Life on the Line – Man as Defender
Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him. - Esther 4:15-17 ESV
Army Staff Sergeant Robert Miller was running recon for a Special Forces Detachment in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, on January 25, 2008, when he and his squad ran into a Taliban ambush in a steep, narrow valley. With little available cover, the patrol was exposed and vulnerable to enemy automatic weapon fire and rocket-propelled grenades. As the point man, Miller was out front, immediately cut off from supporting elements, and less than 20 meters from enemy forces. Despite the danger, and with no regard for his own life, Miller called for his men to take cover while he charged the enemy over exposed ground in order to provide protective fire for his team.
In the process of maneuvering and engaging the enemy, Miller was shot in his upper torso. Ignoring the wound, he continued to push the fight, moving to draw fire from over 100 enemy Taliban fighters. After killing at least 10 insurgents, wounding dozens more, and repeatedly exposing himself to withering enemy fire while moving from position to position, Miller was mortally wounded. However, his extraordinary valor ultimately saved the lives of his own team as well as a group of Afghanistan National Army soldiers. Staff Sergeant Miller’s heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty, and at the cost of his own life, posthumously earned him the 
Congressional Medal of Honor.
Every Memorial Day, I am especially reminded of the incredible bravery and courage of service members who “gave the last full measure of devotion,” as Lincoln put it, laying down their lives so that others could live free. I have had the high honor of fighting alongside such individuals, the incredible privilege of commanding them in combat, and the tortured anguish of sending their remains home in flag-draped coffins. People of courage inspire me.
One such courageous person was Jewish woman named Esther who, while living in the Persian king’s palace as his queen, learned about a plot to wipe out the Jewish people in Persia. Esther’s former guardian Mordecai challenged her with these immortal words:
Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
God elevated Esther to her position in the royal palace for a higher purpose—to be a Defender of her fellow Jews from eradication by the enemy. Esther’s name meant “star,” and this was her moment to shine. She responded to Mordecai’s challenge by first asking him to call for a three-day fast, which would have included prayer for her to have favor with the king. Then she declared her intention to approach the king on behalf of her people.
Yet, stepping forward as a Defender required incredible courage because Esther had to put her own life on the line. Esther dared to approach King Ahasuerus (a.k.a. Xerxes), fully understanding that the death penalty awaited anyone who entered the king’s presence uninvited. “If I perish, I perish” was Esther’s famous declaration of faith and trust in God. She believed that stepping up to defend her people mattered more than preserving her own life. Esther displayed more courage in that moment than many men would. Thankfully, God responded to the fasting and prayers of the people and the courage of Esther. Favor with the king was granted, the plot to destroy the Jews was thwarted, the enemy was executed, and Mordecai was elevated.
Now I realize some of us may never face a life and death situation like Sergeant Miller found himself in Afghanistan or Esther faced in ancient Persia. The question is: If called upon, would you be willing to put your life on the line to defend others? Let’s be honest. There are plenty of moments, big and small, that come to each and all of us that call for courage. The question is, what will you do in that moment? Will you step forward as a Defender?
- Do you recall a moment that called for courage when you shrank back? What commitments can you make or steps can you take to assume the role of Defender next time?

- Are you facing a moment right now that calls for courage as a Defender? What will you resolve to do to protect those in your charge?
- When faced with a challenge that requires courage, try fasting before the Lord and ask others to fast and pray with you that God will grant you the resolve to step up as a Defender.