Tomorrow, at sundown, marks the Jewish celebration of Purim, two days to remember and celebrate the deliverance of the Jews from the hands of the Persian Viceroy Haman as detailed in the book of Esther. It’s a time to gather, to remember Purim and to pray for the protection and peace of Israel. Part of the Purim celebration is the reading of the book of Esther; as I have read Esther over the years I have been struck by our idea of “destiny” and have begun to think that maybe we have misplaced the focus of Esther and all Scripture from God to ourselves.
Those who hear me speak or read my writing often know that I already have a strong opinion about what I view as our fascination with “destiny”. I believe that we have replaced “God’s Will” with our desires, attempted to place eternal importance upon our dreams and called our occupations our purpose. By chasing God’s will through destiny, we have placed a heavy burden upon ourselves and restrictive expectations upon God. Before I even get to Esther, the Apostle Paul revealed God’s will and purpose for all of us in Romans 8:29 when he wrote: “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.” The will of God, the purpose and plan of God for all of us, the good that God is working all things toward (Romans 8:28) is that we would be like Jesus. Why would an eternal God provide men with a temporary destiny? I contend that where we live, who we interact with, what job we take and what college we attend are all variables in the plans of God. He will lead and He will guide but He also redeems, He trades beauty for ashes, and He restores what we sometimes give away or set aside. My point is that if God’s will for my life is a temporary act, place or function, then I can be where God wants me without ever becoming who God wants me to be. That can’t be God’s will, He looks at the heart, He restores the soul, He revives the spirit and He does those things as His will not in the midst of His will. I think we all need to take some pressure off ourselves and realize that every decision we make is not determining if we are “in or out” of God’s will. How can my heart be toward God, how can His Word be alive in me, how can I be growing in my love for God and becoming more aware of His love for me and not be in God’s will? God’s will can’t be narrowed down to our temporary decisions, it has to be about our heart condition and from that place of focus my temporary decisions become clearer, more holy, more righteous but at the same time less burdensome and less fearful. I think there is a more eternal way to look at “destiny”.
In Esther 4, Esther’s cousin Mordecai found out that Haman was going to have all the Jews in 127 provinces killed on a certain day. Mordecai sent a message to Esther and pleaded with her to go, as the queen, and ask the king for mercy. Esther explained that even as the queen she was not permitted to approach the king without him first calling for her, that if she went before him and it displeased him that he could have her killed. To add to this, Esther explained that it had been 30 days since the king had last called for her. It is in this exchange that Mordecai uttered the most famous words of the book of Esther, words I have used for the title of my blog, a radio program and have signed most of my letters with for nearly 15 years—“for such a time as this”.
Let’s see the full context before we go any further. Esther had explained the danger of approaching the king and Mordecai responded: “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” I believe that Mordecai’s words reveal that this is not Esther’s “destiny” as much as it is her opportunity. Mordecai makes it clear, God will deliver the Jews, He is inviting Esther to join Him in that deliverance, He did not create her for that deliverance. The book of Esther is not the story of one woman’s “destiny”, it is further revelation of God’s detailed love for all of His children. If Esther gave in to fear, God would have brought deliverance through someone or something else. God’s detailed love knew that an attack was coming and so He placed Esther where He could use her, where He could reveal Himself to her and where she could come to know Him through His incredibly detailed love. If we look at every person of “destiny” in the Bible they are not defined by the task they completed but by the relationship they forged with God. Moses was used to deliver Israel, but his “destiny” was to speak face to face with God as a man does with a friend. Abraham was the father of Israel, but his “destiny” was to become the father of faith by being a friend of God. David was Israel’s greatest king, but his “destiny” was to be Israel’s leader of worship, to establish a tabernacle that would be restored in the last days and to sit on a throne that would lead to the Messiah. The list can go on and on, “destiny” was never what anyone accomplished but how they saw, surrendered to and loved God. We are more than servants given assignments, we are children given love and adoption.
You may read this and say it’s all semantics and you may be right, but semantics reveal where we place our emphasis. I’m never going to release anyone into their “destiny”, but I pray daily to point people toward the incredibly detailed nature of God’s fatherly love. “Destiny” means I need to accomplish a task to complete my purpose, it means God’s pleasure with me is measured by my accomplishments for Him—I’ve already tried that in my life, it’s exhausting and fruitless. I want to live with both eyes on God, I want to see His presence in every step I take and trust His love in every breath I breathe. I want to accomplish everything He invites me to do with Him but what I really desire, what my living and dying hope has become is that I hear His voice every day, that I see His character in ever verse I read, that I acknowledge His presence in every moment I live and that if indeed He does actually say “well done” when we enter His house, I want it to be because I became like His Son not because I simply accomplished a specific task. John wrote that when we see Him, we will be like Him, that’s our “destiny” if we must use the word, and that is fulfilled not by doing the right thing in the right place at the right time, it’s fulfilled by seeing God’s love, trusting God’s character and obeying God’s Word. I don’t know about “destiny” but I know that I have an invitation, we all do; we have been invited to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus. Purim is not the celebration of Esther’s courageous fulfillment of her “destiny”, it is a reminder that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Breathe easy today and take off the weight of fulfilling your “destiny” and put on the yoke of God’s love; His love will cover every sin, cleanse every blemish and handle every detail. Rather than hoping to be a people of “destiny” let’s fall headlong into the love of the God of all the details. I don’t know about you, but I will take God’s details over my “destiny” every time.