Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Esther and the Hiddenness of God

I've been reading about the "hiddenness of God" recently as well as teaching an Old Testament survey course for high school students.  In my preparations for going over Esther I was interacting with the fact that the Lord is not mentioned in the book of Esther.  I was very moved by the following words from Barry Webb in his little book Five Festal Garments: Christian Reflections on The Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther (IVP, 2000).
How does the “absence” of God colour the theme of deliverance in the book of Esther and contribute to its distinctive theology?  One thing it does is to set Esther off sharply from some deliverance narratives, such as the exodus from Egypt or the exploits of the judges, align it closely with others, such as the stories of Joseph and Ruth.  What these point to only partially, however, Esther carries to its logical conclusion.  God is present even when he is most absent; when there are no miracles, dreams or visions, no charismatic leaders, no prophets to interpret what is happening, and not even any explicit God-talk.  And he is present as deliverer.  Those whom he saved by signs and wonders at the exodus he continues to save through his hidden, providential control of their history.  His people are never simply at the mercy of blind fate or of malign powers, whether human or supernatural.  (pp. 124-125)
God is there--not always as I think he should be or want him to be--but always there.  He is active even when silent.  He is preserving and guiding even when not seen.  His silence need to be a sign of disinterest or abandonment.  He is good and even his silences teach us.