“For such a time as this.”
It may be the most famous phrase in the book of Esther. Maybe you’ve seen it quoted on social media or printed on Christian merchandise.
“You were born for such a time as this.” “You were created for such a time as this.” It’s supposed to inspire us to act. Many articles and sermons built around this verse focus on how we can be like Esther and use our positions of influence or leadership to serve God.
But these applications miss something. As we so often do, we’ve made the Bible all about us.
If we look at the verse in context, we see it’s not a statement about human “identity, passion and purpose,” but rather God’s sovereignty. It has very little to do with what we can accomplish, and everything to do with what God is accomplishing. Because of this, it provides us with real hope and true courage, not a “you can do this” message.
Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, encourages her to risk her life by asking the king for mercy on the Jews, whom he has ordered to be exterminated. Mordecai says: “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
Our tendency is to read this as the moment of decision, that inspiring scene in the movie where the hero realizes she must act: “It all depends on me.” But Mordecai is saying something different: ”It all depends on God, and this is your chance to be part of it.”
Instead of placing the weight of success or failure on Esther, he gives her a better foundation for courage.
“If you do nothing, God will still rescue his people. but you’ll lose the chance to be part of the great deliverance. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. So why not take the risk?”
Even though Mordecai never says the name of Yahweh, he’s speaking the gospel in its shadowed Old Testament form: God will deliver his people according to his promise, and no human strength or effort can bring about salvation.
And this is how we can apply the verse to ourselves—not as a pep talk to get moving, but encouragement to look up and see the glory of the king.
Does this give us permission to be passive? Not at all. If anything, it should encourage us to do far more than if we read the verse as it tends to be interpreted in our culture.
When we apply “for such a time as this” to ourselves, we are in danger of casting ourselves as the hero of the story: “God needs me here.” This view leads either to anxiety, fear and discouragement when I fail, or to a sinful pride when I succeed, a pride that distances me from God and the brothers and sisters who are not as strong and important as I am.
God doesn’t need us, but he gives us opportunities for courage. He calls us out of fear to take risks, to participate in what he is doing.
The true Hero has no need of our power. He will accomplish his purposes with or without us. Recognizing how unimportant we are is not discouraging, but in fact freeing and even exhilarating.
A great and glorious story is unfolding, and we have been invited into it. We have been allowed to see the King at work in his Word, from the promise in the garden to the Revelation of the rider on the white horse, whose eyes are like a flame of fire and who in righteousness judges and makes war. We have been invited to see him defeat his enemies, set the captives free, claim his kingdom and ascend to his throne. It is all about him, but there are chances for us to take on the battlefield, times he might use us for his glory.
“For such a time as this” means God’s will doesn’t depend on me. I don’t have to fear failure, and there’s no place for pride if I succeed. Therefore, we can attempt things for Christ that frighten us. We can say and do things that seem foolish. We can speak of our hope to our co-workers, keep pursuing the family members who reject the gospel, ask a neighbor to church. If I fail, I fail. God can work his deliverance by another person, through other means.
All that is certain is the King of Kings will save his people. Like a massive tidal wave gathering momentum, his work of deliverance is sweeping through time. Don’t we want to be part of his victory? Wouldn’t it be better to risk it all, knowing the outcome is secure, than to sit on the sidelines?
“Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
We can ask ourselves and one another this question with confidence and joy as, day by day, we venture out into the story of the King and his victory.