All Scripture is breathed out by God…
In my personal devotions I’ve recently begun a study of Esther. Since it is a short book and one that is entirely narrative, I do not anticipate being in the book for long—probably just about one day per chapter. Esther is probably best known among Christians as being a book of the Bible that never mentions God, either explicitly or even implicitly. But though His name is never mentioned, His hand is all over the book. His name does not need to be mentioned for us to see Him in, over and behind the story. His providence and His care for His people is as clear in Esther as it would be if His name was mentioned throughout.
Yet it’s still easy to miss God in the story. The evidence of this is in how little attention we give to this book. It is rarely spoken of and rarely preached. I don’t know if, through all my years of going to church, I’ve ever heard a sermon that looked primarily to Esther. But there is a reason that Esther is in the Bible. Like each of the other sixty five books, its author is God—the God who is unafraid to leave His name out of this story.
A few weeks ago I spent a few days staying at the home of my aunt and uncle. They live in the countryside, far from any major urban center. They embrace country living, growing vegetables on their farm, allowing a giant, furry, stinky dog to roam and protect the property, and keeping a small collection of potent firearms. While not a seasoned hunter, my uncle does enjoy heading out into his property to chase down the occasional deer. One evening he and I sat outside while he grilled some steaks and he told of how he killed a deer on his property the year before. After killing it, he knew that he would need to figure out how to butcher the thing. So he loaded it onto a little tractor and drove it up to his barn. There he hoisted it up so it hung from a rafter, and he set to work.
Thankfully, he had had the foresight to get a copy of a book that gave step-by-step instructions on how to properly butcher the deer and prepare the meat. As he described the butchering process, he disappeared into the house for a moment and returned with the book. I began to flip through it, turning past chapters on how to butcher cows, pigs, sheep, rabbits, raccoons and chickens. It wasn’t hard to tell when I came to the portion on butchering a deer—those pages were covered in blood. Obviously my uncle had kept this book with him through the butchering process and had turned to it often. There were bloody fingerprints on the edges and drops of blood smeared across the pages. It looked well-used. Apparently it served as a good guide because my uncle managed to properly butcher the deer and prepare it for eating. The week we were there he was preparing a pit in which he could smoke the meat from the next deer that found itself in his crosshairs.
I thought about that book later and thought about the difference between the pages that are covered with blood and those that are still pristine (and which will no doubt remain that way until a hapless sheep happens to wander through my uncle’s property during hunting season). I thought of that book as I began my study of Esther, pondering the difference between the pages that show evidence of use and those that do not. There are some pages in my Bible that are covered in blood, so to speak. They are pages that I use to proclaim or defend my faith; they are pages with verses that uplift and inspire; they are the pages with verses that people like to adapt as their “life verses.” I turn to these pages often and love to learn from them.
But then there is Esther. I’ve rarely turned to the book at all. There is no blood on the pages of Esther, at least in my Bible. There is little evidence that I have learned from those pages and that I use them to bolster my faith. There is little evidence that I have used those pages to teach me more about the God I serve. But even from this brief study (in which I’m being guided by the commentary of Iain Duguid) I’m learning again that God didn’t put any unnecessary chapters or any empty narratives in His book. After all, this is the God who says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” Even Esther, the book that does not mention God, is given for teaching, reproof, correction and for training in righteousness. It exists to make me competent and equipped to live in the way God wants me to live.
I’ve become convicted that I can’t leave Esther until there is some blood on those pages.