Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish (Esther 4:16).
Think of the most beautiful woman's face you have ever seen. Queen Esther looked like that. She easily could have been self-absorbed, pursuing all the benefits of a stunning appearance. But her loveliness would have faded with time, at best forgotten.
It is Esther's inner beauty that has been immortalized in Scripture and in the history of her people. Because Esther was beautiful inside and out.
It was a Cinderella story. Esther, orphaned at a young age, had been taken by her cousin, Mordecai. They were Jews, alien exiles, a distrusted minority in the hands of fierce captors.
But Esther grew in grace and beauty, encouraged by Mordecai to see her worth in God's eyes.
When King Xerxes decided to find a new queen to replace the headstrong Vashti, many young women were brought to his harem to be groomed for the position-including Esther. When she appeared before Xerxes, "the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women....So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti" (Est 2:17).
Then came the dreadful news from Mordecai to Esther. It seemed almost beyond belief. All the Jews in Persia were to be exterminated by edict of the king. Esther was the queen, but what could she do? King Xerxes had absolute power over his people; they existed -or died -at his word. Even the queen.
Mordecai's wisdom and his love for Esther could not be denied, but the stakes were extremely high. "Go to the king on behalf of my people. The king does not even know that I am a Jew." Esther's mind must have searched for an easier solution. But Mordecai's counsel pierced her heart. "And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" (Est 4:14).
With unestimable courage Esther seized her destiny.
Esther's beautiful face and form alone could not have kept Xerxes hand. But her courage and wisdom won his compassion, and he granted her request.
Esther's true beauty had prepared her to be an instrument in God's hand for saving the Jews in a time of great peril.
Every woman is beautiful. She may not have the classic features of America's top model but she has a unique, God-given beauty and strength.
There will be times in your life that you will need to exercise character and courage, like Esther did.
Don't settle for beauty that fades but instead ask the Lord for inner beauty, the "forever" beauty by which we will be known in heaven.
How do you encourage character, courage and inner beauty in your everyday life?
(Partially adapted from Women of Faith Study Bible, NIV, 2001)