Reading through the Bible together

Monday, June 17, 2013

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The story of Esther cannot fail to inspire. In the boxes that hold memories of our children’s time in school there is a page adorned by our then little daughter.  The simple instruction reads: Draw a picture of your favorite Bible character. Below, Natalie drew a beautiful picture of a young woman—Esther—hand outstretched towards the bejeweled scepter of the king. 


The book of Esther tells the story of God’s hand at work, of His providence and care for His people. Interestingly, God is not mentioned in Esther. Not even once.  And yet, His love and guidance are clearly the thread that makes this account a marvel. At other points in scripture, God’s presence is unmistakable, and His will indisputable. In Esther, God works quietly, faithfully, persistently through otherwise ordinary individuals to shape His will and purpose. This is how most of us are used to God acting in our own lives. Perhaps it is part of the appeal of Esther’s story.  


God’s handiwork is clearly seen in two main themes in the book of Esther. The first is the theme of the great controversy. The individuals and the outcomes represent a universal story.  And it is difficult to miss Esther’s other main theme—reversals. The book of Esther is filled with individual and corporate reversals of fortune. More than coincidences, these reversals are evidence of God’s silent work.


In Esther 1 we meet the King of the Persian Empire, Ahasuerus—the Greek form of the name Xerxes—and the scene immediately shows us his character. The king is throwing a six-month long feast where the glories of his kingdom are exalted. Then the king then favors the residents, great and small, of his capital city—Susa—with a special week-long feast. The extravagance is hard to grasp even to our modern minds. 


As the men of the kingdom ate and drank to excess, Queen Vashti held a feast for the women. On the last day of the men’s feast the King’s eunuchs summoned Vashti. The king saved the best for last and delights to show off his treasured trophy; his beautiful wife.  


Vashti was not amused and refused to indulge her drunken husband’s wish. It is easy to let the imagination picture the scene when King Ahasuerus received the report of her refusal.  Incensed, he turned to his advisors and asked their opinion. The men, agitated, determined that Vashti’s actions must be dealt with, for the good of the kingdom and marriages throughout Persia. Vashti was removed as queen and respect for husbands was demanded by royal decree throughout the empire. 


Fortunately, we serve a King that is not proud, intemperate, weak or demanding like Ahasuerus. The God of the universe loves us enough, and trusts us enough, to allow us free will.  He has never demanded that we honor Him, but never has anyone been more deserving of it than our King. 


Jean Boonstra
Voice of Prophecy