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In nowadays’ era of postmodernism with its materialism, affluence, and consumerism, the position of the church seems to be marginalized in the Western countries as people more likely tend to be agnostics and atheists. Such a situation recalls the book of Esther that depicts Jews who were forced to live outside their homes in isolation. This paper aims at examining the advice of Esther with regard to the modern and future role of the church, taking into account a theological and social context.
Esther as Advice for Exiles
The concept of exile refers to living outside the home without permission to return. In terms of the Bible, the exilic images are beneficial to understand people who were in exile as well as the role of faith on their way to salvation. To interpret the book of Esther and apply it to the modern church, it seems essential to provide its brief overview. King Ahasuerus (Xerxes I) was looking for a new wife, and Esther, a young Jewish girl who has hidden her origin, participated in the contest and became the queen of Persia (Bellmann, 2017). A person named Haman asked the King to introduce a law that would exterminate the Jewish population of the country.
However, Esther opened her identity to her husband who urged her to protect her people. When she proved that Haman attempted to initiate a massacre surreptitiously, the King issued another decree that was directly opposite to the previous one. The Jews were instructed to “to destroy, kill, and annihilate all the forces of any people or province hostile to them, including women and children, and to plunder their possessions” (Esther 8:11, NIV).
The date was also indicated – the same on which the massacre of the Jews was appointed. The decree also protected the right of Jews to live according to their laws, prescribed compulsory assistance to the avengers, and instituted a new holiday called Purim. Those areas or cities with a Jewish population that would decline from the execution of the decree were subject to merciless devastation with fire and sword. This story shows that Esther was a symbol of God’s presence in foreign lands when many Jews started doubting that He still leads and protects them in the course of their assimilation to the Assyrian culture.
Theological and Social Context
The story of Esther with her contribution to freeing Jews has social and theological backgrounds with regard to exile. From the theological point, this excerpt shows how Jews forced to live in foreign lands managed to preserve their cultural and religious identity. At the same time, the social construct focuses on the fact that they were given few opportunities to publicly practice their traditions. Esther incarnates the ability of the Jewish people to thrive in extremely difficult conditions.
There is a slimily between her story and Jews as both were separated from home and had no control over their fate. People isolated from Israel had to survive and preserve their national identity. Probably, the most important advice of Esther is associated with wise behavior, which is expressed in compromise and serving the people (Beach, 2015). In spite of a difficult social position, this population being in exile remained loyal to the word of God.
Applying the concept of exile to the 21st century, one may note that the modern church is also in exile. The ubiquity of consumerism leads to such a phenomenon when Christians want to get something even when they go to the sermon (Beach, 2015). Instead of giving, they consider taking, which is complicated by the mainstream culture that is simpler. However, exile does not mean failure but a challenge to be overcome. The Apostle Paul describes believers and states that “our citizenship is in heaven.
And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20, NIV). God is present in any case – not only in the form of a pillar of fire and cloud as in the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt but also His will can be done by the hands of people. Even if they do not even speak about Him in front of other people, it is evident that the book of Esther is representative of the abovementioned statement.
Week Two Learning Outcomes
The paramount idea of the week two learning is that the experience of Israelites who were moved to foreign lands yet maintained their religion is rather important to inform the church positioning in the 21st century. The sociological kinship between the Western culture and Jews in the book of Esther is expressed in such common features as isolation, destabilizing environment, and potential for thriving. The power of church and its influence in North America has reduced, but exile may be regarded as a useful way to understand how it can adjust its strategies and become the valuable place for committed believers again.
The theological kinship between the modern church and Israel depicted above is also evident. Esther’s performance fueled faith in the Jewish population that began doubting God’s presence. In a sense, she acted like Moses who led Jews through the desert in a search for a new home. It goes without saying that this comparison is superficial, and the meaning of Esther and Moses for Christianity differs. However, both of them allowed people to comprehend that God exists and protects them from enemies (Crowther, 2018). Another common point is that Esther and Moses can inform today’s church on how to address its exilic situation, specifically leadership and empowerment aspects may be considered.
It should be stressed that exile is not romantic in its nature as it may seem at first glance. It included violence, forced migration, and religious restrictions, which make the theme of exile rather serious. Nevertheless, Esther’s advice teaches that the ministry should adopt a creative approach to treating faith by relating it to modern social challenges and needs. Likewise exile of Jews promoted the emergence of new canons (Hebrew), the contemporary church needs to reconsider its strategies. The theological articulations should be conducted to understand how the church may attract more believers and explain to them the word of God, thus continuing its fundamental mission.
To conclude, this essay examined the story of Esther and her advice to Jews who were exposed to be assimilated to the Assyrian culture and live outside Israel. When Esther, a young Jewish girl, become the queen of Persia, she freed them and promoted their faith. It was found that the church in the Western culture is also in exile, and it may use Esther’s advice to renovate its approaches to treating the congregation and attracting more people to church based on the theo-sociological context.
Beach, L. (2015). The church in exile: Living in hope after Christendom. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
The Bible, New International version (NIV). (n.d.). Web.
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Bellmann, S. (2017). The theological character of the Old Latin version of Esther. Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha, 27(1), 3-24.
Crowther, S. (2018). Biblical servant leadership: An exploration of leadership for the contemporary context. London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.