We pick up in part 2 where left of in our look at Esther…
The example of Esther as one who led under authority is significant because she did so in extenuating circumstances. She was involuntarily taken from the care of her cousin Mordecai and made a prospect to be Queen under the unpredictable, impulsive, and capricious king Ahasueras, or Xerxes of Persia. It is logical to ask why God would allow Esther to be put in such a position, but of course we could ask the same of some of the situations in which we find ourselves.
Nevertheless Esther shows us qualities and actions that are necessary if we are to lead while functioning under authority; sometimes an authority undeserving of respect and obedience.
1. Leading under authority requires wise subordination. The truth is that not ever one can be in front or on top. Most people will not acquire certain positions of leadership. In Esther’s case, she had the additional disadvantage of being a woman, and it was usually the case that women were subordinates in ancient times. Esther’s first line of authority came from Mordecai, her cousin, who became her guardian when she lost her original parents. Esther apparently took her relationship with Mordecai seriously, for her willing obedience to him is mentioned more than once [Esther 2:10,20 & 4:13,14]. Evidently this attitude carried over into her experience in the King’s court [Esther 2:15; 3:11]. Esther is an example of Biblical submission to authority. When the discussion concerning submission to authority comes up, we almost immediately hear concerns about blind obedience and abuse of authority. These are not invalid concerns. Almost all of us can sight examples of abuse and imbalance when it comes to the matter of authority. The tendency is to use these as reasons for disobedience or taking authority into one’s own hands. But abuses and imbalances are not good reason to explain away wise subordination. There may be times when we should respectfully disagree or disobey, but those times are probably not as frequent as we may think. Wise subordination puts us in a more credible position of influence with the one in authority and with others; a position that will be necessary if we are forced to conscientiously object or refuse.
In Esther’s case, she was preferred by Hegai, the one in charge of the women in the King’s court [Esther 2:8,9], and she achieved credibility in the sight of others [Esther 2:15]. She was then taken into the King’s house where she quickly won the favor or Ahasueras as well, and he chose her to replace Vashti [Esther 2:16-18].
If, as we have seen previously, leadership is influence, then those under authority can quickly lose their influence by exerting their own will and taking matters into their own hands. It is one thing to refuse obedience when to obey is to break God’s commands. It is quite another to be willful and proud. Wise subordination puts the serious Christian a far better position to “lead” under authority.
2. Leading under authority requires using the favor you have gained wisely. The old adage “fools rush in where wise men fear to tread” certainly applies at this point. Some will feign obedience, all the while intending to implement some secret agenda. That was the case with Haman, who appears on the scene in chapter 3 verse 1. From the beginning Haman works to promote himself and his wicked plans. He is the opposite of a humble servant and the epitome of prideful usurpation. Haman is concerned with the welfare of one person, and one alone, and that is Haman. He stands in stark contrast to Esther, and gives us an example to avoid. He is somewhat like Diotrephes of whom John said; “he loves to have the preeminence” [3 John 9].
On the other hand, Esther never presses her advantage nor attempts to use the favor God has given for personal gain, serving the King’s best interest when the opportunity arises [Esther 2:21,22]. The time will come, in the providence of God, that Esther will need to use that favor for God’s purposes and glory, and her previous restraint will serve her well.
When God shows us favor in the sight of others, we best not abuse it. If our purpose is to exert influence for His purpose and glory, then patient and faithful service where God has placed us is the best thing we can do. God may be pleased to give favor to such a one. The temptation will be to take advantage of such favor for personal gain and advancement. That is not leadership but larceny. To be entrusted with favor and opportunity is a great privilege, a great responsibility, and a great stewardship all of which require godly wisdom, if one is to lead under authority.
There are at least two other requirements for leading under authority which we will examine next time.