Do you ever feel as if God is silent, distant, absent? Of course, we know He’s there (see Matthew 28:20, among many others), but that doesn’t negate the fact that we may “feel” as if He is not, for various reasons. Maybe you even feel that way now during this Coronavirus crisis.
If so, a good book for you is the book of Esther.
Esther represents one of the most curious and polarizing books in the biblical canon. In fact, while Jewish tradition places it on the level of the Pentateuch, some interpreters throughout its history have actually doubted its canonicity.
Such negative reactions are undoubtedly due to its seemingly secular storyline and subject matter. But also, famously, the book does not mention the name of God. At all.
Really? Why would a book in the Bible not mention God? Does it mean that God was not there in the story, in the events of Esther? Does it mean that God is silent? Distant? Absent?
However, if you examine the exhilarating narrative of Esther, you begin to notice something curious: a number of what we might call “chance” occurrences. And through these serendipitous situations, the Jewish people are threatened and then miraculously saved.
Who is behind these chance occurrences? Of course, we know the answer: God Himself. Indeed, a good Jewish reader would never doubt God’s involvement. The Old Testament saints believed that even when the dice is cast in the lap, “its every decision is from the LORD” (Proverbs 16:33).
Still, no divine intervention is mentioned by the author. But why? If God indeed saves His people in Esther, why does the author keep that fact hidden?
First, God may be involved in our lives, but His providential control is not always evident to those experiencing the events. That may the case for you now—in your life, in your family, in your situation. But like with the story of Esther, if you look close enough, you can find “the good hand of God” orchestrating events for His purposes and glory (Nehemiah 2:18).
But there is a second reason. In life, human responsibility is necessary. Believers should not just “wait” for something to happen—divinely orchestrated or not. Instead, God usually works through His faithful servants to accomplish His purposes.
In other words, Esther is a commentary on the nature of faith and faithfulness—faith in a providential and sovereign God and your own need for faithfulness in whatever situation God providentially places you in.
So, in these troubled times, know that “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). But also, know that, depending on the situation, who knows whether or not you have been placed where you are providentially “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).
A native of Austell, Ga., Bryan Cribb came to Anderson University following a five-year tenure at Brewton-Parker College in Mt. Vernon, Ga. Dr. Cribb holds a BA in political science and a BS in mathematics from Furman University in Greenville, S.C. After being called into the ministry, he received his master of divinity in biblical and theological studies and his doctor of philosophy from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. His primary emphasis in PhD work was Old Testament theology, with minor areas of study in New Testament theology and Old Testament languages.
Dr. Cribb is married to Elizabeth, and they have three sons—Daniel Luther, Josiah John, and Nathanael Bryan. Elizabeth is an RN and a stay-at-home mom, who also holds a master of divinity degree from Southern Seminary.