness and allurement to deceive and destroy. She acted out of selfishness and fear, with no real love in her heart for the man that she gave herself so completely to (and yet, didn't).
Many men can be won in this way. There is a Satanic power behind deceit and manipulation and using sex as a tool to "encourage" a man to do what we want them to do.
But this is not the way of Jesus.
Someone may think, "Well, didn't Esther also manipulate her situation in some way? She dressed as attractively as possible in order to persuade the king and to present her case, she prepared elaborate banquets for him to enjoy and tried her best to ensure that the mood was right for her to address him--isn't that manipulation?"
But the key difference between Esther and Delilah's methods is that Esther didn't use deceit to hide her real motives. Esther was open and honest with no trace of deceit. Delilah's motives were carefully concealed.
There is a difference in manipulating a situation and being wise in the way that you present something. Was it wise for Esther to make sure that she looked as lovely as possible and anoint herself before going in to see the king? Of course. She wanted to show him how serious she was, how much she respected his authority and kingship. She wanted to make herself pleasing to him in order to present the truth, whereas Delilah made herself pleasing in order to feed a lie to Samson for her own gain. Esther used her beauty and careful approach in order to soften the king's heart, not in order to deceive him.
The Lord used Esther's beauty and gentle, determined character to touch the heart of the king.
There is a difference between wisdom and manipulation. Ultimately, Esther's hope and trust were in God, and in His power and ability to move the heart of the king, not in her own resources of beauty and charm. Delilah relied upon herself, her powers of manipulation, and her ability to move a man's heart in the direction that she wanted it to go.
Esther's spirit reflected truth and submission to God, whereas Delilah's reflected hidden motives and deceit--the very opposite.
I have read marriage advice--and it has so deeply disturbed me--from respected Christian sources that basically encourage women to manipulate their husbands.
Treat your husband a certain way and he will love you.
Use such and such a formula and your marriage will thrive.
Crown your husband king and he will make you his queen.
It is never from the Lord to manipulate a situation, to attempt to turn a situation in our favor in our own strength apart from the Lord.
We do this in tiny and in great ways in our marriages--and I believe that it always produces frustration or complacency (in a man who knows he's being manipulated but doesn't want to make waves and so allows himself to be manipulated).
Manipulation never produces that true and lasting peace and contentment that stems from trust in a great and merciful Savior.
We want a situation to change so badly and we fall prey to advice, even from Christian marriage books.
But the truth is that manipulation only works temporarily and at best produces a false peace and security.
As women, it is so easy to fall prey to the temptation of using manipulation to get what we want.
The difficult path is waiting on the Lord, as Esther did, trusting in His power and timing--relinquishing our fears into His all-loving hands.
He is able to turn the heart of the king, to sustain us, to deliver.
How should we interact with our husbands based upon the examples of Esther and Delilah?
With sincerity, with openness and honesty--prayerfully, our hope and trust in God.
Not using manipulation or female charms to deceive and distract.
With honor and dignity, trusting the love of the One who honors those who honor Him.
Please join me for the next post, which is closely related to this one, next week. The Lord willing, I'll be dealing more in depth with the issue of women who are married to men who are not believers or men professing to be Christians but who are walking in their own way apart from the Lord and how we should respond to that difficulty.
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