Thy Will be Done (The Story of Esther) Part 1
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
Thy Will be Done (The Story of Esther) Part 1
Today, we are going to study the book of Esther. If you have never read it or if it has been a long time and the details have become a little fuzzy, get ready, because this is an exciting story.
There are five major characters in this book, and I’ll introduce them now to make things easier to follow.
Xerxes is the 5th king of the Persian Empire and he is in the 3rd year of his reign, which began in 486 BC, after the death of his father, Darius the First.
Vashti is the Queen of Persia. She is a woman of character and conviction.
Mordecai is a Jewish man, whose family was exiled when Jerusalem fell. He is a cousin of Esther and has been raising her ever since her parents died.
Esther is an orphan girl, who is being raised by Mordecai. She is a woman of both inner and outer beauty.
Hamon is the villain of the story. He is dressed in black and wearing a black hat. He is the second in command of the Persian Empire.
As we study this thrilling account from the word of God, we will see that though God’s name is never mentioned in this book, that His presence, His providence, His moving, is very apparent as the story unfolds.
It is like God is off stage, directing those who are on stage. He is setting the scenes and guiding the action.
You know, it is so easy to see God in the spectacular and the miraculous, but it is a lot harder to see God in the seemingly mundane and ordinary times of our life. But God is also present there, weaving a plan and working in our lives.
Scene One: “The Party”
This drama, from the word of God, opens in 483 BC, during the 3 rd year of King Xerxes reign, in the city of Susa, in what today would be the country of Iran.
God’s people have been scattered throughout the Persian Empire since the fall of Jerusalem, which occurred in 587 BC at the hands of the Babylonians.
So here we have King Xerxes in his capital city. And I think we would have to call him the ultimate party animal.
He is throwing a party for all of his nobles, officials, princes and military leaders; one commentator said it was a group of 10,000-15,000.
And do you know how long his party lasted? For 180 days. And do you know what he did right after the party? He threw another one for ten days in the enclosed garden of his palace.
And while this party was going on, the ladies were having their own party, given by Queen Vashti.
And as the party was nearly over, the King (no doubt drunk) thought, “Hey, I have a great looking wife; I think I’ll have her get all prettied up and come in and walk around in front of my drunken friends.” So he sent his messengers to get her.
What do you think Queen Vashti did when she heard the King’s order? She refused; she wasn’t about to allow herself and the King (who was not in his right mind) to be disgraced; she was a woman of conviction and even though she knew that the price would be high to refuse, she sent back word, “I’m not coming.”
So they remove Vashti’s crown and issue a decree that all
women in the empire, must respect their husband. It is as if they thought that they could demand that their wives respect them. But that’s not how it works; respect cannot be demanded, it must be earned.
Scene Two, “The Pageant”
They are looking for a replacement for Queen Vashti. Xerxes’ attendant suggests sending out commissioners to all 127 provinces, and that they should bring back to Susa the most beautiful women they can find.
He said, “And let the one who pleases you, be the next Queen, and we will help you judge.”
It is here that we see the invisible hand of God begin to move, and it stops at Esther.
Esther is chosen as one of the girls from her province. Mordecai, her adopted father, tells her to keep the fact that she is a Jew hidden.
Regardless of the odds, Esther would win. After she had gone through the prescribed beauty treatments, 6 months of oils and 6 months of perfumes and cosmetics, she was brought before Xerxes.
17 Well, the king loved Esther more than any of the other girls. 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 threw another big party for all his officials and servants, giving generous gifts to everyone and making grants to the provinces in the form of remission of taxes.
Esther 2:17-18 (Living)
Scene two closes with a very important point stuck in at the end. Mordecai worked at the king’s gate where he overheard two men plotting to assassinate Xerxes. He told Esther, and Esther told Xerxes, and the men were arrested, found guilty and hanged. And this event was recorded in The Book of Annals, which was kind of like the minutes of a meeting.
Now you need to remember that bit if information because you will need it later.
Scene Three, “The Plot”
As this scene opens up, the villain steps onstage for the first time. We finally meet Hamon.
We see Hamon being promoted to the highest office in the kingdom; he is made second in command to Xerxes, himself, and Xerxes has also ordered that whenever Hamon walks by, everyone must bow down and worship him.
Mordecai, who worked at the gate, refused to bow down and give homage and worship to Hamon. When Hamon learned of this, he was furious, and when he learned that Mordecai was a Jew, his fury raged with even more intensity.
Hamon hated the Jews. They were the most stubborn people that he had ever seen. All of the other conquered nations would bow and give honors to Persian leaders, but not the Jews. They would not bow to anyone except their God. Listen to these two verses:
5,6 Haman was furious but decided not to lay hands on Mordecai alone, but to move against all of Mordecai's people, the Jews, and destroy all of them throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes.
Esther 3:5,6 (Living)
Then Hamon went to Xerxes, to try to sell the king on his idea. Can’t you just imagine Hamon buttering-up the King?
8 Haman now approached the king about the matter. "There is a certain race of people scattered through all the provinces of your kingdom," he began, "and their laws are different from those of any other nation, and they refuse to obey the king's laws; therefore, it is not in the king's interest to let them live.