Grades 3-6 Sunday School Lesson
Bible Heroines: Esther Part 3
Esther is Courageous
Author’s Notes: This week we’ll continue the study of our Bible heroine, Queen Esther. Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen her being chosen, then challenged. And today, we’re going to see Esther be very courageous. God has given us the example of Esther so that when we are faced with challenges, we too can lean on the strength of the Lord; and recognize that He has placed us in just the right place to make a difference, for Him.
Have you ever heard the expression that someone was “in the right place, at the right time?” For instance, have you ever been in the kitchen when your mom finished a batch of cookies, and needed someone to scrape out the bowl? Or have you heard of someone walking in to a store at just the right moment to be their one millionth costumer, and winning a cart load of prizes to take home? Sometimes we hear stories of people who get hurt, and someone else “just happens” to come along at just the right moment to help them.
There are some people in this world who would say those things just happened by chance. But God’s Word tells us that He is always in control. And that He is working everything together for the good of His children. And that includes making sure they’re in the right places at the right times.
But it’s not enough to just be there. One more thing is needed. Someone has added to the expression, so it goes like this: “in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing.” It doesn’t do us any good to be at the right place at the right time if we’re not willing to use that opportunity to do the right thing.
In our lesson today, we’re going to see that God placed Queen Esther at just the right place, in just the right time. But it would be up to her to decide whether or not she would do the right thing. Do you suppose she will? We’ll find out after looking at our memory verse for study of Esther. Do you remember it from last week? Let’s say it together.
Memory verse: (Have the children repeat this verse with you several times, until they are able to say it themselves. And encourage them to repeat it to others several times during the week, so that it’ll have a place in their hearts.)
“…and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
Opening prayer: Lord, thank You for each student who’s here, today. And thank You for Your Word, The Bible, where we can learn new truths about You, and Your plans for us. Help each one of us here, today, to be attentive to what You would have us learn. Give us open ears and hearts, ready to listen to Your words. Amen.
This Week’s Lesson: Esther is Challenged (Esther 5-10)
Let’s again start today’s lesson with a little review, in case there’s someone here who was not with us for our last lesson.
Long ago, in a land far, far away there lived a king named Ahasuerus, and his lovely queen, Vashti. They reigned over the kingdom of Media-Persia, which was the most powerful and influential kingdom in their part of the world! But Queen Vashti was stripped of her crown because she refused to come at the king’s command.
So young women from throughout the kingdom were brought to the palace as possible replacements for the queen. Our heroine, Esther, was one of the girls brought in. Was she Persian? No. She was Jewish. And her Uncle Mordecai, who had raised her, told her that she must not reveal her Jewish heritage to those in the palace because the Jews had many enemies. And Mordecai did not want Esther to be in danger.
But last week we learned that Mordecai and Esther (who Ahasuerus chose to be his queen), and all of the Jewish people living throughout Media-Persia were indeed in great danger. For a very powerful man who was close to the king had a deep hatred for the Jews. Do you remember this wicked man’s name? His name was Haman.
And there was one particular Jew he especially hated. Do you remember who that was? It was Mordecai, Esther’s uncle. Why did Haman hate him so much? Because Mordecai wouldn’t honor the king’s command to bow down to Haman when he passed by. And Mordecai let the king’s servants know he wouldn’t bow because he was a Jew.
Haman became so angry that he requested to have all of the Jews in the kingdom killed. King Ahasuerus was persuaded that this was a good idea, having no idea that his own queen was also a Jew. So the law was sent out into the entire kingdom, letting the Persians know that on the day that had been set, they could kill all of the Jews, young and old; men, women, and children. And that they should confiscate the possessions of those they had killed.
Word of the king’s command quickly spread throughout the kingdom. And the Jews responded with great mourning. They cried out in the streets, dressed in sackcloth, and sat in ashes to express their grief over the coming slaughter.
But there was one Jew who hadn’t heard, until her servants informed her of Mordecai’s actions outside the palace gate. Queen Esther did not know of the king’s edict. But Mordecai sent word to her, because he realized that there may just be something she could do to help. Remember our memory verse? Mordecai wanted Esther to consider the possibility that God had put her in the position as queen for “such a time as this”…that she might save her people.
Yes, God made sure that He had Esther in the right place, at the right time. But we ended last week’s lesson noting that in order to do the right thing, Esther would have to risk her own life. Going in to see the king without an invitation could end in death. If the king decided he didn’t want to see Esther, he could have her killed for coming in uninvited.
Esther had a difficult decision ahead of her. She could remain quiet, and not let anyone know she was a Jew. Or she could risk her own life, and plead to the king for the lives of her people. Let’s look at our Scripture passage for today, and read about the amazing courage of Queen Esther.
15 Then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer,
16 Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.
17 So Mordecai went his way, and did according to all that Esther had commanded him.
What did Esther do to prepare for her meeting with the king? She asked the other Jews to fast for three days. Fasting always accompanied prayer. So we can be sure the Jews in the city of Shushan were earnestly praying for God to give Esther the wisdom and courage she would need to stand before the king. And not only were the Jews outside the palace fasting and praying. Esther was doing the same inside the palace, along with her maids.
Then, the big day arrived. And Esther mustered up all the courage she could find to request a meeting with the king. And remember, it’s been a full month since he requested to see her. So she had no reason to believe he would be looking forward to the visit.
1 Now it came to pass on the third day, that Esther put on her royal apparel, and stood in the inner court of the king's house, over against the king's house: and the king sat upon his royal throne in the royal house, over against the gate of the house.
2 And it was so, when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, that she obtained favour in his sight: and the king held out to Esther the golden sceptre that was in his hand. So Esther drew near, and touched the top of the sceptre.
Wow! That was a relief! As Esther stood there waiting for the king’s reaction, she knew very well that things could go either way. The king might be happy to see her. After all this time, maybe he missed her. But on the other hand, he might have been having a bad day. Or might have decided he didn’t really love her anymore.
What was King Ahasuerus’ reaction when he saw Esther? He held his scepter to her, indicating his willingness to let her come in. The passage says “she obtained favor in his sight.” Do you think God may have had something to do with the way the king felt toward Esther? Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.” What do you think that verse means? God wants us to be reassured that even rulers who don’t love and worship Him are still under His almighty control. God can make them feel whatever He thinks is best. And God put favor in Ahasuerus’ heart, for Esther.
In fact, God put such an abundance of favor there that King Ahasuerus had an overwhelming desire to give Esther whatever she wanted… up to half of his kingdom. That was a pretty generous offer. But Esther already had something else in mind.
3 Then said the king unto her, What wilt thou, queen Esther? and what is thy request? it shall be even given thee to the half of the kingdom.
4 And Esther answered, If it seem good unto the king, let the king and Haman come this day unto the banquet that I have prepared for him.
What was Esther’s big request? The one she had laid her life on the line for? She asked the king if he would come to a banquet. And who was he to bring with him? Haman! the man who was trying to destroy everything for the Jews. Do you think the king was surprised to hear such a simple request? He was probably stunned! But he readily accepted her offer. He was probably intrigued to know what was really on Esther’s mind. Certainly she wouldn’t have taken such a big chance just for a simple meal with the king.
5 Then the king said, Cause Haman to make haste, that he may do as Esther hath said. So the king and Haman came to the banquet that Esther had prepared.
6 And the king said unto Esther at the banquet of wine, What is thy petition? and it shall be granted thee: and what is thy request? even to the half of the kingdom it shall be performed.
7 Then answered Esther, and said, My petition and my request is;
Let’s pause right here for a moment. Do you suppose that the king has been thinking all day about what Esther might be up to? The suspense had probably been building since he first saw Esther standing at his throne. Surely there must be something of great importance on her mind, that she would take such a risk in coming without being called. But Esther wasn’t quite ready to lay her request before the king. Maybe she just felt like the time wasn’t right, yet. Or maybe she wanted the suspense to build just a little more. Whatever the reason, King Ahasuerus was going to have to wait just a little while longer for Esther’s real request. Here’s what she said:
8 If I have found favour in the sight of the king, and if it please the king to grant my petition, and to perform my request, let the king and Haman come to the banquet that I shall prepare for them, and I will do to morrow as the king hath said.
Esther did not tell the king the real reason for her visit. Instead, she invited him, and Haman, back for another banquet the next day. We’ll look at the king’s reaction to her request in just a moment. But first, let me tell you what happened with Haman.
The next few verses tell us that Haman left feeling very excited, and extremely proud that he, alone, had been chosen to accompany the king to the queen’s banquet. But his excitement was soon ruined as he walked through the palace gate, only to see Mordecai, his enemy, sitting at the palace gate…refusing to stand and bow, and show him respect. He was so outraged that he went home and complained to his wife and his friends about how perfect everything was until that Jew, Mordecai, ruined it all for him.
So Haman’s wife and friends came up with a solution for him. Listen to their suggestion:
14 Then said Zeresh his wife and all his friends unto him, Let a gallows be made of fifty cubits high, and to morrow speak thou unto the king that Mordecai may be hanged thereon: then go thou in merrily with the king unto the banquet. And the thing pleased Haman; and he caused the gallows to be made.
A gallows was generally made with three pieces of wood: two on the sides, with one beam going across the top of them. Then a rope would be hung from the middle. And criminals were executed there, by hanging. Fifty cubits high would probably be high enough for people from just about any place in the city to see Mordecai hanging. And Haman thought this was a perfect solution to his problem.
But God had other plans for Haman and Mordecai. And they went into motion that very night. You see, King Ahasuerus had a rough time sleeping. We don’t know if he was thinking about what was happening with Esther. Or maybe God just wanted him awake. (Remember our verse earlier about God controlling the king’s heart?) Whatever the reason, King Ahasuerus couldn’t sleep that night. So he asked to have the royal records brought in and read to him. And in the records was an account of a man who had overheard a plot to kill King Ahasuerus, and reported it.
The king then asked how that man had been rewarded for his loyalty. And there was no indication that the man had ever been rewarded at all. So the king decided it would be good to reward him that very day. And in trying to come up with a fitting reward, the king asked if there was anyone in the court who might help him with his decision.
It just so happened that Haman was already in the court, because he had come hoping to speak to the king about hanging Mordecai. But the king had more important things on his mind, like finding a fitting reward for the man who had saved his life. So King Ahasuerus called Haman in, and asked him what should be done for someone that the king wanted to honor.
Listen to Haman’s response:
6 So Haman came in. And the king said unto him, What shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour? Now Haman thought in his heart, To whom would the king delight to do honour more than to myself?
7 And Haman answered the king, For the man whom the king delighteth to honour,
8 Let the royal apparel be brought which the king useth to wear, and the horse that the king rideth upon, and the crown royal which is set upon his head:
9 And let this apparel and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king's most noble princes, that they may array the man withal whom the king delighteth to honour, and bring him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaim before him, Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honour.
Haman had no trouble thinking of some great ways this man could be honored, because he thought he knew exactly who the king was talking about. Who did Haman think the honoree was? He thought it was himself. After, he thought, who would the king want to honor more? Haman could just picture himself sitting on the king’s horse, wearing the king’s royal robe and crown, and having everyone bow to him as he passed by. Even his enemy, Mordecai, would surely have to bow.
But Haman was about to have the shock of his life! The king loved all of Haman’s suggestions. And put the plan into action right away. The problem for Haman was that he was NOT the man whom the king wanted to honor. Guess who was…
We will have to wait and find out next week, when we’ll finish up our study of the heroism of Queen Esther.
Queen Esther was very brave, to put her own life on the line for the good of her people. She was a great example of what Paul meant when he said, in Philippians “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves.” (Philippians 2:3)
How did Haman do in this area? Did he tend to put the welfare of others before his own? No! Haman always put himself and his own interests first. We’ll find out next week how that turned out for him.
But let’s turn our focus back to Esther. Could we ever be as selfless as she was when she put the lives of all the other Jews ahead of her own? Yes, we can, if we have the Holy Spirit living in us. Paul said just a couple of verses later that we should “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus... He humbled himself and became obedient unto death…” (Philippians 2:5,8) That’s just what Esther did. She was willing to die if that’s what it would cost for her to do what God wanted her to. That’s the same way Jesus felt. And we can too because His Spirit is in us.
Now, God may never ask any of us to face death in order to obey Him. But we might face other circumstances. Can you think of some difficult things Christians might be facing around the world as they take a stand for Christ, and obey God’s Word?
Yes, all over the world, Christians face these things every day. And many of them stand bravely, just as Esther did, knowing that God will give them the strength and courage they need to follow Him.
This week, God may ask you to do something that others may ridicule you for. You may have to stand up for someone who is being made fun of or hurt. Or you might need to do the right thing when everyone else around you is doing just the opposite. If that happens, remember Esther, and the courage she showed in the face of death. Then ask the Lord to give you that same courage…that mind of Christ, that will help you to not only be in the right place at the right time, but to also do the right thing.
Closing Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the example of Esther, and her willingness to accept the opportunity that You put before her. Help us, even this week, to trust You to give us the wisdom, strength, and courage we need to do the right thing. For we pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
Activity: (Review Questions)
Fill in the Blanks
True or False
1. When Esther stood before the king, he was angry that she had come in uninvited. (false – she obtained favor in his sight)
2. King Ahasuerus offered Esther up to half of his kingdom. (true)
3. Haman’s wife and friends tried to convince him to just ignore Mordecai. (false – they suggested he have him hanged)
4. King Ahasuerus discovered that the man who saved his life was never rewarded. (true)
5. Haman believed that he was the man King Ahasuerus wanted to honor. (true)