Summary: A sermon for Mother's Day on Esther (Material adapted from John S. Connell at: http://sermons.pastorlife.com/members/UploadedSermons/sermon_2612.pdf)
A commander of an infantry unit in Vietnam was frustrated in his efforst to make a soldier out of one particular PFC. The young man lagged behind on patrols, pretended to be ill, and managed to spend most of his time at headquarters. One day he changed his ways. When someone questioned the commander why the difference, he replied: “Threats and punishment didn’t work, so I had to use the ultimate weapon. I wrote his mother.”
Today is Mother’s Day. Mothers possess a great measure of influence. Women possess influence in abundance- much more than most of them know. Famous saying: “The hand that rocks the cradles rules the world.”
Today I want to introduce us to a woman named Esther. Don’t know whether she had children. Bible doesn’t say. Some women have difficulties on mother’s day because of difficulties with motherhood. Talking more about womanhood than motherhood today.
Some despise Esther because of her beauty but may we see her in a better light. As a sportscaster might say: “She stepped up to the plate, swung the bat, and drove in the winning run.” Esther is an example for women to follow especially when the times are desperate.
Tell the story:
Esther’s time in history was played out in the ancient world of the Persian Empire, some 450 to 500 years before the birth of Christ. The world in Esther’s time was full of sensuality, power and intrigue. The story opens in Susa, one of the 3 capitol cities in a massive empire that spread from Pakistan in the east to Ethiopia in the west. Xerxes, by his Greek name, or Ahasuerus, by his Hebrew name, sat on the throne of this massive political and military machine. He has been called one of the most famous rulers of the ancient world. Yet, he has also been referred to as a boisterous man of emotional extremes, whose actions were often strange and contradictory. At the beginning of book of Esther we come across the end of a 6 month long display of royal riches and regal glory in Esther 1:5-7.
At the conclusion of this 180 day festival, Ahasuerus decided to throw a 7 day party. Of course, everybody who was anybody was there. On the last day of this 7 day party King Ahasuerus gave orders that beautiful Queen Vashti be summoned to the banquet hall for the purpose of exhibiting her sexy good looks to all the guests. According to chapter 1:9-12 the Queen had been off having her own party and she refused to come.
Some see here a bold woman who refused to be pushed around by her chauvinist husband. Maybe but the king’s word was law in that day. For the Queen to refuse this request meant that she would be dethroned, divorced, or beheaded- or perhaps all three. Why didn’t she come? Well, this is speculation but perhaps she was too drunk to walk, talk or care.
Vashti’s refusal put something of a damper on what would have been, up to that moment, a high time. The end of chapter 1 tells of us what happened to Queen Vashti. She is not Queen
With Vashti gone from the throne, who would now be Queen? The king’s advisers decided to have a contest in which the most beautiful women throughout the kingdom would be brought to Susa for review by Ahasuerus. According to chapter 2, Ahasuerus had at least 4 requirements for the new Queen: 1) be a virgin 2) be beautiful 3) demonstrate wisdom 4) she must have the ability to carry on an interesting conversation.
At this point this story takes an unexpected turn. A man by the name of Mordecai kickes around the radical idea of placing Esther, his adopted daughter, into this beauty contest. The idea was radical because Mordecai was a Jew whose ancestors had been deported from Jerusalem to Babylon more than a century earlier. As a Jew, Mordecai would not be favorable to the politics or lifestyle of the Persians. He would not likely subject his family members to the brutality and superficiality of that time any more than was absolutely necessary. Mordecai was neither a man hungry for power nor did he fear those who were in power. Yet, here he is dropping Esther off at the palace gate for a look by the king.
3 strange things take place in chapter 2: 1) Mordecai puts Esther in the beauty contest 2) Esther wins and becomes Queen 3) Mordecai gets wind of a plot to kill Ahasuerus, and tells Queen Esther. Esther then tells the king and gives Mordecai the credit.
Next, we read that Ahasuerus promotes a man named Haman to the number 2 position in the entire kingdom. We should notice two things about Haman: 1) he not only loved power but he loved to flaunt his power 2) Haman hated Jews, and he especially hated Jews who refused to acknowledge his position.