Esther Lesson 2: Absolute Power :: By Sean Gooding

Chapter 1:9-22

9 Queen Vashti also made a feast for the women in the royal palace which belonged to King Ahasuerus. 10 On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus, 11 to bring Queen Vashti before the king, wearing her royal crown, in order to show her beauty to the people and the officials, for she was beautiful to behold. 12 But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command brought by his eunuchs; therefore, the king was furious, and his anger burned within him.

13 Then the king said to the wise men who understood the times (for this was the king’s manner toward all who knew law and justice, 14 those closest to him being Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, who had access to the king’s presence, and who ranked highest in the kingdom): 15 ‘What shall we do to Queen Vashti, according to law, because she did not obey the command of King Ahasuerus brought to her by the eunuchs?’

16 And Memucan answered before the king and the princes: ‘Queen Vashti has not only wronged the king, but also all the princes, and all the people who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. 17 For the queen’s behavior will become known to all women, so that they will despise their husbands in their eyes, when they report, ‘King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought in before him, but she did not come.’ 18 This very day the noble ladies of Persia and Media will say to all the king’s officials that they have heard of the behavior of the queen. Thus, there will be excessive contempt and wrath.

19 If it pleases the king, let a royal decree go out from him, and let it be recorded in the laws of the Persians and the Medes, so that it will not be altered, that Vashti shall come no more before King Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she. 20 When the king’s decree which he will make is proclaimed throughout all his empire (for it is great), all wives will honor their husbands, both great and small.’ 21 And the reply pleased the king and the princes, and the king did according to the word of Memucan. 22 Then he sent letters to all the king’s provinces, to each province in its own script, and to every people in their own language, that each man should be master in his own house, and speak in the language of his own people.”

Today we are about to explore something that many of us do not know firsthand. The idea that a man can have absolute power. Most of us live in democracies; we get to vote in or out our political leaders. My wife and I have been watching the Crown, and even the Queen of England is limited as far as her power because she is a Constitutional Monarch. She has to live at the behest of the British Parliament. Even in the USA, there are three branches of government that are equal: Legislative (makes laws), Executive (carries out laws), and Judicial (interprets laws). None have absolute power. In contrast, the kings of the Old Testament and right up to the middle of the 1800s had absolute power. They could order the death of someone at a whim, and they were killed without recourse.

In 2 Samuel 1, we find an account of a young man giving David a report, and the man admits to killing Saul so he would not be taken after his death in the battle. The young man may have thought he was gaining points with David, the new king, but what he was doing was signing his death warrant. In verse 15, David orders his execution. No trial, no warrant, no discussion, just kill him; and one of his soldiers did just that. This is absolute power, the power of life and death. Jesus, we are told, will rule like David. He, when He returns, will not be ruled by a voting public; rather, He will rule with a rod of Iron (Revelation 2:27).

The Queen Had a Party as Well, Verse 9

As we can see here, the men and the women did not party together. This is very foreign to us, but I can attest to that personally. When I was a boy, about 12 or so, my cousin was getting married in Trinidad, an island in the Caribbean not far south of Barbados where I grew up. It was a Muslim wedding, and during the course of the wedding, the groom and bride were separated – men with men and women with women. We boys served the women their food and the like, and the couple even took their vows over a microphone and did not see each other that day until they left on their honeymoon. My family are East Indians, and I learned that this was their custom. The ladies partied in one area and the men in another.

Now, if you recall our lesson last week, this had been going on for the better part of 6 months. Ahasuerus, now in his third year of power, is showing off his wealth and has opened the capital, Shushan, for 6 months to be viewed by the masses. At the end of the 180 days, he threw a 7-day feast with lots of food and drink. The queen also has a party for the ladies on her side of the castle, so to speak. Men and women did not conduct business together, and as we can see, they did not even party together. The king, if he wanted to see the queen, would send for her.

So, on the 7th day of the feast, the king asks that the queen come dressed in her royal garb and finery. We see the term eunuch used in the verses from 10-12; these were men assigned to care for the needs of the king’s harem, but they were made into eunuchs so that they would not be able to engage in sexual relations with the king’s women. Like many kings of his day, Ahasuerus had a lot of wives and concubines in his harem. We are all familiar with Solomon; he had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3). But many do not know that David had lots of wives as well (2 Samuel 5:13). I am not justifying the practice, just reporting what the Bible says.

The Queen Refuses to Come, Verse 12

I am not sure what she was thinking. Maybe she had too much wine or was involved in a deep conversation with one of the other ladies and did not want to end it. But she decided that she would defy the king’s request. Sometimes people forget who is the boss and who is not the boss. We have an issue with that in our lives sometimes. In the last twenty years, we have raised a generation of kids that do not know how to submit to power. They get in the face of all senses of authority, and then we wonder why they question every command of Jesus. We have a generation of people that defy God to His face; they literally look for ways to defy God. If God says ‘NO!” then that is all they want to do.

The king was very angry. Not the end he was looking for to the 7-day festival. He wanted to show off his wife, his ultimate treasure. I am sure that Vashti was the preeminent beauty of her day; whatever the standard of beauty was, she was it. In keeping with the tradition of the times, this would have been an arranged marriage; maybe not a lot of love and romance was involved. She was a showpiece for the king. She would have his beautiful children, and when she was called, appear before him and be the queen. But she forgot her place.

Now, I have heard a lot of lady preachers (not allowed in scripture) talk about feminism and women’s liberation from this passage. She was standing up for herself, showing that she was not just a showpiece. But Vashti knew her place, and with it came benefits of being the queen; she had the clothes, the money, the attention and the servants. She had the place that every little girl of her day wanted; and on this day, she lost it. She gave it up for some reason. Now we know the reason; God had an even more beautiful girl waiting to step into the role and to save the Jews from destruction. However, neither Vashti nor anyone else but God knew that.

Sometimes we don’t get why things happen. I am struggling with that right now. I see attacks on the President of the USA, President Trump. This man has helped or orchestrated the closure of 900 abortion clinics; defunded Planned Parenthood; recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel; helped to get peace treaties with some of her enemies; rather than start wars, he has ended them; built a great economy; and yet, here he is being destroyed by the very people he has helped, and I wonder why this is happening. I have to trust that God has a plan and that he has a goal in mind that needs these things to happen. It is hard to watch and hard to stomach, but we must trust that God is in control no matter what.

The Queen’s Ripple Effect, Verses 13-16

What will the other wives think? If the queen can defy the king, then every wife in the kingdom will rebel against her husband. We can’t have that; it will be chaos. Our actions cause ripple effects. I have seen this often that what a parent does in moderation, a child will do to excess. People mimic leadership; if a country’s leaders are corrupt, society, in general, will be corrupt. But if the leaders are righteous, they inspire the same. What about you in your circle? What behaviors do you project? Do you and I live in submissive obedience to the Lord and the people around us who have the authority, or are we the rebels? I do not know what the queen was thinking, but she was about to find out who was the king and who was not the king. She was about to make life a lot harder for the wives in the Persian kingdom.

Vashti was fired as the queen, and she never came to see the king again. She had been with the king, so she could not be with any other man; she would have been banished to the place where the concubines lived. These women were just used for sex, so to speak, and as we are told in verses 19-20, she was never allowed to come before the king again. I am not sure how old Vashti was, but the rest of her life was going to be a long and lonely existence filled with lots of regrets.

The king and the men sent out a decree, and the women in the land would see that the cost of defying the king was great. Vashti lost everything, and she was never seen again. Order had been restored. We are not accustomed to this kind of power – the power to banish a person or simply make them disappear, the power of life and death, the power to give life and take life. This is the power that kings used to have – real power that was regarded and feared. One did not cross the king.

While Jesus is a righteous King, He is an absolute King. He, too, will have the power to take and give life. Most people don’t like that, but it is what it is. Jesus will not have to go to the British parliament to get permission to do anything; He will just do it. God is a Sovereign God; He did not counsel to do creation; He did not ask permission or need help to create and set the boundaries of our world. Jesus healed on command; He did not need to conjure up a ‘spirit’ or have the right circumstances; He just did it. He spoke to the waves, He ordered withered hands to work, the dead to wake up, He called to the dead to hop from the grave, He fed 20,000 with loaves and fishes, and He did because he could.

The Queen’s Lesson to Us

God is king, and He has the right to ask you and me to do anything at any time and without explanation. He can allow anything to happen to us (see Job 1-2) and for as long as He wants because He has and is the Absolute Power of the universe. The queen’s refusal to obey the king did not really cost him anything, but it cost her everything. In the same way, our refusal to obey God does not cost God anything, but it can cost you everything. God can always find someone else to do your job and to bless them. You may think what about God’s grace and kindness? And yes, that is all good. And there comes a time when God exercises His power. Remember the story of Uzzah in 2 Samuel 6:7? He touched the ark, trying to save it, and died immediately. God has strict rules of how the ark was to be carried; the Jews did not obey, and a man died.

All too often, we take advantage. I take advantage of God’s grace, and we say ‘no’ to Him in defiance, thinking we have asserted our power when we have just cheated ourselves of His blessings. When we disobey God and others see, there is a ripple effect as well, and others think it is okay to defy God. Soon, an entire nation turns on God, and He executes judgment. Well, Vashti felt swift and severe judgment as a consequence of her actions. She may not have thought out her actions, and sadly, many of us do not think our actions through. I have known many saved people, myself included, who have had to suffer the consequences of defying God.

Even in the midst of our rebellion, God can make something good. In the midst of hard lessons, God can majestically shine through and show His sovereignty and absolute power to not let all the failures of men thwart His plans. God is powerful. Our God is powerful. My God is powerful. Is your God All-Powerful? If he is not, why do you serve and worship him? Let me introduce you to Jesus Christ.

God bless you,

Dr. Sean Gooding

Pastor of Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church

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Esther Lesson 1: Wealth on Display :: By Sean Gooding

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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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