Welcome to the Bible Reading Plan! We are so glad you are joining us as we read through the Old Testament book of Esther over the next couple of weeks. Each day, you will read one chapter of the Bible followed by a short devotional, answer a few questions, and if you want, record any observations or insights using the interactive comments section. We believe God will use this resource to grow our knowledge and affection for Him. We know God’s Word does not return void (Isaiah 55:11). Sign up with a friend, your Life Group, or your family, and let’s dig in!
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Let’s Go, Church!
Esther reads more like a medieval play than a narrative in the Bible. The entire book of Esther is a fascinating story with dramatic twists and turns filled with mystery and marvel. A book whose main character, God, is not mentioned one time. This makes Esther a unique book of the Bible and one that may cause us to ask, “If the Bible is a book about God and we know all Scripture is profitable and beneficial to teach us or reveal something about Him, how do we learn from a book that is absent of His name?”
We would be wise to dig into the pages of Esther and ask God to give us eyes to see His providence and plan. Although His name is absent from this book, He is still very active in every part of it. His silence doesn’t mean He isn’t working. If that was the only lesson we learn from this book, it would be enough—even when we feel like God is silent, He is never inactive. Nothing happens by chance.
Throughout the book of Esther we will encounter a few different major characters: Esther, Mordecai (her uncle), King Xerxes, and Haman (the book’s antagonist). Part of what makes the historical books in the Old Testament fun to read is that we can visualize what’s going on as each chapter unfolds. Pay close attention to the arc that this story follows and take note of all the different ways you see God moving through His people. Over the next ten chapters, engage with the story of Esther and ask yourself how God is moving in the details of your own life today.
Read Esther 1
Queen Vashti Deposed
This is what happened during the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush: 2 At that time King Xerxes reigned from his royal throne in the citadel of Susa, 3 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.
4 For a full 180 days he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and glory of his majesty. 5 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. 6 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. 7 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. 8 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.
9 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.
Esther 1 begins with the party of all parties. We cannot grasp the grandeur of it. For 180 days, the Persian King, Xerxes, flaunted his power, possessions, privilege and political strength. Read verse 4 again: “For a full 180 days, he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and glory of his majesty.”
We learn Xerxes is proud and misuses his power. He throws a party for people to praise his wealth and power. After the party nears an end, Xerxes saves the best for last—or so he thinks. Under the influence of much wine, Xerxes summons for his wife, Queen Vashti. Vashti is asked to be put on display for all to see. It was as if Xerxes was planning to say, “Look at my power, look at my glory, and look at my wife!”
We don’t know much about Queen Vashti. Only that her beauty was unmatched and when her husband summoned her to show her off, she said, “No.” We don’t know why she declined. Perhaps she considered his request an affront to her dignity. Maybe she couldn’t stand her husband. Maybe she valued modesty and his request would compromise her value. We don’t know.
The great tragedy that seems to plague us as humanity is the misuse and abuse of power. Oftentimes we read or hear of people in positions of authority mishandling and misusing their power like Xerxes did. God’s design for us never included stripping away our dignity. He never condones objectification of anyone. He never uses His power to manipulate or control. In fact, we get a picture in Philippians of the mentality and posture of the One True King whose glory and splendor and majesty are unending and unmatched:
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.Philippians 2:5-7
Make no mistake. We have a King who values and gives dignity to people. He has not and will not abuse His power. His fingerprints are all over the events in Esther. His fingerprints are all over our lives, too. He alone is God. He alone is Lord. He alone is King.
And, no matter how the story appears at the moment, He is working for our good.
- Are you easily intoxicated by power, privilege, and prestige? How does pride play out in your life?
- Have you abused or misused authority? If yes, what’s your plan to repent, seek forgiveness, and reconcile?
- Have you experienced seasons of God’s silence in your life? What do you do to stay the course in the midst of His silence?
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