Esther 1:12 “But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command delivered by the eunuchs. Then the king became very angry, and his wrath burned within him.”

       The book of Esther is a rich historical narrative. It unfolds much like a play, with leading characters, plots, subplots, a villain, and a great ending. The book takes place during the time of the Persians. This is after the seventy-year Babylonian captivity. Esther, her Persian name, was raised by her old cousin Mordecai. He had been taken captive during the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem.

      The book opens with Ahasuerus as the king of Persia. He is the second king. His father, Darius I, from Daniel 5, is the one who conquered the Babylonians. So, the vast Babylonian empire is now under Persian control. Darius tried to push east into Greece but was defeated in 490 at the battle of Marathon. Now, a decade later, his son, Ahasuerus, or Xerxes (his Greek name) attempts to go east. He has a major victory at Thermopylae in 480. The following year, the Greeks push back and retake what Xerxes had achieved.

      In the first chapter of Esther, the king holds a massive 180-day banquet for his princes, commanders, and officials. The timing seems like he was trying to unify and build support prior to his move eastward. Xerxes son, Artaxerxes is the king that Nehemiah deals with. So, Esther was written during the time of Ezra and before Nehemiah.

      A second party or banquet takes place in chapter 5 in which the citizens of Susa are invited. The king shows off all his fancy things. Golden cups. Fine linens. The queen at the same time throws a banquet for all the women. The king’s party turns to a drunken feast. He calls for the queen to parade her beauty before the guests. She refuses which infuriates the king. No one turns down the king. She is dethroned, but not executed. The search is on for the next queen and that’s where Esther comes into the story.

  There are two powerful lessons from this first chapter of Esther:

  First, standing up for what you believe in comes with consequences. The queen didn’t want to be an item to be shown off to a bunch of drunken fools. Whether the king was expecting her to walk about in her “birthday suit” or simply be the subject of rude and gross comments from drunks, the queen refused. Her refusal came with consequences.

  And it does for us today. You can lose your job. You can be alienated from your family. You can be mocked. It takes strong spiritual fiber to be able to draw a line and say I cannot, and I will not cross over this line, come what may. Peter was put in prison. Paul was stoned. Antipas was killed. John the Baptist was beheaded. All, consequences of standing for what is right.

  And, when we fail to do this, we live with the consequences that our faith is shallow and means nothing to us. We sell out because of fear. We sell out because our job is more important than our convictions. We allow people to get away with saying and doing things that they should not. We look the other way but deep inside, we feel empty. We know that we should have said something. We know that we let our Lord down. How easy it is to point our fingers at Peter when he denied knowing the Lord, and yet, so often, we stand right beside Peter and the crowing rooster because we want someone to like us, accept us and be included.

  Queen Vashti was not Jewish. She did not have the Law of Moses to stand upon. But there was a moral line that she understood was wrong. She’d rather lose her position than to be humiliated by drunks. And, when you and I get that fire in our hearts, we too will learn to stand and take whatever consequences that come. There are many things being done in the workplace that is illegal, unethical, and simply wrong. Our congregations must be ready to step in and help our faithful brethren who may lose a job because they would not participate in wrong things.

     Second, showing off is nothing more than bragging. The king was showing off all that he had. Hezekiah did that to some Babylonian visitors. He showed them all the treasures of God’s house and the king’s house. Later, the Babylonians came and stole all those things. Some of us have fine collections of this and that. Be careful in how you display and talk about them. That collection doesn’t make you any better than someone else and when you die, your family will have to deal with it, and they may just put it all out in the trash. Enjoy what you have but don’t let it define you.


Roger Shouse is one of the Preachers at Charlestown Road Church of Christ in New Albany, IN