About Jesus   Steve Sweetman

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If I Perish, I Perish


The story line to the Old Testament book of Esther is as follows.  Historical evidence suggests that Xerxes, emperor of the old Medo-Persian Empire, had 360 wives, countless concubines, and various virgins to fulfill his fantasies.  Queen Vashti was one of his wives.  Xerxes dethroned her because she refused to parade her sexuality before a gathering of drunken Persian officials.  The hunt for a new queen began by rounding up pretty young virgins from across the empire for Xerxes to check out.  One particular virgin pleased Xerxes sufficiently enough that he crowned her Queen Esther. 


Haman was second in command in the empire.  He hated an Israeli man named Mordecai because Mordecai refused to bow down before him, as was dictated by law.  So, Haman persuaded Xerxes to pass an edict to kill every Israeli in the empire.  Once Xerxes issued such a decree, it became an irrevocable law. 


Part of Haman's reasoning, or should I say excuse, to kill Israelis was that they were a "distinct society" within the empire.  Israelis kept to themselves and practiced their own religious and cultural traditions.  They just didn't fit into Persian style multiculturalism. 


Persian society appears to have had some form of what we call multiculturalism.  The Medes and Persians conquered their way from India to western Africa, thus forcing many different ethnic peoples into submission to Persian law.  That being said, these different ethnic peoples were permitted to maintain much of their ethnicity as long as it didn't conflict with Persian law.  Haman accused Israelis of not fitting into this framework of what I'd call Persian style multiculturalism.                       


One of these laws that all ethnic peoples had to comply with stated that no one could approach Xerxes without first being invited.  Any attempt to visit the emperor without permission could lead to an untimely and immediate death. This became a problem for Queen Esther after hearing of the decree to kill all Israelis.      


Through a mediator, Mordecai reminded Esther that Xerxes didn't know she was an Israeli, and once he found out, she'd not only lose her crown but her life.  He went on to say that for this very reason, that is Israel's salvation, God placed her in the emperor's life. 


Execution day was fast approaching.  Esther hadn't seen Xerxes for 30 days and she had no clue when she'd be invited back for a visit.  She had to persuade Xerxes to stop this massacre, but should she endanger her life and approach Xerxes without obtaining permission?   She called on all Israelis in the capital city to join her in a 3 day fast.  She then made the decision of her life by saying, "I will go to the king, even though it is against the law.  And if I perish, I perish". (Esther 4:16)


Xerxes had mercy on Esther.  Although she was willing to perish, she didn't.  Since Persian law forbade Xerxes to annul his decree to kill Israelis, he issued a second decree.  Anyone who killed an Israeli would be executed, thus effectively nullifying the original decree. 


The most important words in the book of Esther are, "if I perish, I perish".  Because of Esther's courage, faith, and conviction, she was willing to lay down her life for fellow Israelis.  More importantly, another satanic attempt to kill the Israeli race failed.  One young girl's defiance of Persian law and her willingness to perish saved a nation. 


Over the centuries, and even today, followers of Jesus have and still do live with the same conviction.  Countless thousands have perished and are perishing because of their association with Jesus.  Today, in countries like Iran and Egypt, Christians are being persecuted, tortured, and murdered.  Here, in October 2012, in post "Arab Spring" Egypt, young virgin Christian girls are being kidnapped by Muslim men and forcing them to live as Muslims.  They're also being forced to marry Muslim men who know nothing about marital love and respect.  This, in a nation that receives billions of dollars in financial assistance from America.    


Western civilization is fast becoming a society not much different from Persia of old.  A multiculturalism is emerging within the framework of certain irrevocable laws which are supported by the majority who are interested only in maintaing their personal peace and prosperity.  Even within this atmosphere of cultural, religious, and moral tolerance, real followers of Jesus are seen as intolerant and a blight on this so-called kinder and gentler society.  Like Israelis in Esther's day, we just don't fit into this new social framework.  So, to borrow Francis Scheaffer's 1976 book title, I ask, "How Should We Then Live"?


Well, we don't kill our opponents.  We don't kidnap their young girls.  We don't bomb their embassies. We don't even call them nasty names.  We follow Jesus' example, who respectfully, but firmly, spoke truth to those who opposed Him.  He was willing to approach the authorities and speak his mind without compromise. While the murderous mob was screaming "crucify Him", He told the authorities that He, nor His disciples, would fight for His release.  His kingdom could never co-exist as one cultural identity among many. (my paraphrase of John 18:36)  In other words, like Esther, Jesus was willing to perish.  So too, with respect, we peacefully decline our opponents edict for us to conform.  We follow Esther's example.  We pray.  We fast.  We become willing to both approach and confront civil and religious authorities with the truth of the Kingdom of God.  Through it all, we trust our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ, and "if we perish, we perish".        



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