What’s the most suspenseful movie that you’ve ever watched? I’m not asking you to think of a movie that scared the pants off you, but a movie that kept you waiting in agony, filled with tension and anxiety. We’ve all seen at least one. According to Alfred Hitchcock, suspense relies on giving the audience a bit of information that the characters in the story don’t know. Suspense in a movie is an important element that keeps the audience engaged.
So you can imagine the suspense that begins as soon as Esther walks into the throne room. We, as the audience, know that Esther is risking her life by showing up uninvited. There’s a sigh of relief when the king allows her into his presence, but we also know that Esther has vital information that she needs to tell her husband as soon as possible. She asks the king to invite Haman for dinner, but when the dinner actually happens, she invites the King and Haman for another dinner the following night.
If this story was a movie, you can almost hear the audience screaming “Tell him, Esther, tell him! Why can’t you tell him?”
When I read this chapter, I had to ponder over it. I knew that it took a lot of courage for Esther to show up to the King’s throne room uninvited, but why didn’t she tell him about what was going on then and there? And why, after inviting the King and Haman to dinner, did she just ask to have another dinner the next night? Isn’t Esther supposed to be courageous? Is she too scared to just spit it out?
The interesting thing about courage is that being courageous doesn’t consist of rushing into things head-on all the time. It’s actually a middle road between cowardice and foolhardiness. Courage, like any other virtue, is something that is constant, hard to change. So keep in mind that even in waiting, Esther is being courageous.
Esther’s decision to wait worked out in the long run anyway, because Haman left with his ego completely inflated. Now it might seem like a bad thing that his pride has swelled to such a degree, especially since the chapter ends with him plotting to hang Mordecai. However, what he doesn’t realize is that he’s setting up his own downfall.
I used to study a lot of literature in college. In many of the stories I read, the villain would always have a moment where they experience a false victory. This would be the pinnacle of the play, or the highest point in the story, just before the villain experiences his inevitable defeat. In Return of the King, for example, the Witch-King of Angmar boasted that no man could kill him. However, Merry (a Hobbit) succeeds in stabbing the Witch-King in the back and Eowyn (a woman) removes her helmet and declares “I am no man” before stabbing the Witch-King in his face.
Esther is a lot like Eowyn in this chapter because she’s probably (and rightfully) scared out of her mind. However, she chooses to wait for the right moment before she makes her move and will eventually be rewarded for her patience. Haman only gets a moment of swelled ego.
This short chapter shows us two things. First of all, there is just as much courage to wait for the right moment as there is in taking action. Secondly, the bad guy in the story might win some battles, but he’ll never win the war. God always wins in the end, even if we can’t see that victory for ourselves.
Reflect: Think of a time when you had to have the courage to wait things out instead of taking action. What was the result of that waiting?
Why do you think people often turn to God when things go badly, like in times of anxiety, and forget God when times are good?
Act: Pray over a situation where you know things are outside of your control. If you are anxious or have to wait for His providence, offer it up in prayer.