Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. Esther 4:13
In a way, I hope you’ve never heard of Annie Lobert. But, if you or someone dear to you has ever found themselves trapped in the world of sex-trafficking and drug abuse I pray that God would lead you to Annie. She started out as an ordinary girl from Minneapolis, Minnesota. She became a prostitute, exotic dancer and drug addict. To make more money she moved to Las Vegas, Nevada with her then boyfriend who soon took her ID, her cell phone and every penny she earned, in effect turning her into a sex slave. After five years of physical abuse she escaped her pimp. In 2003, Ms. Lobert found herself in a hospital, the result of a cocaine overdose. As she tells her story this was the moment she finally took a true stock of her life and turned to God.
With the support of a former customer who had fallen in love with her, and her new found faith, Ms. Lobert left prostitution behind and started a new life. The former customer trained her in estimates and service reviews in order to work with him at his auto body and design firm.
A wonderful, true story of God’s intervention into the lives of a non-believer, a sinner for certain. To some, a “throw-away,” a person so entrenched with the devil that a changed life seemed impossible. And by all accounts her story, if it ended there, would sound admirable and a great testimony to God’s love for all people. But that wasn’t His plan. In fact, if you read all the stories in the Bible, God’s gift of pulling us from the fiery furnace is never the end of the story. It’s never the end of His expectations of us. It’s always a new beginning.
“the king loved Esther more than all the women, and she won grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.” Esther 2:17
The story of Queen Esther has some disturbing parallels to Annie Lobert’s. After becoming an orphan, Esther (a Jewess originally named Hadassah) was raised, by all accounts, by a good and decent Jewish cousin named Mordecai. However, when King Xerxes decided he needed a new queen he called for all the most beautiful young women to be brought (kidnapped) into his harem. Night after night these very young virgins were raped by the King. They were then placed amongst his concubines. Stripped of their names, their families, their everything, they became sex slaves.
And Esther, who was eventually selected as the new queen, could end her story at reaching such a high status. She had received wisdom and help from the right people – pagans and Jews. She had attendants, great food, a comfortable life. In fact, when palace intrigued resulted in a decree to kill the 15 million Jews scattered throughout King Xerxes’ dominion she was insulated from the information. When word came via a messenger that her cousin, a palace official, was at the gates in torn sackcloth crying in despair her response was simply to send him new clothes. She didn’t want to know what caused him so much grief. Her life was good. I’m fine. Everything’s fine.
“Mordecai also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa for their destruction, that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her and command her to go to the king to beg his favor and plead with him on behalf of her people.” Esther 4:8
It was not known by the king and his people that Esther or even Mordecai were Jews. But Mordecai’s very public reaction to the decree made their background known. And therefore, he implored Queen Esther to act on the Jew’s behalf. She was uniquely positioned to petition the king for relief. But she initially refused out of fear. She refused because the king still didn’t know she was a Jew so why not just leave it that way? Why rock the boat? I’m fine. It’s fine.
She had decided when her God-given new beginning would stop. For some of us that’s where we stop. God has rescued us over and over and over. He has placed us just where He wants us and we stop. We thank Him for the past with our words and don’t plan on thanking Him with our works. I’m fine. It’s fine.
But you can see by today’s first Bible verse Mordecai reminds Esther that she too will be swept away eventually. That the decree will come to all of them. She finds herself at a crossroads of sorts. To speak to the king without being called by him might mean death. To not speak up for the Jews will probably also mean death. For some of us we get stuck here. Fretting about what to do. And Esther finally decides to show the Lord her commitment to Him — to continue on her new beginning.
Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai,“Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” Esther 4:15-16
She, in effect, prays. And she trusts. God had placed her with Mordecai, who himself had good standing in the government. He placed her with Hegai, the eunuch in charge of the harem with whom she found favor. Hegai imparted wisdom on how to act and speak around the king. God placed her as Queen. God put all the players in place for Queen Esther to bring about the removal of an evil man from the court and overturn the death sentence for the Jews. And the new edict which she helped the king craft elevated the Jews to such a place that “many people of other nationalities became Jews.” (Esther 8:17) And to this day, the Jews celebrate Purim in her honor.
God is preparing His heroes and when the opportunity comes He can fit them in to their places in a moment and the world will wonder where they came from. AB Simpson
You and I are being prepared to be ordinary heroes. You and I have been rescued by God already so many times and placed here, right now for these times. But too many of us say I’m fine, it’s fine. We say it by telling ourselves, our Christian friends, our pastors, that we aren’t needed by God or we don’t have enough time. We’ve retired and now want to coast. We say we are happy where we are and don’t need to send God a “thank you note” by obeying His Great Commission. We say we feel uncomfortable feeding His sheep. We say we don’t need a new beginning.
Warren Wiersbe issues this warning in his commentary on Esther: God will accomplish His purposes even if his servants refuse to obey. Esther could’ve been the loser in this story. We either miss out in participating in His full glory like Moses did when he told God not to ask so much of him or we get disciplined like Balaam when he refused to do God’s bidding.
If we love God, love the fact that He loved us before we were even out of the womb, we must be compelled to be His servants instituting His plans. I heard a pastor today say we need to “Get in, Get out, or Get Run Over!” Complacency in faith, complacency with the gifts God has given us is no faith at all, truly. And it certainly isn’t God’s plan for our new beginning.
Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” John 21:16
As for Annie Lobert? She came to a crossroads too. She could’ve been like so many Christians and said, “Thanks for saving me Lord” and gone about her life. Instead in 2005, she established Hookers for Jesus, a safe house program in Las Vegas with the mission to Hook (outreach), Hope (Jesus), Help (housing) and Heal (restoration).
Annie Lobert is an ordinary person committed to God’s plan to rescue others from evil. We may not all be in the position to save as many people as she will but if we can at least commit to not being “fine where we are” and to ask God every morning to place us in positions to share His Word and do His good works we are well on the way to being an ordinary hero. We would be well on our way to our new beginning.
There are such calls in the Bible as “Universal Calls,” ones which every follower of Jesus is called to. One of these is 2 Corinthians 5:17-20:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.