I’m reading the book of Esther right now. I’m not going to give you all the details of the book, because if you don’t know the story, you should read it for yourself. It’s only 10 chapters long and can easily be read in one sitting.
This time reading it I’ve been paying much closer attention to the other characters in the story: Vashti, Ahasuerus, Mordecai, Haman. There is so much to learn from each of these folks:
Ahasuerus teaches me about the significance of picking wise counselors and not being complacent. He was so easily swayed by the folks he was closest to. It seems that Ahasuerus made a lot of choices based on the opinions of those around him, without putting much thought towards whether or not they were wise or not. He pretty much just let others make the laws for him, whether it was Haman or Esther and Mordecai. This laziness and lack of discernment only heightened his need to surround himself with wise folks, because there was a drastic difference in his leadership when Haman was his closest counselor, as opposed to when Mordecai and Esther were his closest counselors. If these sorts of things are struggles for you, then picking wise friends is a greater need in your life, as well. If you are weak at making wise choices independent from the opinions of those you are surrounded by, and lack conviction or the steadfastness to stand up for your convictions, then pick your friends wisely. Ultimately it was just more convenient for Ahasuerus to sit and drink wine with his homey than to actually look analytically at what suggestions were being presented to him.
Mordecai is such an example of holiness. He sought to honor the Lord, refusing to bow to anything or anyone else, even when it meant risking his own life. He reminds me of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. He had incredible integrity. He was a steadfast man of conviction (contrast that with what I just said about Ahasuerus). He’s one of my favorite characters. He was also such a devoted “father” to Esther, even though she wasn’t his birth-child, even checking on her regularly in the palace and continuing to give godly advice. He was the opposite of Haman… wise, selfless, steadfast, courageous, helpful, godly. And God exalted him in such unique and miraculous ways. He begs that we ask the question “In what ways should I be standing up against the ungodly demands of the culture around me?”
Haman was such an arrogant fellow and such an example of pride that comes before a fall. He just erks me. Pride is such a petri-dish for selfishness. And when we are self-seeking, we can never take care of ourselves in the same ways that God Almighty takes care of us when we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, as Mordecai had done.
But what I really wanted to write about was Vashti. I love that the story of Esther begins before Esther, with Vashti. And I love the contrast that is set between her and Esther.
I’m sure all of us can understand Vashti’s frustration with being told to prance around like an object before her (probably) intoxicated husband, who was preoccupied with showing off all of his wealth and his “hot wife”. He was treating her like an object and a possession. The truth is that, although he was being a jerk, he didn’t actually ask her to do anything sinful, or against God’s law. Although he, himself, was sinning.He was being totally unloving in how he was treating her.
Contrast this with Esther, who had much more reason to have disdain for her husband, who through his laziness and ignorance set up her entire race to be obliterated.
Vashti refused to “be summoned” into the presence of the king, her husband, whereas Esther had so much respect for him that she recognized that to stand before him without being summoned meant risking her life, and asked all the Jews to fast and pray for her safety. And when she approached the throne room it was with great reverence (and courage).
But the real question is, which one of them earned the influence when it really counted? Vashti was just “standing up for her rights” when her husband was being a punk. But Esther honored him (and did not even speak evil of him behind his back), when he was being even more of a punk, and spared her entire race through her submission and reverence.
So, let this be a challenge to all of us wives. We can easily tell our husbands every single time they are being unloving, but if we guard our tongues in those moments and refuse to point out all of their flaws, we will be reserving something far more precious… a voice when it really counts.