Choices That Determine Destiny - Lesson 2

By Dudley Chancey

Choosing to Stand Up for Others

Text: Esther 1-10

Background Information for the Teacher


  1. The student will choose to be in the world, but not of the world.
  2. The student will choose to stick with the right group of people-all the way to the end-no matter what. Preparation (some items are for extra work if time allows):
  3. Bible for every student (NIV is used for quotes and handouts in this series)
  4. Copies of student handout
  5. Bible concordances or Bible computer program
  6. Chalk or markers for board work


Xerxes is the King of 127 provinces from India to Cush. He has a queen, but she disobeys him. He dumps her and a search is opened up for a new queen. Young, beautiful, virgin girls from all the King's provinces are brought to the citadel of Susa to undergo one year of beauty treatments before they are presented to the King. Esther is among the group of girls and wins the favor of the King, and becomes the new queen. A series of events leads to the possible annihilation of the Jewish people. Cousins Mordecai and Esther work together to turn the tide in favor of the Jewish people. Choosing wisely pays off in the end.

Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class

Introduction: (5 minutes)

  1. Prayer time (ask for requests, ask for answered prayers)
  2. Check calendar of events coming up
  3. Connect any students visiting, to individual students and the youth group

Review from Lesson #1: (5 minutes)

  1. Go over the answers to the handouts. Take these up if you are using them for some type of reward (mission trip credit).
  2. Give a one-minute summary of Daniel and the Hebrew boys decisions to choose wisely in last week's lesson, to lead into today's study.

Learning Experiences: (20 minutes)

  1. Remember the two general points that provide a background for our story (see Lesson #1 for a more detailed description).
    1. First, we will be studying a method of making godly choices in our everyday living
      1. The 4 C's. Consider the choice. Compare our attitudes and actions to God. Commit to God's ways. Count on God's protections and provision.
      2. We are studying principles rather than rules.
    2. Second, we will see how much the people we hangout with influence our lives.
  2. Our Bible case for study today comes from the book of Esther. Events in this book are set in the era of the Persian Empire, sometime between 483 and 471 B.C. Xerxes the Great ruled the Persian Empire at the time of Esther. Chronologically Esther comes between the return of a first group of Jews to Judah from Babylon (538 B.C.) and the return of a second group led back by Ezra (458 B.C.). The Jews in our study (which included Esther and Mordecai) had chosen to stay in Babylon, but also chose to keep themselves separate. Events are set not in the city of Babylon but at Susa, which lay closer to the Persian Gulf. This book is unique. The name of God is not mentioned anywhere in the book. Yet, the book is full of principles and providential care. It could be a document that the Jewish people used to read at the Purim festival. It is usually grouped with other Old Testament literature such as Song of Solomon, Ruth, Ecclesiastes, and Lamentations (documents that were read at Jewish festivals). The text from this short book tells another story of God's providential care as his people make choices.
    1. Choosing not to bow down to Haman (Esther 3:1-6;4:9-14; 6:10-12)
      1. Why doesn't Mordecai bow down? Because he is a Jew, one of God's people. You shall have no other gods before you-this is a principle(one of the 10 commandments) that includes gods, men, or things. Mordecai chose many years earlier, to honor God, not men.
      2. How does Haman respond? Haman plots to kill Mordecai and all the Jews. Through God's providence, King Xerxes is up one night reading the history of the Kings and sees that he needs to honor Mordecai for saving his life.
      3. Mordecai receives honor from the King.
      4. When someone asks you why you do or don't do certain things, it should suffice to say,"Because I am a Christian."
    2. Choosing to stand up for your people (Esther 4-8)
      1. Mordecai tells the problem
      2. Esther doesn't immediately jump on the opportunity (4:9-10). (See More Background on Persian Kings)
      3. She has to consider whether or not to do the safe thing, or take a risk for God's chosen people (4:11).
      4. She is challenged by cousin Mordecai (4:12-14).
      5. She asks for spiritual support (4:15-17).
      6. God works through her life and takes care of her, Mordecai, and the Jewish people.
      7. Compare Esther's situation with the 4C's method of making choices. (Mordecai and Esther make choices to serve God. You as the teacher, must get across to the students that this wasn't a spur of the moment choice. "… he had told them he was a Jew" (3:4) means something here. It is the way Mordecai was brought up. His whole life was based on standards that had been set for his father and grandfather. Mordecai knew what to do when the heat was on. While Esther didn't jump right on it, when Mordecai reminded her to think about who she was, she responded in the proper way. Notice Esther says something similar to the Hebrew boys, "I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish" (4:16b). IT'S NOT ABOUT ME!!!! If we can get it across to our young people that making good choices involves more people-not just them, they may begin to see the light. The choices we make, not only affect us, but others as well. Making the right choices in this story saves the lives of the Jewish people. If Esther had chosen not to go into the king's presence, she most likely would have lived and been taken care of well. She took a big chance going to see the king. God comes through and takes care of her, Mordecai, and the Jewish people.)

Applications: (10 minutes)

(The point here is that you not only want them to know about the Bible text, but you want them to take action on it. How does this story today apply in our lives right now! Use as much of the following as you have time for. You may want to pick just one and really concentrate on that one particular application.)

  1. So how do we make application of the text for our lives today? Looking at the story as a whole, what are some of the standards that students should be able to pick out? You could mention honoring God not men (Exodus 20:3), putting others before yourself (Matthew 7:12). Once you have some standards listed, have students go up to the board and write some "real life" situations under each one. For example, under putting others first, you might list serving the older people at your church, helping out with children, doing community service, going on a mission trip (See page 17, 39,47 in Talksheets for other ideas). Does God expect his people (even students) to live up to the standards that are set within the pages of the Bible? Yes! So much, that if you don't, God will raise up someone else-as Mordecai points out to Esther.
  2. Using the concordances, look up several Bible verses. For example, students could look up the following: Haman,gallows, hanging, Jew, scepter, Vashti, etc. Ask students to explain in their own words who they look like when they are serving. (If you have extra time, do the "More on Philippians Two" study at the end.)
  3. Have students look at three major areas in their lives right now: home, school, and church. What are some unexpected services that they personally could do for someone else in each of those areas. (For example, home: pick one chore that they aren't expected to do like washing dishes, and start doing it; school: find a new student and not only invite them to church, but hang out with them at school, making them feel at home; church: clean and straighten the classrooms without being asked.) List the three areas on the board and ask students to brainstorm. After you have several ideas under each topic, divide the students up into the three areas and ask them to write down one thing on an index card and sign their name to it. Take these up and let them know you will be praying for them to serve in the way they have chosen. Ask them to commit to do this new service for at least a week or two to do this new service (It takes about 35-40 days of doing something to make it a habit).
  4. Restate the objectives for this week, tying them to the story of Esther and Mordecai. They chose early on that they would live by right standards even with the chance that they could die for standing up for the right things.

Assignment: (2 minutes)

  1. Pass out the handouts to take home. Encourage the students to fill in the answers by using their Bibles. This is a very good way to practice reading and understanding the Bible. Do this during the week and bring them back to class. (You might want to tie this series in with another activity in your church or youth group such as a mission trip requirement.) The "fill in the blanks" section is straight out of the text for today's lesson. This assignment will give students time to "be in theWord." The following may help you next week as you go over the thought questions:
    1. The point here, is that students are reading some, and watching a lot of movies. They see certain characters and read about characters that have some of the same good, positive traits asEsther and Mordecai. This connection to their"real world" may make the story come alive and mean more. Can you as the teacher think of some recent movies where others have been helped? You may even want to get the bookUsing Videos in Youth Ministry to show some clips of people serving others.
    2. Providence: The point here, is that God is going to save the world through a Jewish baby. The Jews are not going to be wiped out!
  2. Read Genesis 37-50. The story of Joseph for next week.

Evaluation: (5)

  1. Ask students to tell how God worked in the lives of Esther and Mordecai.
  2. Ask students to name one principle they learned from the lesson today.
  3. (After class) Have an intern or another adult evaluate your teaching. Occasionally, ask some students to blind review thec lass. Ask questions like, "What was the main goal of the class tonight?" "What really made an impression on you tonight about the lesson?"

Further Resources:

(You do not have to have these to make these lessons work)

Borthwick, P. (1988). Youth and missions: Expanding your students' world view. Grand Rapids: Victor Books.Fields, D. James, E. (2000). Videos that teach: Teachable movie moments from 75 modern film classics. Grand Rapids: YouthSpecialties/Zondervan. Lynn, D. (2001). More high school talksheets- updated!: 50 creative discussion starters for youth groups. El Cajon: Youth Specialties. Swindoll, C. (1981). Improving your serve. Waco: Word Books.More BackgroundPersian Kings. Persian kings collected not only vast amounts of jewelry, but also great numbers of women. These young virgins were taken from their homes and were required to live in a separate building near the palace, called a harem (Yes! This is in the Bible-Esther 2:8). Their sole purpose was to serve the king and to await his call for sexual pleasure. They rarely saw the king, and their lives were restricted and boring. If rejected, Esther would be one of many girls the king had seen once and forgotten. But Esther's presence and beauty pleased the king enough that he crowned her queen in place of Vashti. The queen held a more influential position than a concubine,and she was given more freedom and authority than others in the harem. But even as queen, Esther had few rights-especially because she had been chosen to replace a woman who had become too assertive. From Life Application Notes NavPress Software.More on Philippians TwoThe Emptying (from NavPress Software)Have everyone turn to Philippians 2:1-11. After a student reads the passage aloud while everyone else follows along, ask:1. According to verses 6-8, what did Jesus do?2. Why is this passage called "the emptying"? (answer: the word used in verse 7 is "kenosis" which means "empty"-Jesus emptied himself)3. What is Jesus' example supposed to motivate us to do? (verse 5)4. What can we do to "empty" ourselves? (see verses 1-4)5. Why might this be difficult?

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