“10 Historical Records That Tell Another Side of Bible Stories”, was the name of the article that showed up in my Yahoo news feed this morning. The article went through ten Bible stories, and matched them with some historical accounts that were written by non-biblical sources. The one that caught my eye was the story of Esther, and the historical account of the man most likely that was her husband, King Xerxes I of Persia.
What do you wish? Whatever it is, I will give it to you, even if it is half of my kingdom!” Esther 7:2 NLT
When Esther goes in to see the king, she is greeted warmly and he is delighted to see her. How do we know? Well, it is because he says that he will “give her anything up to half of the kingdom.” So I think we can safely assume that he was glad she was there. As her story goes, she asks him to a banquet, where there will be a guest list of three. Her intention is to use her influence to save her people. After the banquet, she invites him to another with the same three attendees, the king, herself and her enemy Haman.
When she had shown care, kindness and hospitality to not only her husband but her enemy also, the king asks her again “What is your request? I will give it to you, even if it is half the kingdom!” Talk about influence! It was then our story comes to its conclusion. Queen Esther unmasks Haman’s cruel plot to kill all of the Jews and the King is outraged. Long story short, Haman is executed and the Jewish people are safe.
As I read the story, I thought about the position of influence God had given her, and how she used it for good. My morning thoughts did not stop there though. The King’s statement sounded familiar, like I had heard it somewhere else. I looked and confirmed that there is another record in the bible where another person had said pretty much the same thing. Where influence was used, but the outcome was markedly different.
“Ask me for anything you like,” the king vowed, “even half of my kingdom, and I will give it to you!” Mark 6:23 NLT
Now these words were spoken by King Herod. He too was at a banquet, but this one was very different from the one Esther had given. There were many people attending, and that included Queen Herodias and her daughter. It is written that at this banquet, the daughter performed a dance that greatly pleased Herod. When she was done, Herod told her to make her request known.
Again, another woman, another banquet, another King with ultimate power. What would she use this great moment to ask for? The power of influence right then is staggering. He was surrounded by people that would be a witness to whatever she asks, and they would then be looking to Herod to grant that request. There was only one problem. Someone else had influence over this young woman, her mother Herodias. She went and asked her mother what should she request? Herodias’ fatal answer meant death for John the Baptist.
I know most of us may never have that kind of history making influence, but that does not let us off the hook. While our circles of influence may seem small, how we use it can still have far reaching effects. So it is important to ask, how do I use my influence?
This morning as I think of the continuing message series about mercy I am hearing at church, I know that influence is part of that equation. Where do I have influence? How can I use my influence to show God’s mercy to someone else? Maybe even more important, will I use my influence for my own promotion or will I use it for someone else’s benefit?
We all have influence in various circles in our lives, through work, church, family and friends. Sometimes we may have a little, and at other times much more, but I believe that one thing is true. God does not give me influence to squander only on myself, but to help those around me. And while I may not feel that I have much, I do know that the right thing for me is to advocate for those who may have even less. Small amount or not, I believe God gives each of us just the right amount. All it has to be is enough, for “such a time as this”.