Editor’s note: The purpose of this series is to walk our readers through the book of Esther in order to help them understand what it teaches and how to apply it to our lives. This series is part of our larger commitment to help Christians learn to read, interpret, reflect, and apply the Bible to their own lives.
- Today David Dunham opens the series by looking at Esther chapter one.
We’ve been reading Esther wrong. At least that’s what I think. I recognize my view is probably a minority in the church, yet I think there are textual reasons to revisit our understanding, interpretation, and application of this book. Most people think Ester is a story about a great heroine who stands boldly for her faith in the midst of a threatening king. “Dare to be like Esther” some say. But I don’t think this book has that message in mind at all. In fact I think the book speaks more about the disturbing rate at which followers of God strive to be accepted by this world.
This world is portrayed as glamorous and gorgeous and as the ultimate place for finding rest, satisfaction, and self-fulfillment. We have bought into the lie of this world which says, this is all there is, and this is all that matters. So take what you can get and try to get it all. The story of Esther is, in many ways, a wakeup call for us. It is a call that says: Cultural assimilation leads to spiritual devastation!
This theme starts from the very beginning of the story, with the King of the Persian Empire. As the story begins we find King Ahasuerus, or Xerxes is his other name, throwing a big party. The party is winding down and he decides it’s going to end with seven days of straight partying!
The intent of the King is to show off just how amazing he is and his life is. So he starts with showing off his wealth (Esther 1:6-7), then his power (Esther 1:8), and finally his sexuality (Esther 1:10-11).
In verses 10 and 11 the King calls for his wife, because he wants her to put on some sexual display before all his friends and show her off. And in showing her off it’s not simply about Queen Vashti, it’s more about how spectacular and handsome he is that he has this woman as his queen. Everything in these verses is all about the King and how amazing he is. But do not be deceived by the appearance of happiness. This King is actually miserable and insecure. This is revealed when we come to find that the Queen refuses to come to his party. Suddenly the King’s whole presentation of himself is turned upside down.
He calls for all his counselors, all his wise men, all his legal authorities and says, “What are we gonna do about this woman?” And these counselors are witless morons who play right into Ahasuerus’ fears. Memucan, one of his chief advisors, says, “This event is going to cause chaos in the whole of your kingdom!” Every woman is going to see how the Queen rebelled against the King and they will in turn throw off the authority of their husbands and fathers. You’ve got to fix this for the whole kingdom’s sake!” And so what does the king do? He writes a law (Esther 1:22).
It’s a silly law. What we have here presented to us in King Xerxes is really a man who has all the wealth and power of the world at his fingertips and he is, as a result, totally insecure and miserable. That’s the reality of being satisfied with this world. We always think that if we could get one more thing, if we could have more stuff, better finances, a bigger home, a prestigious job, fame and fortune then we’d be happy. The reality is that this world cannot ultimately satisfy us. The apostle John explains why in his epistle. In 1 John 2:15-17 we read:
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
You see this world is passing away, and to pursue those things is to follow them into destruction. But to love God, to pursue Him, you see the text says, that results in abiding forever!
Don’t be deceived by this Kingdom. Don’t buy into the American Dream as the end all of reality! It will not satisfy you! Look at Ahasuerus and learn from him. Cultural Assimilation Leads To Spiritual Devastation!