Esther, Chapter 1:1-8
“Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus (this was the Ahasuerus who reigned over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces, from India to Ethiopia), 2 in those days when King Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the citadel, 3 that in the third year of his reign he made a feast for all his officials and servants—the powers of Persia and Media, the nobles, and the princes of the provinces being before him— 4 when he showed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the splendor of his excellent majesty for many days, one hundred and eighty days in all.
“5 And when these days were completed, the king made a feast lasting seven days for all the people who were present in Shushan the citadel, from great to small, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace. 6 There were white and blue linen curtains fastened with cords of fine linen and purple on silver rods and marble pillars; and the couches were of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of alabaster, turquoise, and white and black marble. 7 And they served drinks in golden vessels, each vessel being different from the other, with royal wine in abundance, according to the generosity of the king. 8 In accordance with the law, the drinking was not compulsory; for so the king had ordered all the officers of his household, that they should do according to each man’s pleasure.“
I pray that you have all had a wonderful break. Here in Canada, we are still struggling under the COVID mess. We are in a lockdown right now that is supposed to be stopping the spread of COVID, but it is also killing a lot of businesses. There is a fear of lots of cancer-related deaths as people are not able to be diagnosed and cared for, and there is a lot of emotional fallout as well. I have seen more ads for the suicide hotlines in the last few weeks than I have seen in the previous year. As I was ending the last series in Romans, one of the dear ladies in our church asked if I could do a series on Esther. So, we are going to travel through the book of Esther for the next few weeks.
There are some unique things about the book of Esther; the name of God is never mentioned in it, but we can certainly see the hand of God in it. This book covers events that happen during the reign of Ahasuerus, and events that happened beginning around 483-482 BC, concluding in about 473 BC. The book covers about 10 years; Ahasuerus reigned from 486-465 BC, so this covers about half of his reign. This is one of the ‘feel-good’ stories of the Bible where the ‘bad guy’ gets his just desserts and the ‘good guy’ gets his reward. As well, there are not many stories in the Bible where there is a woman hero, so this is a really popular book with the ladies, as is the book of Ruth.
As we open the book, we are met by a party – a very large party. Often, when we think of the eras that are described to us in the Bible, we do not understand the depth of the wealth that many people had. We, as Bible people, are familiar with King Solomon; he had great wealth, and no one else in the world has ever had that kind of wealth. Yes, not even our modern-day billionaires are as wealthy as Solomon was; let that sink in. Nonetheless, Ahasuerus was very wealthy, and the Persian Empire at the time of the book of Esther was very wealthy.
Persia represents modern-day Iran. As you can see from the description of the size of the territory in verse 1, the landmass that Persia controlled was huge. If you take out a map and take a look, you will see that the kingdom covered 4,310 kilometers ‘as the crow flies’ from Ethiopia to India, but as a landmass, it covered modern-day Yemen, Oman, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and a lot of lands. This was a huge empire to rule over, and as such, generated a lot of wealth. We get to see a display of wealth in the opening verses of this book.
- Six Months of Partying
I had a party here for our family and the birthdays of three of the people in our family in late September. We had about 30 people or so. We cooked lasagna, grilled hot dogs, people brought salads, pizzas, and we had punch and pop. It took weeks of planning and prepping to get this all together. I cannot imagine what a 6-month party would entail. Yes, six months, 180 days, half a year, this was the duration of the viewing that Ahasuerus threw as we begin the book of Esther. He has been king for 3 years, and I guess he wanted to show off his wealth; and show off he did. We are told there were servants from all of his provinces and that there were 127 of them. This function hosted at least 127 people, plus other dignitaries.
In the process of the 180 days of this party, the purpose was for the king to show off his wealth. If we recall the image from Daniel 2, there, Persians were the second world kingdom; there was the silver part of the image that Nebuchadnezzar saw. When we read Daniel 5, we see that a man named Cyrus the Mede invades the city of Babylon and conquers the Chaldeans, but it is not long after that the second ‘arm’ of the Persian empire becomes the stronger one and the Medes fade into history. At the end of his display of wealth, he then schedules a seven-day garden party. This was a display of power and wealth; he wanted to show off the majesty of the kingdom he ruled, and man, did he do a good job! There was no doubt that Ahasuerus was rich.
We have modern-day royals. My wife is British, and we are watching the Crown. Wow! Money. Lots and lots of money. According to Forbes, the Queen herself is worth about $500,000,000 USD and has an estate worth 13.4 billion British pounds. The Royal family of England is very wealthy. There are many wealthy individuals who live among us – men like Warren Buffet and, of course, Jeff Bezos of Amazon and many others. Money is not something they have to worry about, ever. And such was the case here in Persia, in Shushan the citadel; money was no object. Shushan, the center of this party with Ahasuerus, would have been busy and filled with people.
- It’s all about Pleasure
Earthly pleasure is fleeting at best. But for a period of time, about 180 days, and then with a 7-day finale, the people of the Persian Empire, great and small, had pleasure. There was lots of food, lots of alcohol, and every man was free to do as he pleased. There gets to be a point in the life of the rich that you don’t need to make more money, you don’t need to work, and no matter how much you spend, you will not run out of money. If you had a billion dollars and decided to spend a million dollars a day, it would take almost 3 years before you ran out of money. Imagine someone worth 100 Billion dollars; the interest earned on your money as you spent it would keep you going forever.
People live for pleasure, and this is the problem with many people and money. They try to fill a hole in their lives with money, riches, women and fun that only God can fill. They place their hope in money and not in God. Once again, go and read Daniel 5; the king was partying, not knowing that night would be his last on earth.
Jesus told a story about a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus — one trusted his riches and ended up in Hell; the other trusted Jesus and ended up in Heaven. The rich man would surely have traded his earthly riches for what Lazarus had for eternity.
As we begin the story here in Esther, no one who had not read the book would imagine the intrigue and emotional rollercoasters that would follow. No one would imagine the speed at which pleasure can be taken from you. One minute you are partying with the people of your kingdom, and the next, you are banishing a queen and looking for a replacement.
- The Love Story
What we are about to embark on is a love story. What most kings of that day had — and sadly, many marriages in the Biblical days — were not love stories. They were political arrangements and power arrangements. I won’t attack your kingdom because I am married to your daughter and have your grandchildren, or vice-versa. But the book of Esther will carry us on a love journey – a man’s love for his niece, her love for him, a king’s love for a young lady, her love for him, a man’s love for God’s people, and a man’s hatred of God’s people. We will learn about intrigue and suspense. We will experience fear and suspense like all dramas.
But in it all, the hand of God will be clearly seen. God has prepared a young woman to catch the eye of the king, God has prepared a plot for Mordecai to foil, God will have a sleepless night for the king to need the archives, and God will foil the plots of the evil. God’s love for his people will be very clearly seen, and the fact that He uses mere humans in his plots to make a difference.
What about you and me? We, like Esther, live in a time when the people of God are under attack. There are persons and establishments in society that hate that we have the truth of Jesus as the ONLY WAY to Heaven, that hate that there is a Creator and a God to whom we must answer for our lives. They hate that Heaven and Hell are real. They hate that no matter how they try, the work of God goes on unabated as people all over the world, even in the dark recesses of the earth, are saved and baptized.
The love story of the Bible goes on. Jesus loves you and me; He has prepared a way for Him and us to be united in His death, burial and resurrection. The love story of God’s people, who are looking for our redemption from above, moves on. The book of Esther happened in history a long time ago, but the lessons are relative to us in 2021.
Will you and I put our lives on the line for the truth, for the things of God, for the lives of the lost and for the cause of Jesus? Will we be paralyzed by fear or driven by love for Him and our trust in Him?
There are so many questions that we will be posed with as we journey through Esther. But for now, let me ask you this: is your security in Jesus or in your riches? We here in North America are blessed beyond all we could ask or think. But where have you placed your security? Mine is in the shed blood of Jesus and the empty tomb; where is yours?
God bless you,
Dr. Sean Gooding
Pastor of Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church
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