Monday, September 9, 2013
Esther Bible Series- Chapter 1
Introduction to Esther
The book of Esther is a beautiful story of one woman who courageously gave of herself for the will of God and His people. Women like you and I can glean inspiration from her strength, wisdom and her dignity as we face our fears and boldly stand before the throne of our God.
The events in the story of Esther reveal the plot of one man who desired to have God’s people destroyed, and the courage of a woman who stepped out in faith to turn that plan around. Esther gives us something to celebrate as it chronicles the deliverance of God’s chosen people, the Jews.
It is also a great lesson on Biblical submission for both women and the church in general. It inspires believers to trust God's wisdom and timing, and to stand strong in the face of persecution.
“Righteousness” is one of the main themes in the book. This story teaches us that righteousness is imputed to us. It’s given to us freely through faith in Jesus Christ. It is in the book of Esther that the feast of Purim (a feast that the Jews still celebrate today) is established.
The Book of Esther or the Megillah is the basis for the Jewish celebration of Purim. Its full text is read aloud twice during the celebration, in the evening and again the following morning. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves as we’ll talk more about that in chapter nine.
Esther Chapter One
Main characters in the first chapter and the Hebrew meaning of their names:
Ahasuerus – Mighty or venerable (respected) king.
Vashti – Beautiful
Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus, (this is Ahasuerus which reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia, over an hundred and seven and twenty provinces. That in those days, when the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the palace, in the third year of his reign, he made a feast unto all his princes and his servants; the power of Persia and Media, the nobles and princes of the provinces, being before him: When he shewed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honour of his excellent majesty many days, even an hundred and fourscore days.
In chapter one, we’re introduced to King Ahasuerus. We are told in verse 1 that he reigned over 127 provinces, and in verse 2 we see that his kingdom was in Shushan, which is also known as “Susa.”
The king made a feast greater than any other that we have read about in scripture--except of course the marriage supper of the lamb, which is yet to come!The reason for the feast is unknown for sure, but what we do know is that it lasted 180 days, followed by a 7-day feast.
And when these days were expired, the king made a feast unto all the people that were present in Shushan the palace, both unto great and small, seven days, in the court of the garden of the king's palace; where were white, green, and blue, hangings, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble: the beds were of gold and silver, upon a pavement of red, and blue, and white, and black, marble. And they gave them drink in vessels of gold, (the vessels being diverse one from another,) and royal wine in abundance, according to the state of the king. And the drinking was according to the law; none did compel: for so the king had appointed to all the officers of his house, that they should do according to every man's pleasure. Also Vashti the queen made a feast for the women in the royal house which belonged to king Ahasuerus.
What we learn about in these verses is that the seven day feast was extremely lavish. As you’re reading these scriptures, what do you learn about these four things?
1. The location of the feast:
2. The decorations:
3. The drink:
4. The furnishings:
As we continue to read, we start to notice that King Ahasuerus was a foreshadow of a greater King and his party of yet a greater feast—Jesus and the marriage supper of the lamb.
He’s not a flawless example of Christ by any means, as neither were David or Solomon. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” but the lives of many flawed men have been used throughout scripture to illustrate Jesus as our Lord and King.
Notice the intimacy of the location at this seven-day feast? It was in the court of the garden of the King’s palace. In Revelation we are invited to come and sup with Jesus, our King, in the most honored and intimate place—His throne room:
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. ~ Revelation 3:20-21, KJV
On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven chamberlains that served in the presence of Ahasuerus the king, to bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on. But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king's commandment by his chamberlains: therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him. Then the king said to the wise men, which knew the times, (for so was the king's manner toward all that knew law and judgment: and the next unto him was Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, which saw the king's face, and which sat the first in the kingdom;) What shall we do unto the queen Vashti according to law, because she hath not performed the commandment of the king Ahasuerus by the chamberlains?
Compare verses 10-12 with that of the parable found in Matthew 22:1-7. What similarities do you find?
And Memucan answered before the king and the princes, Vashti the queen hath not done wrong to the king only, but also to all the princes, and to all the people that are in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus. For this deed of the queen shall come abroad unto all women, so that they shall despise their husbands in their eyes, when it shall be reported, The king Ahasuerus commanded Vashti the queen to be brought in before him, but she came not. Likewise shall the ladies of Persia and Media say this day unto all the king's princes, which have heard of the deed of the queen. Thus shall there arise too much contempt and wrath. 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.
It’s interesting to note here that while Queen Vashti was an ancient example of women’s liberation with her refusal to submit to her husband, we are dealing with a much deeper issue which is that of God’s people refusing to submit to Jesus Christ as their King.
I know that some readers may disagree with me, saying that the King was drunk (the heart of the king was merry with wine) and therefore Vashti had good reason to refuse him. And yet some others may say, “This was the seventh day of the feast, and I’m sure that she was tired…”
Okay, seriously — what?
This is the King we are talking about. Not a drunken back-yard mechanic that’s calling you into the garage to show you off to the guys. It was an honor even for the queen to be called into the King’s presence. And besides that, the scripture doesn’t give us any valid reason she didn’t. So making excuses for her would be speculation at best.
The way I see it, this is a matter of submission and “righteousness.” Now before I lose you, let me explain ...
Righteousness is conformity to God’s laws. But you see, since we are all human beings and therefore fallible, not one of us can be righteous by our own work. Therefore, righteousness is imputed (freely given) to us by God through faith in Jesus Christ.
The Jews refused to accept Jesus as their King, and continued to live by the works of law in much the same way as Vashti refused to submit to the King. Both beauty and sacrifice are merely skin deep, unless they stem from obedience to God through Jesus Christ. It’s a lack of faith on our part when we can’t trust God’s wisdom over our own. And so people distort the truth of God’s word delivered by the hand of His messengers. We see this happening every minute of every day as people assume that good deeds and being a good person somehow makes them righteous.
It doesn’t make us righteous any more than her beauty did. The truth is that we are all born in sin, and we all fall into sin, therefore we are in need of a savior. To say that she didn’t go because her husband was drunk wouldn’t make all that much sense since she was beckoned to come by his messengers.
Compare verse 19 to Matthew 22:11-13.
1. In this parable, what do you think the wedding garment represented and how might that compare to the attitude of Queen Vashti?
2. How does it compare to the attitude of many “god” believing people today?
If you have trouble answering those questions, consider this verse:
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels. ~ Isaiah 61:10, KJV
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. And the saying pleased the king and the princes; and the king did according to the word of Memucan: for he sent letters into all the king's provinces, into every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language, that every man should bear rule in his own house, and that it should be published according to the language of every people.
I love this one little verse tucked into scripture—in fact my heart started beating crazy hard when I read it!--because it’s packed with direction for today’s church. Let's read again in that light:
"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". ~ Esther 1:20, KJV
See another similarity to The New Testament church there? In verse 20 all women were commanded to honor their husbands.
Because this sent an important message to everyone: that the queen must submit to the King!
If Jesus is the King, then who is His queen?
That is easy enough to answer. The church body is His queen (that would be you and I; by the way)
Compare Ephesians 5:22-28. What are the roles of both husbands and wives?
When you and I submit to our husbands, we are not only submitting to the commandments found in scripture, we are sending a message out to the kingdom far and wide: that the queen must submit to the King of all kings!
Chapter one is an illustration of God beckoning his people to come to the marriage supper of the Lamb through faith in Jesus.
When you are saved through faith in Jesus Christ, your righteousness is imputed (freely given) to you. And so yes, we will stumble and fall and sin because we are human. It is because we love Jesus that we obey His commandments and continue to try to be the very best that we possibly can be. Not perfectly, but that is our goal.