If the story of Esther were written in today’s divisive environment, I would venture to guess that some voices would criticize the author for cultural accommodation—in other words, for catering to the secular culture in the writing of the story. My guess is that they would label the story as being “seeker sensitive,” but not in a positive way.
I say that because one of the distinctive things about the book of Esther is that the name of God is not mentioned at all—the only book of the Bible, in fact, that does not mention the name of God at all. Of course, no evangelical today actually criticizes this beautiful and powerful story. We all believe that it was written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit—even without the name of God being mentioned in it… at all.
As believers, we know that the hand of God is behind everything that transpired in Esther’s life. One could even argue that God’s sovereignty is one of the major themes of the story. Esther put her life at risk to stand in the court outside her husband’s throne room. But by God’s sovereign hand, the king “was pleased with her” and invited her to approach his throne to speak. If Moses had written the story, he might have written that God had moved Esther’s heart to risk her life and moved the king’s heart to be pleased with her.
To be honest, I appreciate the implied language of Esther more than the explicit theological language of Moses. That’s just me. First of all, the implicit language of Esther reflects the human experience of God’s sovereignty more realistically. Second, the implicit language of Esther emphasizes the necessity of our human response in the light of God’s sovereignty more relatably. Third, in light of these things, perhaps there would be less of a compulsion to debate the nature of God’s sovereignty and, in the absence of debate, more of a compulsion to simply live in response to God’s sovereign grace.
The natural limitations that human beings have cannot comprehend the true nature of God’s sovereignty. In that respect, even the explicit theological language of Moses is metaphorical—explaining the phenomenon of God’s sovereignty without really explaining how it works.
The implicit language of Esther maintains the mystery of God’s sovereignty. For me, that expression of God’s sovereignty resonates deeply; more so than the explicit theological language of Moses.
I feel like many Christians do not really understand the nature and dynamics of God’s sovereignty very well. It seems like many Christians assume that God’s sovereign will would have us all agree on everything. But the Bible shows us that that cannot be true.
“It is what it is” may oversimplify matters a bit, but I believe that statement really does get us going in the right direction in terms of God’s sovereignty. And in the context of God’s sovereignty (it is what it is), what is absolutely clear biblically is that as believers we are called to respond to his sovereign will for our lives—to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, to love God, to love one another, etc.
Webster’s life-long project of ‘theological theology’ could be said to be an expansion of a theological category many evangelicals would consider theologically-basic: holiness.