Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not imagine that you in the king's palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” - Esther 4:13-14
The Bible is full of many wonderful promises to us. Some of them are promises to us as individuals, some are promises to particular groups of people, such as the people of Israel or the Church of Jesus Christ. Some include promises concerning the whole world and even the universe! Many of these promises have been fulfilled and we can read about them in the Bible and in recorded history or we have seen them fulfilled in our own experience. What a thrill it is to see how faithful God is to keep His promises! Of course, we should expect that He will be faithful and to doubt it would be irrational. But there is one aspect of God’s promises that we sometimes overlook – our own role in their fulfillment.
This is illustrated by what Queen Esther’s cousin, Mordecai, said to her when she told him how dangerous it would be for her to approach the king without him summoning her first. An executioner stood ever ready to dispatch the person whose unsought presence annoyed or inconvenienced his Royal Highness. Her predecessor had been demoted and imprisoned for life when she displeased him. Mordecai replied that the genocide soon to be visited upon the Jews by the king’s order, shrewdly contrived by the wicked Haman, would not stop at the palace gates. As a Jew, she too would be caught in its maws. As his queen, Esther stood a chance of changing the king’s mind and that may be the very reason she was so miraculously elevated to her position by the previous queen’s fall from favor. Nevertheless, Mordecai said, if she failed to act, God would provide deliverance to the Jews through someone else but she and her family would perish.
Why was Mordecai so sure of this? He knew the promises God had made to Israel. Though God would test them and discipline them when they went astray, He would not utterly cut them off. The persistence of the Jewish people down through the centuries is a signal fulfillment of God’s faithfulness to His promises. Can you think of any other group of people who have been so often close to annihilation and yet escaped? Yes, in the twentieth century millions died in the Holocaust, but millions more survived and continue to this day. So Mordecai was sure God would send help from some quarter if Esther, from fear, refused to do her duty.
But did this let Esther off the hook? Not at all! God uses means to bring about the ends He intends. God most often uses people to fulfill His promises. From the beginning of the Bible, God promised to make Abraham the father of many nations. (Genesis 12:3; 17:5) This was actually a promise to save a great multitude from all nations, tribes, peoples and languages. (Romans 4:16-18) He repeated this promise many times through many prophecies found in the Old Testament Scriptures. (Isaiah 2:2-4; Daniel 2:44; 7:13-14, etc.) But how was this to be fulfilled? Would God, as it were, snap His fingers and like John the Baptist said, “from these stones... raise up children of Abraham”? (Matthew 3:9) No, He sent His Son into the world, as a human being, to gather and train human disciples and then send them forth into the world to proclaim the good news of salvation and invite people to enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 28:18-20)
But what if the disciples refused or failed to do this? To be sure, He would have found others to do the job – but someone would need to do it if God’s promise is to be fulfilled. To be sure, they could not help fulfill God’s promise without the aid of the Holy Spirit and that is why Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they received “power from on high” before setting out to save the world. (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:1-8) That great work and the final fulfillment of God’s promise to convert the nations to Christ, remains to finished. You and I, as believers in Jesus, have been equipped and positioned “for such a time as this” to participate in its fulfillment. But this is not the only promise of God we are to play a part in fulfilling.
I recently listened to a podcast in which the hosts read responses to their appeal for people to get engaged in the effort to combat global warming. One of the respondents, a well-meaning Christian I would guess, replied with the words, “Relax – God has it all under control.” I have heard others quote the Bible where God promises, after the Flood, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:22) In this promise, they say, we can have assurance that the worst possibilities of global warming will not take place. I think they are right but not because people will have sat on their hands and done nothing.
Now I realize that there are still some who doubt that humans have anything to do with the land surface and ocean temperature rises that track closely with the increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases due to human activities. So be it, but there are other threats to human life and our planet’s habitability that we as humans have a responsibility to help prevent. In the beginning, God gave us dominion over the earth, the sea and sky. (Genesis 1:26-28) That means we have responsibility for this planet. God has promised that our planet will continue to be our home until Jesus returns in glory to make a new heavens and earth but that will be, in part, because enough people took their God-given responsibility seriously.
Let’s take the proliferation of thermonuclear weapons, for instance. For one brief moment, it seemed as if we would see the end of nuclear weapons in our lifetime. In October of 1986, President Reagan and Gorbachev, Premier of the Soviet Union met in Reykjavik, Iceland and came very close to agreeing to a total nuclear disarmament. Both men wanted to do this but Reagan refused to give up on the missile defense program nicknamed “Star Wars” and Gorbachev thought he could not sell disarmament to the Politburo and generals without getting rid of the program. The irony of this is that “Star Wars” never did become a viable program and the Soviet Union collapsed anyway. But nuclear weapons have remained and spread to more nations. One mistake and the vast arsenals of the US and Russia, or those of India and Pakistan, among others, could be unleashed with devastating consequences, not just for the nations involved but the whole world. People with inside knowledge have disclosed that this has very nearly happened on numerous occasions. No doubt we owe these escapes so far to God’s providential mercies. But should we put God to the test indefinitely? No! We, as Christians and as members of the human family need to make it perfectly clear to our governments that we do not want nuclear weapons and that they should be working toward their complete elimination. This will be our part in the fulfillment of God’s promise.
There are other threats to our planet and the human race, many of which are not of human origin, such as near-earth orbit asteroids, comets, solar super-flares, biological pathogens, etc. In these cases, God has given us the ability to defend the world against such threats if we put our hearts and heads together. President Reagan once asked what would happen if our planet were about to be invaded by aliens from another planet. Wouldn’t that make the nations of the world lay down their petty squabbles and unite to face such a foe? I agree with him that we would. While there is no evidence that we will ever face an alien invasion we certainly have plenty of other threats that amount to very much the same. While we owe our continued existence on this planet completely to God’s care and mercy, He expects us to use the talents and resources He has provided to cooperate with Him in this effort.
Yes, we must pray but we must also work. As the old Puritan maxim states, “Pray as though everything depends upon God and work as though everything depends on you.” The spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ should substantially contribute to the fulfillment of God’s promise that earth shall remain a habitable place for us. But if we spread the kind of Christianity that says, “Leave it up to God and live like there are no consequences to our bad choices” we will fail to do our part to fulfill God’s promise. Still, God will fulfill His promise somehow and through those who do heed His word; of that we can be certain. Let us, therefore, remember Mordecai’s warning and exhortation to Esther. He told her that God would fulfill His promise to preserve the Jews but that if she did not use the opportunity God had given her to achieve this end, she would be destroyed. And indeed, when we opt out of doing our duty in the face of peril we do damage to our immortal souls, damage which, if not repaired in time may render us forever unfit for service in God’s kingdom.For as Jesus said, what does it profit a man if he gain whole world and yet lose his soul? (Mark 8:36)