I was reading the first chapter of the book of Esther when a short story within it hit me like a thunderbolt. The book opens inside the palace of King Xerxis, also known as Ahasuerus (it is worth noting that the name Xerxis means Shah Jahan, king of the world).
The king decides to hold a major banquet to which his queen, Vashti, is invited. But she refuses to come and ends up being deposed for her defiance. An order is then given for a new queen to be identified.
In Esther 2:5 we are introduced to a parallel story taking place outside the palace where an orphaned girl and her cousin live, oblivious to the goings-on in the palace. The king and this family do not know each other. In fact, they come from two ends of the rope – one a ruler, the other a subject.
Here is what struck me. While one story is unfolding on earth (two stories to be precise), God has already been working on a bigger story in the heavens; in the spiritual realm. On earth we see a young beautiful Jewish woman from the tribe of Benjamin and her cousin, who actually has a small job in the courtyard of the palace.
Inside the palace, another story of a simple disagreement between a king and his wife soon becomes a nationwide crisis. The solution to this crisis not only brings the young woman and her cousin right inside the palace but also ends up affecting the entire kingdom.
Unknown to anyone, God has already foreseen the planned annihilation of the Jews in Persia and beyond. And while the enemy is focused on unfolding events, God has prepared an escape long before the trap is laid.
Two things emerge from this story: Satan’s manipulation of man (the wicked Haman) to accomplish his plan to destroy the Jews, and God using an upright Mordecai to save the king from an assassination attempt (Esther 2:22). For this Mordecai’s name was written in the palace records and this would later be his saving grace, and that of the Jewish race living there at that time.
By the time Satan was raising Haman, God had already ensured the safety of the Jews. The very edict that was sent out to eliminate God’s people was re-written and used by the Jews to defend themselves against the planned attack.
This story presents a clear pattern of how God works. Jesus summarised it in one phrase in the prayer He taught His disciples: “Your (God’s) will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
In order to know what is unfolding on earth, it is critical that we know what has already happened in heaven. For nothing unfolds on earth before it has occurred fully in heaven. And God prepares every step, including a means of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13).
This is a central theme for understanding what is going on in the world right now. I get the sense that Christians are groping in the dark, trying to understand what Covid-19 means with its rules on lockdown, quarantine and new social norms. Is it because we have sinned? Is this the dawn of a new world order (by the way, Christians have been saying this since the days of the Thessalonica church)? Are there things we need to confess and keep confessing?
Sadly, this is all speculation on our part. But God never speculates. “Your will be done on earth as it is (already) in heaven.” If we knew what has already happened in heaven, or what is unfolding in heaven, we would be very clear about what is unfolding on earth.
This pattern is clear throughout the Bible.
While Satan was enticing Adam and Eve to sin, God had already prepared a Lamb to be slain for the salvation of mankind in the fullness of time. And while people were living life as they pleased in the time of Noah, God was using him to build the ark for the salvation of a few.
While Abram was trying to figure out who would be his heir, God already had a son for him “from your own loins”. While Joseph was pleading with the king’s cup-bearer and chief baker to put in a word for him before Pharaoh, God had already engineered a famine that would cause Joseph to bring the Israelites to Egypt in fulfillment of a promise He made to Abraham (Genesis 15:13).
While Pharaoh was struggling to reduce the power of Israelite slaves by killing all their newborn boys, God had already moved Pharaoh’s own daughter to take care of the man who would one day free all the slaves! While Daniel was praying for 21 days, God had already answered his prayer “from the first day that you set your mind to seek my face”.
By the time King Saul was losing his grip on the throne, God had already set apart one of Jesse’s sons. Indeed, David was even brought right into Saul’s palace to learn the strategies of kingship.
Herod was waiting for the three Magi to bring him news of Jesus’ location while God has already arranged for Him to find safety in Egypt. By the time Herod had killed all the boys aged under two years, God had already prepared for his death and for a new king to take over who was more favourable towards Jesus.
If we fail to take note of this pattern, we are not just in darkness but we also risk missing a critical part of a very big agenda that is at play. If we reduce it to some “sin in the camp” or some quick end-time message, without seeking to know what is going on in the heavens, we shall be like Agabus and the disciples who thought they were saving the Apostle Paul by discouraging him from going to Jerusalem because God had shown the prophet that it would not end well for Paul (Acts 21:10). Unknown to them, God had already put it in Paul’s heart to go to Jerusalem (Acts 19:21).
We find the reason for this in Acts 23:11. Paul was going to take the gospel right to the palace of Caesar Augustus, a feat that would prove critical in the centuries to come because it would lead to the spreading of the gospel around the world.
So what does this mean in the face of the current world crisis?
In the Bible, we see another pattern emerging – every incident is a pointer to a much bigger story and agenda. Some common incidents, for example the illness or death of a loved one, or the rise of someone to power, or a career decision, are usually smoldering rods; they are part of a bigger story. However, the bigger story will only come to light several years down the line, sometimes even long after we are gone. This too is common in the Bible – several small stories over time added up to a much bigger story that unfolded much later, sometimes as much as 400 years!
Some stories can appear quite obscure and unrelated to anything. But there are other stories that are so large in their impact that it is quite clear they are leading up to a bigger story. The rise of Joseph to the position of prime minister in Egypt was about the future of Israel. Egypt despised the Israelites, so Joseph had to rise to a high position for Israel to be brought to Egypt and saved. No one could stop it – not Joseph’s brothers, nor Potiphar’s wife, nor even Pharaoh himself.
Moses had to grow up in Pharaoh’s palace for millions of Israelites to be set free from slavery. Satan’s plan to destroy the heritage of Israel by killing male infants during the time Moses was born came to nothing. It was the same when Herod killed young Jewish boys many years later in a bid to stop Jesus from saving the world.
For Paul to take the gospel to Rome, he was nearly killed, not once but several times. But God had already been at work in the heavens because Paul was a Roman citizen and that not only saved him but also enabled him to take the message of salvation right to Caesar’s ears!
In more recent times, when the Jews were set to return to their land, Satan raised up Hitler to try and stop it. But God used Hitler’s hostility towards His people to get them out of Europe and into Palestine. Then He got the United States of America to enter the war so they would sponsor the first United Nations resolution that created the state of Israel!
Whenever there is a major incident that is wide-scale in nature, rest assured there is a much bigger agenda whose time has come, and that God has already made happen in the spiritual realm. Whatever we see on earth is Satan trying to stop what God has already done in the heavens.
The Covid-19 pandemic is a global crisis – a little like the killing of the children by Herod or by Pharaoh. This is not about some new world order or the end times. Satan is merely trying to lock down humanity by using fear, changes in social norms and behaviour, and even economic might. He will even try to flex his muscles by using some powerful leaders to force the world to do things that he hopes will distract from or stall God’s grand plan. But it is already too late because God has been at work for a much longer time.
It is clear that something really big has already happened in the heavenly realms that will shift the world forever and tilt it in favour of God’s people. For now, our prayer should be just one – that which has already happened in the heavens must manifest on earth. My prayer is that we would open our eyes so that when it unfolds, we will know what the Lord has been working on, and why Satan is so determined to stop it from happening!