I knew the story, of course.

A Jewish girl from the tribe of Benjamin, living in Persian captivity in Susa is taken by King Xerxes as a virgin bride. Although he is both her husband and her king, Xerxes is unaware of Esther's family background and nationality. Later, one of the king's nobles, Haman, becomes angry when Mordecai (Esther's cousin who reared her), refuses to bow down to him. Haman used this as a springboard for destroying all the Jews, unaware - I presume - that the queen was Jewish, as well.

When Mordecai learns of Haman's ploy, he manages to get word to Esther and asks for her aid in getting the king to reverse the edict for their annihilation. Esther reminds Mordecai that for her to approach the king without being called puts her in jeopardy of death - as was their custom. Hearing this, Mordecai is quick to remind Esther that just because she is the queen does not mean she is exempt.

"For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this" (Esther 4: 14).

Esther then orders a time of fasting and praying. In three days, she said, I will go to the king, even though it is unlawful for her to do so.

"And if I perish, I perish" (Esther 4:16).

And Then I Saw the Movie

Did you, like me, see one night with the king? Released in 2007, watching it brought about emotions I'd not expected. It's one thing, you see, to read the story; we know how it's going to come out. We heard it in Sunday school when we were children. As adults we easily read ahead from Esther 4:16 to 5:1 (all of one verse stands between them). Esther enters the king's hall, the king is pleased with her, he extends his royal scepter, and she isn't faced with charges satisfied only by death.

But when I saw the movie I agonized with Esther (played by Tiffany Dupont) as she prepared herself for this audience with the king. I held my breath as she took the necessary steps of preparation and then made those first few steps. Next came the scene where she is running in the rain (so much for all that time spent in preparation). Looking something like a drowned rat (albeit a most beautiful one), Esther bursts into the king's hall. There are those standing near Xerxes who are immediately rankled by her hutzpah. Swords are drawn. But Esther looks up at the king with her large doe eyes and - just as the sword is about to descend - he extends his scepter.

Because he is pleased with her …

Before the Throne of God Above

I had a most amazing dream a few years ago. I dreamed I was walking into a large and beautiful palace. In the open foyer were guards all about but I wasn't intimidated by their presence. Though I had no memory of ever coming this way before, the way was not foreign to me. To my right was a sweeping stone staircase. Beckoned by it, I took each step one by one until I'd reached the top. More guards stood in a wide hallway. They neither acknowledged nor ignored me. I soon found a narrow passageway, which I took, even though it was dark. As I walked, I looked down at my feet. A light illuminated only my feet and the path of the next step. Finally I reached an arch-shaped doorway flanked by two more guards. Without my having said a word, one of them reached for the doorknob and twisted. The door opened wide, exposing another large room, soaked in sunshine. At the top of large columns hung gold hoops. Strung between them was white linen, which billowed in soft waves. I entered the room and as I did a light of brilliant colors shone on a gold throne. Seated upon it was God (no, I couldn't see his face) and standing to his right was Jesus, dressed in glorious robes, looking as handsome as I'd always imaged him to be. He extended a hand as he said, "This one is mine, Father."