It’s important to speak truth to power

Published 9:28 pm Tuesday, December 20, 2016

It’s time to speak truth to power.  But who speaks truth to power?  Why should we speak truth to power?  When should we speak truth to power?  How should we speak truth to power?  What prepares us to speak truth to power? The biblical story of Esther teaches us the who, why, when, how and what in speaking truth to power. It is time to speak truth to power.

King Ahasuerus, ruler of the Persian Empire, was the most powerful man on earth. His empire stretched from India to Ethiopia, covering 127 provinces (countries). At some point, King Ahasuerus became angry with his wife, Vasthi, and removed her as queen. He then had beautiful young virgins brought from across the empire from which to choose. Esther was a beautiful Jewish orphan raised by her uncle Mordecai. Esther was chosen as one of these young virgins. Mordecai instructed her not to allow anyone to know that she was Jewish.  Esther eventually became Queen of the Persian Empire. But a time came when Esther had to speak truth to power.

Haman, King Ahasuerus’ closest and most powerful supporter, became very angry because the Jew Mordecai would not bow to him as he passed in front of the King’s palace. As a result, he hatched a scheme to have all Jews in the Persian Empire destroyed and manipulated King Ahasuerus into signing a decree allowing all Jews, including women and children, to be destroyed.   When Mordecai learned of this diabolical plan, he sent word to Queen Esther, asking her to go speak to the King to save her people. But Esther was very reluctant, saying she might be killed. Esther was chosen to speak truth to power.

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Let’s explore Esther’s situation. She was female and young in a society that required both to stay in their place. She was Jewish when Jews were not only on the low rung of the societal ladder but were now on the killing block. By law, anyone who spoke to the King without the King’s invitation was put to death.  Esther had risen from the lowest status of a female orphan to Queen of the most powerful country in the world. And neither the King nor his people knew Esther was Jewish. Esther’s high status was at risk even if the King did not kill her. King Ahasuerus had already dethroned Queen Vashti. The King himself had issued the decree of death at the urging of his closest and most powerful supporter.  Esther had every reason not to speak to the King about saving her people.  Esther faced death if she spoke truth to power.

While Esther was reluctant to speak to the King, Mordecai protested the death decree. He marched to and fro in front of the King’s palace. He also wore sack cloth and rent (tore) his clothing. He repeatedly spoke truth to Queen Esther through a messenger.  He also spoke truth to the King and his powerful assistants by publicly protesting in front of the King’s palace and refusing to bow down. Mordecai spoke truth to power.

In the communications between Esther and Mordecai through an intermediary, things reached a critical point after Esther did not agree to speak to the King to save her people. Mordecai, in so many words, said the following to Esther, “You cannot think only of yourself in these times for you cannot escape in the King’s house while all other Jews perish. If you don’t speak at this time, the deliverance of the Jews shall arise from another place but you and your family shall be destroyed.  And who knows that you are in this position of Queen for such a time as this.” This message had a decisive impact on Esther, and she decided to speak truth to power saying, “I am going to see the King.  If I perish, let me perish.” Esther committed to speak truth to power. Esther did not go directly to the King even though the King had said to her, “You can have anything you want, up to half my kingdom.” Esther knew that Haman, who engineered the decree of death, was King Ahasuerus most powerful and most prized supporter.  She fully understood that she must prepare to speak truth to power.  She fasted and prayed for three days and had others to fast and pray for three days.  She held a special banquet for the King.  However, Esther still did not speak to the King after the banquet.  The King became increasingly determined to know what Esther wanted of him. She held a second banquet for the King and invited Haman. Esther prepared to speak truth to power.

At the second banquet, Esther risked everything and spoke to the King in front of Haman. She told the King that she was a Jew and that Haman had devised the scheme to destroy all Jews. She asked the King to save her people. The King, who the night before had discovered that Mordecai had saved his life some years earlier, put Haman to death and helped save the Jews. He also placed Mordecai in the powerful position formerly held by Haman.  Esther spoke truth to power. Mordecai spoke truth to power. Together they saved their people.

It’s dangerous to speak truth to power. The powerful do not want truth; they only want confirmation. Mordecai and Esther spoke truth to power and saved their people. Each one of us has opportunities to speak truth to power and save our people. Will we seize the opportunities?