“You Never Know…….”

Oct 3, 2021

The Scripture

Esther 1

1 This is what happened during the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush : At that time King Xerxes reigned from his royal throne in the citadel of Susa,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.

For a full 180 days he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and glory of his majesty. 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.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. 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. By the king’s command each guest was allowed to drink with no restrictions, for the king instructed all the wine stewards to serve each man what he wished.

Queen Vashti also gave a banquet for the women in the royal palace of King Xerxes.

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.

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.

 

The Sermon

We continue with our series Faces of Our Faith and this Sunday we are reading from the Book of Esther. Now immediately you probably think the person who is central to the passage is Esther…right?  When I read the passage, you will note that the name of Esther is not even mentioned.  No, it is not Esther who becomes Our Face of Faith, but rather Queen Vashti.  You never know how people are connected and how the actions of one person causes a whole chain of events. 

The past two Sundays we have heard stories about women who had the courage to disobey orders and ask for things that have never been asked before.  Women who listened to God and who stood up as an equal before God, resulting in changing the lives of women for generations to come. This morning we hear a different slant on what can happen when you act in defiance of those in power and you never know how God is working behind the scenes, how God is working to bring about God’s plan.  Queen Vashti was defiant!  When asked to come before the king (her husband) she refused; she refused to go to the banquet and be on show for all the attendees. The scripture text does not tell us why, commentaries have speculated on the reason, but we don’t really know, and really, from the point of view of the king it really didn’t matter.  She simply disobeyed an order from the king!

The King didn’t know what to do with this disobedience, so he summoned his advisors and together they put together a plan…a royal order was sent out to all the people announcing that Queen Vashti was never to go before the king again!  This affected not only Queen Vashti but all the women in the region… “every man should be master in his own house.”  It was now official, all women had to submit to the authority of men!  At this point in time it doesn’t seem like Vashti’s defiance had a good outcome for women in general, does it?

At times like this it’s hard to see God at work, when events happen, and we suffer or endure hardship it’s simply hard to see God at all.  This reminds me of a story told by Corrie ten Boom who was imprisoned in Germany for helping to hide Jews in her home.  Corrie was a faithful Christian, and she relays a time that she and her sister were infested with flees while living in their cell. They suffered so much from the itching, skin irritation and the body sores…wasn’t being imprisoned enough!  Now the flees!?  At that point in time, it would have been easy to say God certainly is not at work here…not now!  But what Corrie learned later was that having the flees actually kept them safe from physical abuse from prison guards. The guards wouldn’t come inside the cell because of the flees.  It’s hard to see God in the moment sometimes!  You never know where God is working…

God works through suffering and hardships, but God also works through other people on our behalf.  Maybe you remember the story in the gospel of Mark. There was a man who was paralyzed, and his friends were trying to get him close to Jesus hoping he would heal their friend. Jesus just happened to be speaking in the synagogue. The crowd of people was so great that the friends went up on top of the roof and cut a hole and lowered their friend down on a stretcher so Jesus would see him and heal him. What a story!  Scripture tells us that Jesus saw the faith of the friends and the man was healed.

God works through challenges and hardships as in Corrie ten Boom’s case. God works through friends in the story of the paralyzed man. God certainly works in mysterious ways… Queen Vashti is an example of this!  So back to our now expelled Queen.  Why would she be a “Face of our Faith?”  Vashti didn’t believe in the God of the Israelites, yet God used her.  With Queen Vashti expelled from the King’s presence, he needed a new Queen and his search led him to pick Esther as his new queen.  God does work in mysterious ways, yes?  Vashti’s absence opened to door for Esther, and Esther being a Queen gave her the position of influence to save the lives of all the Jews in the region.

You never know where God is working…but this we do know, God is always working; within our circumstances, around us in our friends, and in spite of us not even knowing or believing.  Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!  Amen