“I wonder what happens next?!”
I often felt that way after watching an episode of the early 2000s television series, 24. Episode after episode, a clock always seemed to be ticking, plans and plot twists unfolding. Because this was before the age of streaming, I had to wait until the next week to find out if the hero was going to foil the terrorist’s plot. Cliff-hangers are one of my favorite devices in storytelling. The introduction and building of unresolved tension, a cliff-hanger suspends my interest in how it will all work out. I think that’s why bingeing serial stories today shortcuts a way of suspending curiosity in our lives.
Chapter 5 of Esther not only builds the tension of the story as a whole for us, but it also leaves us with a massive cliff-hanger. What’s next? I’m tempted to move, to skip ahead to tomorrow’s reading to discover the story’s resolution, instead of pausing in the tension of the moment. Yet, we should let the tension bring out the big question of this passage.
On the surface, we see dueling schemes beginning to unfold. Esther has asked the Jewish people to join her in prayer and fasting for three days while she devises a plan to save them. She prepares a banquet for the king. Haman, on the opposite side, has consulted with his wife and friends devising a plan to kill Mordecai. He builds gallows for the execution. The plans are unfolding simultaneously, the timelines set to collide in spectacular fashion.
Pitted against each other, it would be easy to conclude that the person with the most power will win out. Esther is the queen, yet she is at the whim of the king’s good disposition to hear her request. Haman has already put in motion his genocide plot against the Jews and seems to have an inside track on the king’s hand. Then there is the king. He seems ready to do something for Esther, “Whatever you want, even to half the kingdom, will be given to you” (Esther 5:3). And so, we sit at a cliff-hanger loaded with relational tension.
Maybe you feel this tension in your own life. You have a trajectory of where you’re headed, yet there seem to be other plans that are thwarting your desired outcome. Things aren’t playing out how you wanted or expected. Your frustration is palpable. But here’s the question our tension raises: Could it be that, in the midst of what appear to be dueling plans and plots in your life, God is calling you to trust Him?
His plan isn’t revealed at this point in the story of Esther, but He has one. Where the tension is the thickest, when the cliff-hanger of life brings you to the precipice of your comprehension, can you trust God? Can you trust God even when the plans of the proud, the schemes of the wicked, and the designs of the devil are all aligned against you?
Pause at the cliff-hanger and ask.
Written by Jeremy Writebol