The Missing Word in EstherSeptember 7, 2012
In the Old Testament of the Bible, one of the most intriguing stories is that of Esther. Essentially, Esther wins a beauty contest and, as a prize, she is forced to join the King’s harem. The Medes and the Persians were a middle-eastern jointly-ruled kingdom of the sixth century B.C. The King had just exiled (and possibly put to death) the former queen for overstepping her authority and totally disobeying a direct order from the King.
This wasn’t Macbeth. Queens in those days did not talk back. Esther was chosen among all the beautiful women in the kingdom to be the next Queen.
I’ll let you read the book for yourself. In the end, Esther saves the Jewish people (she herself is a Jewess) and a national festival is enacted to commemorate her feat. It is a story of intrigue, power, greed, hatred and fear: But more than anything it is about God’s sovereignty over all the other things.
Yet strangely enough, a particular word is completely missing from the book of Esther. And you can read it several times and not even notice it is missing. And this word is so essential to the Jews and Christians that you would think the book would be banned for not containing it. Have you guessed the word yet?
The word is…..GOD.
For a book that has God as the underpinning, God as the director of events, God as the ultimate focal point, it is interesting that God is not mentioned in the entire book. Why would God (who co-authored this book according to Judeo/Christian doctrine) neglect to mention himself in the book?
I believe that God wants to underscore that He is at work in all nations, all people groups, all situations and desires to protect his people, even if we don’t notice what God is up to.
The reason I bring this up at this point in our nation’s history is so I can point out something regarding the two Political Conventions that have taken place over the past month. It seems that both parties have been scrambling to put a particular word INTO their message as much as possible. It’s the same word that Esther left out: GOD.
Why did they want to do that? For the same reason that people want God’s name on our currency, in our constitution, in our Pledge of Allegiance, on public buildings and Foundation stones. I believe many people want to include the name of God in things as a talisman, a good luck charm to convince others of what we are.
As a contrast, God didn’t write his name into Esther because He didn’t need to. Those with eyes to see can see the hand of God everywhere. Those who could not see God’s hand (such as Haman) would not have seen any clearer if God had been mentioned more. Or, at all.
Both major political parties want to score points with religiously-minded voters by throwing in God’s name. Of course, some truly feel they are honoring God by doing so, but I am not so sure it accomplishes their goal. Have you ever seen a child that wants something from a parent. They might start whining, “Mom, mom, mom, mom….” over and over. Does this endear them to their mother? Hardly! The same thing is true when political parties mention God’s name over and over. Most people stop listening. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of mentioning God?
God is not impressed when we keep saying His name over and over. In fact, there are many biblical scholars (I am not one of them, but I respect them) who will not write out the name of God in any form because it is too holy a concept to speak or write. Often they will write “G_D” and leave out a vowel to signify respect. That sure beats the person who prays and mentions God’s name about 100 times per minute.
Now for the other perspective. I was on the golf course a year ago with a friend when his doctor called. He had been battling cancer for several years. The doctor was calling to say that, for some reason, there was no trace of cancer anywhere in his body. The doctor kept saying “There can only be one explanation” over and over. In the entire conversation, neither of them mentioned God’s name. Yet in the end, they both knew who had brought about the remission of that cancer.
Even the doctor knew it wasn’t him.
But, when God’s name is thrown out like a loose thing, an empty thing, when God’s name is slathered all over dollar bills and is found on the lips of many people who don’t even believe there is a God, it is a pretense at best and a mockery at worst.
One of the Ten Commandments is that we NOT take the name of our Lord God in vain. That doesn’t mean as a swear word. “Vain” means “empty”. It is wrong to use God’s name in an empty fashion, as many did in their political platforms and as many do with their money.
We should care more about the Presence of God working through his people than with the name of God used as a slogan. I would be content if neither political party mentioned God ever again, in exchange for the people of God who are in those parties living like Esther.