What to do when you don’t like the table where you’re sitting

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Esther

feast

 

The book of Esther is a book about finish lines. From its opening lines to its closing credits, Esther is about endings. It’s a story that forces us to reexamine the way things wind up, especially when that finish for which we hoped is in hiding or that conclusion for which we dreamed remains distant.

In disenchanted periods of our lives, it seems God is not on the job at the present–much less laboring for something we’d like to see in the future. Yet, surprisingly, Esther reveals that even in the most disenchanted seasons, even when God’s not dishing out the miracles or the mighty works, even when he’s silent and absent, he’s working on finish lines. Even when it feels God’s doing nothing to better our today, Esther reveals God’s doing everything to brighten our tomorrow.

The book discloses God’s finish-line work in two ways. First, Esther uses feasts to demonstrate the way in which the unseen God labors for a cheerful conclusion. There are ten feasts in Esther. If you swaggered through the front door into one of them, you’d probably just see the headliners and higher-ups managing the bands and buffets. But if you slunk through the back door into one of the ten feasts in Esther, you’d catch sight of God in the kitchen reworking that feast’s happily-never-after into a happily-ever-after.  Five times a feast/ a set of feasts in Esther seems to spell a sad end for one group. Five times God uses another feast/ set of feasts to reveal his new and improved ending for that same group.

1 – A feast for all the Gentile nobility in Persia (1:2-4)

     –>

A feast for all the Jews in Persia (9:10)

2 – A feast for all the men in Susa (1:5-8)

     –>

A feast for all the women in Susa (1:9)

3 – 5 feasts thrown by Gentiles (1:2-4, 5-8, 9; 2:18; 3:15)

     –>

5 feasts thrown by Jews (5:5-8; 7:1-9; 8:17; 9:17, 19

4 – The villain (Haman) celebrates his supposed victory with a feast (3:15)

     –>

The victims (Jews) celebrate their real victory with feasts (9:17-18)

5 – A feast which leaves Susa in dismay and confusion (3:15)

     –>

A feast which leaves Susa rejoicing and merry (8:15)

 

You might attend one feast in Esther and think to yourself, “Well, I guess that’s it. That’s life in this world of Esther. ” But just wait. Because eventually another feast comes along and God turns that upside-down life right-side up.

  1. A feast is thrown for the Gentile nobility and five feasts are thrown by Gentiles. The primary conclusion is that only a certain class or a certain race gets the happily-ever-after. It’s a conclusion reached by the poor and by minorities in numerous countries in many eras of our world today. So, God ensures that a feast is also thrown for all the Jews and that five feasts are thrown by Jews. The poor and the minorities are given that ending once denied them. If the one set of feasts left us feeling God was doing nothing to better our today, the second set disclosed he was doing everything to brighten our tomorrow.

  2. A feast is thrown for all the men. The logical conclusion is that only one gender gets the happily-ever-after. It’s a conclusion reached by women of all ages in many countries throughout history. In response, God ensures that a feast is also thrown for all the women. They are given the ending once denied them. If the first feast left us feeling God was doing nothing to better our today, the second disclosed he was doing everything to brighten our tomorrow.

  3. A villain throws a feast to celebrate his injustice. One can only assume by this that only the powerful and influential get the happily-ever-after. Those with no voice, with no seat at the table, are robbed of any cheerful conclusion. So God ensures that Esther ends with feasts thrown for/by the victims of this injustice, celebrating justice once denied now delivered. If the first feast left us feeling god was doing nothing to better our today, the final feasts reveal he was doing everything to bright our tomorrow.

  4. A feast pitches an entire city into dismay and confusion. One conclusion seems to be that sometimes there’s just no hope for a city. Things can get so dark that an entire city is lost. So, God labors to add one more feast to the list–a feast which leaves this same city rejoicing and merry. Where hope and dismay were once the final chapters for the city, now joy and celebration close the book. Just when we were certain God was up to nothing with respect to today in the city, it turned out he was up to everything with respect to tomorrow in the city.

Simply because your finish line has gone into hiding or seems too distant to reach, don’t make hasty conclusions about God. You’re simply in column number one on the table above. You’re attending one party in a story filled with plenty. If you’ll wait long enough, another will arrive. This isn’t the end. The feasts in Esther reveal that slowly and secretly God is tenaciously transforming today’s table of frustration into tomorrow’s table of fulfillment. The bitter mess that may be in front of you isn’t your final meal. Keep checking the mail box. A divine invitation to another feast is on its way. In Esther’s day God knew how to rewrite the endings of racism, classism, gender roles, injustice, and urban decay. He can also rewrite whatever ending you feel like you’re facing today.

 

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