But Esther had kept secret her family background and nationality just as Mordecai had told her to do, for she continued to follow Mordecai's instructions as she had done when he was bringing her up.
She is a woman with a secret.
She is a woman with a past.
And she has good, good reason to keep her real identity a mystery.
Because the revelation of who she really is could cost her her life.
By the time King Xerxes went shopping for a new wife within the vast borders of his kingdom, the vanquished people of Judah had been fully assimilated into the Persian culture. After being marched out of a destroyed Jerusalem over a hundred years before and then seeing their Babylonian conquerers subsequently conquered by the Medeo-Persian army, the enslaved children of Israel were simply part of the Persian melting pot, an anecdotal tribe stirred into the stew of slavery and subjection.
Some Jews had found positions of influence within the courts of the various kings, as advisors, leaders and scribes.
Including one Mordecai Ben-Jair. As a scribe in the court of King Xerxes, he has a front row seat to Vashti being deposed as queen. And he enjoys yet another bird's eye view when a proposal goes out to find a new queen for Xerxes.
It's a quest that simply couldn't happen today, with our background checks and computer records. Were such a spouse search to occur in our times, everything from a candidate's ACT scores to her medical history to her unfortunate modeling photographs would be sent across many networks.
But in 478 BC Persia, a girl could hide.
Even in plain sight.
Even while married to a king.
When Esther becomes queen of Persia in 478 BC, she follows the instruction of her adopted father Mordecai and conceals her heritage. She is accepted by Xerxes as a pleasing and beautiful young woman and she leaves the baggage of her orphaned childhood at the doors of the palace. She shares the bed and the crown of the king for five years.
And then the gig is up.
Because as enemies are wont to do, an enemy of the Jews shows up. And his agenda is total annihilation of Esther's people. His name is Haman.
The story is a familiar one to many of us. Mordecai contacts Esther and tells her she must do something to circumvent the genocide that Haman is planning. She lets Mordecai know that she risks her life by going to the king when he has not called for her. And Mordecai lets her know that one way or another, deliverance will come for the Jews, but that Esther's life will not be spared if she does nothing in her position to intervene.
Perish if she does, perish if she doesn't.
Such is her dilemma.
So she chooses to go in to the king, unbidden.
But we tend to forget that they have been married around five years at this point.
No longer on the honeymoon.
No longer in the first blush of attraction.
She's been living a lie for five years.
Or at least a strong omission.
What did she tell Xerxes during those first five years of their relationship of her childhood, her background? How did she answer if he inquired of her memories, her extended family? And how does she present herself as a woman without any nod to what has made her who she is?
Some of us have been walking with our King for many years now. We smile at Him, talk with Him, share meals and pleasantries.
But we haven't been real with Him yet.
And conversely, some of us haven't been willing to take the plunge into His arms yet. We're holding out on Him, certain that if He knew all we had done, all of our mistakes and misfires, all the dusty darkness in the corners of our souls, surely He couldn't love us then.
And so, we hide.
We hide in plain sight.
But there comes a time, a time when we need to plead for our lives. There comes a time when we know that the only one who can overturn the plans of the enemy is our King. And we know that in going to Him this time, we will have to be real.
It takes Esther three attempts to finally tell Xerxes of her background, her DNA entwined with the Jews. That third conversation is enough to convict Haman. It takes yet another revelation on Esther's part to overturn the edict that Haman had signed with the king's signet to wipe out the Jews.
And it is in Xerxes's graciousness toward Esther that I see reflections of the King I know. He not only is pleased to see her, he offers her half his kingdom. He not only accepts the revelation of who she really is, he secures her future and protects her. My King is like that.
He takes my confessions in stride. He stands against my enemies. He extends His grace to me as a scepter, a symbol of His acceptance and love.
And He always seems glad to see me, even when I come unbidden, even when I come with a secret sin to tell.
Even when I try to hide in plain sight.