Thursday April 30, 2020
Who Does the World Belong to?
1 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.
Does kingship in the Bible highlight or obscure the rightghtful and true kingship of Almighty God? This is a question we must answer with every king we meet in scripture and with every ruler and government we meet in our lives. God warns Israel against having human kings because of this obscurity they will cause. See 1 Samuel 8. Human kings obscure the true reign of God among the people they rule. They often point to themselves as the ultimate instead using their position and power to ensure everyone knows the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.
This opening scene appears like a gluttonous human centered parody of the final heavenly banquet Christ will host after he has judged the living and the dead. Here, King Xerxes sees himself as god. Everything happening is to show his splendor and glory and how he’s responsible for the flourishing of the entire world. The pomp and vanity is pervasive for six months. The earth belongs to him and everything in it. He doesn’t reveal any devotion to God. He thinks this story is about him. Even his beautiful queen, to him, is an object he owns who should parade around at his request as a display of his glory.
Except he isn’t God and Queen Vashti isn’t his possession. This story isn’t called King Xerxes. It’s called Esther. When we meet her, the obscurity will begin to fade as to what a ruler seeking truth and justice looks like. For now, we’re given the image of a king who thinks this story is about him as he boasts his exorbitant wealth upon everyone great and small…meaning the Jews have a place in the Persian Empire. It doesn’t appear there is state sanctioned discrimination against particular people groups. As King Vashti refuses to be objectified, Xerxes burns in anger but consults his advisors in manners of law and justice. Does any of this really matter when the king and his nobles can do whatever they want? We’ll see.
None of us can probably relate too closely with this opening scene in Esther. However, the fundamental concern underneath it all for us is this question: to whom do we owe our allegiance? Who do we belong to? Are we giving credit where credit is due? Are we giving glory to the only One who is worthy? Are we honoring God with the authority he has given us? All of us are given authority in life. At work, at home, at school, at church, in our communities. Are we using our authority to point to God or ourselves? Will you respond to God today like King David did?
10 David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying,
“Praise be to you, Lord,
the God of our father Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.
11 Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, Lord, is the kingdom;
you are exalted as head over all. (1 Chronicles 29:10-11)
Prayer for Today
Morning Prayer from Saint Patrick
I arise today
Through the sength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.
I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s hosts to save me
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a multitude.
Christ shield me today
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of the Lord of creation.
The First 15
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