Monday, June 30, 2008

Esther - Law and Order Criminal Intent

Esther 2:19-23 When the virgins were assembled a second time, Mordecai was sitting at the king's gate. But Esther had kept secret her family background and nationality just as Mordecai had told her to do, for she continued to follow Mordecai's instructions as she had done when he was bringing her up. During the time Mordecai was sitting at the king's gate, Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king's officers who guarded the doorway, became angry and conspired to assassinate King Xerxes. But Mordecai found out about the plot and told Queen Esther, who in turn reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai. And when the report was investigated and found to be true, the two officials were hanged on a gallows. All this was recorded in the book of the annals in the presence of the king.

Caroline Rhea, the comedienne, once said, "I've gotten to the age where I forget everything. I'll walk into a room and suddenly forget why I went in there. But for some reason, I think I'll find the answer in the refrigerator." It takes some serious concentration, on my part, to remember something that I have not written down. I attribute most of my 45 lbs. weight-loss success to writing everything down that I eat. How else would I remember how much I've eaten? In our daily, busy, hectic lives, we are constantly bombarded with 'stuff' to do - it's impossible to remember everything.

Looking back to verse 11, Mordecai became a staple at the kings' gate. All during Esther's time preparing to meet the king, he would hang out in the courtyard. Now that Esther was queen, it was no different. But on this particular day in verse 21, something was amiss. I can see the made-for-TV movie murder mystery storyline now: Mo sat inconspicuously behind the pillars adjacent to the entryway. Biggy Big and T, the over-sized bouncers blocking the arch, were too incensed to notice him. Mo listened intently as the two hulking masses laid out their plot to send their boss on a trip to the bottom of the ocean.

Mordecai could've chosen to do nothing. People do it all the time, you hear it on the news every day: "Oh yeah, I heard screams, but I didn't think it was my business." However, Mordecai, being a man of God, did the right thing. He got word to Esther about these men and she told the king about it.

I LOVE verse 23. It just goes to show that the founders of our country DID have some Biblical knowledge and that they applied it to running a country! Verse 23 essentially says: they were innocent until proven guilty. Of course, these guys were guilty, but it's nice to know there was an investigation first. These men were executed and it was written down - along with the fact that it was Mordecai who had uncovered the plot. Even kings forget things.

Jesus will never forget you. Even when we disappoint Him, and we do, He does not forget us. He loves us and He cares for us and He wants the best for us. And Christian, when you forget that you belong to Jesus - don't worry - it's written down in His book, so you will always remember...

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Esther - And the winner is...

Esther 2:10-18 Esther had not revealed her nationality and family background, because Mordecai had forbidden her to do so. Every day he walked back and forth near the courtyard of the harem to find out how Esther was and what was happening to her. Before a girl's turn came to go in to King Xerxes, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics. And this is how she would go to the king: Anything she wanted was given her to take with her from the harem to the king's palace. In the evening she would go there and in the morning return to another part of the harem to the care of Shaashgaz, the king's eunuch who was in charge of the concubines. She would not return to the king unless he was pleased with her and summoned her by name. When the turn came for Esther (the girl Mordecai had adopted, the daughter of his uncle Abihail) to go to the king, she asked for nothing other than what Hegai, the king's eunuch who was in charge of the harem, suggested. And Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her. She was taken to King Xerxes in the royal residence in the tenth month, the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign. Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. And the king gave a great banquet, Esther's banquet, for all his nobles and officials. He proclaimed a holiday throughout the provinces and distributed gifts with royal liberality.

When my youngest first started going to the nursery at church, I would drop her off - screaming of course - while the nursery worker assured me she would be fine. I would walk awa
y from the door, about five steps, and wait to see if the crying subsided. When it did, I would sneak back and peak in the door to see if she was playing - and she would be. Then, when other parents would come to drop their kid off, I would ask them "could you tell me if the girl with the big pink bow in her hair is playing?" After they dropped off their baby they would assure me that she was having a good time. As we can see from Mordecai, this type of parental behavior never stops. We are forever watching over and caring for what God has entrusted to us.

As was mentioned previously, there are a lot of girls in line for the queens' old slot. According to the scriptures, all these girls underwent TWO years of beauty treatments - TWO years! One might think that after two years of doing nothing but
preparing to be beautiful - that the competition might be a bit fierce. Even someone that came in with their hair all disheveled and their make-up smeared on - would certainly learn how to fix that in the course of two years. Even though I don't believe there was any botox at this time, surely they had similar treatments to smooth out fine lines and wrinkles. I truly believe that all these girls, by the time they went to see the king, were knockouts. But Esther was smart as well as beautiful, she did as she was told by those in charge and won over everyone's heart. What can we get out of these verses? It's true what I keep telling my kids "It doesn't matter how pretty you are on the outside, if you're not pretty on the inside - they won't see Jesus in you!"

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Esther - We Finally Meet...

Esther 2:5-9 Now there was in the citadel of Susa a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, who had been carried into exile from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, among those taken captive with Jehoiachin king of Judah. Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This girl, who was also known as Esther, was lovely in form and features, and Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died. When the king's order and edict had been proclaimed, many girls were brought to the citadel of Susa and put under the care of Hegai. Esther also was taken to the king's palace and entrusted to Hegai, who had charge of the harem. The girl pleased him and won his favor. Immediately he provided her with her beauty treatments and special food. He assigned to her seven maids selected from the king's palace and moved her and her maids into the best place in the harem.

Mordecai had it rough. He was a Jew whose home had been captured and he was forced into exile into the land that was ruled by King Xerxes. On top of which, he took on the responsibility of raising a daughter - his cousin Hadassah- when her parents had died. Single parenting is NOT new - and the struggles were just as real then as they are now.

Meet Hadassah. An orphan at a young age - the loss, anger, sadness that must come with losing both parents is more than I can comprehend, since both of mine are still such a strong part of my life. Then to move in with a cousin who was kind enough to watch over you - yet still not your mom and dad - only to have your home taken captive, and forced to move to a new land. Moving was not what it is today. It's not like they could hop on a plane and hire "Two Men and a Truck" to finish off the rest of the house. It was a lot of work.

Hadassah grew up and was now part of the ladies being gathered for the kings' pleasure. What a predicament. Now she was once again being torn from the home she knew and loved to a place of strangers and ways that were different from her own as a Jewish girl. To perhaps marry a man she had never met. Oh, and by the way, your name is now Esther - don't tell anyone we changed it. Mordecai was trying to cover her Jewish background in hopes to protect her.

Esther comes into the palace and immediately wins the attention of the guy in charge of all the women. Soon, he is giving her special treatments, giving her special foods, the best room in the place...

Let's look at this again: Esther didn't use the fact that she was an orphan to excuse bad behavior. Esther didn't use the fact that she was forced into exile as an excuse for bad decisions. Esther didn't use the fact that she was taken from her home to live with a man she did not know and perhaps become his wife as an excuse for her attitude. She took her situations as they came and made the best of them. God doesn't look at your past - and He certainly won't accept your excuses - But He does promise to be with us all along the way, and with that knowledge Phillipians 3:14 - We can follow in His footsteps.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Esther - A Cinderella Story?

Esther 2:1-4: Later when the anger of King Xerxes had subsided, he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what he had decreed about her. Then the king's personal attendants proposed, "Let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king. Let the king appoint commissioners in every province of his realm to bring all these beautiful girls into the harem at the citadel of Susa. Let them be placed under the care of Hegai, the king's eunuch, who is in charge of the women; and let beauty treatments be given to them. Then let the girl who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti." This advice appealed to the king, and he followed it.

It has been four years since the big party - within this time, the king has
UNsuccessfully battled against Greece and returns home to an empty palace (meaning no wife). I can hear him uttering the words now, "Oh no, what have I done?" He wanted his woman - and was forced to recall her behavior and the path he had to take, according to the law, because of it.

His "need" for his woman must have been obvious, because those who were around him noticed it and started offering advice (verse 2). Not that it was bad advi
ce - in fact, I'm thinking of implementing this same process when my son gets old enough to marry. Gather all the pretty girls who have remained pure, give them makeovers, and then - in the words of Kuzco - "Trot out the ladies".

I would like to think of the storyline that begins in verse 3 as sort of a Cinderella idea. The main male character of nobility announces his royal decree to all the land that he wants a wife. All the women begin to plan and prepare for the day of their meeting. Where dreams of 'happily ever after' begin to form. Unfortunately, this story has a much darker tone.

It's rather ironic to watch as the kings' servants will do whatever possible, and to whatever extent to please and keep their king happy. If the king would've set his purpose on pleasing God instead of himself - he wouldn't have the need to find his happiness in the bedroom with several women. But as we will see, God will use the most unlikely of events, the most unlikely of people, for His plan.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Esther Cont. - Bye Bye Vashti

Esther 1:13-22 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 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. "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." 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. 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.' 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. "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. 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." The king and his nobles were pleased with this advice, so the king did as Memukan proposed. 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.

A couple once came to my counter where I worked, the husband was buying an item for the wife and then proceeded to pick up the same item to purchase for himself. She looked at him and said, "What are you doing? We can't BOTH afford this... Fine, I just won't get mine." She proceeded to put hers down and cross her arms. The poor man looked like a wounded puppy dog. He simply took his item back, returned to the counter and purchased just the one item, for her. He may have, in private, chose to stand his ground and argue - but in light of the fact that he was in public, he decided to give in - so as not to make a scene.

This was the predicament that King Xerxes was facing. Queen Vashti had embarrassed him by refusing to come, could he sheepishly back down to avoid further conflict? Not according to all his counsel that gathered around him. They urged, persuaded and prodded him to get rid of the Queen - who did this 'woman' think she was - disrespecting her husband like this, who was the King, no less. This certainly gives us a look at the social standards of these days - women, even the queen, did as they were told by their husbands.

We can be appreciative of how good we have it today: to be expected to be treated with respect as a woman. If my husband and I lived in those times - I would've surely been kicked out by now. Thank God for a patient and gracious husband.

So, the only alternative left for the king was to get rid of Vashti - and that's exactly what he did. Of course, since it was sure to spread through the gossip grapevine that this had happened, he then had to send out a letter to everyone in his kingdom announcing her punishment. See if Vashti will ever work in that town again.

This is a reminder to us about how God is good. As Christians, even when we do things that are displeasing to Him, even when we make a bad decision and embarass Him, He will never kick us out - we are forever in His kingdom, and we will always have a job to do...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Esther Cont. - "No Means No"

Esther 1:9-12 Also Vashti the queen made a feast for the women in the royal house which belonged to king Ahasuerus. On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven chamberlains that served in the presence of Ahasuerus the king, To bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on. But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s commandment by his chamberlains: therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him.

In verse 9, we see that the king is not the only one thats been partying for the last six months. The queen has also been entertaining the women on her side of the palace. Those of you that have the gift of hospitality may even find this one a bit of a challenge. Then to top it all off, the king and his boys are drunk - never a good sign.

He wanted his queen to dress in all her fancy finery and come out strutting her stuff. Now normally, I would not snub my nose up at putting on a pretty dress and modeling it - being the girly girl that I am - however, let's keep in mind that Vashti has just spent the last six months playing Sarah Social. I don't feel like cleaning up after a birthday party - let alone getting dolled up for my hubby after an evening of making sure everyone was happy and getting served their cake.

Let's not forget that she was being asked to prance into an area filled with all the drunken men of Shushan - a Promise Keepers Meeting this was not! And, after seeing how angry the king could get, I think all women would agree that Queen Vashti in verse 12 made a wise decision - otherwise this would have been bound to be an episode on Law and Order SVU.

No one at this point in the story is a Christian - they did not serve God, otherwise this party wouldn't have had to happen - the king could've just prayed about the war with Greece and God would've taken care of what was best (remember Jericho). But we can certainly see this from Queen Vashti's eyes and, as Christians, come up with an even better way to handle this type of circumstance. Analyze the situation, pray for wisdom, trust God to help you make the right decision, let Him lead the outcome knowing that He knows what He's doing - even when we don't have a clue.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Esther Begins

Esther 1:1-8 1 This is what happened during the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush : 2 At that time King Xerxes reigned from his royal throne in the citadel of Susa, 3 and in the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. The military leaders of Persia and Media, the princes, and the nobles of the provinces were present. 4 For a full 180 days he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and glory of his majesty. 5 When these days were over, the king gave a banquet, lasting seven days, in the enclosed garden of the king's palace, for all the people from the least to the greatest, who were in the citadel of Susa. 6 The garden had hangings of white and blue linen, fastened with cords of white linen and purple material to silver rings on marble pillars. There were couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl and other costly stones. 7 Wine was served in goblets of gold, each one different from the other, and the royal wine was abundant, in keeping with the king's liberality. 8 By the king's command each guest was allowed to drink in his own way, for the king instructed all the wine stewards to serve each man what he wished.

This is the first eight verses in the book of Esther - one of my favorite books. It's some of those verses in the Bible where we go "yeah, yeah, get to the point". But at the beginning of the book of Esther it's quite interesting to see why God has decided to let us in on this information.

First of all, Xerxes is the King at this time and we are given the geographical statistics so that we might see how far his kingdom stretches. In verse 4 we're told that he had all his staff over to his house for a party - 6 MONTHS LONG. It's hard to have family visit for a weekend, let alone all the nobles for 6 MONTHS. I can just imagine all the schmoozing that was going on and how every night Mr. Xerxes would fall into bed saying "if I have to hear Duke Johnny talk about his new sandals one more time. . ."

Then, to top this off, after the 6 months were over, he had a huge banquet for EVERYONE in the kingdom, and that lasted another week! This would've been sure to be an episode on HGTV or the Food Network. I often wonder why so much detail went into letting us know, as the audience, about the decorations and the finery - I don't think it was to appeal to our inner design star - I think there is more to this story. The truth is, Xerxes was on the verge of warring with Greece. But he had to have the backing of the people and prove that he was ready to do this. We see the same thing in companies today - tickets to major sport functions, wining and dining at the best restaurants - Xerxes is doing just that. Xerxes was showing his people that he had the funds to afford this war and wanted them to support him.

Wow! Isn't it great to know that we have a God who doesn't require all this. We can simply come to Him and ask for His will to be done and then let Him handle it. Not that a nice feast totally turns me off - but when our motives are simply to glorify God (with no ulterior motives) , we can be assured that He has it all under control...