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Unless you're your own boss in every single venture you're involved in, you will at one point or another find yourself dealing with different kinds of leaders. You'll serve under influential leaders, charismatic leaders, insecure leaders, demagogue leaders, laissez-faire leaders, what-the-heck-is-this-guy's-issue leaders, and I-don't-really-know-what-I'm-doing-but-I-have-madd-connections-in-the-industry leaders.
In each instance, you will need to learn how to communicate and convey your ideas and suggestions in a way that produces actionable results. This won't always be easy to do, especially in those cases where those directly above you feel threatened by what you have to offer.
Our girl, Esther finds herself in such a situation.
In this 7th episode of our blog series through the Old Testament book by the same name, our heroine has some life-impacting information she needs to convey to the king, who also happens to be her husband. Unfortunately, king Xerxes has proven to be an unstable, irrational, often-drunk, reckless kind of leader. To make matters worse, his right-hand man, Haman has more of a murderous approach to leadership and is the main instigator threatening the success of Esther's plan.
Fortunately, God has already done some behind-the-scenes work and has set the stage for Esther to have the best chance of succeeding. Esther's proposal, however, is still risky and everything hangs in the balance, including her life and the life of an entire nation. She has to get this presentation right!
That's where we pick up the story in Esther 7. When we last saw Haman at the end of Esther 6, he was shaking in his boots because his advisors had just revealed to him that his plot to annihilate the Jews in Persia was actually a declaration of war against the God of heaven and earth.
Even pagans know not to mess Jehovah.
When we pick the story back up at the beginning of Esther 7, Haman, King Xerxes and queen Esther are on the final course of a long Persian meal at the second party the queen hosted. The moment is as tense for Haman as it is for Esther, who finally has the opportunity to make her request known after seemingly stalling at the last two opportunities presented to her.
Eventually, the king brings up the question again in verse 2, “Queen Esther, what is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.”
It may seem obvious to us that Esther has just been presented with an opportunity to expose her accuser and stalker, Haman; but consider what she is up against. Haman is a close confidant of the king and he’s sitting only a few feet away from her. It is a huge gamble for her to accuse him outright when he could easily lean over to the king and whisper in his ear a sexist comment like, “Dude, don’t even listen to her. You know how emotional women get. We’ll handle this later, just tell her you’ve heard!”
Furthermore, king Xerxes has proven irrational in the past when it comes to women on the throne. Remember queen Vashti from chapter one? She was deposed as queen (ironically, during a party not too different from this one) for doing something less controversial than what Esther was about to propose. This is one of those nerve-wracking moments when it would be so much easier and safer to hold your tongue and say, “Oh, it’s nothing. It’s no big deal, king.”
But remember, Esther has had a whole city backing her in prayer and fasting for three days. She believes by faith that God has done His part, now, it’s her turn to do her part. Still, she doesn’t immediately point an accusatory finger at Haman; instead she exemplifies for us the first step in getting leaders to listen and buy into your cause:
1. TACTFULNESS: UNDERSTAND THAT WHAT YOU SAY IS NOT NEARLY AS IMPACTFUL AS HOW YOU SAY IT
Listen to how Esther makes her case in Esther 7:3-4, “If I have found favor with you, Your Majesty, and if it pleases you, grant me my life—this is my petition. And spare my people—this is my request. For I and my people have been sold to be destroyed, killed and annihilated. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.”
This is just pure brilliance.
First, note her tone. It is not snappish not does it sound to us like she is yelling. Rather, it is thoughtful and tactful. Esther plays the wife-card to the full and makes it work to her advantage! This is tantamount to my wife starting a conversation with me by saying, “Hey sweetie, do you want to hear what someone did to your wife today?”
If my wife ever opened a discussion with that, I would immediately grab a baseball bat from my basement and my first question would be, “Who the hell is he and where do I find him?” I would immediately take it personally just as I’m sure king Xerxes no doubt did when the words came out of the queen’s mouth.
But Esther’s not done milking her wifey-points yet. Next, she appeals to his honor as her protector and essentially says, “Honey, if you love me, could you please help me. I don’t want to be murdered, or slaughter, or butchered.” [Don’t miss the fact that she uses three different words to describe her fear of a violent death in verse 4. This is intentional on her part to gain a heightened reaction from her husband]. Which husband would not immediately jump to his wife’s defense here? Make no mistake about it, Xerxes is boiling over with anger at this point.
Think of not only what Esther just did, but also how she did it. Esther could have gone right to the point. She could have lambasted Haman and milked the wife thing in a more spiteful manner. She could have said to the king, “Honey, your wicked friend, Haman wants to kill me and all my people! You have to do something! You signed the edict! Do something!” Though her accusation would have been true, it may have proven disastrous because it would have appeared that she was also charging the king with ineptitude. But Esther had a great sense of timing and had thoroughly thought through the most diplomatic way to present her case.
We can’t help but admire her for this, and at the same time, seek to emulate it in our lives.
Whether you have important information you want to convey to someone in a position of influence who can actually do something about it, or a life changing cause you want to rally people to; understand that what you have to say is not nearly as impactful as HOW you say it. I know we live in an age of, “Just Speak Your Mind”, but when you do that, your message gets drowned in the noise because everyone is doing exactly the same thing!
But if you’re looking to gain momentum for a cause near and dear to you (and get buy-in), then you have got to learn to convey your information in a way that gains a heightened reaction from your hearers. Don’t just think of what you want to say, but also HOW to best convey it. Ask yourself, “How can I present this case in a manner that makes them feel like they have a vested interest in its successful outcome.” This kind of approach requires thoughtfulness, tactfulness, attention to detail, patience, and a keen sense of timing, as we just witnessed in Esther’s case.
That's the first lesson in getting leaders to listen and buy into your cause, the second lies in your ability to create:
2. IMMEDIACY: CREATE A SENSE OF URGENCY FOR WHY YOUR PLAN MUST BE DONE NOW.
This seems apparent in the latter part of Esther’s petition in verse 4 where she says, “If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.”
It’s amazing to watch how Esther has matured from a timid young girl in chapter two into a master politician in chapter seven. She’s so cleverly shrewd in her request that she puts the king in a conundrum where a quick decision must be made.
First off, the option of being sold as slaves was never on the table [Haman wanted them dead]. So, Esther is brilliantly playing on her husband’s emotion here and her case basically amounts to this, “King sweetie, I know you’re superbusy and I wouldn’t ever bother you with something as minor as the enslavement of your wife and her entire race, but what I’m dealing with here is kind of a big deal. Honey, I’m afraid of being murdered.”
See what she did there? She ramped things up! She played up the sense of urgency so that her husband had to make a decision. Enslavement can wait. But death? Nope! That needs to be fixed by tonight because Haman has already built a 75-foot pole in his yard he wants to impale my people on! When your queen-wife presents a case like that, it’s kind of hard to go, “Sure, let’s talk about it again at the next dinner party.” Something must be done NOW!
Think of your situation. Is it possible that the reason some of your great ideas and suggestions aren’t gaining any traction is because you haven’t given the influencers (who can actually do something about it) enough reason to believe that your idea must be implemented NOW? Can you present your idea for change (or whatever it is you want to do) in a manner that will make key people go, “Whoa! We need to get on this now because next week/month/year will be too late!”?
There is a fine line to this though. In other words, you want to be careful that you don't make EVERY issue or cause an emergency [because not every matter demands the same level or urgency!] This calls for discernment, planning, prioritization, and a keen sense of timing, otherwise you will wear people out and will start to sound like the boy who cried wolf. Remember, Esther actually had two previous opportunities where she could have made some noise about her concerns, but in both instances, she played down the sense of urgency till the next meeting, she watched and waited till the most opportune time. Take a hint from her book!
The third and final lesson on getting leaders to listen and buy into your cause rests in your ability to show who it will benefit:
3. COMMUNITY: DEMONSTRATE HOW YOUR PLAN WILL RESULT IN THE BETTERMENT OF LIVES AROUND YOU
It’s important to point out that Esther could have remained silent through all of this.
Even if it were uncovered that she too was a Jew, her proximity to the king would have left her unscathed while her countrymen were slaughtered. She could also have gone before the king to plead for just her life and she would have been granted her request.
But God didn’t create us to do life in isolation, but rather, in community. Even the holy Trinity of God exist in community; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As followers of Jesus Christ, though our stories are deeply personal, our journey is best experienced in community. When God adopted us into His family (Ephesians 1:5), He brought us into a global community of men and women with different stories, but all heading towards the same distant horizon. Life was designed to be done with people!
All that to say that any cause you are involved in (or idea you're trying to initiate) should have some level of benefit for the larger community. If you’re the sole star and MVP of your plans and prayer, then you need a new plan and prayer! You will find time and time again that the most effective plans and impacting prayers, the ones that truly move mountains in society, are the kingdom-minded, community-benefitting plans and prayers.
Esther locked on to this truth in her request. In a moment where she could have focused on just her need, she chose to intercede for her nation. Read her request again and hear how she makes a case for the community at large in Esther 7:3-4, “If I have found favor with you, Your Majesty, and if it pleases you, grant me my life—this is my petition. And spare my people—this is my request. For I and my people have been sold to be destroyed, killed and annihilated. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.”.
See what she did there? She essentially said, “This isn’t just about me, king. There is an entire nation of people who have been faithful to you and can be useful to you. Please spare their lives!”
So, take a look at your plans again. Who does it benefit and how will it benefit them? What segment of society will gain the most from it? What basic human need does it meet and why is that need so urgent right now? Answering these questions will get you on track to presenting a plan that will result in the betterment of lives around you and influencers will rally to your cause as king Xerxes is about to with Esther.
From this point on, the rest of the story moves pretty quickly. Esther has done such a phenomenal job making her case that the king himself is now yelling. An assault on the queen is an assault on the king himself! So in verse 5, the king basically goes, “Who in the world would DARE threaten my queen!!! Where is the man who would do such a thing?”
Now you know who we haven’t heard from yet? Yup. You guessed it, Haman!
He’s clearly had an awful last few day because earlier in the week, he had to escort his sworn enemy, Mordecai around town shouting his praises, as par orders from the king. I suspect that up until the moment Esther points him out as the culprit at the party, he has no idea of the whirlwind of trouble that’s about to hit him (because he never imagined in a million years that the queen was one of the Jews he was trying to annihilate).
So, picture Haman mid-drink. He’s lost in thought pondering the piece of humble pie he was recently forced to eat on Mordecai’s plate when Esther suddenly points to him in the presence of her enraged husband saying, “An adversary and enemy! This vile Haman!” (verse 6). Terror-stricken, Haman’s glass falls to the ground as it dawns on him that his luck in life has completely run out. The moment is so tense and shocking that the king actually angrily storms out of the palace, no doubt pondering his involvement in the evil plot and how to deal with Haman.
Allow me to get all TMZ on you here for a moment. Do you recall the guest list of both parties Esther hosted in chapter 5? Only two people were invited, the king and Haman. I didn’t point this out in earlier blog posts, but there is some speculation among some Bible commentators that the king’s jealousy may have been aroused by Haman’s inclusion in those dinner parties. He may have been thinking, “What makes Haman so special that he gets two special invite from my wife?!?” Sure, Xerxes has like a billion mistresses in his Harem and hadn’t even requested the queen’s presence for 30 days, but like most dumb playboys, it doesn’t dawns on him how much of a treasure his woman is until [he thinks] some other guy is making a move on her.
I point all that out to give you some context for what is going to happen next. In verse 7, after the king storms out to his garden to ponder what to do next, Haman, realizing that his inevitable death was only moments away, falls on queen Esther’s feet groveling and begging for his life. The scriptures points out that during dinner, they had all been reclining on couches, which are like giant floor pillow. So if you can picture it, Haman’s physical posture at the queen’s feet is not a pretty sight. Without any context, it might appear to fresh eyes that Haman was making sexual advances on the queen.
Unfortunately for Haman, the king storms back into the room at that exact moment and sees exactly what I just painted for you. Remember, he is probably already suspicious of Haman, which of course then leads him to roar out, “Will he even molest the queen while I’m just around the corner?” (verse 8)
Haman is REALLY not having a good day. (By the way, if you are feeling sorry for him at this point, I would strongly direct your attention back to his instigating actions in Esther 3.)
As soon as the words leave the king’s mouth [and all the blood immediately drains from Haman’s face], his personal guards immediately cover Haman’s face and drag him off. You’ve probably seen this a dozen times in the movies or on the news. This is that moment when someone is taken captive and they cover their head with a black bag before leading them off to the slaughter.
Just then, Harbona, one of the king’s seven eunuchs, (who incidentally was one of the personal servants in chapter one sent to queen Vashti in the episode that resulted her being deposed) points out to the king that Haman already built a killing devise in his yard.
Remember that 75-foot pole Haman built to impale Mordecai on? Yeah. Awful idea! As soon as Harbona made the suggestion, the king, still furious at Haman, ordered, “impale him on it!” And so it went with Mordecai.
This ending brings to mind the words of God in Isaiah 54:17, “No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their vindication is from Me," declares the LORD.”
While it is certainly a sad ending for Haman, it is a happy successful ending for Esther, Mordecai, and all the Jews! Esther’s tactful approach, her timely call to action, and caring love for her community has resulted in a huge win.
You may not be facing the threat of death or the genocide of your race, but Esther’s boldness, faith, and clarity of thought & plan in the face of opposition is something worth emulating. If you've been praying for God to bless an idea you have or a plan you want to initiate, keep in mind that God may very well have already done His part in readying the hearts of those you'll need help from. The next move is more than likely yours, and your breakthrough may come as you apply these three lesson we just discussed.
May the Lord go with you and before you to prepare the way for a win! Amen.
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Husband. Dad. Pastor. Nigerian American. Storyteller. Aspiring Prayer Warrior. Steak Lover. Follower of Jesus Christ reminding you that God the Father still loves you.