Friday, September 17, 2010

Esther 1 - Setting the Stage

Bible study: The Book of Esther

Recap of Week 1 in Esther--It's Tough Being a Woman the Bible study by Beth Moore. We'd love to have you join us! For more information see this post.

Esther chapter 1 sets an impressive stage. The opulence of King Xerxes' palace and gardens and the extravagant banquet he hosts are impressive. The king himself is impressive too—one of the most handsome men in the kingdom, married to a royal wife who also happens to be a gorgeous trophy wife on top of it all. This guy has it all, and it was handed to him on a golden platter that probably had a matching golden goblet to go with it. He also sounds like a spoiled playboy, hung-up on his own greatness.

In 483 BC, the year that the book of Esther opens, King Xerxes held a great war council in preparation for his war with Greece, his rival. This war council was to rally supporters for the king's cause, and historically the dates and events line up for this to be the banquet in Esther 1. As the banquet comes to a close, Xerxes had one more thing to show off so he sends for his wife, Queen Vashti. He didn't just quietly send a messenger for her, he sent seven eunuchs for her. It sounds like he was planning an impressive, royal entrance, meant to wow the people at the banquet.

But it blew up in his face.

Have you ever had that happen? A big, ugly, public explosion. It's not pretty. And Xerxes didn't handle it too well. Remember, chances are he didn't hear “no” too many times in his life, and when he heard it from Vashti at that banquet it seems to have pushed him off the deep end. Xerxes took his personal problem with his wife and made it into a kingdom affair by asking the seven princes who sat in first place in the kingdom what he should do with his wife, the queen.

Memucan, one of the princes, spoke up with his opinion and rather than helping put out the fire, he fans the flames. His reply shows us that he saw Vashti's action as contempt and lack of respect for her husband and he feared her attitude and action would be contagious so he made a recommendation that affected every woman in the kingdom.

Xerxes, in his probable drunkenness, liked the advice and decreed that each man was to be the master in his own household. How ironic that he decreed others were to do what he could not. Can you imagine the impact that had on all the women? Oh my goodness! For some reason I just don't think Vashti was very popular among them after that.

One of the Principal Questions Beth gave us this week is How might he thought that “it's tough being a woman in another woman's shadow” have proved especially true for wives all over Persia?

Let's think about Vashti for a moment. She refused her husband's call, the king's summons, ultimately because she didn't want to be in his presence. If she had wanted to she would have found a way. She didn't want to for whatever reason.

And she got her wish! For some reason, though, I don't think Vashti ever planned on it being so permanent. She was brought up in royalty. She was accustomed to being in a high position, if not the highest position, and she lost all that. Sure, she got her wish, but look at the price she paid!
When we get hung-up on our rights, the consequences are often higher than we want to pay. Be careful what you want an push to get. You might want it only temporarily but end up with it permanently.
"Oddly, the most freeing thing we can ever do is to abdicate the throne of our own miniature kingdoms. Our status is infinitely higher as a servant in God's kingdom than a ruler in ours."

Beth Moore makes a great point this week in the homework. “Turning the Book of Esther into a gender war would miss the entire point.” Esther isn't about women submitting and man's authority, it's about God's providence in our lives. Even when--especially when--we cannot see His hand working we can know that He is.

This week we're on to Esther 2 where we meet Mordecai and Esther. If you have the audios or the videos of this study, listen to or watch Session 1: A Royal Mess. If you don't have them, you can download this week's audio here for $3.99 and the video here for $4.99. These are optional. If you do not have the audio or the video, you can find the Viewer Guide answers here. This week's viewer guide is on pages 32 & 33 in the workbook.

This is the first time Esther and Mordecai appear in Scripture so be sure to study and learn all you can about them since they have much to tell us and show us.

Something to think about as you study Mordecai: He was one of the captives--one carried away into captivity. I would guess that each of us has been carried away into captivity at some point in our lives. While Mordecai's captivity was physical, ours may be emotional or spiritual. It's still captivity. But just like God was working "behind the scenes" in Mordecai's life, God is working in ours, even when we think He isn't.

So often we don't really stop and think about what it meant for Esther to be an orphan. Her life could not have been easy. An orphan in captivity...

In this week's audio Beth Moore said:
You cannot amputate your history from your destiny. If you do, you will never fulfill your destiny! God wants to use your history--it is part of who you will become. You may want to forget it but wants to use it. You can't become the person God is going to make you without your history. Your destiny is tied to your history!

'For I know the plans that I have you,' declares the Lord, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.' ~Jeremiah 29:11 NAS

Nothing will make us feel more like orphans than not knowing if God is even there. He IS with us! "He is working to bring out the hidden person of incorruptible beauty in you. Trust Him. He will show up!"

So tell me...
**Why do you think Vashti refused Xerxes summons?

**How can we avoid being like Memucan?

**Think about the three main characters we met in Esther 1: Xerxes, Vashti and Memucan.
Do you see yourself in any of these people? Which one and why? What changes do you want to make after this week's study?


*Quotes from Beth Moore.

2 comments:

  1. I so relate to Vashti!
    Why did Vashti refuse the kings summons? I wonder if growing up in royalty—was she a little spoiled—used to getting her way. Was this her way of becoming full of herself and stomping her foot—thinking she was all-that she’d show the king, and he would pay attention to what she wanted.

    Too many times I have become determined to do something my way. After I got what I perceived to be so important—the consequences caused it to be so not worth it. I’m trying more to pursue His peace in everything I do. I’m not always successful. Just the other day, someone invited me to partner with a project they’re doing. I let my want-to get in the way, knowing God was leading me in a different direction. I had to go back to them, apologize and follow His leading. It was uncomfortable having to confess to a friend—I felt His peace afterward. I pray with His help to get it right the first time. Allowing His peace to be the umpire of my life.

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  2. I wonder if there was a bit of a feminist in Vashti---like no man is going to summons me! Like Patty's post says, I don't think she planned it to be a permanent thing.

    I think I'm tempted to be Vashti, that I know better, I'd like to call all shots on behalf of the "kingdom" but I know Esther's way of pray, wait, and feed your man is much wiser!

    Another great post Patty, and loved your response, Rita!

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