“After these things, when the wrath of King Ahasuerus subsided, he remembered Vashti, what she had done, and what had been decreed against her. 2 Then the king’s servants who attended him said: ‘Let beautiful young virgins be sought for the king; 3 and let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom, that they may gather all the beautiful young virgins to Shushan the citadel, into the women’s quarters, under the custody of Hegai the king’s eunuch, custodian of the women. And let beauty preparations be given them. 4 Then let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.’ This thing pleased the king, and he did so.
“5 In Shushan the citadel there was a certain Jew whose name was Mordecai the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite. 6 Kish had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captives who had been captured with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away. 7 And Mordecai had brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle’s daughter, for she had neither father nor mother. The young woman was lovely and beautiful. When her father and mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter.
“8 So it was, when the king’s command and decree were heard, and when many young women were gathered at Shushan the citadel, under the custody of Hegai, that Esther also was taken to the king’s palace, into the care of Hegai the custodian of the women. 9 Now the young woman pleased him, and she obtained his favor; so he readily gave beauty preparations to her, besides her allowance. Then seven choice maidservants were provided for her from the king’s palace, and he moved her and her maidservants to the best place in the house of the women.”
Last week we looked at the idea of Absolute Power in the hands of a man, the king. While we do not really have examples of that today for the most part except for regimes like North Korea or Iran, we understand that kind of power in our Lord. I will tell you that I have had to rely on that knowledge to get me through the events of this week, January 20th, 2021. I have had to remind myself that God is in absolute control even over the President of the USA and that I should trust His plan even when I can’t see the end and the hairs on the back of my neck are standing up.
The king is now lonely and needs a queen. His servants come up with an idea that they should seek out young women, virgins from all over the kingdom, and then they should be brought to the capital where they could be pampered then one by one brought to the king to see which one he liked the most. Kind of a lottery to be the queen. If we just take a cursory count, there were 127 provinces, so there may have been at least 127 young ladies who participated in this event.
This is a good time to point out something very important: there was a correlation between young women and the fact that they were virgins. In the OT we see phrases like ‘a virgin shall conceive,’ and in some translations, they use the ‘young woman’ instead of ‘the virgin,’; thus many liberal ‘theologians’ [this is an oxymoron, by the way], say that virgin statues of Mary can be called into question. This is heresy and needs to be dealt with.
These young women would have been in their mid-teens, 15-16 or so, and they would have been virgins, all of them that came to the king. If not, they would be executed if they were found not to be virgins. The idea of virginity was taken very, very seriously among the people of the OT, especially the Jews (read Deuteronomy 22:13-20). A young woman that was not a virgin at her wedding night could be executed. So, this idea of virginity was not taken lightly. It was a matter of life or death.
In our time, 2021, it is almost a rare thing for young women, even in the Lord’s churches, to be virgins on their wedding night; but in the day of Esther, it was a very, very important thing. As well in the context of this story, Esther could not have come to the king unless she was a virgin. Mary, like Esther, was a virgin, in her mid-teens, and Jesus was born without the aid of human man, He was conceived via the Holy Spirit and is the perfect, sinless God-man.
- Mordecai, verse 5
While the book is called Esther, one of the main characters is Mordecai. Many of you will know about his role in saving the king’s life if you have ever read Esther. But his real fame is that he raised Esther in a pagan culture, and yet she grew up loving the God of Israel and was willing as a young woman to take on great responsibility, even putting her life on the line.
Mordecai, we are told, was brought with the captives from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. He would have been a counterpart with Daniel and the other three Hebrew boys we meet in Daniel 1. Mordecai, if we allow the 70 years of captivity, would have been in his eighties. He has taken care of Esther after her parents had died and he had raised her. He loved her, and she loved him. She was as a daughter to him.
I learned over the years that there is no such thing as a ‘step’ child among the Jewish people. When I was a boy, 15 years old, my father died; we buried him just before my 16th birthday. We moved a month later to Canada, and over the next 5 years, my mom developed a relationship with my step-dad, Andy. I have never considered him a step-dad, and I have never had him introduce me as a step-son; he is my dad, and I am his son. Later on in my life, I married, and my wife had two children from a previous marriage. These are my kids; I have never introduced them as my step-kids. They are my kids, they call me Dad, and have never introduced me as a step-dad.
Mordecai loved Esther as a daughter. In like manner, there are no step-kids in the kingdom of God. You and I are born into the Kingdom through the salvation we have in Jesus, and we are joint-heirs with Jesus. God loves us as sons and daughters (1 John 3:1).
As much as we love the story of Esther, one of the greatest parts of the story is that Mordecai raised her in a pagan city, and yet she loved and served the God of Israel. This is a challenge to all of us parents; we cannot and should not use the culture around us as an excuse to not bring up our children in the ‘fear and admonition’ of the Lord. If Mordecai could do it in Shushan, you and I could do it in Toronto or New York or London; we parents have to determine and set our minds to it. The most obvious thing is that Mordecai lived what he believed and that even as a young woman, Esther was taught responsibility for others.
As the new queen, I am not spoiling anything; you know the story. She could have washed her hands of her people and wholly adopted her new role. But no, she was raised to take her faith seriously, not to shy away in the face of adversity and to do what was right, no matter the cost. Oh, that we had more adults and young people like this today in our churches! But what we have seen is that more and more, adults and kids alike do not want to take on any responsibility for others, they never witness, and they have decided to look and act like the culture around them, so they are not effective.
When the time comes to stand, they have no testimony to stand on. What about you and I and our kids? I will be the first to confess that I did not do a great job; at least my results do not reflect that. I have one son who wants nothing to do with the Lord; one daughter that, while she is in church, it is not a doctrinally sound church; and one daughter that we are raising in a Christian School and working diligently with her to prepare her to be like Esther.
- Esther, verse 7
The Bible does not say much about people’s physical appearances. We have no real physical description of Jesus other than that he was able to get lost in a crowd of Jewish guys, so he looked just like the average Jewish man. Bathsheba is described as being very beautiful. We do not know what the standard of beauty was at that time. In Esther’s case, she was lovely and beautiful.
Let us deal with the easy part; she was beautiful. Since the dress code was very conservative, most women and even men wore long robes that went to the ground; there was not much skin to speak of like we see today. Thus, her beauty would have been based primarily on her face. She would have been a beauty according to Persian standards. Her face, her eyes, her hair and other aspects would have made her beautiful. She was given further beauty preparations by the man that was in charge of the young women, which would have enhanced her natural beauty. We have the idea that all of our modern beauty techniques are new, but things like mascara, potions and lotions are nothing new in the physical beauty world.
Now the hard part; she was lovely. This was a reflection of her spirit and character. She was lovely. She was not arrogant and full of herself. We see that a lot with those blessed with physical beauty, but not Esther; she carried herself well. She respected authority (we will explore that more next time), and she was a pleasant person to be around. She endeared herself to the manager of the king’s women right away, and she had his regard and respect.
Learning how to carry yourself and present yourself is an important part of life, and especially the Christian life. There should be something that draws people to you. There should be a sweetness and a gentleness, even as men, that make people want to be around you. If people don’t want to be around you, you will never get to witness to them and share Jesus with them. We should live in such a way that people want to know why we are different. And, by the way, this does not mean being weak. Esther was not weak; she was actually a very strong young woman, but she was not arrogant, and she understood and submitted to authority.
What about you? Are you a lovely person? Do people want to be around you? Do you draw people to you by your personality, or are you a shallow person? You are beautiful on the outside, but there is no beauty below the surface? God’s people should not be that way. We should be beautiful all the way through. Take a look at Galatians 5:22-26,
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.”
Do these verses describe you and me? If yes, then we too will be lovely. Let us desire to be lovely.
God bless you,
Dr. Sean Gooding
Pastor of Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church
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