Every year, young women from each state compete for the chance to be crowned Miss America. The focus of this competition recently shifted. It now sees itself less as a beauty pageant and more as an agent that empowers women to educate themselves and make a difference in the world.
Miss America is selected by a series of talent performances and interviews. She spends the following year traveling across the country, advocating for the organization and executing her own social impact initiative. She also crowns her successor at the next year’s competition.
A well-known Bible character went through a beauty pageant of sorts. Esther was a young Jewish woman. She lived in the Persian capital of Susa in the fifth century B.C. King Xerxes had recently deposed his queen, so he held a competition to find a new one.
Beautiful virgins from across the kingdom were brought into his harem. After a year of beauty treatments, they would each “present” themselves to him. Whoever pleased him most would become his new queen.
Esther was entered into the contest by her cousin Mordecai. The Bible says, “The king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen” (Esther 2:17).
For Such a Time as This
There was a nobleman in Xerxes’ court named Haman. Haman had a grievance against Mordecai, so he orchestrated a mass slaughter of the Jews across the kingdom. Mordecai sent word to Esther, asking her to plead with the king on behalf of her people.
Esther was reluctant. Anyone who approached Xerxes without being summoned could be executed. And she had not revealed that she was a Jew. Mordecai pointedly asked, “Who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (4:14)
Esther consented. She asked Mordecai to gather the Jews of Susa to fast and pray for three days. She pledged, “When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish” (4:16).
She revealed Haman’s plot to the king. In a dramatic turn of events, Haman was executed, and his former position and estate were given to Mordecai! The Jews were also spared from destruction by Xerxes’ decree allowing them to defend themselves against their attackers.
More Than a Pretty Face
The Miss America Organization presents its candidates as more than pretty faces. They eliminated the swimsuit competition last year, making an effort to judge contestants more on the basis of character and conviction than physical appearance.
Their preparation for the contest goes beyond appearances as well. They are trained in leadership, communication, and social impact. Sizable college scholarships are also granted to the winner and runners-up.
Esther too is more than a pretty face. Several points of application can be drawn from her story.
We could notice the progression of her faith. She is afraid to even identify herself as a Jew at first. But eventually, she finds the courage to stand between the king and her people. God is also patient with us as we grow in boldness.
Or we could notice how God uses her natural beauty and charm. By these, He moves her into a position of authority so she can deliver her people. He often uses our natural talents and abilities to bring about His will in our lives too.
Or we could notice how her situation parallels ours. She was in a position to help God’s people when they were persecuted. As first world Christians, so are we. Christians are persecuted in more than 60 countries today. We can provide the spiritual and material support they need to remain faithful.
But what must be noticed above all else is how she directs us to Jesus. She placed herself between King Xerxes and the Jews; she was willing to suffer his wrath in their place. Similarly, Jesus placed Himself between God and us on the cross. He suffered God’s wrath to the point of death in our place so we might be saved.
Although she was a queen, Esther is a clear preview of the King of kings.
Feel free to share this post with your women’s minister or other women at your church!
Follow my blog to receive more posts about the Bible’s great women!