A Time Of Uncertainty
The book of Esther opens with the King of Persia, King Ahasuerus, getting all party crazy, right? King Ahasuerus, the guy who ruled the greatest empire the world had ever seen, decides to throw a party a day for 180 days for these important people in his Kingdom. And after that, he throws a 7 day long party for everyone, like open invitation to just come, party, drink away. It seemed like a good time to be in this Kingdom, right? I’m sure many thought that he was an incredible ruler. Our king is the richest, strongest, most powerful king in history!
But what they didn’t realize was the reason he was throwing these parties. The reason he was doing all this shows that he’s actually not a good, strong, powerful king. He’s actually deeply insecure and miserable.
Let’s pick it up in verse 10: “On the seventh day, when the king was feeling good from the wine, (uh oh, nothing good ever comes from a story that starts, yeah my buddy had one too many, you know something bad’s coming here) Ahasuerus commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carkas — the seven eunuchs who personally served him — to bring Queen Vashti before him with her royal crown. He wanted to show off her beauty to the people and the officials, because she was very beautiful.” Now, we don’t know much about Queen Vashti, she actually never speaks in the book, we get no background story, we just know that her name means “best” or “beloved.” But what she’s about to do here sets into motion the rest of the book.
Because the king’s saying, “hey, everyone, if you haven’t been impressed with all my food and wine all these days, if that doesn’t make you think I’m awesome, just wait until you see my wife! Then you’ll really be impressed with me.” Do you see the deep insecurity in that? All this partying has just been all about impressing people so they think highly of him. And on day 187 of trying to impress people, he thinks that parading his wife in front of everyone will seal the deal.
This king was searching for something. He was searching for identity, searching for meaning, purpose, acceptance. He was searching for the things…we’re all searching for. But here’s the thing. A 187 self-funded party for the most important people in the world didn’t satisfy him at all.
If that didn’t satisfy this guy, then what are we thinking will satisfy us? If all this wealth and power and partying didn’t satisfy King Ahasuerus, then why in the world do we think that a relationship with that certain person will satisfy us? Or owning that house in that neighborhood will make our lives better? Or having a different job or more kids or no kids will increase our joy and satisfaction in life?
King Ahasuerus shows us what a life of pursuing the best this world has to offer ends up looking like, and the triggering event to show us this is in verse 12: “But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command that was delivered by his eunuchs…” Man, tough day to be a eunuch. It’s enough that they’re eunuchs, but now they have to deliver bad news to the most powerful man in the world. You think these dudes didn’t beg Vashti to come? Now, we don’t know why Queen Vashti didn’t go. The author of this book doesn’t tell us, he doesn’t speculate, because that’s not the point here. The fallout is the point.
Because look how it continues: “…The king became furious and his anger burned within him.” Man. The guy who has everything, unlimited money and power and the best food and drink in the world, ends 187 straight days of partying in a bad mood. After half a year of partying, he’s angry.
See guys we learn about this king that even though he has rule and control over most of the world, he doesn’t have any rule or control over his own emotions. Internally, he’s a wreck, burning with anger when his wife does one thing that he doesn’t like.
So what’s he gonna do? Look at verse 13: “The king consulted the wise men who understood the times, for it was his normal procedure to confer with experts in law and justice. The most trusted ones were Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan. They were the seven officials of Persia and Media who had personal access to the king and occupied the highest positions in the kingdom. The king asked, “According to the law, what should be done with Queen Vashti, since she refused to obey King Ahasuerus’s command that was delivered by the eunuchs?” It was super common for rulers to surround themselves with wise, learned people who they could lean on for wisdom. So the king goes to his dudes and asks what should happen to the Queen since she disobeyed him.
Look at verse 16: “Memucan said in the presence of the king and his officials, “Queen Vashti has wronged not only the king, but all the officials and the peoples who are in every one of King Ahasuerus’s provinces. For the queen’s action will become public knowledge to all the women and cause them to despise their husbands and say, ‘King Ahasuerus ordered Queen Vashti brought before him, but she did not come.’ Before this day is over, the noble women of Persia and Media who hear about the queen’s act will say the same thing to all the king’s officials, resulting in more contempt and fury.” So we see the problem here right away. The king hasn’t actually surrounded himself with wise men. He’s surrounded himself with idiots, yes men who are just looking to stroke his ego and make sure they didn’t get on his bad side. Because the Queen not coming into this party to have her beauty showed off wasn’t offensive to the whole Kingdom! But Memucan whispers in the King’s ear that His word is authoritative. How dare she not come when he wants her? How dare she defy him, mighty King Ahasuerus! This is gonna lead to anarchy in the kingdom!
Look at verse 19: “If it meets the king’s approval, he should personally issue a royal decree. Let it be recorded in the laws of the Persians and Medes, so that it cannot be revoked: Vashti [oh man, that was quick, not even calling her Queen Vashti anymore] is not to enter King Ahasuerus’s presence, and her royal position is to be given to another woman who is more worthy than she. The decree the king issues will be heard throughout his vast kingdom, so all women will honor their husbands, from the greatest to the least.” Memucan proposes a law be made that Vashti can no longer be in the King’s presence, something she obviously didn’t want anyway, and for the king to find a new queen that’ll do what she’s told, and then to broadcast that law throughout the whole kingdom.
An insecure man, surrounding himself with other insecure men. Instead of loving their wives and sacrificially serving them in a way that results in their respect, in their extreme insecurity they just want a law made that a wife MUST respect her husband no matter how he acts.
This must have stroked the King’s ego enough, because look at verse 21: “The king and his counselors approved the proposal, and he followed Memucan’s advice. He sent letters to all the royal provinces, to each province in its own script and to each ethnic group in its own language, that every man should be master of his own house and speak in the language of his own people.” Everyone listens to this knucklehead Memucan, and so now everyone in the world DOES know about this event. That was his initial concern right, that everyone would know what the queen had done? Now he makes a law that ensures that everyone WILL know what happened. What an idiot. But they follow his advice, because they’re in the same boat as him, heading in the same direction.
What an incredible, massive contrast to the seeming stability we saw in verses 1-9. Verses 10-22 show us that this king, and this empire, are actually built on unstable ground that can crumble underneath them just like that. And for the king, it all seems to hinge on where he finds his satisfaction.
King Ahasuerus was unsatisfied with his CONTROL: Because, you wanna know why he was trying so hard to impress people all these people with these extravagant parties? It was because he really wanted to invade Greece, it was like the only part of the world he didn’t control. His father had been defeated by the Greeks, so when he became king he called all the generals and important people in the Empire together and promised them great riches if they’d go to war with Greece. So all this partying was to prove that he could fulfill that promise. This was a guy in control of 127 provinces; from Pakistan to Northern Sudan, but it wasn’t enough. Nothing was ever enough for this guy. Like one rich man once said when asked how much money was enough, he answered, “Just a little bit more.” For Ahasuerus it would have been: how much control is enough? Just a little bit more, give me Greece. If THIS GUY felt like he needed more, what makes you or me feel like we’ll ever get enough to satisfy us?
King Ahasuerus was definitely unsatisfied with his REPUTATION. He didn’t just want to be known as the richest dude on the planet, he also wanted people to know that he had the most beautiful wife! And when that reputation took a hit he because an angry rage monster. And Memucan knew the exact angle to take: the King’s reputation. People will hear about this, and they’ll…they’ll…say things. You don’t want that! And he was like, yeah, I don’t want that, what would I do if people were saying things about me! His reputation has to be totally impeccable and impressive, otherwise he became unsatisfied.
He was unsatisfied with his POSSESSIONS. I mean, dude has everything. Unless you’re Jeff Bezos you probably can’t finance a 6 month daily party for all your friends, and then a week party for everyone on Oahu. If you are Jeff Bezos reading this article, Jeff, hit me up man, I’ve got some ideas for how you can bless Hawaii. But all this wealth, all this stuff, all the things that we dream about and chase for most of our lives, led to this: anger. An unsatisfied heart. He had it all; but he actually had nothing at all (little O-town reference for some of you).
The author of Esther invites us to see the sad, pitiful condition of the most wealthy and powerful man in the world. King Ahasuerus is a dumpster fire on the inside.
Maybe you are too. Maybe on the outside people would look at you and think that you’ve got life together, that you’re one of the good ones, that you’re on the train to success in life, but you know that on the inside that you’re actually a train wreck and that none of this stuff is filling that ache, that hole in your heart for satisfaction and joy.
That’s what the author of Esther is trying to show each of us, because the whole Bible is the story of how Jesus came to bring us the satisfaction that King Ahasuerus was searching for.
Jesus came to bring us satisfaction about our REPUTATION: Look at what 2 Corinthians 6 says: 18 “And I will be a Father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” That’s what Jesus came to do for us, to make it possible for us orphans in this world to be adopted into God’s family so that that’s our identity now: sons and daughters of God. But even more, we have the reputation of Jesus. Look at Romand 3:22: “The righteousness of God is through faith in Jesus Christ…” The righteousness of God, the idea that God could look at your life and say you are righteous; there’s no fault, there’s no guilt, there’s no shame in this my son, this my daughter, we can have that THROUGH Jesus. Because we really messed up our own reputation as Romans 3 goes on: 23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” We all sinned, fell, destroyed our reputations. But we can be justified, cleansed, redeemed by Jesus. Ahasuerus was looking for that. He was looking for the kind of reputation where he could be at peace, and he thought he could achieve it on his own. But Jesus came to achieve it for him; for each of us. That’s the reputation you can have through Jesus: Son of God, daughter of God, righteous like Jesus.
Jesus came to bring us satisfaction with our POSSESSIONS: First because there is more satisfaction in being with Jesus than there is in anything else we could possess in this world. Look at what Psalm 16:11 says, “You reveal the path of life to me; in your presence is abundant joy; at your right hand are eternal pleasures.” Only in God’s presence is there abundant joy. Only in God’s presence are there eternal pleasures. The richest king on earth won’t experience abundant joy, as we’ve seen, but the poorest person CAN have it if they have Jesus. But also because he promised to bless us forever because we’ll be with him forever. Look at 1 Peter 1:3 “Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” We have an inheritance that we’ll enjoy with Jesus forever. If you think 187 days of partying with King Ahasuerus sounds nice, just wait until eternity with King Jesus!
Jesus came to bring us satisfaction with how much we’re in CONTROL of our lives. Because what Jesus came to show us is that the God who is good and on our Side is in control of our lives. God is in control, that’s what we see even in this story in Esther 1. Even in this story where his name isn’t mentioned or thought of. Think about it: “If there were no feast, there would be no drunk king; no drunk king, no call to his wife; no call to his wife, no refusal; no refusal, no angry king; no angry king, no foolish counsel; no foolish counsel, no Vashti deposal; no Vashti deposal, no Esther; no Esther, no Jews; no Jews, no Jesus; no Jesus, no hope.” God is completely in control of your life, even if you don’t realize it.
See, God promised to send the savior of the world, his own Son, as an offspring of Abraham the father of the Jews. An offspring of David, and king of the Jews. And in the book of Esther, we’re gonna see that there was a plot to kill all of the Jews. And how does God work through this evil plot to keep his promise? By being in complete control even when he seems to be absent.
God is completely in control of your life right now, even if he seems to be absent. He’s completely in control of whether or not you have a job…
…of whether or not you have good health,
…of weather or not you have loved ones or community at this time,
…of whether or not you can get through to the unemployment office.
He’s in control of it all.
And He’s using all of it to show us all our need of Jesus. That we desperately need Jesus for satisfaction in this life, because everything else keeps letting us down.
So know this: God wants you, your heart, to be completely satisfied in this life, right now. He wants it so badly that he sent his son to die so that you could experience it.
And you can have that total satisfaction through Jesus.