Have you ever had a one minute to midnight moment? Such a moment comes when a person is faced with a life-changing decision.
The phrase one minute to midnight originated with the Doomsday Clock, a representation of how close the world is to global catastrophe as a result of our own technological and scientific advancements and geopolitical conflicts. Today, the clock is set at 90 seconds to midnight—the closest to destruction we have ever been since the clock’s inception—as we inch closer and closer to one minute to midnight. Scripture is filled with one minute to midnight moments. For instance, King David had such a moment when he stood face to face with the mighty Goliath with only a slingshot and five smooth stones. Moses’ moment came after serving as a shepherd for 40 years and, holding his staff, telling Pharaoh “let my people go.” Daniel’s moment came when he was thrown into a pit of hungry lions. Each of them confronted and overcame danger by the grace of God.
Esther’s One Minute to Midnight Moment
The Shushan palace of the Medo-Persian King “Ahasuerus who reigned over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces, from India to Ethiopia” (Esther 1:1) was an unlikely place for a Jewish girl to be queen. But God had a divine plan. Indeed, Queen Esther faced a one minute to midnight moment when she had to decide whether to keep her Jewish identity hidden from her husband, the king, thus allowing her people to perish or to face her own death and confess her identity to Ahasuerus (Xerxes I), hoping he somehow would change his mind. But then she received a chilling message from her cousin Mordecai:
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? (4:13–14).
What would she do? How did this moment come about?
The Jewish Girl Crowned Queen
Before Esther left her home, Mordecai told her to tell no one she was Jewish.
Let’s rewind in the book of Esther: The Jewish people were exiles in Babylon. The opportunity to return to their homeland was not met with great enthusiasm, and only about 50,000 returned. “Now it came to pass” that to show off “the riches of his glorious kingdom and the splendor of his excellent majesty,” Ahasuerus threw a party to end all parties, lasting six months (1:4). He invited his wife Vashti to display her beauty (v. 11), but she refused, shaming Ahasuerus, who immediately began looking for a new wife.
As these things were happening in the palace, elsewhere in Shushan lived “a certain Jew” (2:5) named Mordecai. He had raised his cousin Hadassah (Esther), “for she had neither father nor mother” (v. 7). The search for a queen was advertised throughout the kingdom, and the strikingly beautiful Esther volunteered to go into “the house of the women” (v. 9).
Before Esther left her home, Mordecai told her to tell no one she was Jewish (v. 10). She lived in the king’s house a full year, bathing in oil of myrrh and perfumes to prepare her for the one night she would spend with Ahasuerus (v. 12). That night would decide her fate. She would either become queen or be relegated to the king’s harem forever.
When the time came for Esther to go to the king, the Scripture says, “The king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight” (v. 17). Esther, the stealthy Jewish girl, became the new queen of Persia.
Face to Face With Death
As a result, Mordecai landed a new job sitting “within the king’s gate” (v. 21), a place of honor and influence. Haman, one of the king’s chief officials, was also promoted, and thus due homage by everyone at the king’s gate (3:2). Mordecai refused, causing Haman to become “filled with wrath” (v. 5) to the point that he not only wanted Mordecai dead, but also “sought to destroy all the Jews” (v. 6).
A highly motivated Haman came to the king to negotiate a deal Ahasuerus could not refuse. He promised to put 10,000 talents of silver into the treasury if the king would agree to get rid of “a certain people” (Jews) whose “laws are different from all other people’s, and [who] do not keep the king’s laws” (v. 8). The king agreed to Haman’s proposal, gave Haman his signet ring, and let him issue the decree (v. 12).
Written in Ahasuerus’s name, the decree called for Jewish destruction, “both young and old, little children and women, in one day, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, . . . Adar” (v. 13). Persian law emphatically stated that once a law was enacted, not even the king could change it (Daniel 6:8). This seemed a death sentence for all the Jewish people in the kingdom unless there was some sort of intervention.
This was Esther’s one minute to midnight moment. She became queen “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:13).
This was Esther’s one minute to midnight moment. She became queen “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:13). What could she do? If she went to the king without an invitation, he could put her to death immediately. But if she stayed silent, her people would be without hope.
Though the word prayer is not mentioned in the book of Esther, it does say Esther fasted (4:16), a very common act among Jewish people in Old Testament times (cf. Ezra 8:21–23; Psalm 109:21–24; Daniel 9:3). Undoubtedly this time of fasting brought clarity in deciding what to do (Esther 4:16). She did go into the king and reveal her identity, ultimately resulting in the rescue of the Jewish people.
No miracles or divine intervention are mentioned, but we do see an abundance of providence. This book is a testament to the truth of Romans 8:38: “All things work together for good to those who love God.” God is providential in His control and works supernaturally through natural means. His unseen hand is behind every detail and ironic twist of “fate.”
God was not caught off guard. We see the truth of Proverbs 21:1: “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lᴏʀᴅ, like rivers of water: He turns it wherever He wishes.”
And it seems Esther’s spirit was also prepared when she approached the king unannounced:
For the Lᴏʀᴅ gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; He guards the paths of justice, and preserves the way of His saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice, equity and every good path (2:6–9).
We will always face dilemmas in life. Seeking the Lord for wisdom through prayer is never a mistake. Be prepared for your own one minute to midnight moment: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). As the apostle Paul wrote,
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6–7).