READ: Esther 1
BACKGROUND: Though you may not be a history buff, it may help to take a few minutes and set the stage for one of the greatest stories ever told. The kings and queens, good guys and bad guys, secrets, evil plots, revenge and rescue make this a classic of, well, biblical proportions! So, before the real action begins, let’s review:
• The Jews are GOD’s chosen people (and as believers so are we…)
• Because of their repeated rejection of God’s instructions, the Jewish people find themselves in serious trouble (and so will we) and are taken into captivity by foreign nations, their enemies (and so are we when we become slaves to sin).
• The Book of Esther takes place in Persia where Ahasuerus (or Xerxes in Greek) is king of a vast empire.
• Deep hostility towards the Jewish people has existed for thousands of years (and so does hostility toward believers in Jesus: see John 15:18). Over and over, nations have sought to eliminate the Jewish race. Just last week well-known analyst Charles Krauthammer wrote in response to the boycott of Israeli universities by the American Studies Association: “The persistence of anti-Semitism, that most ancient of poisons, is one of history’s great mysteries. Even the shame of the Holocaust proved no antidote. Anti-Semitism is back. Alas, a new generation must learn to confront it” (Viewpoint, 1/13/14).
• Though God’s name is not mentioned in this book, or any instructions for His people, His Sovereign presence hovers over every verse. “Wherever God’s people are, no matter how distant geographically , culturally, or spiritually, Scripture portrays HIM as carefully watching over them to strengthen their hearts and to preserve a lasting remnant” (God’s Grand Story, page 64).
THINK: Do you love parties? How about lavish summer parties with beautiful venues, gorgeous flowers, fabulous food, great music, dancing, and an endless flow of enticing beverages (think ice-cold Coca-Cola and lemonade, okay?) Sounds like a few weddings I’ve attended….and hosted, for that matter. I’m not sure even the most lavish Hollywood festivities could compare to King Ahasuerus’s 180 day bash.
But things deteriorated quickly when the very drunk king gets the idea that Queen Vashti should come put on a little show for him and his equally drunk buddies. Properly disgusted, the Queen rightly refuses: “You’ve got to be kidding, you idiot!” The king just might have felt chagrined enough to accept her rebuke if the liquor hadn’t clouded his judgment. It didn’t help to have his pride hurt in front of his buddies either. “If you let the Queen get away with this,” these guys reason, “what’s gonna happen to the rest of us husbands? Our wives are sure to find out and when they do, they’ll be really tough to live with!” They convince the King to kick her out of the royal palace and choose a younger, prettier wife for himself. And one who knows her place as well. He also writes a letter at their urging, demanding that wives respect their husbands. Ha! Wonder how successful that was, don’t you?
At this point, the story seems almost a bit comical so let’s get serious again. King Ahasuerus was in control only because God allowed him to be. His power was fleeting, and he was soon defeated by the Greeks. His trusted advisors deserted him and he died by assassination. Even though the book of Esther doesn’t mention the name of God – it’s the only book in the Bible that doesn’t – the message comes across loud and clear even in the first chapter: God is in control! He is sovereign over every single situation in the universe, and he can and does work every situation out for the good of his people. Even when broken, mistake-prone humans are involved and even when they do ridiculous things and make poor decisions, we can have an unshakable confidence that God is at work on behalf of his people making things right and working even the most broken of situations out for our good.
PRAY: Worship God for his sovereignty today. Thank him for working behind the scenes and fighting for you always. Thank him that even in the most broken of situations in life you can have confidence that he is on your side and he is in control.