Masterfulness and Artistry in our Secondary Callings
This Sunday I am preaching from Esther 7. We will be talking about how following Christ gives us a "clear and compelling" primary calling.Christ's primary call in our life - to follow Him, to belong to Him, to run after Him, to be His, makes our secondary callings (our roles - child, spouse, student, mom, etc; and our work or vocations) dynamic and fulfilling.
One of the points I am going to make is that God's primary call on our life invites us to mastery and artistry in our secondary callings. We see this in the story of Esther.
Consider Esther's masterfulness and artistry in chapter 7.
First of all, she is faced with an impossible mission: Haman, her opponent, is prime minister next to the King the most powerful man in the Empire; The edict to destroy the Jews is signed by the King’s hand and in his name. In other words, his honor and reputation rest on it; and the Edict stood to benefit the royal treasury to the tune of ½ year’s taxes for the Empire.
Second, Esther pursues an “intricate strategy” with the King inviting him and Haman to banquet after banquet. By almost revealing her request to the King and then backing off, she persuaded the King three times to commit publicly in advance to give her whatever she wished, up to ½ his kingdom.
See how carefully chosen Ester’s words are:
She begins thus: “If I have found favor in your eyes.” This is the heart of Esther’s argument! If she has found favor in the King’s sight, then an attack on her would be an attack on the King.” She stakes her life on her personal favor with the King.
One commentator put it this way: “Her plea is maserfully constructed. Note that she addresses the king first not in the expected third-person form (“If I have won the King’s favor…, cf. 5:4) but in the bolder and more personal form of direct address (“If I have won Your favor, O King…”). She is pleading for her life but also implying, without being so tactless as to say it directly, that the king is about to lose the person dearest to him and most intimate with him….It is her personal favor in the eyes of the king that moves him to countermand the sentence upon her entire people.”
Then Esther irrevocably binds herself to her people at peril of her life: "grant me my life - this is my petition. And spare my people - this is my request." (7:3)
Then Esther humbles herself and appeals to the king’s pride ("If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the King" vs. 4) and honor (it would be shameful to the king to have his wife annihilated.
Then, at the moment of the King’s rage, she unites herself to the King, and points at Haman as an “enemy” and as a vile man. She calls for the King to do the right thing.
Haman is shocked into silence, terrified before the King and Queen (for now they are standing together against him). He has been completely outsmarted by Esther’s cunning strategy.
Finally, Esther doesn’t weaken when Haman pleads for his life.
The same commentator explains the masterfulness of Esther's work with the King and confrontation of Haman: "Couched as two sets of three words in Hebrew (“an adversarial man and an-enemy, this evil-fellow Haman”) Esther’s reply (7:6) parallels the structure of Ahasuerus’s question in the previous verse (“Who is the guy, and where is the guy?”) just as her reply in 7:3 (“let my life be granted me as my wish and my people as my request”) mirros his question in the verse below (“what is your wish?...what is your request?”). This gives the sense of a couple dancing beautifully together, but only because the woman is able to absorb the man’s jerky motions with the utmost grace or poise, or, to change the metaphor, it reminds one of two tennis players nicely matched, but only because one of them proves able to return the other’s uncontrolled volleys in a way that is supremely effective but in no way aggressive or hostile. When Haman is “stricken with terror before the King and queen” (7:6), we have a dramactic enactment of the psychological reality that Ester has brilliantly engineered. Haman has been split off from Xerxes, and the king and the queen now stand together against the man who has been labeled as their common enemy, not “the enemy of the Jews.”
Let me, for a moment, press an application into your heart.
Like Esther, you have been given roles and responsibilities by God. Over times these change: you are a child, then a student, then single, married, work, etc. In all of these roles, you are called, as a Christian, to work with Christian excellence, distinctiveness, and wholeheartedness; gto grow in your artistry and mastery of these roles. When you do, like Esther did with the King, you call forth the strengths and gifts of others.
In the sermon we will see how Jesus Christ's primary calling in our life frees and motivates us to step into our secondary callings with mastery and artfulness.