“When the turn came for Esther the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her as his own daughter, to go in to the king, she asked for nothing except what Hegai the king’s eunuch, who had charge of the women, advised. Now Esther was winning favor in the eyes of all who saw her.” Esther 2:15 (ESV)
I was doing it again.
Though my eyes were looking at my friend and I was even nodding, my thoughts were far ahead. Crafting how I would respond to her messy situation, I prepared my “sage” advice in my head.
Do you sometimes do that, too? Think of what you’ll say instead of listening to what is being said?
I’m beginning to see that when I don’t listen I’m taking a huge risk. I could suffer the loss of gaining the wisdom I need.
In the past couple of years, I’ve begun to see. I have to learn when it comes to listening. One person I’m learning from is none other than Esther from the Old Testament.
A Queen at Listening
In the book of Esther, Chapter 2, Esther found herself in an uncertain situation. She was a woman up to her neck in precarious circumstances beyond her control. She was living in a culture that didn’t worship the way she did.
The king had dethroned his queen; now he was ready to fill the empty spot. Perhaps with mixed motives of their own, advisors gave the king counsel. They advised him to search throughout his kingdom for the best fit for a queen. Commissioners, traveling to every province, collected young, beautiful virgins to be tested by the king. Ultimately they would become part of his harem. Only one would be chosen as queen.
This is where we find Esther, taken into the palace. One night determined where she’d spend the rest of her life: on a queen’s throne or in a harem.
She Got What She Needed
Before her night with the king, each woman “was given whatever she desired to take with her from the harem to the king’s palace” (Esther 2:13, ESV). Since each woman took whatever she desired, the wisdom she needed fell to herself. Esther would live in the foreign environment of the palace for a maximum of one year. With this limited knowledge, she needed to take what she deemed best.
Esther realized she didn’t know what she needed to know. There was a huge risk here; her future was at stake.
Instead of thinking ahead to what she thought she should do or say next, Esther listened to Hegai. Hegai was a servant employed directly by the king. While Hegai was not a Jew or God-follower like Esther, he was someone who knew what Esther needed to know.
“When the turn came for Esther the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her as his own daughter, to go in to the king, she asked for nothing except what Hegai the king’s eunuch, who had charge of the women, advised. Now Esther was winning favor in the eyes of all who saw her.” (Esther 2:15)
We know Esther listened because she did what Hegai advised.
Listening requires humility. Esther’s actions said, “I don’t know what I need to know. You do. Teach me. Guide me.”
Why Do I Struggle So Hard to Listen
Humility is not something I typically run toward. Humility and humiliation often feel like the same thing. If I humble myself and admit what I don’t know, I’m afraid I’ll look weak or unqualified — even overly vulnerable.
Instead, the part of me resistant to change wants to “fake it till I make it” instead of listening.
Esther gained exactly what she needed – wisdom – by listening. Listening gave her tools to move from outsider to insider, the place of true influence. Seeking someone on the inside, humbling herself, and listening to him, allowed Esther not to be humiliated when she met the king.
Listening will do the same for you and me. Instead of thinking only of ourselves and what we want to do or say next, we can listen to learn. Developing a listening and learning heart makes room for God to use us for His glory and to draw others to Himself — a worthy outcome.
Father, help me to humble myself. I want to become one who truly listens to learn, for I can learn something from every person because every person has been made in Your image. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Help for Learning to Listen
What do you do when life’s uncertain and God seems to have vanished? Though she lived centuries ago, Esther speaks to us, modern women who also have limits to our control and resources. We find in her a strength and fortitude you and I need today — a strength we discover as we follow her process of listening, feeling, doing, and speaking.
Esther: Seeing Our Invisible God in an Uncertain World by Amy Carroll and Lynn Cowell is a gritty dive into a woman’s story that helps you see how Esther is the perfect partner for seeing God in the tough times. Click here to order your copy!
After Two Years in the Making, It’s Finally HERE!
Amy Carroll and I released our latest Bible study on July 12! Order Esther: Seeing Our Invisible God in an Uncertain World by July 30 and receive “A Deeper Dive into Esther: A Bible Study Bonus.” Click here to receive your Bible study bonus! It is a perfect study to finish out the summer or for your fall small group.