2 But after Xerxes’ anger had subsided, he began thinking about Vashti and what she had done and the decree he had made. 2 So his personal attendants suggested, “Let us search the empire to find beautiful young virgins for the king. 3 Let the king appoint agents in each province to bring these beautiful young women into the royal harem at the fortress of Susa. Hegai, the king’s eunuch in charge of the harem, will see that they are all given beauty treatments. 4 After that, the young woman who most pleases the king will be made queen instead of Vashti.” This advice was very appealing to the king, so he put the plan into effect.
5 At that time there was a Jewish man in the fortress of Susa whose name was Mordecai son of Jair. He was from the tribe of Benjamin and was a descendant of Kish and Shimei. 6 His family had been among those who, with King Jehoiachin of Judah, had been exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar. 7 This man had a very beautiful and lovely young cousin, Hadassah, who was also called Esther. When her father and mother died, Mordecai adopted her into his family and raised her as his own daughter.
8 As a result of the king’s decree, Esther, along with many other young women, was brought to the king’s harem at the fortress of Susa and placed in Hegai’s care. 9 Hegai was very impressed with Esther and treated her kindly. He quickly ordered a special menu for her and provided her with beauty treatments. He also assigned her seven maids specially chosen from the king’s palace, and he moved her and her maids into the best place in the harem.
10 Esther had not told anyone of her nationality and family background, because Mordecai had directed her not to do so. 11 Every day Mordecai would take a walk near the courtyard of the harem to find out about Esther and what was happening to her.
12 Before each young woman was taken to the king’s bed, she was given the prescribed twelve months of beauty treatments—six months with oil of myrrh, followed by six months with special perfumes and ointments. 13 When it was time for her to go to the king’s palace, she was given her choice of whatever clothing or jewelry she wanted to take from the harem. 14 That evening she was taken to the king’s private rooms, and the next morning she was brought to the second harem, where the king’s wives lived. There she would be under the care of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch in charge of the concubines. She would never go to the king again unless he had especially enjoyed her and requested her by name.
15 Esther was the daughter of Abihail, who was Mordecai’s uncle. (Mordecai had adopted his younger cousin Esther.) When it was Esther’s turn to go to the king, she accepted the advice of Hegai, the eunuch in charge of the harem. She asked for nothing except what he suggested, and she was admired by everyone who saw her.
16 Esther was taken to King Xerxes at the royal palace in early winter of the seventh year of his reign. 17 And the king loved Esther more than any of the other young women. He was so delighted with her that he set the royal crown on her head and declared her queen instead of Vashti. 18 To celebrate the occasion, he gave a great banquet in Esther’s honor for all his nobles and officials, declaring a public holiday for the provinces and giving generous gifts to everyone.
19 Even after all the young women had been transferred to the second harem and Mordecai had become a palace official, 20 Esther continued to keep her family background and nationality a secret. She was still following Mordecai’s directions, just as she did when she lived in his home.
Back in the late 90’s, McDonald’s ran a series of commercials, designed of course around one of their give away money games, that centered on the idea “HEY, IT COULD HAPPEN!”
They showed someone daydreaming and then, voila, after going to McDonalds, they were driving away with the new sports car, or whatever.
As a child I used to have many such “dreams” and imaginations. I, at various points in my life (mostly before age 10) have imagined myself as Batman, Superman, Thunderman (I made that one up myself in first grade), as well as a policeman, a fireman, a teacher, C.E.O. of a big business, a secret detective named “JACK STONE”, a knight of the round table, and even President of the United States.
Most of my imaginings never were close enough to reality to ever be fulfilled. Most were so unreal I wouldn’t want them to become real. But as a child, my attitude was: “HEY, IT COULD HAPPEN!”
Today’s Scripture passage is sort of like that. A young Hebrew orphan girl named Hadassah, is living in Persia, today’s Iran, with her cousin who adopted her and becomes the best known Persian Queen in history…Queen Esther.
Well, as the Scriptures tell the story, the King, AHASEURUS, (history usually calls him by his other name: XERXES), the king got drunk and made unreasonable demands of his former Queen, Vashti, and demanded that she come to the area where he was throwing a drunken party for the guys only. At that time, in Persia, it was unheard of to show your wife in public, it was immodest…everyone knew that. So Vashti, realizing that he’s just drunk says: NO! In a drunken rage, after being goded by his friends and counselors who are afraid Vashti is about to set off an epidemic of women’s rights, the king divorces Vashti and banishes her from ever coming before the king again.
And then he sobers up.
And the friends realize that an unhappy, disappointed, angry king is dangerous, hatch up a plan. In the beginning of Chapter 2 we read that a beauty contest is to be held. Deputies are appointed to search all 127 different provinces, for beautiful unmarried girls. The girls are brought to Susa, the Ancient Persian equivalent of our White House, and to be prepared to meet the King, one every night. Which ever one He likes best will be the queen, his wife. All of the others will become sort of backup wives or secondary wives. Sort of like Hagar was to Abraham or Leah was to Jacob or any of the 700 women in Solomon’s life.
And voila, just as if scripted by McDonald’s, the orphan Jewish girl, becomes Queen. The Scripture says that:
17 And the king loved Esther more than any of the other young women. He was so delighted with her that he set the royal crown on her head and declared her queen instead of Vashti.
But how did she get there? How did it happen?
What about Esther was there that caused the king, and everyone else to admire her so much?
Four things that I see. And these four things are characteristics that, if they are present in us, will affect those around us as well.
- She accepted her situation in life.The Bible tells us that both she and her adored father…her cousin Mordecai, were part of the captives in exile. These were Jews who were not living in their homeland. Much like being an American who may never go back to the United States. But, like the apostle Paul would later write, she knew how to be content in whatever situation she found herself in.
And she was different from those around her because of that attitude.
Likewise, she had no choice about entering this beauty contest. The king had called. She would either become his wife and his queen or she would live as one of his concubines, perhaps only seeing the king once ot twice in all the rest of her life. But she accepted her situation and determined to make the best of it.
- Her trust was in God.Psalm 27:10 tells us:
When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.
Her parent’s were dead, she was orphaned, and God took care of her. She grew up knowing the provision of God.
- She had learned respect and obedience to the authorities God had placed in her life.The Bible tells us in verse 10:
10 Esther had not told anyone of her nationality and family background, because Mordecai had directed her not to do so.
And in verse 20, after she has already been made queen, we read:
20 Esther continued to keep her family background and nationality a secret. She was still following Mordecai’s directions, just as she did when she lived in his home.
The respect and obedience of the one God had placed in her life as an authority was something she had mastered early… and it served her well.
- She relied on the good advice and counsel of those close to the king. Her desire, once she was forced into this contest, was to win the contest. She wanted to be the queen. That meant she had to please the king and be found not beautiful and lovely and pleasing, butMORE beautiful, MORE lovely, and MORE pleasing than anyone else.
In Verse 13 we read that each girl, when it was her turn to go see the king, could have her pick of jewels and clothing and perfumes and hairbows and whatever, in order to add to her attractiveness in order to try and catch the eye of the king.
BUt in verse 15 we read:
15 When it was Esther’s turn to go to the king, she accepted the advice of Hegai, the eunuch in charge of the harem. She asked for nothing except what he suggested, and she was admired by everyone who saw her.
She knew that Hegai knew the king. Hegai knew what the king liked,, what his favorite color was, The kind of dress he thought was most beautiful, his favorite perfume scent. And Esther didn’t rely on what she liked, she relied on HEGAI who knew what the King liked.
And it worked.
This of course is a great story, but as with all scripture, there is a very real, practical application to me, to us.
We need to have the traits and characteristics of Esther in our daily lives and relationships with each other and with our KING… our GOD!
Like Esther, we need to be at peace with our situation in life. My grandfather Mix taught me that when I was in high school and my family were forced to move. For my sake, because it was a bigger school that could help me prepare for college better, my parents determined to stay in the same school district. But the only place they found, was an old beat up trailer in a ratty trailer court on the edge of the school district. In fact, our Dogs and most of our driveway were in New York State, that’s how close we were. But we were still in the school district.
Well, when it was time to move, I was sent to my grandparent’s house. Everyone had seen it but me. And then, when it was all settled and made to look the best it could, Grandpa took me to my new home. And I bawled. And his words quoted an old hymn. he said: Brighten the corner where you are.
There is an accepting of your situation, an attitude not of “POOR ME” but of “WOW LOOK AT ALL WE CAN DO HERE!” And that attitude will set us apart and people around us will take notice.
Likewise, like Esther, we need to keep our trust in God and remember in all situations that he does provide and watch out for us. One of my favorite songs since the time we first started looking towards the impossibility of adoption over twenty years ago has been GOD WILL MAKE A WAY. There’s is nothing that God can’t handle. There’s nothing that takes God by surprise. He knows. And he has a plan in mind to get through the situations we encounter…if we’ll yield and allow him to lead.
Like Esther we need to learn to respect the Godly influences and spiritual authorities God has placed in our lives. For Esther, it was Mordecai. For us, it’s often other Christians and church family. Proverbs 11:14 says:
Where no counsel [is], the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors [there is] safety.
And in Proverbs 15:22, we read:
Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.
and fourthly, like Esther, We need to drop our own desires and wishes, and heed the leading of the King’s messenger. For Esther, it meant she gave up what she thought would be pleasing to the king and “required nothing but what Hegai suggested”. In our lives, with God Almighty as our king, we must disregard our own ways and our futile attempts at pleasing God, and yield to the leadings and suggestions of the Holy Spirit instead.
In fact that’s part of what it means to be a child of God. For we read in Romans 8:14:
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
As we leave here today, let me remind you that we too are in captivity… Peter tells us that we are aliens and strangers in this world, and we too have a king to please. And one more observation, about the consequences of not winning this inner beauty contest. If Esther had not been chosen as the one, she would have spent the rest of her life isolated from the king and from her family, sent to a separate house for the losers.
We need to win this contest.