With Haman’s plot against the Jews looming, Esther put on her royal robes at the command of Mordecai and stood in the inner court of King Ahasuerus’s palace in front of the king’s rooms. And the king was sitting on his royal throne.
Esther’s entrance was a seriously huge deal, since she had not been summoned for thirty days. And no one could enter the king’s presence who was not invited. Such was the law. Notice what she says to Mordecai, “I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law. And if I perish, I perish.” Are you tracking that? She broke the law, people.
This is not some license to break civil law, however (Romans 13:1-2). I’ve already argued elsewhere that God is present in and through the story of Esther typologically. We must take care here, then. In reading Esther, we are to keep in mind the holiness and majesty of the Lord, the Laws governing when and in what matter and through Whom we may approach Him, all of which the text evokes in the person of King Ahasuerus (see also Joshua 5:15, Acts 7:33).
Esther’s lawbreaking, then, calls to mind other stories where humans approach God illegally. One such account is in 1 Samuel, when the people of Beth-shemesh saw the stolen ark of the covenant traveling back from the Philistines to Israel in 1 Samuel. The text says that their hearts were glad to see it. But not knowing or respecting God’s law, they looked inside the ark, entering a sacred place impurely. And the Lord struck them down in great numbers. Sobering indeed.
And so here is our moment, as Esther enters the court:
When the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, she obtained favor in his sight; and the king extended to Esther the golden scepter which was in his hand. So Esther came near and touched the top of the scepter.Esther 5:2
Why is that? Why can Esther enter, against the law? As the men of Beth-shemesh lamented, while many of them lay dying, “Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God? And to whom shall He go up from us?” (1 Samuel 6:20).
We cannot read this, then, as simply a whim of the king. As Esther, symbol of God’s people, stands before the king, already we have witnessed a transformation in her,
from an orphaned and then adopted child, submissive to Mordecai and Hegai the king’s eunuch,
to a favoured Queen, fully involved and active in Mordecai’s plan of the heavenly liberation of the Jews from exile (see 1 Cor. 6:17).
And so, unlike the people of Beth-shemesh, Esther found favour with the king. King Ahasuerus grants her His favour even to half of the kingdom. He pledges that whatever she asked would be given to her (5:3, John 15:7).
As the story unfolds, then, as the man Mordecai becomes greater and greater, so does Queen Esther. In this way, as in the case of Jael, Esther typifies a double dose of God’s plan of redemption. Another beautiful portrait of our union with Christ, a closeness that renders us almost indistinguishable from Christ Himself in the eyes of heaven.
There are other significant moments of “standing” in the book of Esther, which guide us through this Gospel story. The next few instances point to the rivalry between Mordecai and Haman, modeling the victory of Jesus Christ over His enemies.
For after that day when Esther again found favour and stood before the king’s throne, she asked the king to attend a banquet she would prepare for him and for Haman, who planned to destroy the Jews. And how pleased Haman was to be invited.
Then Haman went out that day glad and pleased of heart; but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate and that he did not stand up or tremble before him, Haman was filled with anger against Mordecai.Esther 5:9
We see here that to stand with the king is to stand only with the king (Psalm 1:1). Jesus tells us why, in rebuking those who wanted to kill him. Like Haman, like Goliath before him, they are all of their father the devil, a murderer from the beginning, who “does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him” (1 Sam. 17:16, Jn 8:44). They are full of arrogance and violence, taking their stand against the Messiah and His people (Jn 18:5).
This opposition between the people of God in Esther and the evil one in Haman is exemplified beautifully in Haman’s attempts to stand before the king. Look first how he enters with the king’s permission, in accordance with the law.
The king’s servants said to him, “Behold, Haman is standing in the court.” And the king said, “Let him come in.”Esther 6:5
And then, after Esther reveals Haman’s plot to the king, Haman stands again, pleading for his life before Esther (Esther 7:7).
But in his standing, Haman does not find favour.
And after Haman is “hanged on the gallows because he had stretched out his hands against the Jews” (8:7), the same gallows he had prepared to murder Mordecai,
after all this, Esther stands before King Ahasuerus again.
And again, the king grants her request, issuing the King’s decree to avenge the Jews (Esther 8:4). And see here the result.
The Jews assembled in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus to lay hands on those who sought their harm; and no one could stand before them, for the dread of them had fallen on all the peoples.Esther 9:2 (see also Leviticus 26:36-38)
As people in the line of Esther, adopted into the kingdom of heaven, we take our stand and see this great thing which the Lord has done before our eyes (1 Samuel 12:16).
We have stood in readiness as those who brought their goats to Aaron the high priest, animals who bore on themselves all the people’s inquities to a solitary land (Leviticus 16:20-22).
We recall the day Aaron “took his stand between the dead and the living, so that the plague was checked” (Num. 16:18, Judges 16:25).
We remember the priests who carried the ark, standing in the middle of the Jordan until everything the Lord had commanded (Joshua 4:10).
And why? Because the Lord is in the midst of His people, seen eye to eye while His cloud stands over us, while He goes before us in a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night (Numbers 14:14).
Because like Esther we stand before the King of Heaven and Earth, *not* according to the Law. But because standing over us as with Simon’s mother-in-law, Jesus has rebuked sin and death in His death and resurrection, and the curse has left us (Luke 4:39, 1 Chron. 21:16).
His words have helped the tottering to stand. He has strengthened feeble knees (Job 4:4).
For He stands at the right hand of the needy, to save him from those who judge his soul (Psalm 109:31).
So take courage, stand up! He is calling for you (Mk 10:49)! Stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord, and likewise at evening (1 Chronicles 23:30). Stand firm in the Lord’s completed work. For we know that our Redeemer lives. And at the last He will take His stand on the earth (Job 19:25).
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands.
And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.
Revelation 7:9, 20:12