Today's story is from the full Book of Esther. PART 1 OF 3
There is an eloquence that speaks without words. It is the eloquence of one’s character, the behaviours of which tell a louder story than any prepared speech, off-the-cuff fluency, or roll of the tongue. As we work through the story of Esther, we will see how she articulated her life with character and humility, the wisdom of an old sage, and the courage of King David.
Esther was a combination of many wonderful attributes that lend themselves so easily to her story. She befits the grand saga called the Book of Esther. By the time we finish reading it, we feel the key players were perfectly cast for their roles.
Most people marry for love. However, many royals still marry for the cause of responsibility — for the love of the nation over self. Esther was one of those.
Esther held to a high standard of moral obligation, a true queen long before she became one. We have seen modern royals tear families apart by marrying people who cannot maintain their dignity for the sake of their nation, choosing rather to please self than the greater cause. Not Esther. Esther was born with the dignity and protocols of God’s Law. Not only beautiful to look upon, but also to be with.
Esther diplomatically progresses to the Biblical world stage at an eventful time in Jewish history, a reactive attempt to slaughter hundreds of thousands of Jews simply because of one person's arrogance and hatred for one of them, and his ability to stir up others against them. The saying “Born for a time such as this” applies to Esther.
Years before our story, and following Jeremiah's prophecy (Jeremiah 25:11-12) the people of Judah and Benjamin were taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar of the Babylonians for their sin, which was long after the ten northern tribes had been relocated for their sin by the Assyrians. This megalomaniac destroyed their Temple in Jerusalem and marched them to Babylon to remain in captivity for the prophesied seventy years. Most famous of these were Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Also was the lesser-known Mordecai (Esther 2:5-6).
As time progressed, the Babylonian kingdom was taken over by the Medo-Persian empire in the famous “writing on the wall’ story. From this new empire, whose kings were just as brutal, we get King Cyrus, who allowed the return of the Israelites to rebuild their temple in Jerusalem (see Ezra and Nehemiah), King Darius who befriended Daniel (Daniel 6;15-22), and the king in our story, Ahasuerus also known as Xerxes I.
It was after that return to Israel we find Mordecai, who chose not to return, possibly due to his age or the fact that he took over responsibility for his young cousin, Esther, after her parents died. We find that Mordecai is of the same fiercely spiritual mould as faithful Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
For those unfamiliar with Ahasuerus or Xerxes I, think of the famous battle of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae (Hot Gates) under King Leonidas (the most recent movie is called 300). No, it's not fiction. Xerxes 1 was the Persian King who lost so many warriors to the 300 while trying to take Greece and Sparta. He also beheaded his engineers because the waves in the Hellespont broke the boats they had constructed. Hellespont is the Dardanelles of WW1 fame.
Ahasuerus ruled 127 provinces from Africa to India, a vast kingdom, which included Israel.
As our story goes, Ahasuerus threw a six-month-long celebration, then a seven-day party at which were all the dignitaries of his kingdom. On the seventh day, when Ahasuerus was drunk, he commanded his seven chamberlains to summon his wife Vashti to the feast to show off her beautiful looks and body to his drunken cronies. But, at the time, Vashti was hosting a party for all the women and would have been the centre of attention there. While the men were boozing, the women were off doing their own boozing. Vashti wasn’t going to parade in front of all those leering louts, especially after having had a few drinks herself, so she replied with a firm, NO!
This is where her trouble started. If the King let her away with her rebuttal, it would reverberate throughout the kingdom to every household. Women would actually have a say in their own lives, and be more than merely goods or chattels, as many from that region are today. No, this couldn't happen.
Esther 1:12 reads, “therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him.” Despite his immediate enragement, he had the sense to ask his seven counsellors, whom he always consulted in matters of law. Yes, this had to go to trial, but without a defence.
Again, this point is important for specific women through history, including nowadays, that wives who marry men of high position or calling, whether in God’s eyes or man's (i.e. either appointed by God, such as Abraham, or by man such as Ahasuerus), needed to discern to whom they were responding. Were they replying to him as a husband or as an officer in his official capacity?
We can’t forget the reason for Miriam’s leprosy, who thought she was merely backstabbing her brother Moses, but the Lord took it as backstabbing his appointed leader. Vashti didn't simply refuse her husband, she refused her king’s command, and in front of all the people, therefore, a legal penalty must ensue. This is called the sin of presumption — people presuming they have a right greater than the one they have.
Also, let’s pause on the seven chamberlains and seven wise counsellors. Seven is the number of the Holy Spirit, so I wonder if Daniel in his earlier role in this kingdom had anything to do with that specific number of servants?
Esther 1:19-20 gives us the outcome of Vashti's retort. “If it please the king, let there go a royal commandment from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes, that it be not altered, That Vashti come no more before king Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal estate unto another that is better than she. And when the king's decree which he shall make shall be published throughout all his empire, (for it is great,) all the wives shall give to their husbands honour, both to great and small.
Ahasuerus sent out letters in all the languages of the provinces, that every man should bear rule in his own house.
So they ended up with a royal command over their marriages, which is a lot different to God’s message in Colossians, although sounding similar. 3:18-19, Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.
The Colossians verse speaks of love, whereas the Esther verse suggests fear and ownership.
So Vashti was dealt with, and then the hunt was on for another beauty queen. God used the shallowness of Ahasuerus in wanting only beautiful women to present themselves before him, for his own purpose. Mordecai slipped Esther into the line-up. If she used her Jewish name of Hadassah, she would have probably been thrown out, but by using her Persian name of Esther, she fitted in easily.
Hegai, the Eunuch in charge of the king's harem, favoured Esther and her ‘seven’ female attendees and pushed her forward, hoping she would win this tournament. Do we wonder where the story of Cinderella's glass slipper contest came from?
The purification phase alone, after the preselection, was twelve months long. Esther 2:12 says Esther had to undergo six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with sweet odours, and with other things for the purifying of the women. What a magnificent fragrance!
We tend to think that is overkill until we look at the spiritual illustration. When Christ chooses his Queen, his bride, he also seeks a sweet-smelling savour. A Christian’s purification period is underway right now, producing our spiritual fragrance as we allow the fruit of the spirit and knowledge and desire of a holy, one-way life to take effect. This is exactly the trip Esther was on.
In the purification period, I have no doubt Esther was also taught the royal protocols. Chapter 2:17 says, And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti.
The end-time church must also be sufficiently prepared to find favour in the Lord’s sight, which brings us to the seriousness of our own individual preparation.
There is one very important point we cannot overlook in this preparation, which was critical to being accepted by the king. Chapter 2:15. Now when the turn of Esther, the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her for his daughter, was come to go in unto the king, she required nothing but what Hegai the king's chamberlain, the keeper of the women, appointed. And Esther obtained favour in the sight of all them that looked upon her.
Esther was obedient to Hegai in that she sought nothing else other than what he recommended. Through this, she obtained favour. To us, the Holy Spirit makes recommendations which we either accept or reject. Esther was in a race in which all the competitors were beautiful, but only one could get the crown. It was Esther's inner beauty that struck a chord with Hegai. From her start in that race her obedience to him was essential.