Our passage today is another of many in the Scriptures where you may find yourself laughing out loud as you read it! At the same time, considering life in the culture of that day, there is much about Persia in 483 B.C. that makes you cringe. There is the sexism of antiquity where women were so often merely the objects of sexual excesses by immoral and powerful monarchs. But it doesn’t actually stop with just women and harems, but also includes large numbers of eunuchs who were subjugated to what must have been about the most bizarre lives imaginable.
Back to the story — you’ve gotta love Queen Vashti, the original women’s libber who would make Hillary Clinton look like a pansy by comparison …
10 On the seventh day, when King Xerxes was in high spirits from wine, he commanded the seven eunuchs who served him—Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar and Karkas— 11 to bring before him Queen Vashti, wearing her royal crown, in order to display her beauty to the people and nobles, for she was lovely to look at. 12 But when the attendants delivered the king’s command, Queen Vashti refused to come. Then the king became furious and burned with anger.
Such insolence could not be allowed to stand, and so the king does what all politicians do when they don’t have any backbone or know what to do, he calls in a bunch of “experts.” The advice is to crack down hard (as they were probably all scared themselves that their wives may be emboldened to do the same thing)!
13 Since it was customary for the king to consult experts in matters of law and justice, he spoke with the wise men who understood the times 14 and were closest to the king—Karshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena and Memukan, the seven nobles of Persia and Media who had special access to the king and were highest in the kingdom.
15 “According to law, what must be done to Queen Vashti?” he asked. “She has not obeyed the command of King Xerxes that the eunuchs have taken to her.”
16 Then Memukan replied in the presence of the king and the nobles, “Queen Vashti has done wrong, not only against the king but also against all the nobles and the peoples of all the provinces of King Xerxes. 17 For the queen’s conduct will become known to all the women, and so they will despise their husbands and say, ‘King Xerxes commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, but she would not come.’ 18 This very day the Persian and Median women of the nobility who have heard about the queen’s conduct will respond to all the king’s nobles in the same way. There will be no end of disrespect and discord.
19 “Therefore, if it pleases the king, let him issue a royal decree and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media, which cannot be repealed, that Vashti is never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes. Also let the king give her royal position to someone else who is better than she. 20 Then when the king’s edict is proclaimed throughout all his vast realm, all the women will respect their husbands, from the least to the greatest.”
21 The king and his nobles were pleased with this advice, so the king did as Memukan proposed. 22 He sent dispatches to all parts of the kingdom, to each province in its own script and to each people in their own language, proclaiming that every man should be ruler over his own household, using his native tongue.
We know that the next part of the story involves Esther being a part of this queen audition that will go on for several years. And it will put her into an odd position of being caught between God’s timeless moral law and the culture and enforcement of law that would involve her personally.
So let me make a second point to follow the first stated yesterday … yesterday’s point being that there is nothing about the kingdoms and systems of power in this world that naturally orient them toward goodness and justice. Secondly, for today, since the kingdoms of this world are terribly flawed, and since we live within such systems until the return of Christ or our calling to heaven, we live in a situation of being caught between two worlds.
Many of the great minds of Christianity have written upon this very idea, beginning with the Apostle Paul and through St. Augustine to modern times. We need to recognize this truth and have it be a part of our daily mindset.
We cannot become undone or overly-saddened by our lives in this world. The news of international crises is terribly concerning these days; where is that headed? We recognize our economy is frightfully fragile, some writers predicting that even this very week will be one of economic collapse. And we wonder what is the future of people of faith within an increasingly hostile broader culture.
We need to understand that this is not unique or unexpected. It is par for the course. Jesus said we would have tribulation and persecution in this world … that they did it to Him, and will do it to us … but He has overcome the world.
And Peter, who knew something about being on the receiving end of persecution, said, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice in as much as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.”