In His Hand
As fall chilled the air last year, Gwyne Campbell traveled home to New Jersey to attend a wedding. Shortly before she was to return to Word of Life Bible Institute in Schroon Lake, New York, Gwyne died in a car accident. She was 18.
In his profound grief, Gwyne’s father, Pastor Kenneth Campbell, plumbed the depths of his faith and found comfort in the shelter of the Almighty.
“You know,” he said, “I’ve taught the sovereignty of God. I believe in the sovereignty of God. But I’ve come to love the sovereignty of God.”
Life’s most important events are often beyond human control. But He who sits in the heavens reigns. In March, Jewish people around the world will celebrate Purim, a holiday that came about because of the sovereignty of God, the Ruler of the universe, who holds the heart of the king in the palm of His hand.
Purim commemorates how God used a beautiful young woman named Esther to deliver the Jewish people from annihilation. Esther, whose Hebrew name was Hadassah, was probably even younger than Gwyne when her life also took an unexpected turn, one over which she had no control.
Esther was a subject of King Ahasuerus, also known as Xerxes, who ruled the vast Persian Empire between 486 and 465 B.C. Although the Israelites’ captivity in Babylon had ended, only 50,000 or so Jewish people returned to their land in 538 B.C. Esther lived not in the land but in Shushan, city of the palace, with her cousin Mordecai who had reared her as his own daughter because her parents were dead (Est. 2:7).
Like most girls, she probably entertained thoughts of marrying and having children. Yet one day her life changed completely. Because of the king’s decree to gather the young virgins so he could pick a new queen, Esther was taken from her home and put into a harem. The Bible says she was “brought also unto the king’s house, to the custody of Hegai, keeper of the women” (2:8).
There the girls “beautified” themselves for a year in hopes of becoming queen. When Esther’s turn came to see the king, her fate would be sealed. Either he would crown her or consign her to the harem where she would be confined for the rest of her life, except when he desired to see her. She was probably still a teenager, but truly her life was no longer her own; and neither she nor Mordecai could control the circumstances.
But God, in His sovereignty, controlled everything. He gave Esther “favor in the sight of all them who looked upon her. And the king loved Esther . . . so that he set the royal crown upon her head” (2:15, 17).
So in the seventh year of Xerxes’ reign, Esther became queen of Persia. Obedient to Mordecai’s instructions, she never revealed she was an Israelite until five years later, when a powerful, jealous, self-absorbed, bureaucrat named Haman plotted to destroy the entire Jewish nation because Mordecai refused to bow before him. Had Haman succeeded, he would have massacred every Jewish person alive at the time, including those who had returned to the land.
But God intervened. In His divine sovereignty, He picked Esther, positioned her, protected her, and prospered her. In addition, He gave her five years to mature into her new life before He used her courage and intelligence to deliver His people from destruction.
Sadly, Esther was queen for only eight years more. In 465 B.C., when she was probably around thirty years old, Ahasuerus died. Secular records do not mention her. We never learn if she bore children, how long she lived, or how she died. But the king who succeeded Xerxes was Artaxerxes who, eight years later, (457 B.c.) let Ezra the scribe return to Jerusalem and after twelve more years, gave Nehemiah permission to rebuild the city’s walls. Truly, Esther had been appointed “for such a time as this” (4:14).
Sometimes we look at our lives and have no idea why certain things befall us. We have no control over our circumstances and no power to change them. It is then we, too, should love the sovereignty of God. For in the sovereignty of the One who laid the foundations of the earth (Job 38:4), who makes the earth tremble at His presence (Ps. 114:7), and who loves us so profoundly that He gave His only begotten Son for us (Jn. 3:16), there is rest. The Lord has a purpose for everything, and He will work everything out for our ultimate good and His ultimate glory. He is unquestionably in control, and wrapped in our love of His sovereignty lies the unsurpassing peace of life in Christ.