by Pastor Afolabi Oladele
“If I Perish, I Perish!” was a statement made by the famous Queen Esther, wife of King Xerxes (Ahasuerus) of the Mede-Persian Empire, who reigned from 486 to 465 BC. Queen Esther, being a Jew, was faced with anti-Semitism which started after Joseph, in Egypt. For the privilege of her being Queen at that time, she had to stand up for her people against an evil plot by Haman, the second in command to King Xerxes, to wipe out all Jews in the Empire. And for her to do this, she had to develop a mindset of “If I perish, I perish” in order to go to the King and seek his help to thwart that decree, or at least give the Jews a right to defend themselves.
Her mentor Mordecai said to her, “Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. If you keep quiet at a time as this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”
“For Such a Time as This” was the theme for the Eagles Youth Camp 2014, and this message preached by the Senior Pastor of The Christian Brethren Church, Lagos, is central to that theme.
Right from the beginning of time, God gave examples in His word of young people; from the days of Joseph, Daniel and the three Hebrew children, to Esther and down to the New Testament, it took only a handful of people who stood out for the laws of God even if it meant laying down their lives. Joseph was alone, Daniel and the three Hebrew children were alone, Esther was partly alone. All of them were given the mandate to bring a change into their time. They were agents of change.
Will you be a change agent? Change agents make up their minds. It is usually a choice made, and not one to be taken lightly. This choice usually has a price to it. I would like to lay a foundation to a few fundamental principles to what you need to do in order to have a mindset of “If I perish, I perish!”
There is so much easy living of “what will be will be” that has characterized this generation of which I often wonder: Do they really know what it’s all about? The quality of the outcome of anything that you do in life is dependent on the amount of preparation that goes into it. You need to understand that taking Esther through a twelve-month preparation wasn’t just for fun. This generation of young people does not take preparation seriously.
Esther has a book named after her in the scriptures, the book of Esther. There were six principal characters in the book of Esther namely: Mordecai, Esther, Haman, King Ahasuerus, Vashti and Hegai. The first six verses of the book of Esther point to very important factors in establishing three basic principles that are critical for anyone who wants to develop a mindset of “If I perish, I perish!”. And if you don’t get them and make up your mind as to how you deal with them, you have a long way to go.
Esther 1:1-6 NLT “These events happened in the days of King Xerxes, who reigned over 127 provinces stretching from India to Ethiopia. At that time Xerxes ruled his empire from his royal throne at the fortress of Susa. In the third year of his reign, he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. He invited all the military officers of Persia and Media as well as the princes and nobles of the provinces. The celebration lasted 180 days—a tremendous display of the opulent wealth of his empire and the pomp and splendor of his majesty.
When it was all over, the king gave a banquet for all the people, from the greatest to the least, who were in the fortress of Susa. It lasted for seven days and was held in the courtyard of the palace garden. The courtyard was beautifully decorated with white cotton curtains and blue hangings, which were fastened with white linen cords and purple ribbons to silver rings embedded in marble pillars. Gold and silver couches stood on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl, and other costly stones.”
Firstly, King Ahasuerus was ruler over a large kingdom. He was so wealthy that he set a celebration that lasted for six solid months! This tells that this king loved to have fun and to show off his opulent wealth and abundance of fortune. This was a society where the leadership had nothing other than pride to show the extent of his wealth. But who gave him the wealth or the power? A thread of pride ran through the lives of the kings in their time, beginning from King Nebuchadnezzar.
And I want you to look at yourself in this generation. What drives your life? For those of you have beauty to show off, or those of you whose parents have wealth to show off, I want you to know something very crucial: you are nothing outside God. And when you begin to show off and to trample upon the One who gives you grace and all things, you are not fit to be a change agent; you are an instrument for destruction!
Pride was what king Ahasuerus exhibited in showing off his wealth, and simultaneously, his wife, Queen Vashti was also doing the same. Lesson number one is the question of pride: pride has no place in the lives of those who want to become change agents, because pride says, “God, I don’t’ need you.” Ponder on your life so far, what is it that makes you swollen- headed? Is it your sonorous voice, your good shape or your intelligence? There is nothing that you have that was not given to you. And wherever pride establishes itself, God is not there.
The second foundation as history tells was that King Ahasuerus lost out on a battle against the Greeks that began the fall of his empire, after all his showoffs. This tells that pride goes before a fall. There are two ways and you have a choice to make in this matter of pride. 2 Chronicles tells the story of Hezekiah. The Bible tells that he was a man that was deeply committed to the ways of the Lord. It is rendered in the King James Version as “he lifted up his heart in the ways of the Lord.” Pride is a way of lifting up your heart; but you can be proud in the things relating to God as Hezekiah was, and you can be proud in the things that are contrary to God.
Yet another king, Uzziah, is spoken about in the Bible who when he became powerful, he also became proud and that led to his downfall. So in terms of your heart being lifted up, there are two directions: you can be strongly committed to the ways of the Lord like Hezekiah was, or you can be committed to yourself like Uzziah. That’s why I say the matter of pride boils down to choice. If you don’t have a heart that is strongly committed to God, you won’t become the change agents that God wants you to be.
The second foundational principle had to do with Vashti. History has it that it was an established law in Persia that strangers were not allowed to look on the wife of other people, and particularly the wife of the king. The king became drunk and asked for his wife to be brought so that all the people who came for the celebration could see her raw beauty. Vashti was caught between the law of the land which said people cannot gaze upon a woman’s nakedness and the order by her husband to display herself before the whole nation just to please the king. She obeyed the law of man and she lost all.
It was in the words of Memucan, one of the seven princes of Persia, who suggested the punishment to be meted on Vashti for disobeying the king that we see there was a superior unwritten law of God which says that a woman, should obey her husband. When you obey the law of man and despise the law of God, not only are you arrogant to God, you become an instrument that is ready to perish. In this question of being a change agent, you will come against laws of men that stand contrary to the word of God which is the superior law. What choice will you make when you face that test?
What would have been true caution for Vashti? True caution is obeying and being in submission to God over the laws of men. But Vashti responded with the flip side of true caution, which is rationalization. She rationalized that she would be better off obeying the laws of the land. But rationalized fear has no place in God’s standard because it finds excuses to just play along with the world. Joseph would have given in to Portiphar’s wife if he responded with rationalized fear over losing his job. Caution and rationalized fear are two principles that run through the entirety of the story of Esther.
Joseph, Daniel, the three Hebrew children, and Esther all got to a point where they had to decide between caution and rationalized fear, where caution means obeying the word of God in totality. The Lord Himself warned us while He was here; He said in Matthew 10:28 “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Change agents will face threats at some points in time. There is more to being a believer that just going to church; and singing and dancing. Jesus told us not to be afraid of those who destroy you. Because apart from threatening you, they can go afar as killing you. Don’t be afraid because they can only kill your body but they cannot kill your soul. And the Christianity that brings us to this stage is not the yuppie kind of Christianity that is prevalent today, when unrighteousness is like drinking water at all levels. You have to make a choice whether to walk with God and be in the place of caution that God is calling for, or you want to be in the way of the world.
Jesus went on to say: “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.” There’s nothing that happens to a believer that God does not know, or has not permitted; but He is not obliged to give you an explanation or to ask your permission. And it is in His hands whether to save you or not. Those who are developing the mindset of “if I perish I perish!” they come to terms with this.
Who are those likely to threaten you? Acts 4:13-26 shows that those who would threaten you are those who feel that their position will be jeopardized by your obedience, because it would expose them and show that they are wrong. What about your friends who cheat at exams and you stand against them and try to expose them? Don’t some of them threaten you or even organise people to beat you up? Are you making a choice to stand for the truth and the right? If you cannot stand up against these little challenges around you, do you think you can stand in the day you are faced with the challenge to either deny Christ or die? Rationalized fear would have made Stephen to run away for his life and deny Christ, but he stood in the place of caution, because he knew that his soul will be spared. Consider Peter when Jesus was arrested in Gethsemane. Peter responded with a sword to threat, even when his master Jesus, standing right beside him, did nothing. Your right response to threats should be just prayers and continuous obedience, nothing more.
I want look at the attributes that characterized the life of Esther. Mordecai and Hegai were the very two most important persons in Esther’s life. I am persuaded that Mordecai was a man that had a solid relationship with God in such a degree that God was told and showed him what He was going to do with his people. This first element in the life of Esther she was her humility. She never claimed to know too much. She was an orphan whose parents had died in harsh conditions, while Mordecai, her cousin, both from the royal family, adopted her as his own daughter.
Hegai, who never knew nor met Esther before, was attracted to her humility. Humility attracts favour. Hegai had never met Esther before, but there was a mark upon her life that showed that she recognised authority over her life. But what do you hear in our society today? You are told to sell yourself; to blow your trumpet. You need to have the sensitivity to understand those whom God will send to your life to chaperon you into destiny in fulfilling God’s purpose. If pride of beauty had been in Esther, she would have messed herself up and wouldn’t be a candidate for the king.
God sent a Mordecai, who understood the destiny that He had appointed for Esther in the spiritual, and he was committed to it not for his own sake, otherwise he would have accepted Esther’s gift in the day of trouble and that would have been the end of it. He was a man who was close enough to God to know God’s purpose even when it had not been fully understood by Esther herself. As Mordecai was on the spiritual side, so was Hegai on the physical side. For one whole year of preparation that Esther went through just for one night with the king, it tells you that the quality of what you become depends on how well you have prepared. And I ask you: how well do you prepare for anything that you are doing in life?
I have worked and have been in business for forty plus years and when I go out for marketing presentations, I’ve found out that the results I get depends on the amount of good work that I have done. But you young ones, all you want to do is to twit and to Facebook, and those things take your time away. Because you don’t have the discipline of when to put them aside and face what is important for your lives. You have to know what God wants for your lives if you really want to be change agents.
Esther 2:15 “Now when the turn of Esther, the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her for his daughter, was come to go in unto the king, she required nothing but what Hegai the king’s chamberlain, the keeper of the women, appointed. And Esther obtained favour in the sight of all them that looked upon her.”
Why would Esther not ask for anything? Could she know better the taste of the king than the King’s chamberlain and keeper of women? She couldn’t. That is recognizing the place of those whom God has set over you as mentors, as chaperons and as guides to get it to the place of destiny, they know better. They are not a people who want to abuse you and use you for themselves. Hegai demanded nothing from Esther, her humility already won his heart and he was willing to do all to bring her to the place that she was going to be, as queen over the empire.
Mordecai on one hand, who by virtue of his closeness to God understood what God was working out in the life of Esther, and indeed for the entire Jews. How do I know this? Let’s look at the genealogy of Mordecai.
Esther 2:5 “There was a certain Jew in Shushan the palace, whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite”
Mordecai was related to Saul. He was the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, the father of King Saul. And why would he not bow to Haman? This brings us back to caution and rationalized fear. We need to understand Mordecai’s root and note that there are two issues that this should invoke in our hearts: Saul his forefather was destroyed because of disobedience to God in totally destroying the Amalekites.
The word of God did not make a mistake in talking about Shimei and Kish. Shimei was the man that cursed David. So on one hand the mention of Shimei makes us to know that Mordecai knew the difference between respecting divinely constituted authority, because Shimei his grandfather failed in that he did not respect constituted authority. So the reason he was not respecting Haman was not because he did not know he ought to respect authority. God mentioned Kish to bring to us the memory of Saul not killing Agag, thereby disobeying the instruction of God. And so God swore that throughout his generation there would be war between Israel and the Amalekites until the Amalekites are wiped out from the face of the earth. Mordecai was sound in the knowledge of the Word. How much of your Bible do you know?
How can you know true caution if you don’t know the Word? Are you in the prime of your youth and you don’t even know the basis for which you are opposing the enemy? Mordecai understood the history of what happened to his fore-fathers; he knew that they lost the royalty for sparing the Amalekites and Agag. He understood that constituted authority was to be respected, but only those that God actually put in place. It was a reflection o f how close he was to God in the circus he was. God put all these in the scriptures so that we can understand why he did what he did when he came face to face with Haman. So when a Haman an Agagite shows up vaunting himself in pride and Mordecai refuses to bow to him, you understand that before Esther actually faced the test of “if I perish, I perish!” her mentor already faced it.
You should cry out to God for shapers of your destiny; people who have gone through these things and have triumphed in them. The moment people began to tell Haman that Mordecai refuses to bow to him; Mordecai could see his own fate, because Haman was the most powerful man after the king. Yet he demonstrated the “If I perish, I perish!” mindset and was prepared to lose it all so as to stand in the place of caution and obedience to the living God.
The disposition of Esther
Ephesians 6:1-4 “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with a promise: “that it may be well with you, and you may live long on the earth.” You fathers, don’t provoke your children to wrath, but nurture them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
This scripture has three components tied to it that we often put aside. The context addresses children and parents. Paul makes it clear that children have responsibility before God and that the commandment actually has definite benefits to it. The prosperity of Esther in destiny is not devoid of the fact that she was obedient to Mordecai. You cannot prosper on your pathway or even at your destiny without being obedient to those who God has set over you, because tied very closely to this issue of obedience is that aspect of the prosperity. One of the benefits as stated in Deuteronomy 4:39-40 is the prospects of long life, which also contains an implication of prosperity. And because Esther had recognised the place of obedience to Mordecai and Hegai, it is impossible for the Word of God to fail, that she would have a long life, it was only a question of the choice that Esther had to make in crossing the Rubicon of the “if I perish, I perish” mentality.
Concerning the test that will come your way to prove if you have made up your mind on the “if I perish, I perish!” mentality, you need to understand that God will not ask your permission, He is not obliged to give you an explanation, He has right to do what He wants with your life. It’s up to you to make the right choice.