“You have to talk to him,” said Synala, her voice little more than a whisper. “They’ll die unless you speak up for them.”
“But then he’ll kill me!” Taleira was ashamed of the fear in her voice. But all they were doing was going over old ground: she was damned if she didn’t speak, double damned if she did. It all seemed so hopeless.
“How are you getting on with your Bible reading?”
Taleira’s face lit up so abruptly, it was like seeing a different woman: “It’s wonderful! I have to keep it hidden from my maids of course – my husband has spies everywhere – but I finished the New Testament, like you suggested. And right now I’m up to the Psalms. It’s amazing how similar the Hebrew culture is to our own. I really don’t see why our people loathe the Jews so intensely.”
“So you’ve read the story of Esther?” Synala tried to keep her voice neutral, but her friend knew her well enough to pick out the faintest hint of an ambush in the offing.
“Didn’t you notice the parallel between Esther’s predicament and yours? She was married to the emperor; you’re first wife to the warlord. Her people were to be murdered through no fault of their own - and likewise, unless you speak up for them, the Elders will be killed merely for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“But they’re not my people - we’re not even from the same clan. It’s nothing to do with me!”
“They are, don’t you see, Taleira? When you made your decision to follow Jesus, they became your brothers and sisters. We’re all part of God’s family. That’s why you have to help them!”
Taleira pondered this for a moment. Synala’s words made a lot of sense – even though she had only read the New Testament that one time, it said again and again that Christians should look out for one another. Unfortunately it was Taleira’s own husband who had arrested the church elders on charges of treason. No one even knew that they were Christians – his advisors would be sure to have the charge of sedition changed to blasphemy the moment that particular detail came to light.
“Besides, they are innocent!” Synala knew it to be true; she just wasn’t sure that Taleira believed it. “The only reason they were in that village was for a secret conference. There was no way they could have known that the rebels had their own meeting at the same time. When the soldiers arrived, they arrested every adult male without asking questions.”
There was a long pause as Taleira reflected on her husband’s character. He was respected as a just and fair leader - although he wouldn’t shrink from ordering someone’s execution. Taleira knew that as a boy one of his favourite tutors had been a missionary teacher. But that had been before the revolution, before the Christian villages had been forcibly converted and the more obstinate slaughtered. What if he found out that she too had entered the waters of baptism?
“But what can I say to him? What does a woman know about politics and uprisings? What proof can I possibly offer that won’t place my own life in jeopardy?”
Synala breathed out a silent prayer – everything depended on the next few moments: “Do you remember what Mordecai said to Esther when she was afraid? ‘And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?’ That brave woman risked HER husband’s wrath, barged into his presence, and demanded mercy for her people. Do you really think that God asks any less from you?”
Tears flowed as Taleira buried her face. Synala waited anxiously, longing to caress the quivering shoulders of her dearest friend, but aware that what Taleira needed most was time to think. At last she looked up, eyes awash with courage and hope. “I’ll do it,” she said simply. “I will ask him to spare my brothers and sisters.”
Taleira pushed aside the drapes and entered the room. Two bodyguards stiffened to attention, the clunk of their Kalashnikovs reverberated as they bragged that their weapons were fully operational. A man sat at the head of the long table, his thoughts lost in some tedious report. Looking up, he smiled as she approached:
“My love, what a pleasant surprise!”
“My lord,” she began, “there is something I must tell you ...”
(Esther 4:14 NIV)
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