The Cicada Invasion, the Book of Esther, and the Hidden Work of God

Nashville, TN was the site of a significant event during the summer of 2011. It was something that, at least for a season, changed life as we know it. It was a pervasive kind of occurrence that drove some people crazy, fascinated others, but all in all made life different. I’m speaking, of course, of the great cicada invasion.

It was almost like it happened overnight, and millions upon millions of cicadas came upon the city. They were everywhere – thousand of insects circling your head any time you went outside. Parents had to take golf umbrellas with them when they picked up their kids from school to avoid the dive-bombing kamakazi cicadas. When you drove down the interstate, it was as if someone was pelting your windshield with jelly doughnuts. When you mowed your lawn you would look back in your wake and it looked like some kind of insect apocalypse had happened. Empty shells were stuck to every tree, every home, and every building. And the sound… the sound was maybe the worst of it.

The decibel level was measured at the peak of the cicada invasion and the strength of the sound was comparable to the decibel level of an NHL playoff game.

It. Was. Nuts.

But here is the most disturbing part about the whole thing – it’s that the cicadas didn’t come from anywhere. They were here all the time.

As it turns out, the life cycle of the cicada is pretty simple: They come out of their shells, they sing, they mate, lay eggs, and die. But those eggs are buried deep into the soil where they lay dormant for years. And every 17 years, something happens inside all those cicada eggs – their internal alarm clock goes off and they come up from the soil ready to do it all over again.

Right now, in fact, the cicadas are here. They are below the surface, growing, churning and waiting for that moment in time for what’s been present and active all along suddenly becomes visible. And here is where we come to the subject of the work and activity of God.

Consider, for a moment, the story of Esther. It’s a story of how God’s people were miraculously preserved against annihilation. It’s a story of how one man in a pagan government had a grudge to bear against the Jewish people, how he hatched a plan to see them all killed, and how an unlikely heroin emerged. It’s the story of how a slave girl became a palace attendant and eventually a queen.

It’s also a story that is unique in all of Scripture, for the Book of Esther never even mentions anything about God. Not His law, not His covenant, not even His name.

But perhaps this is intentional. Perhaps we are meant to see from this Book that the work and activity of God is not dependent on our recognition of His work and activity. Perhaps it’s a subtle reminder to us that the question is not whether God is present and active though He might seem absent and dormant. It’s only a question of how aware of His presence and activity we are by faith.

It might be, friends, that you find yourself in a time that feels very silent. You don’t feel God. You can’t see His hand. In fact, it might even seem as though circumstances are conspiring against you. And yet God is there – below the surface, always at work, just as He was in the Book of Esther.

He was there when this young lady was born in a foreign land. He was there when the king sought a new wife. He was there when Esther was elevated to the highest levels of the palace. And yes, He was there when the evil Hamaan hatched his plan of genocide. He was there all the time, waiting for what was being done behind the scenes to burst forth into the light. For what was bubbling below the surface to become apparent.

CS Lewis once said that “we can ignore, but not evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him.” And it indeed is. Despite what we might profess to believe to be true about God, many of us who claim to be Christians are in the habit of walking around like functional atheists, all because we cannot believe in an active and present God when we cannot see or feel His activity.

Be encouraged today, Christian, for God is at work. True enough, He might be at work below the surface, but it’s only a matter of time until what’s happening behind the scenes takes center stage. Because it is, we can live in faith that today, as mundane as it might seem, actually matters.

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