We were getting ready to take our oldest daughter to Bible camp. Another young lady, who would be riding with us, was being dropped off by her parents. She was their oldest child as well. But her parents didn’t engage in a long, drawn-out farewell (as I might have done). Nor was there any list of things to do or not to do. They gave her a hug and a kiss, then her father looked her in the eye and said, “Remember who you are.”
Four simple words, but he said a lot, didn’t he? And of course, his point was if you remember who you are, everything will be fine. We’ve taught you and shown you the right way. You know that and have lived in such a way. Just remember that and all will be well.
Yet as I write these words, I realize this makes it sound much easier than it actually is. The truth is, people often forget who they are for many reasons. There is peer pressure, bad judgment, discouragement, loneliness, and a host of other things that can come into play.
All of these would be present in 5th century BC Persia for a young Jewish woman turned queen whose name was Esther. Forgetting who she was would be easy because she had concealed the fact that she was Jewish from everyone (2:10). It would be easy because as the wife of Xerxes, we watch as Esther grows in her influence and power. In fact, she’s queen for seven years before Mordecai asks her to go before the king and intervene on behalf of her people (compare 2:13 with 3:7). Her response in 4:11 makes it clear that she had become enculturated to the Persian way of doing things.
Has she forgotten who she is?
Though it takes a bit of prompting from Mordecai, she has not. Risking her life, she initially goes before Xerxes in 5:1ff and again in 8:3ff. She pleads for the king to do something to reverse Haman’s edict that will put to death all the Jewish people in Persia. In v. 6 she says:
For how can I bear to see disaster fall on my people? How can I bear to see the destruction of my family?
There’s something profoundly joyful in this—even though at this point we don’t know how everything else will work out, we know they have at least worked out for Esther. She has not forgotten who she is. She has not forgotten where she came from. She has not forgotten her people and is willing to put her life on the line for them. Seven years of pampered, palatial living have not overwritten her identity or diminished her devotion. Even as the world was telling her who she should be, she was remembering who she really was. In a world full of chameleons, Esther’s colors remained constant.
I like to think that God looked down on all this and said to one of the archangels, “The world needs to hear this story!”