Esther is an interesting book, because never once does it mention any of the names of God. And yet, I believe it is a beautiful picture of how we are to relate to Jesus Christ, as our King. Yes, I’m well aware that King Ahasuerus wasn’t exactly the epitome of perfection; however all “types” in the Bible are just that – imperfect pictures that help us in some way understand the true subject.
Nevertheless, I know many commentators have taken the view that the king in the book of Esther is rather evil, and so we have to go against that grain in order to get to the real point of the story. To push us in that direction a little, here are seven ways that King Ahasuerus / Xerxes is a type of Christ:
- He was King of kings, ruling over most of the known world at the time (Esther 1:1).
- He was served by 7 eunuchs who desired nothing for themselves, and only sought the interests of the king, including preparing his bride for him. This is a picture of the Holy Spirit that glorifies Christ in everything (John 16:13–14) and prepares and equips the church for every good work.
- He was served by 7 wise men who provided counsel. Again, this is a picture of the Holy Spirit as the Counselor (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit is often associated with the number 7 (see Rev. 4).
- He had a wife that rejected him… think of Israel and read Isaiah & Hosea.
- The King’s command could not be altered (Esther 1:19).
- If you approached the King in the wrong way, you died (Esther 4:11). Think of Uzzah & the ark of the covenant (2 Sam 6:6-8).
- The King was served by innumerable vessels of gold (us) that were each unique in design and beauty (Esther 1:7), filled with wine (type of the Holy Spirit) that each could drink of as much as he desired. The Holy Spirit has been poured out abundantly, it is up to each person how much we are willing to “drink” and to be filled by Him.
If you find other similarities, let me know in the comments below. For now though, we’ll move on to Esther. There’s a lot that can be said about Esther, and it kind of breaks down into two main categories: her preparation, and her purpose. Today we’ll take a look at the latter.
I’m assuming that you’re already familiar with the story of Esther, and her path to the throne, but in chapter 3 we learn that Haman the Agagite (Amalekite) came up with a plan to destroy all of God’s people. In chapter 4, we read how Esther finds out about this plan, via Mordecai, and comes face to face with the fact that she is the only one who has a chance at averting this crisis. Worse yet, the very act of approaching the king could cost her her life (Esther 4:11).
Willing to Die to Self
And thus we come to one of the most central verses in Esther…
“Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish” Esther 4:16
Jesus calls us to die to everything that is of our flesh, take up our cross, and follow Him.
“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”” Matthew 16:24-26
Esther had essentially “gained the whole world” in her position as Queen of the largest empire on earth, and yet if she was not willing to (potentially) lose her life, she would definitely lose it, against her will due to Haman’s plan. Now, let’s make this a bit more personal, because I don’t know anyone who is in a position quite like Esther found herself in, and yet, we can all relate.
What all is wrapped up in our “life” that Jesus talks about? Is He talking about literal physical death? Yes, I think so, and yet I believe it is much deeper than that. Most of us will never (Lord willing) be called to literally give our lives, and yet that’s what we each must do, day by day. Our life is the old man that Paul talks about in Romans, it is the flesh he talks about in Galatians… it is everything of our soul that wants to serve or rely on self. Self-preservation, self-idolatry, self-strength, self-importance, self-righteousness… the list could go on and on, but simply put, is anything that puts self ahead of Christ.
Esther’s enemy here is Haman… a type of accuser of the brethren who speaks nothing but lies all day long in the presence of the King, just to see what he can get away with. Think about that for a moment…
“Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom. Their laws are different from those of every other people, and they do not keep the king’s laws, so that it is not to the king’s profit to tolerate them.” Esther 3:8
Esther’s response starts off with being willing to die to everything she thought she had, including being willing to lose her life, if necessary. That’s a perfect picture of the overcomers that we read about in Revelation:
“Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” Revelation 12:10-11
Frank Bartleman was one of the leaders of the Azusa Street revival in the early 1900’s. I’ve read some of his books, and I believe he was a very humble man – humbler than most you’re likely to run across today. Yet one day God spoke to him, and said “If only you were small enough, I could do anything through you.” That’s an incredible statement, and speaks volumes about just how much dying to self really needs to happen. Most of us have no clue how deep our self-serving nature truly goes. Every time I think I’ve died to something, I realize it was just another pebble kicked off a big boulder that still remains.
It is interesting that Esther decided that if she died, she died… before she fasted. To me, that says she’d already done a lot of dying to self prior to that point, and in fact, her preparation for the throne speaks of that. A lot of people may have used that time in fasting to try to find the Lord’s will in the situation… “Lord – should I really be willing to die when I approach the king?” Of course, this itself is a battle with the flesh that is seated in unbelief, because we know Jesus’ command has already been given, that we are to die to ourselves (Matthew 16:24). Instead, presumably Esther used the time to seek the Lord’s favor, and for direction on exactly how to go about this – the fact that she actually would was never in doubt (Esther 4:16).
Esther Approaches The Throne
Despite having just spent three days in intense fasting, Esther pulled it together before she approached the king. Keep in mind that three days without food is one thing… three days without food or water is a whole other thing. Beyond three days, your very survival is called into question, and dehydration is not a pleasant way to go. All of the Jews are now in a state of truly dying to self, seeking the Lord. Anyhow, despite having gone three days without food or water, Esther cleans up, gets out her best royal robes, and prepares to see the king.
Jesus is no stranger to the hurt and the broken, and in fact He loves for people in this state to come to Him (Matthew 11:28). However, the picture here is not approaching the outer court, but rather, the inner court. That’s where the King sits on His throne and rules from. That’s the Holy of Holies, where the angels praise Him continually. And I believe there is a difference in how we enter those two areas, how we approach King Jesus.
Esther needed to enter the inner court, where the king was on his throne. She needed a judgment in her favor. And to get in there, she put on her royal robes, not sackcloth. There’s a problem when we only ever relate to God from the position of a beggar: “please God, I need ______.” I’m not saying we can’t or shouldn’t ask God for things, that’s not what I’m saying at all. But we are to approach the throne of grace boldly.
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
Sackcloth and ashes is is for mourning, not for being bold, so what exactly is meant by boldly approaching? I believe the answer is found in the combination of dying to self and wearing the royal robes.
Put on your strength, O Zion;
Put on your beautiful garments,
O Jerusalem, the holy city!
For the uncircumcised and the unclean
Shall no longer come to you.
Shake yourself from the dust, arise;
Sit down, O Jerusalem!
Loose yourself from the bonds of your neck,
O captive daughter of Zion!” Isaiah 52:1-2
We are clothed in the righteousness of Christ (Isaiah 61:10, Philippians 3:9), and for you and I, that represents our royal robes. Holiness and righteousness is crucial to “seeing the Lord” because no flesh shall glory in His presence (1 Corinthians 1:29).
“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” Hebrews 12:14
It is by faith that we please the Lord (Hebrews 11:6) and not by mourning/dying, and yet we cannot truly have faith until we have died (to self). When we combine the two, total death to self and total faith towards Christ, accepting His sacrifice for us and His righteousness for us, that is when we truly gain favor with the King. I’m not talking here about making Him love us more or less – He loves all humanity equally and that will never change. But favor activates His power toward us. We cannot truly accept His sacrifice for us in all its fulness, until we accept the tremendous depth of our need for it. Any identification outside of Christ has to go, it will not be accepted in the throne room. Our own righteousness is as filthy rags in His sight (Isaiah 64:6) and will most certainly not be accepted as royal apparel!
Esther did not come before the throne begging, but she came knowing that she was queen, and acting like it. We have been seated (that speaks of authority, in the throne room) with Christ in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6), and we do well to remember that position… in all humility! If in truth we have been seated with Christ as Paul says, then when we relate to Christ outside of that position we’ve been given, it reflects a double-mindedness in us, and an unbelief as to our position in Him. And unbelief will prevent us from entering His rest (Hebrews 3:19).
The Favor of the King
“So it was, when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, that she found favor in his sight, and the king held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther went near and touched the top of the scepter. And the king said to her, “What do you wish, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given to you—up to half the kingdom!”” Esther 5:2-3
Now Esther receives favor from the king, and in fact, this is the first time in the book that she is called “Queen Esther.” The king extends his scepter toward her, and this speaks of authority, and she humbly came and touched it. There’s a lot of protocol for approaching an earthly king, and I believe there is protocol for approaching the King of kings as well. Everything in Esther’s approach and bearing speaks of humility, faith, and a selfless desire to please her king. There is not one bit of arrogant self-serving pride in her, such as got Vashti kicked out of the palace. Even her very request was designed to please the king.
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” John 15:7
Do we really have the king’s best interests first and foremost in our minds when we pray? Or do we sometimes seek the Lord for things that are, when we dig deep enough, self-centered in nature? Sometimes this distinction is difficult to determine, but that’s where we need the help of the Holy Spirit and the word (Hebrews 4:12) which can separate even soul and spirit. When our desires are truly in line with His, then our joy will be complete (John 16:24).
So the king actually offers Esther up to half of his kingdom, though of course in her humility, she merely asks him to dinner. This is really the pinnacle of the whole story, because once Esther has gained the favor of the king, everything else is simply working out the details. I believe this is a picture of the millennial reign of Christ, in which He will share His authority with His bride (Revelation 20:4-6). What a promise for those who are willing to lay down their lives to follow Him!