Mordecai sent this reply to Esther: “Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”
Esther 4:13-14 New Living Translation
Shortly after Esther became the queen, the purpose of her being in this position became apparent. Because Esther’s cousin, Mordecai, refused to bow down to him, a high ranking noble named Haman created a plan to have all Jewish people in the Persian Empire put to death on a single day. As news of the planned mass execution spread, Mordecai sat outside the palace gate in mourning clothes. This got Esther’s attention and she eventually asked Mordecai what was happening. Mordecai asked Esther to approach King Xerxes and ask him to change the decree. For Esther, this was a risky thing to do. If she tried to enter the king’s throne room without being requested she would be executed unless Xerxes extended his scepter toward her. Mordecai reminded her of the danger of her remaining silent on this occasion. Even though she was the queen, Esther was also Jewish and the decree would apply to her as well. Realizing her silence could also lead to her death, she agreed to approach the king unannounced after three days of prayer and fasting.
There are times in history when the people of God need to speak up against injustice, no matter what the risk is to them. The danger of silence can be just as great. Martin Niemoller was a German pastor in the 1930s and 40s who supported the rise of the Nazi party early on. He learned of the consequences of his silence and compliance when he was imprisoned for opposing Nazi efforts to control the German protestant church in the late 1930s. His confession in 1946 of the regret he felt over his early indifference to the injustices of the Nazi’s has been summarized in various poems with different groups being listed. Every version of the poem ends with these haunting words:
“Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me” (First They Came…)
As we look at injustice happening around us, it can be easy to think that we are safe as long as the injustice is not affecting us directly. We may desire to avoid risk to ourselves by just avoiding an issue. The examples of Esther and Martin Niemoller remind us of the dangers of silence and can inspire us to speak up for those who are oppressed, even if we are not personally affected.
Lord, forgive us for our silence in the times when we should have spoken up in defense of others. Give us the strength to speak up against injustice in the world.