Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Shepastor: "Why Did I Do That?"

Esther 1:10-12, 19; 2:1
The King’s Banquet

10 On the seventh day of the feast, when King Xerxes was in high spirits because of the wine, he told the seven eunuchs who attended him—Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas— 11 to bring Queen Vashti to him with the royal crown on her head. He wanted the nobles and all the other men to gaze on her beauty, for she was a very beautiful woman. 12 But when they conveyed the king’s order to Queen Vashti, she refused to come. This made the king furious, and he burned with anger…

19 “So if it please the king, we suggest that you issue a written decree, a law of the Persians and Medes that cannot be revoked. It should order that Queen Vashti be forever banished from the presence of King Xerxes, and that the king should choose another queen more worthy than she. 20 When this decree is published throughout the king’s vast empire, husbands everywhere, whatever their rank, will receive proper respect from their wives!”

2 But after Xerxes’ anger had subsided, he began thinking about Vashti and what she had done and the decree he had made.

The book of Esther, though never mentioning the name of God is one of the most powerful images in the Bible of God’s protection over His people and poetic justice. The Jewish Festival of Purim is based upon the story of Esther, how the Lord used her uncle Mordecai and ultimately Esther to stop the wicked official Haman from succeeding in his plot to annihilate the Jewish Nation.

But today, the focus is neither upon Esther, Mordecai or Haman. Today’s focus is upon two decisions that changed the course of Jewish history…a decision that is frequently mischaracterized and wrongs that are often overlooked. Today, we shall focus upon Queen Vashti and King Xerxes.

Shepastor: “Why Did I Do That?”

When I was growing up, my mother would frequently say, “An angry word is not easily recalled.” How often do people, in fits of rage say and do things that have long lasting consequences. The writer of Proverbs declared, “A man without self-control is like a city with broken down walls” (Proverbs 25:28). In ancient cultures, nations built walls around their land to protect themselves from enemy attacks. In the same way, self-control protects us from the enemies of dysfunction, foolish choices, life and death decisions made in the heat of the moment.

Some people can’t maintain jobs because they don’t know how to overlook an offense and easily and flippantly say whatever comes to mind. Some people, under the influence of drugs and or alcohol make foolish statements, spewing crazy words from their mouths or getting behind the wheel of a car or harming themselves and or others in other ways – all due to a lack of self-control. And some, in an effort to show themselves to be great and grand, make foolish decisions, an effort to show that they are in control, they are large and in charge, they are not to be defied.

Such was the case of King Xerxes. King Xerxes held a wild part for approximately 180 days! That’s about SIX MONTHS!!!
He entertained his officials and ultimately all the people of the Kingdom from the least to the greatest. No expense was spared. The text describes the atmosphere…white cotton curtains and blue hangings, which were fastened with white linen cords and purple ribbons to silver rings embedded in marble pillars. Gold and silver couches stood on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl, and other costly stones. All kinds of delicacies and wine…wine…wine in abundance! Everyone could drink as much as they wanted.

After much wine had been imbibed the king wanted his queen, Vashti to come and parade either naked or scantily clad (only wearing a robe and crown) before his drunken friends. Vashti, in the meantime was in the process of entertaining the women of the kingdom in her own banquet.
Can you imagine? Not only was this a disgraceful and humiliating request, the customs of the day demanded the chastity of the women, particularly the “1st lady of the land.” Her body was for her husband…certainly not his subjects! But look at the King…drunk, showing off, and basically saying… “Look at what I got – isn’t she gorgeous – don’t you wish you had her?”

Vashti refused. Interestingly, sexist commentators over the years have demonized the queen by calling her disobedient, “haughty” arrogant and a bad example for women. But more sensible theologians have declared the opposite…she was a woman of class, dignity, strength and honor.
An important lesson we can learn from Queen Vashti: Standing upon principles and integrity will not necessarily protect you from being displaced…
Doing the right thing is not always rewarded in terms of human response. She was stripped of her royal title, she was deposed…kicked out…shunned. But she did the right thing. Ultimately, her removal opened the door for Esther, but God used Vashti to make that possible.

If Vashti did what was requested of her, Esther would never have become Queen. God used Vashti. Queen Vashti is certainly and “unsung” shero! There is no record of what happened to her after being taken down. There is no indication that she was killed. It simply said she was replaced. Her integrity, however, speaks volumes. She had the courage to say no, even if it meant losing earthly status, perks, comfort, opulence, luxury. Doing what is right sometimes is a sacrifice with great cost. But ultimately, many are blessed, saved, delivered as a result of the unselfish act.

Those who sacrificed their lives, martyrs of Christendom, the Civil Rights Movement, our service women and men, missionaries, etc., all stood and stand against the onslaught of evil dictates, unjust laws, inhumane practices, wicked deeds against humanity – they did and do so at great cost, but with huge potency in terms of opening doors, saving lives and promoting justice.

Now let’s consider King Xerxes…what lessons can we learn from his behaviors?
One: Showing off sets you up for regret… Xerxes was a showoff…he wanted to show off how much he had, show off all that he believed he was able to do and show off his queen. Obviously he was very insecure. He was the king. Why did he need to show off? When you are insecure in who you are, you always need to “prove” who you are.

By virtue of his position, the kingdom understood who he was. Why did he have to throw a six month party? This “show off mentality” led to both the shame of he and his queen. This behavior placed him in the position to prove that he was in charge. When we behave in such irresponsible ways, we not only set ourselves up for shame, but also those closest to us. Bad decisions never just impact us. Bad decisions impact those around us…our families, those who care about us, those who work with us, those who may serve under us.

Leaders who make shameful decisions hurt and disgrace their families, co-workers and those serving under them. They disgrace the office in which they serve. Think of church leaders that have chosen to lead over the top life styles, have illicit affairs, embezzle funds, etc. Look at politicians who have chosen to do disgraceful things behind the scenes, dragging their wives and children into the spotlight to be shamed and laughing stocks.
Always remember, your decisions don’t just impact you…they impact all those to some degree within the sphere of your influence. To whom much is given, much is required.

Xerxes was a weak man…Why did he have to consult astrologers to tell him what to do concerning his wife? He didn’t consult anybody, it appears when he decided to throw and orgy and demand his wife to prance around naked! He was far from a wise ruler. His behaviors brought him shame and possibly this was his way of trying to get back some dignity. His behaviors had already set him up to look like a fool.

Avoid allowing what others think to shape major choices. Instead, allow your choices to be based upon principles and integrity. This is not to suggest that we should be insensitive or oblivious to the concerns of others, this is to say, however, that the primary basis of our decisions should not be what others think of us, but what we believe, what we see as truth, what we know to be pleasing in the sight of God. Queen Vashti exemplifies this principle.

Finally, King Xerxes regretted his actions…
The text says,
2 But after Xerxes’ anger had subsided, he began thinking about Vashti and what she had done and the decree he had made.

In the common vernacular, after a while, Xerxes found himself say, “Why did I do that?” Scholars suggest that it was about 3 years before Queen Esther was chosen. During that time, Xerxes was given the opportunity to sleep with numerous women across the kingdom, looking for a new Queen. One might think that this was fun for him, but obviously, it was not. Maybe it seemed great at first, but he found himself missing Vashti. She was beautiful. She was strong. She was filled with integrity. But now, because of his foolish debauchery and weak mindedness, she was gone. According the laws of the Medes and Persians, he could not change what he had done.

We may not be under the law of the “Medes and Persians,” but there are some choices that cannot be undone…saying ignorant and insensitive things that deeply wound a trusted friend…flying off of the handle and losing a good job…having an extra marital affair and crushing the trust and love in a lifelong relationship…contracting an incurable sexual disease after a foolish tryst…killing someone and or maiming others and/or yourself due to getting behind the wheel after drinking…spending too much time away from family in pursuit of foolish dreams and missing out on a lifetime with your children…neglecting to love and care for your parents in their old age, before they leave this world.

The weight of regret is extremely heavy! Did King Xerxes ultimately recover by getting a new beautiful queen? Yes. But did he leave behind a trail of shame, hurt, brokenness and failure – yes indeed!

Remember, your decisions today can impact the rest of your life – choose wisely. Pray and think before you respond. Let the ink dry over night before sending that letter. Count to ten before you react. We all make mistakes, but with the help of the Lord, those mistakes can be fewer and certainly less destructive.

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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

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