Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Lou Engle and Esther

Recently I saw Lou Engle's Twitter account posting tidbits on Esther. Soon after, people began using the #IAmEsther hashtag. I went to Lou Engle's website, and found an article that explained this new movement coming from his group. The article is entitled For Such a Time as This; the title is taken from Esther 4:14b, in which Mordecai says to Esther, "And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?" As I looked into it, I realized it was mishandling of scripture which may cause confusion, heartache, and exhaustion among its adherents, and so I felt compelled to write a response.

As I've done in the past, any direct quotations from the article will be colored purple for visual organization. I'll be quoting the article in full, albeit in chunks, but feel free to click on the link and read through the whole thing first.

The Story of Esther

Before we jump into the article, I think it's important to pause and discuss the story of Esther, and how it relates to believers.

The story of Esther takes place shortly after the fall of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, which was conquered by the Medes and Persians. The Jews are still in captivity. The king, Ahasuerus, after several days of drinking, sends for his wife Vashti to come before him to show off her beauty. Vashti refuses, causing the king to not only be angered, but his advisers to worry that this conduct will encourage other noblewomen in the empire to act similarly (Es 1:12-18). Therefore, the king calls for select virgins to be brought before him, and the one he likes best will become the new queen (Es 2:3-4). At the same time, there lives in the capital Mordecai, a Jew who is caring for his late uncle's daughter, Esther, a "young lady" who is "beautiful of form and face" (Es 2:7). Esther ends up being taken to the palace, where the king eventually falls in love with her, and appoints her queen (Es 2:17). Mordecai gains the king's favor after uncovering an assassination plot, and ends up increasing in rank as well (Es 2:21-23).

At this point enters Haman, a high-ranking Persian official. Haman gets into conflict with Mordecai, due to the latter's refusal to bow.
All the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate bowed down and paid homage to Haman; for so the king had commanded concerning him. But Mordecai neither bowed down nor paid homage. Then the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate said to Mordecai, “Why are you transgressing the king’s command?” Now it was when they had spoken daily to him and he would not listen to them, that they told Haman to see whether Mordecai’s reason would stand; for he had told them that he was a Jew. When Haman saw that Mordecai neither bowed down nor paid homage to him, Haman was filled with rage. But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone, for they had told him who the people of Mordecai were; therefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, who were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus. [Esther 3:2-6]
Haman's hatred towards Mordecai was not only based on pride, but most likely on ethnic lines as well, since he was ethnically an Amalekite (this may also explain why Mordecai refused to bow). Haman attempts to use his influence on the king to get revenge on Mordecai and his people.
Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from those of all other people and they do not observe the king’s laws, so it is not in the king’s interest to let them remain. If it is pleasing to the king, let it be decreed that they be destroyed, and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver into the hands of those who carry on the king’s business, to put into the king’s treasuries.” Then the king took his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. The king said to Haman, “The silver is yours, and the people also, to do with them as you please.” [Esther 3:8-11]
Haman plans a specific day by drawing a lot (or pur). News of the impending genocide reaches Mordecai's ears, and hence the Jewish population, and a general state of grieving begins (Es 4:1-3). Esther herself discovers the plot. She knows of a possibility to enter the king's inner court and plead their case, but also knows that anyone who enters unannounced will be executed for it, unless the king pardons them by extending his golden scepter - and, as the king has not summoned her for thirty days, there's a chance he doesn't like her as much, and may just have her killed off (Es 4:11). Mordecai rebukes her sharply:
Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” [Esther 4:13-14]
Esther resolves to intercede on behalf of her people. Before doing so, she calls on Mordecai and the people to prepare for the day, so that all would go well.
“Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens also will fast in the same way. And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.” [Esther 4:17]
As it so happens, the king doesn't kill Esther, and lets her touch his golden scepter. Esther in turn plans a banquet, which both the king and Haman will attend (Es 5:6-8). Meanwhile, Haman, feeling indignant towards Mordecai continued refusal to bow, builds a giant gallows to hang Mordecai from (Es 5:14). On the day of the banquet, Esther intercedes before the king for her people, begging them to be spared, and identifying Haman as the culprit (Es 7:3-6). Haman discovers that the king has turned against him, and goes to Esther to plead for mercy. The king, finding Haman with Esther, misinterprets it as attempted rape and orders Haman hung from the very gallows he had built for Mordecai (Es 7:7-10). Mordecai ends up with Haman's job, and Esther asks the king to rescind Haman's order, which he does (Es 8:1-8). The Jewish population celebrates, and turns on those who had planned their genocide; most are put to the sword, while Haman's ten sons are hung (Es 9:2-16). Mordecai orders further celebration on the anniversary of this victory, which to this day is the Purim ("Lots") festival in Judaism (Es 9:20-22).

Since Esther is both the titular and main character of the book, Esther (along with Ruth) has become a role model for women in the "You go girl!" sections of modern Evangelicalism. However, it carries far greater spiritual implications:

1) It demonstrates God's providential love over His people, by organizing situations to preserve them from complete annihilation. This is especially amazing, given that, within the book of Esther, there are no astounding acts of God like the parting of the Red Sea, nor any great displays of prophecy as is so often seen in the other history books - in fact, God is not even directly mentioned, nor does He directly speak to characters. Regarding all this, Matthew Henry wrote in his commentary:
But, though the name of God be not in it, the finger of God is, directing many minute events for the bringing about of his people’s deliverance. The particulars are not only surprising and very entertaining, but edifying and very encouraging to the faith and hope of God’s people in the most difficult and dangerous times. We cannot now expect such miracles to be wrought for us as were for Israel when they were brought out of Egypt, but we may expect that in such ways as God here took to defeat Haman’s plot he will still protect his people. [source]
2) It is a story of selfless, believing womanhood. Esther is ready to die for her people, for if she goes to the king and she does not hold his favor, she will be executed. Her words to Mordecai, "If I perish, I perish," are the words of a woman who loves her fellow believers more than even her own life. Esther was a proper woman of God who, unlike many other women, did not permit her rise to wealth and power to corrupt her moral life.

3) One could, in many ways, see shadows of Christ and our own redemption within the story. Esther, like Christ, intercedes for the people, and saves them from certain death. Some have associated the three days of fasting, followed by Esther going to the king and obtaining her people's salvation, to Christ's three days in the tomb, after which He rose again and secured the redemption of His people. One might compare Esther's torment over her potential death, but eventual acceptance of the possibility, with Christ's struggles in Gethsemane. Haman, with his intent to kill the Jews, is a proper symbol of the eternal enemies of the church, and his eventual demise, coupled with the complete and utter victory of the Jews at the zero hour, is a fine compliment to the last few chapters of Revelation, foretelling the complete victory of Christ and His church on the earth.

Lou Engle's Use of Esther

With the book of Esther and the narrative within it better understood, let's examine how Lou Engle applies it.
Esther said, “I and my young women will also fast as you do. Afterward, though it is against the law, I will go to the king…and if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16)

There are moments in history when a door for massive change opens. Great revolutions, either good or evil, spring up in the vacuum created by these openings. In such divine moments, key men, women and entire generations risk everything to become the hinge of history—the “pivot point” that determines which way the door will swing.
This is the exact same rhetoric Lou Engle employed with his Nazirite DNA presentation, and others he's done in the past: he precedes any call for action with revolutionary language, talking about how in dire moments throughout history, great men and women rise up to save the day. It's certainly a powerful image, and one that can easily rile up emotions, especially among the young or emotional. In this day and age when it looks like society as a whole is becoming more and more degenerate and hostile to the Christian worldview, this sort of language is seductive. It tells people who may be unguided, or may have untempered passions, to do something with their emotions. It takes a confused heart, battered about by the passions of the day, and tries to direct it down a clearer path. It presents a guiding hand to those who may otherwise feel blind.

The only problem is, in many situations, that guiding hand is owned by a false teacher, and hence it is literally the blind leading the blind (cf. Mt 15:14).
The Esther Hour

Esther is a prototype of history’s hinge—a courageous woman who humbly and artfully spoke truth to power. Facing witchcraft and dark conspiracies at the highest levels of Persia’s power base, Queen Esther found herself providentially positioned (right place, right time) to risk everything for the love of her people and their future. Armed with little more than her dignity and the secret arsenal of corporate prayer and fasting, her courageous actions spared an entire nation from annihilation.

Three years ago in a leaders summit in Fredericksburg Virginia our meeting was sovereignly hijacked as the Lord shifted our focus toward the hidden taproot of strength in the godly women of America. We began to envision something of a million women gathering on the mall in Washington DC, similar to the Promise Keepers gathering, that would be a last-stand breakthrough to hold back darkness in America. Those hours of corporate intercession were as strong and clear as any prophetic moment I have ever encountered in 30+ years of prayer, but at the time we could not see how it could be brought to pass. Habakkuk's statement seemed to be the counsel of the Lord to us, “Though the vision tarry wait for it, it will surely come.”
Note two things Lou Engle does here:

1) He introduces the notion of spiritual warfare: he says that Esther was "facing witchcraft and dark conspiracies at the highest levels of Persia’s power base." Read the book of Esther from beginning to end, and ask yourself this: is there any kind of "witchcraft" or spiritual "dark conspiracy" seen at the "highest levels" of Persia? There isn't. Where, then, is Engle getting this? We'll discover this answer later - for now, keep this fact in mind.

2) He takes an event in the Bible - namely, Esther's story, and specifically her fasting - and applies it to us and something we need to do right now. This is likewise something Lou Engle regularly does: he will take descriptive story, and turn it into a prescriptive call. Sadly, he will even do this for passages about Christ. For example, while teaching Dominionism, he took Isaiah 9:6, about the coming Messiah, and said that we have to raise sons to "bear the government upon their shoulder" (see my blog post here). In fact, in many of these New Apostolic Reformation movements, it's common to hear of a leader calling for a "[insert biblical character] fast," or a "[insert biblical character] anointing."

Is the story about Esther about an "Esther hour" or a special "Esther fast" that we need to do? Not at all. This was a particular fast, held during a particular time, and done by particular people. Does that mean we should never pray and fast? Not at all. I don't want the reader to misunderstand that I am saying prayer and fasting is foolhardy. I'm not saying Christians shouldn't pray and fast. The issue here is that Lou Engle is using a passage of scripture to spiritually compel people to do something, in return for a move from God. He's telling people (as we'll soon see) that there is "a cataclysmic battle for the soul of our nation," and this is our only answer.

What's more, as we shall soon see with greater clarity, he is abusing scripture, and teaching false theology, in the process.
The Truly Empowered Woman

That moment arrived January 21, 2017, the day after the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump, as hundreds of thousands of women took to the streets with the purported aim of “empowering women.” In the vacuum created by 1) the election, 2) historic women’s injustices, and 3) sadly, President Trump’s past hurtful statements towards women, a pretender movement seized the American stage. Like a false heiress to history, this alternate narrative sought to forcibly reframe our daughters’ and granddaughters’ identity and future. Even so, the truth was immediately plain for all to see: this was about power, not empowerment. To the degree that the Women’s March railed against injustice while refusing to acknowledge God’s exalted view of women and her glorious purpose, it was a misleading, even dangerous attempt, to swing the hinge of history away from God. Hundreds of thousands of women watching the March simply could not identify with the vitriol and radical ideology being shouted from the stage, claiming the right to define womanhood apart from the Bible. Deep in their hearts, women across the country declared, "This is not my revolution!”

Now, like Esther, those same women are rising “for such a time as this.” An instinctive, corporate yearning has gripped the nation for true empowered women to demonstrate how the meek (i.e. strength-filled humility) possess the earth. It’s time for this corporate Esther to frame a better, more hopeful, God-centered future for our nation by taking her place in the public square like never before. We need an entire generation—a movement—of grandmothers, mothers and daughters to be boldly visible, persistent in persuasion, and to demonstrate the humility of our national appeal to Heaven in prayer.
Here we see the connection Lou Engle is trying to make: just as Esther entered "the public square" to "frame a better, more hopeful, God-centered future" for her nation, so too must "an entire generation" of today's women do likewise, demonstrating "the humility of our national appeal to Heaven in prayer." This has to be done by a "corporate Esther." Like Esther, the women who take part in this are here "for such a time as this."

It gets into more detail in the next section.
Fasting through Purim

Shockingly, the Women’s March was only a first shot across the bow. In reality, an alliance of spiritual anarchy is presently being unveiled in full defiance of a “We The People” electoral result and biblical truths that undergird our nation. With a disturbing brazenness (and the consent of the media), the dark underbelly of anarchy issued a global summons to employ witchcraft and curses against President Trump, his cabinet, and those aligned with a biblical worldview. Like a veil being torn so a deeper secret could be revealed, suddenly, the public controversy was elevated to a global spiritual dimension. This made plain what we have known from the beginning: Spiritual battles cannot be won on the playing field of protests and political arguments. Only the Church has the answer to such an unprecedented manifestation of witchcraft. If we do not employ spiritual strategy to overcome this steely-eyed challenge of the powers, the days ahead will be dark days indeed.

Esther gives us clues. According to Derek Prince, the Persian advisor, Haman (the adversary in the Book of Esther), practiced divination through the casting of lots, thus clearly aligning himself with demonic spiritual powers in his plot to destroy the whole Jewish population in the earth. Esther’s response, a 3-day, no-food-no-water fast, was the nuclear option of her day. It was an act of desperate dependence on God, the only thing capable of breaking the dark powers being channeled by Haman’s witchcraft. “Esther and her handmaidens” led the whole nation in an intense period of fasting and prayer for three days leading up to Purim. Amazingly, dark schemes at the highest levels of government were exposed. Esther’s fast effectively reversed the curse and shifted the whole public policy of the Persian Empire in favor of the Jewish people. I cannot stress this enough: we are in a similar day and a cataclysmic battle for the soul of our nation. We cannot live the same way we lived yesterday.
Earlier we asked where Engle got the notion that there was spiritual warfare going on in the book of Esther. Here, after referencing the news story about witches planning to enact curses against Trump, he talks about Esther having to face "divination" from Haman and his channeling of "dark powers" against Esther and the Jews. To justify the idea that Haman was using dark powers, he cites Derek Prince, the late Biblical scholar, as arguing Haman "practiced divination through the casting of lots, thus clearly aligning himself with demonic spiritual powers." Since Engle himself doesn't tell us where Derek Prince said it, I actually went and found the original source.
This story has given rise to the feast which the Jews call Purim. Purim means "lots." The feast is so called because Haman cast lots to determine the day that should be appointed for the destruction of the Jews. Casting lots was a form of divination. Haman was seeking guidance from occult powers. He relied on unseen spiritual forces to direct him in exterminating the Jews. This placed the whole conflict on a spiritual plane. It was not just flesh against flesh; it was spirit against spirit. Through Haman, Satan was actually challenging the power of God Himself. Had he succeeded in the destruction of the Jews, it would have been an everlasting reproach to the name of the Lord.

But when the decree for the destruction of the Jews went out, Esther and her maidens accepted the challenge. They understood that the conflict was on the spiritual plane, and their response was on the same plane. They agreed to fast three days, night and day, neither eating nor drinking. They arranged with Mordecai that he would gather together all the Jews in Shushan, the capital city, to unite with them in fasting for the same period. (Notice in Esther 2:19 that once again, in the hour of crisis, we find God's people were "gathered together," just as in the days of Jehoshaphat.) Thus, all the Jews in Shushan, together with Esther and her maidens, fasted and prayed three days - seventy-two hours - without eating or drinking.

The outcome of their collective fasting and prayer is described in the succeeding chapters of the Book of Esther. We may summarize it briefly by saying that the whole policy of the Persian empire was completely changed, in favor of the Jews. Haman and his sons perished. The enemies of the Jews throughout the Persian empire suffered total defeat. Mordecai and Esther became the two most influential personalities in Persian politics. The Jews in every area experienced a unique measure of favor, peace, and prosperity. All this can be directly attributed to one cause: the collective fasting and prayer of God's people. [Prince]
It might be interesting to note that the cover of the book advertises a "foreword by Lou Engle of The Call." We probably shouldn't be surprised Lou Engle is harping on this as a source, then. I find it even more interesting that Lou Engle cites Derek Prince for what he is promoting as a uniquely all-women event, when Prince himself says, on at least two occasions, that this involved "all the Jews in Shushan." Yes, on the page for this event, there is a note at the bottom that "men are welcome and encouraged to join," but again, Engle is harping on the fast held by Esther and her maidens, and does not mention at all that the other Jews, men included, fasted and prayed.

In fact, refer back to the quotation of Esther 4:16, at the beginning of the article. It's not actually a full quotation - the verse actually says, in full:
"Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens also will fast in the same way. And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish."
Even the verse that Lou Engle refers to at the beginning of an article attempting to portray Esther's fast as a "woman only" thing says that "all the Jews" participated in the fast. Esther adds "I and my maidens also will fast in the same way." Yes, Esther and her maidens were fasting, but in conjunction with the rest of God's church in the area. She wasn't "leading the nation" so much as "joining in."

Either way, the reference to the lot, and hence Haman's use of "dark powers," is found shortly after Haman's anger against Mordecai:
In the first month, which is the month Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, Pur, that is the lot, was cast before Haman from day to day and from month to month, until the twelfth month, that is the month Adar. [Esther 3:17]
And again later on, in a recap:
For Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the adversary of all the Jews, had schemed against the Jews to destroy them and had cast Pur, that is the lot, to disturb them and destroy them. [Esther 9:24]
Most biblical commentators agree that this lot-casting, a common one in ancient eastern cultures, involved some form of pagan belief behind it. At the same time, it's worth noting there were lots used by the Jews as well (Num 26:55; Jos 7:14), and even by the apostles (Acts 1:26), albeit not with an appeal to pagan spirits. Scripture also teaches that every lot outcome proceeds from God's providence (cf. Pro 16:33), as often did happen in scripture, even with lots committed by the heathen (cf. Jon 1:7). No doubt here, God providentially used the lots to give enough time for Mordecai and Esther to discover the plot and unravel it.

Yet Esther 3:17 and 9:24 are the only mentions of lots in the book of Esther, and hence the only possible reference to any influence from spiritual powers. Furthermore, the only purpose it served was to determine the dating of Haman's planned genocide. This one momentary mention is exaggerated by Mr. Prince to say that "the whole conflict" was now "on a spiritual plane"; it is exaggerated even more by Mr. Engle, who says that Haman was "channeling" witchcraft, and that Esther had uncovered "dark schemes at the highest levels of government." In fact, Haman wasn't even targeting the entire Persian government, just God's church in Persia; for Mr. Engle to transform this into a need to pray for the United States as a whole is confusing ecclesiology with nationalism.

Jewish histories and traditions also seem absent of any serious kind of "witchcraft" on Haman's part. Rabbinical traditions speak of his use of astrology, but more in regards to symbolism than spiritual power.
Haman was also an astrologer, and when he was about to fix the time for the massacre of the Jews he first cast lots to ascertain which was the most auspicious day of the week for that purpose. Each day, however, proved to be under some influence favorable to the Jews. He then sought to fix the month, but found that the same was true of each month; thus, Nisan was favorable to the Jews because of the Passover sacrifice; Iyyar, because of the small Passover. But when he arrived at Adar he found that its zodiacal sign was Pisces, and he said, "Now I shall be able to swallow them as fish which swallow one another" (Esth. R. vii.; Targ. Sheni iii.) [Jewish Encyclopedia; source]
In Josephus's Antiquities of the Jews, when he speaks on the story of Esther (Book XI, 6), he doesn't mention the lots at all, let alone any sort of spiritual warfare.

What is especially amusing by Lou Engle's highlighting this is that he seems to forget that the King of Babylon was a pagan king, of a pagan nation, which probably regularly committed pagan acts of worship. If Esther's opine to the king had been, "Haman uses pagan rituals," the king probably would have shrugged and said, "So do I." That's not to say pagan rituals aren't false, or that Esther and Mordecai approved of them; only that Engle, Prince, and others are exaggerating the role that pagan rituals and practices held in this narrative. Haman briefly used one methodology to pick a date, and that was it; it's not like Haman was slaying virgins to summon demons to attack the Jews.

Given the truth on Haman's so-called "witchcraft," one might ask why Lou Engle is exaggerating the role pagan spirituality played in the story of Esther, and why is he emphasizing our need to combat it? Why does he need to rework the Esther story to say all this?

Here we enter into the stranger realm of Lou Engle's theology - namely, Lou Engle sincerely believes that non-Christian religions are able to release "spiritual power" into the atmosphere, and hence combat the church. If the church doesn't pray enough, they will "lose the heavens" and permit evil to gain more power. In case you think I'm exaggerating or unfairly representing his beliefs, here's a direct quote from him:
The Lord spoke to my heart out of this, that the church must become not just a prayer meeting - it must become a prayer culture if it's going to contend with the prayer culture of Islam. How can a prayer meeting that very few come to in the church can contend with a Muslim prayer meeting that's praying five times a day then fasts forty days in Ramadan that releases spiritual power into the atmosphere. [...] The will of God is being resisted by principalities and powers. Friends, there is only one people that can remove that kind of resistance. It's not politics, it's not education, it's the praying church. It is our responsibility that we lost the heavens because of our lack of prayer... [Transcribed from "Highlights to the Nationwide Call to Prayer Conference Call"; TheCall Official Podcast; emphases mine]
Those who are curious about this can likewise listen to my podcast on IHOP-KC and prayer power; I play a clip of Lou Engle talking about a dream he had where a Buddhist house of prayer was overcome by a Christian house of prayer because the Christian house of prayer prayed more. When he speaks of "spiritual warfare," he's not only speaking about the general idea of God versus Satan, except where God is sovereign over all conflict (as most orthodox Christians would understand it); Lou Engle literally means "warfare" in the sense that the forces of God and Satan are combating on equal terms. Therefore, when Lou Engle hears that witches are casting spells against Trump and the church, he sincerely believes that witches have the complete power to do that.

Lou Engle claims that God spoke to him about this, and hence we have to presume this notion of prayer power comes from God. Scripture testifies differently. In fact, scripture testifies that foreign religions, while being under the influence of demons, have no power. Those who worship idols and false gods do so without releasing "spiritual power" into the air.

Consider, for example, the long satire and mockery of pagan faiths by the prophet Isaiah:
Those who fashion a graven image are all of them futile, and their precious things are of no profit; even their own witnesses fail to see or know, so that they will be put to shame. Who has fashioned a god or cast an idol to no profit? Behold, all his companions will be put to shame, for the craftsmen themselves are mere men. Let them all assemble themselves, let them stand up, let them tremble, let them together be put to shame. The man shapes iron into a cutting tool and does his work over the coals, fashioning it with hammers and working it with his strong arm. He also gets hungry and his strength fails; he drinks no water and becomes weary. Another shapes wood, he extends a measuring line; he outlines it with red chalk. He works it with planes and outlines it with a compass, and makes it like the form of a man, like the beauty of man, so that it may sit in a house. Surely he cuts cedars for himself, and takes a cypress or an oak and raises it for himself among the trees of the forest. He plants a fir, and the rain makes it grow. Then it becomes something for a man to burn, so he takes one of them and warms himself; he also makes a fire to bake bread. He also makes a god and worships it; he makes it a graven image and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire; over this half he eats meat as he roasts a roast and is satisfied. He also warms himself and says, “Aha! I am warm, I have seen the fire.” But the rest of it he makes into a god, his graven image. He falls down before it and worships; he also prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god.” [Isaiah 44:9-17]
Consider likewise the words of the apostle Paul:
Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. [1 Corinthians 10:18-20]
There is no scriptural evidence for the idea that when Muslims pray during Ramadan (which isn't forty days, by the way), or when Hindus pray, or when Buddhists pray, they are "releasing spiritual power" that will swallow up the church if we don't pray enough.

In fact, is such a notion found within Esther itself? On the contrary. Let's look again at what Mordecai tells Esther:
"Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?" [Esther 4:13b-14]
Mordecai actually had faith that, even if he and the Jews of Susa perish, God's people within Persia would not perish in toto. Mordecai knew that God would keep His promise and preserve a remnant, even during the worst of struggles. His warning and advice to Esther was basically: "Your being the queen won't save you. God will preserve His people somewhere, somehow, but you're right there where the enemies of the Jews have the most power and influence, so you're the most likely to get killed, even if you don't intercede. Maybe God put you in this most precarious position precisely because you could intercede for your people?"

The point here is that Mordecai didn't hear about the problem and think, "Oh man, if we don't combat this spiritual power from Haman, we're all gonna die! We better pray and fast!" He knew God's people would persevere, even if in scattered parts of the empire, or from a source other than Esther. That didn't lessen the danger all the Jews were facing, of course - but Mordecai didn't think this was something that required fasting and praying or else.
Recently, two women contacted me and asked me to use my influence to call for a 3-day Esther Fast to answer this challenge. Immediately after, I experienced a life-changing dream where I saw a nation-wide Esther movement arising that alone could break a major spiritual power of death. I knew then that I was to take my place as a Mordecai and call for Esther and her handmaidens, even the entire nation, to boldly become the hinge which this hour of history requires. The Jewish holiday Purim celebrates God’s deliverance of the Jews through Esther’s fasting, sacrifice and courage. This year, Purim begins on Saturday evening, March 11th. Therefore, we are seizing this sudden moment for 3-day Esther Fast from sundown on Wednesday, March 8th through the evening of Saturday, March 11th to counter this witchcraft, pray for the President, and contend for this uprising of an Esther movement in America that will, among many things, reverse the decree of ‘73, Roe V. Wade, just as Haman’s decree was reversed and hold back the rising tide of anti-Semitism.

Let the women arise as Esthers for such a time as this and take their place in the courts of heaven and in the public courts of man to shape history in this hour. If your heart burns, mobilize this fast to all your connections. Blow the trumpet in Zion! Call a fast!

Lou Engle

Founder, TheCall, Inc.
I must say it's rather astounding that Lou Engle sees himself as a modern Mordecai, especially since he says that makes it his duty to "call for Esther and her handmaidens" - is he aware that it's actually Esther who calls for the fast, not Mordecai? Mordecai's only call for Esther was "to go in to the king to implore his favor and to plead with him for her people" (Es 4:8b). Therefore, shouldn't Lou Engle be calling "Esther and her handmaidens" not to fast and pray, but rather to "go in to the king to implore his favor"?

I'm also interested in how the "Esther movement" is supposed to "reverse" and "hold back" Roe vs. Wade, anti-Semitism, etc., when I was fairly certain that the Nazirite DNA and other "movements" Lou Engle has become involved in were likewise supposed to do that. It's not that I'm knocking Christian movements in general, even impassioned Christian movements; it's simply that it's rather interesting how all of these "do-or-die" spiritual movements seem to keep repeating their goals over and over again, with new names. How many times has Engle spoken of a "life-changing dream" where he was called by God to raise up a movement "that alone could break a major spiritual power of death"?

Concluding Thoughts

Let's try to remember a few key things about the fast called by Esther:
  • Who was fasting? All the Jews in the city of Susa (Es 4:16).
  • What brought about the fasting? Esther was preparing to confront the king, and there was a possibility she might die for her troubles (Es 4:11, 14).
  • Why was Esther confronting the king? Because Haman was planning to kill all of God's people (Es 4:7-8).
  • Why was Haman planning to kill off the Jews? Because of Mordecai's refusal to bow to him, and Haman's personal hatred of the Jews (Es 3:6).
This is what the text says regarding the fast. Engle avoids all of this by not addressing the context of what is being said. Instead, he hones in on the fact Esther and her handmaidens fasted prayed, avoids any real exegesis, instead falling back on what one commentator said regarding Haman. From all this, he presents to us a situation in which witchcraft and dark forces are taking over the Persian government, and this is only averted by the women praying and fasting. He makes it seem as if, because Esther and the women prayed, the "spiritual power" was pushed back and undone, and everything changed.

As we saw from our earlier review of the book, the narrative is a little more involved with that. The fasting was not to bring about the change directly, but rather to call upon God to make certain Esther's confrontation with the king would go well. It was her dealings with the king, and God's providence therein, that saved the Jewish people. Esther is a noble woman in the history of the church, yes. Esther has many traits Christian women could seek to emulate, yes. However, there is no command to fast and pray like Esther, and there is no evidence from scripture that Esther was locked in a giant spiritual struggle which was only defeated by fasting and prayer. No honest reading of the text could ever come to such a conclusion.

What's even more alarming is that Lou Engle uses, just as he has so many times in the past, strong spiritual language to add weighty authority to an abuse of scripture based on his heretical ideas on prayer. Some might contend here that he's never said, "You're not saved if you don't take part in this movement," or, "If you're a Christian, you need to get involved." Nonetheless, the wording he uses is quite clear: it is this movement "alone" which can "break a major spiritual power"; we literally "need" an "entire generation" of women to take part; if we don't "employ spiritual strategy" against this, then "the days ahead will be dark days indeed"; women must "take their place in the courts of heaven and in the public courts of man to shape history in this hour." This is spiritual manipulative language that is, in essence, placing a yoke upon others under the disguise of pious activity.

I've been told that Lou Engle's a nice guy in person, and I'm sure, deep down, he sincerely believes he's doing some good. The problem is he's constantly abusing the word of God, centering it around his personal dreams and visions. He uses these misrepresentations of God's word to command other Christians to commit acts in the hope that God will return the favor. This is especially sad given that, as stated earlier, the story of Esther is a beautiful one that can point to the church's preservation and even the cross. Instead, it's being pointed to in order to command, "Do." It takes a passage that should point us to God and His glory, and instead points it to us and places upon us a command and work.

With his reliance on dreams and his mishandling of scripture, Lou Engle is like those false prophets God warned of when He said:
"The prophet who has a dream may relate his dream, but let him who has My word speak My word in truth. What does straw have in common with grain?" declares the Lord. [Jeremiah 23:28]
Things like an "Esther hour" or "Esther fast" are nothing more than spiritual straw. Let every Christian seek their answers from the word of God, and do their best to avoid it, or warn others about it. If we wish to fast and pray, even as a body, then let us fast and pray - but let's not mishandle scripture to compel others to do it, and let's not claim divinely inspired authority to make such claims.

God bless.


Work Cited

Prince, Derek. Shaping History Through Prayer and Fasting. New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 2002. Print.