Return from Exile: Esther 1-5 (1)
Pray Psalm 2.11, 12.
Serve the LORD with fear,
And rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,
And you perish in the way,
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.
Sing Psalm 2.11, 12.
(Agincourt Hymn: O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High)
Rejoice with fear in Jesus’ grace, and worship before His exalted face!
Beware His anger and judgment grim. How blessed are all who rest in Him!
Read and meditate on Esther 1.1-2.18
1. What kind of person was Ahasuerus?
2. How did Esther become queen?
I think it is possible to see the book of Esther as a word of encouragement from God to the exiles in Jerusalem. He reminds them that they will always have enemies, but that He will always care for them. He encourages them to listen to faithful and courageous leaders. He warns them to prepare for a long struggle to realize the full promises of God.
And He shows them in vivid terms what captivity to self-interest can lead to.
Look at the narcissism of Vashti. The king calls, and she declines to go (1.1-12). She was too proud to let herself be showed off as a royal bangle. The king’s response is an extreme one: “Throw the blackguard out!” (vv. 13-22) That way he would be able to save face before the court. Dis me? You pay!
Sinking into remorse, Ahasuerus (Artaxerxes—thus we get a sense of the timing of these events) decides to find a new bangle. But the search must be done on a huge, spectacular scale, so that all the kingdom is reminded of his great worthiness (2.1-4).
Contrast these narcissists with the humble and faithful Mordecai and Esther (2.5-17). They are faithful, but they know how to spot an opportunity that could pay dividends for the people of God. God is not mentioned in the book of Esther, but all who heard this story would have seen His sovereign hand at work in it.
Would the report of these events have reached Jerusalem? Count on it. The message to those people, as they were building the temple, would have been clear: Set your selfish interests aside before they destroy you, and keep your hands working at the work of the Lord.
Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162.
It is altogether possible that Vashti was a narcissist. But is it also possible that she was merely trying to preserve her dignity? All the men had been partying for 180 days, and then a more local celebration of seven days was in process. She had been entertaining the wives of the revelers, and now the king wanted to bring her in so that the men could ogle her beauty and applaud him on his good taste in wives. In keeping with Herman Melville’s Bartleby, The Scrivener, “She preferred not to.”
It is interesting to note that King Ahasuerus was given two wives with equally assertive natures; albeit one more aggressive than the other about it. Maybe God was trying to teach him about the importance of seeing his wives as people. Real human beings with family backgrounds, needs, and decorum. They were people, not just objects to be viewed.
But I like the king’s attitude toward solving his dilemma. In answer to his question, “What shall we do to Queen Vashti, according to law, because she did not obey the command of King Ahasuerus brought to her by the eunuchs?” (Esth. 1.15), he gathered “the wise men who understood the times (for this was the king’s manner toward all who knew law and justice…)” (Esth. 1.13).
This is the same methodology that David employed in putting together his kingdom and its rule. Some of the people mentioned were the sons of Issachar “who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do…” (1 Chron. 12.32). These were trusted men who helped David with decisions made for the people’s benefit.
After Paul and Silas had had a bit of a dust-up with the people of Thessalonica, their Christian brethren sent them on to Berea, where it is noted that they “were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17.11). They were a far more civil group because they were in the Word daily.
I find King Ahasuerus to be a kind person, because even though his ego was mortally wounded by Vashti’s invitation decline, he did not have her killed, nor did his wise men suggest as much. And they were certainly within their wheelhouse to remove her from her position of power and influence. Her truth to power stance was not to be encouraged or emulated. Wouldn’t want her to become an influencer!
But in God’s tender, loving care for Esther, He was preparing the heart of this king to be softened by circumstances. Our God is always working, moving, and shaping the hearts and minds of people everywhere. Ours included. “I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Heb. 8.10).
Unlike Queen Vashti, whatever her motives, our response to God should always be: “Yes, I prefer to obey You!”
1. Self-interest can be hard to recognize at times. How can we keep self-love in check?
2. Do you have any trusted counselors to help you in your walk with and work for the Lord? Are you a trusted counselor to anyone else?
3. In what ways are you asking God to work, move, and shape your heart and mind?
The pride of Ahasuerus’s heart rising with the grandeur of his kingdom, he made an extravagant feast. This was vain glory. Better is a dinner of herbs with quietness, than this banquet of wine, with all the noise and tumult that must have attended it. But except grace prevails in the heart, self-exaltation and self-indulgence, in one form or another, will be the ruling principle. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Esther 1.1-9
Pray Psalm 2.1-10.
Pray for the nations and peoples of the world, that God would soften their hearts to hear the Good News of Jesus. Pray for the churches of the world, that God would revive us and send us forth in power as witnesses for our Lord.
Sing Psalm 2.1-10.
(Agincourt Hymn: O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High)
Why do the nations vainly rage, conspiring together from age to age?
Earth’s kings and all of their counselors stand against the Lord and His Right Hand:
“Now let us cast His yoke below, His Kingdom authority overthrow!
Throw off His Law, reject His Word; no more be governed by this Lord!”
The Lord in heaven laughs in wrath at all who embark on this cursèd path.
His angry Word to them is plain: “Yet shall My King in Zion reign!”
Proclaim the message far and wide, that God has exalted the Crucified!
From heav’n He sent us His only Son, Who has for us salvation won!
To Christ the Lord be given all who humbly embrace Him and on Him call.
Be wise, be warned: His judgment comes to break the prideful, sinful ones.
T. M. and Susie Moore
Two books can help us understand our own captivity and lead us to seek revival and renewal in the Lord. The Church Captive asks us to consider the ways the Church today has become captive to the world. And Revived! can help us find the way to renewal. Learn more and order your free copies by clicking here and here.
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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available free by clicking here.