Summary: What is the main lesson we learn from the Book of Esther?
I want to begin my sermon this morning with complete honesty – yours, not mine. Here is the question: How many of you glance, not read or buy but glance at the tabloids when you in the Supermarket checkout? How many of you read the tabloids’ headlines?
I saw one that read:
• Royal Couple Splits
• Prime Minister at the End of his Rope
• Polygamist Marries Again
• Orphan Girl Makes Good
If you want to read the full, scintillating story behind these headlines you’ll have to pick up your Bible. You’ll find it all in the strange little book of Esther. Its tucked away in the Old Testament just before Job. It was read in our hearing this morning.
I must warn you right away that this is not a book to read if you are seeking to know how a man should treat his wife; this is not a book to read if you are interested in studying the names of God – fact is, the word God is not found once in the entire book of Esther.
But if you want to see the sovereignty of God in the affairs of men than you’re in the right book. If you want to see how God can use good people in evil situations than you’re in the right book. If you were hoping to learn something about the faithfulness of God than turn with me to the book of Esther.
This book introduces us to King Xerxes. The time is about 480 BC. The setting is the fabulous winter palace of the Persian kings. History tells us that Persian Empire at that time stretched from Ethiopia in Africa through the Middle East, around the Fertile Crescent for 1000’s of kilometers to what today is Pakistan.
Secular history also makes it very clear that Xerxes was a cruel, capricious, and carnal man. We are not surprised therefore, to learn that such a person had many wives and concubines.
But there was only one Queen. And her name was Vashti. We don’t a great deal about Queen Vashti but we are told in chapter 1 that one day she got fed up jumping every time Xerxes said, jump. So the king in his anger divorced her. He was livid so he let her go.
One psychiatrist has said: I can’t think of a single human emotion that is more dangerous than anger. In fact, anger is the greatest single cause for divorce.
And Xerxes got angry at his wife. And with anger comes depression. He was depressed. However, the depression didn’t last too long. He was soon onto plan B. They would have a Worldwide Beauty Contest and find Xerxes a new Queen.
I suspect that many of us find the idea of a Beauty Contest repulsive. For a Christian the problem is this: whenever we equate physical beauty with worth we are going down the wrong road. Whenever someone is rewarded for good looks we have moved outside the spirit of the New Testament. The Bible teaches that all human beings are created in the image of God.
Whenever we judge a person’s value based on beauty or brains or bank account we run cross grain to the heart of the New Testament message. The Bible makes it clear that all of us are one in Christ, brothers and sisters.
So what is a beautiful God-fearing girl like Esther supposed to do? Buy an ugly mask and live among the aardvarks? Of course not!
We must give our strengths to God. We must give our best to God. What is it that you can do better than the average person? Give it to God. Use that gift to the glory of God, let that money, let that shapely body, let that high IQ let that talent be used to build God’s kingdom.
This is what Esther did. She gave her very best to God in the culture she found herself and God blessed her beyond her wildest dreams. Esther is an unlikely heroine. She was a Jew, a girl from a persecuted minority, she was woman, an object with little or no rights in that culture. She was an orphan. Esther had lost her Mom or Dad, she was raised by her uncle, a man by the name of Mordecai.
There was a lot to keep Esther from entering the contest – even if you ignore the fact that she would be marrying a polygamist. Did I mention that that was the prize? This was not an easy step for her to take. But she did. And she won.
Now that would be a lovely story and we could say “And they lived happily ever after” and go home. It’s a wonderful story, sort of, but it hardly accounts for its inclusion in the Holy Cannon.