The Book of Esther chronicles Esther’s ascension to the throne as well as the exploits that she achieved for her people as queen. However, Esther was not King Ahasuerus’ first wife; neither was she his original queen- Vashti was. Vashti’s short interlude in the Bible occurs in Esther 1:9-12 but the impact of her decisions literally influenced the course of history, particularly for her successor. This episode is therefore a goldmine of life lessons for us as modern women, especially regarding the power of obedience. Feel like listening rather than reading the rest of the devotional? No problem, just press play on the audio below. Feel free to download also:
King Ahasuerus was a very successful king with a vast kingdom spanning India to Ethiopia. He had a political agenda which involved calling together all his officials, servants, nobles and princes of the provinces for a great feast. He also showed “the riches of his glorious kingdom and the splendor of his excellent majesty for many days,” 180 in all. After the success of all this the king decided to make another 7-day feast in celebration and Vashti was allowed to have a feast for the women also. On the very last day of the 7-day feast, the King was feeling especially “merry with wine” and so he asked that Vashti be brought to him so that he could show off her great beauty. He sent his eunuchs to deliver the message to her but she refused to come. We’ll never truly know why she acted as she did. However, what we do know is that, that one act of disobedience practically undid all of the work that the king had been putting in for 180 plus days to bolster his reputation. This is because, although Vashti was queen, she was still considered one of his subjects. She therefore “wronged the king” by disobeying his command. More than that, her ranking as queen gave her influence in her own right and made her a role-model. Ahasuerus’ wise men therefore feared that the king’s female subjects, especially, would follow her example, causing discord within the kingdom- and this is what led to Vashti’s downfall and subsequent replacement (Esther 1:15-20).
One of my dad’s favourite sayings, as I was getting older, was “a word is enough to the wise”. This would usually follow a session of advice giving in which he would let me know what he felt my best course of action through a particular situation would be. It falls in line with many of the proverbs in the Bible which suggest that wise people discern wise instruction and follow it to their credit and success, whereas fools do quite the opposite to their detriment (Proverbs 23:9; Proverbs 12:15; Proverbs 28:26; Proverbs 4:13). The Bible also goes further to suggest that the behaviour of wise people is rooted in humility, whereas the behaviour of foolish people is rooted in pride (Proverbs 11:2; Proverbs 16:18; Proverbs 29:23; Proverbs 18:12). Vashti’s successor, Esther, was a very successful queen by comparison. She has come to be widely celebrated amongst Christians for her bravery in seeking to save her people despite the ever-present threat of death. Yet the only difference between these two ladies is that one acted foolishly through pride and the other acted in wisdom by being humble enough to not only listen to wise counsel, but place her endeavours before God (Esther 4). Through my own life experiences, I have learned that this means dying to self. It requires the relinquishing of control and the temptation to lean on my own understanding. It requires defying my natural impulses and following the leading of the Holy Spirit, even when it doesn’t make sense. It requires praying and including God every step of the way. It requires learning to say, as Jesus did, “yet not my will but God’s be done”.
What about you, lovely? Are you “a Vashti” or “an Esther”? Who do you allow to speak into your life? How have these people demonstrated that they deserve such a liberty? Do you include God in your decision-making processes? Is your prayer time actually a time of communication or is it just you talking at Him; letting Him know how He can serve you with no room for reciprocity? Ask God who He has placed in your life as His oracles. Get into the habit of including Him “in everything by prayer and supplication” for, as Vashti learned the hard way, “obedience is better than sacrifice”. Want to know how to do this?