This is the world awaiting Esther: a king, his military officers, his nobles and officials had just previously spent 180 days partying.
3 In the third year of his reign, he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. He invited all the military officers of Persia and Media as well as the princes and nobles of the provinces. 4 The celebration lasted 180 days—a tremendous display of the opulent wealth of his empire and the pomp and splendor of his majesty. (Esther 1:3-4, NLT)
Then, an additional extravagant week of limitless indulgence, for the people, the greatest to the least.
7 Drinks were served in gold goblets of many designs, and there was an abundance of royal wine, reflecting the king’s generosity. 8 By edict of the king, no limits were placed on the drinking, for the king had instructed all his palace officials to serve each man as much as he wanted. (Esther 1:7-8, NLT)
This was Queen Vashti’s world, a glimpse of it anyway. Partying. Excess. Vanity. And I think, perhaps, she’d had enough. At least that day, anyway. I can’t know for sure, because there isn’t much detail about her perspective.
10 On the seventh day of the feast, when King Xerxes was in high spirits because of the wine, he told the seven eunuchs who attended him (…) 11 to bring Queen Vashti to him with the royal crown on her head. He wanted the nobles and all the other men to gaze on her beauty, for she was a very beautiful woman. (Esther 1:10-11, NLT)
(You can read the whole of it in Esther 1-3 if you haven’t, but Vashti refuses to be gazed upon “for her beauty” by the king’s drunken nobles and all the other men.)
I look closer at the king and his advisors. I look at the world they lived in. Instead of being starstruck by these delicious words: tremendous display, opulent wealth, pomp, splendor, majesty, abundance, no limits, all they wanted–I see a stage that feeds a king’s ego and his anger, and a group of advisors enjoying a luxuriant life in his good graces–a lifestyle they don’t want jeopardized by opposition or upheaval.
His advisors tell him to banish Vashti so other women don’t stand up to their husbands. And, later, that Haman, whose own ego is affronted when a man won’t bow in his presence (by order of the king), when those around him egg him, “Are you going to let him get away with that?”, his own pride and power position leads him down a murderous, vengeful path.
8 Then Haman approached King Xerxes and said, “There is a certain race of people scattered through all the provinces of your empire who keep themselves separate from everyone else. Their laws are different from those of any other people, and they refuse to obey the laws of the king. So it is not in the king’s interest to let them live. 9 If it please the king, issue a decree that they be destroyed, and I will give 10,000 large sacks of silver to the government administrators to be deposited in the royal treasury.” (Esther 3:8-9, NLT)
Simple. Tidy. Just get rid of them. And the king agrees. There’s more to the story, but that’s all for my reading today. A pot of turmoil brewing.
But as I read on in other books, I am comforted and held by the words in all of Psalm 139. Of a sovereign and just God who knows me (he formed me), who goes before me and behind me, who holds a book listing every single day of my life, whose thoughts about me are precious and so many they can’t even be numbered. I know that no matter what today holds, or what tomorrow holds, I am held and known and loved by God.
And I am encouraged by John’s words in Revelation 1:9, NLT:
I, John, am your brother and your partner in suffering and in God’s Kingdom and in the patient endurance to which Jesus calls us. I was exiled to the island of Patmos for preaching the word of God and for my testimony about Jesus.
A brother and partner in suffering. In God’s Kingdom. In the patient endurance to which Jesus calls us. Who was exiled for preaching the word of God and exiled for his testimony about Jesus.
Lord, thank you for your word. Thank you for true stories of courage and perseverance. Thank you for your repetition of your love for me, for all of us, for your sovereignty and plan. I am reminded I am not alone–you won’t leave me. And I am comforted reading a message from John, who knew you and loved you and served you with patient endurance.