I find no comfort in the butterfly effect. It offers me no solace to ponder its possibility. Do you know the theory of which I speak? The butterfly effect traces the existence of a hurricane in Florida to a busy insect in West Africa.1 It goes something like this: A butterfly flaps its wings at just the right time and stirs the smallest of air gusts. The burst of air grows and grows, rippling around the globe until it results in a chaotic storm.
I’m on board with the butterfly part. The idea that small things lead to big events? No one who has planted a seed can dispute the power of modest beginnings. It’s not the result I question; it’s the randomness. Are humans the victims of wing flaps? Do entire cities wash out to sea because an insect is active? Are we nothing more than weather vanes whipped about by faceless fate? Who finds consolation in a philosophy of happenstance and accidents?
I don’t, but I do find great comfort in promises like these:
- Our God is in the heavens, and he does as he wishes. (Ps. 115:3 NLT)
- From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can oppose what I do. (Isa. 43:13 TLB)
- We were chosen from the beginning to be [God’s], and all things happen just as he decided long ago. (Eph. 1:11 TLB)
- One prophet asked, “Who can command things to happen without the Lord’s permission?” (Lam. 3:37 NLT)
- Another declared, “No one can interrupt his work, no one can call his rule into question.” (Dan. 4:35 THE MESSAGE)
- He declared: “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’” (Isa. 46:10)
The butterfly might stir, but only with the permission of God can a wing flap create a hurricane. He is “the blessed controller of all things.” (1 Tim. 6:15 PHILLIPS)
He certainly was in the story of Esther. You might buckle your seatbelt. The next few scenes unfold at high speed. Chapter 5 opens with Esther re-robed in royalty and standing in the inner court just close enough for the king to catch a glimpse of his queen and a whiff of her perfume. “When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold scepter that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter” (v. 2).
(I have it on good authority that when Xerxes held out his golden scepter, he was, in Persian parlance, saying, “Hey, good lookin’. Whatcha got cookin’?”) Not only did he invite her to enter, but he also welcomed her petition. “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you” (v. 3).
Esther requested a dinner date. A nice evening that included the king, her, and Haman. Just the three of them, some chitchat, a bottle of bubbly, and a few Frank Sinatra songs. The quickest way to a man’s heart is through his tummy, right?
The evening was a great success. Haman left with a full belly and a big head. Life was good. He was the king’s in-house counsel and the queen’s go-to guy for black-tie affairs. He smiled to himself as he strode through the palace courtyard, nodding at the row of subservient servants. Could life be sweeter? Then he saw Mordecai sitting at the gate, still wearing sackcloth and ashes, refusing to bow. Haman snarled.
Goodbye, good mood. Hello, grumps. Haman went home as cheerless as a marathoner with bunions. He gathered his friends and wife and told them, in no uncertain terms, that Mordecai was raining on his parade.
“I’m the only person Queen Esther invited to accompany the king to the banquet she gave. And she has invited me along with the king tomorrow. But all this gives me no satisfaction as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate.”
His wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, “Have a pole set up, reaching to a height of fifty cubits, and ask the king in the morning to have Mordecai impaled on it. Then go with the king to the banquet and enjoy yourself.” This suggestion delighted Haman, and he had the pole set up. (vv. 12–14)
A surgical strike! Yes, that’s it. Send the message loud and clear. Doom to all dissenters. Death to all the disobedient. Haman ordered the construction of gallows that measured seventy-five feet tall. That’s seven and a half stories! Persian gallows did not include a rope around the neck but rather a stake thrust through the body. Haman went to bed that night thinking about Mordecai being skewered on a stick. Not the most pleasant way to fall asleep. But Haman was not a pleasant person.
Speaking of sleep, King Xerxes couldn’t. He tossed and turned. He pounded his pillow and pounded it again. He sat on the edge of the bed, groaned, and belched. He blamed the sleeplessness on the spicy meat sauce. He’d have been wiser to blame it on heaven’s butterfly.
Max Lucado, You Were Made for This Moment: Courage for Today and Hope for Tomorrow (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2021), 2–5.
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