The Invisible Hand of Providence
“On that night the king could not sleep. And he gave orders to bring the book of memorable deeds, the chronicles, and they were read before the king. And it was found written how Mordecai had told about Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs, who guarded the threshold, and who had sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus” (6:1–2).- Esther 5–7
Among the Old Testament Historical Books, the book of Esther stands out for having no direct mention of God. Over the centuries, that has caused problems for many people. Some have even argued that Esther does not belong in the biblical canon (the collection of books inspired by the Holy Spirit).
Despite the misgivings of some, the people of God have heard His voice in the pages of Esther and have received it as divinely inspired and thus “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16–17). And while there is no direct mention of the Lord in the book of Esther, there are indications that the author is well aware of God’s work in history. For instance, Mordecai speaks in Esther 4:14 of help arising for the Jews “from another place.” Clearly, he means that the Lord will save the Jews even if Queen Esther does not stand for them.
Still, why does the author of Esther make only oblique references to God’s work in the days of Mordecai and Esther? When we think about it, there is a sense in which God remains hidden in our own lives. Yes, we know that our Creator is always directing events and working through the ordinary circumstances of our lives (Eph. 1:11). Yet, in this post-Apostolic era, God does not usually announce His presence and actions in dramatic or direct ways. We have no living prophets today to tell us, “This is what the Lord is doing right now.” Most often, we discern His work in retrospect. We look back on the seeming coincidental events that so often steer us in new directions, the chain of causes and effects that make our lives turn out one way and not another, and we see that the only explanation for why things are the way they are is the invisible hand of God.
Such coincidences—and we know that under God’s sovereignty there is no such thing as a true coincidence—are found throughout the book of Esther. Mordecai just “happened” to hear a plot against King Ahasuerus (Est. 2:19–23). His intervention was forgotten until, for “some reason,” Ahasuerus needed to cure his insomnia and was reminded of how Mordecai had saved him. This made the king favorably disposed to the Jews, and then Haman—the enemy of the Jews—“coincidentally” showed up at the right time to be forced to praise the one he hated (6:1–11). Such events cannot be chance instances of fortune in the sovereign God’s universe. He was behind them all, directing things with His invisible hand of providence.
There is no such thing as chance in the sense of things that “just happen”; chance is simply a name for mathematical probabilities. Our universe is not randomly running on its own, and things never occur by coincidence. The Lord is directing all things. His invisible hand of providence steers the course of history, and we can be confident that He is in charge even when He seems far away. Let this thought give us courage and hope in this fallen world.
Passages for Further Study