Thoroughly Equipped: Important Scenes

Today’s reading is Esther 8:1-10:3, 1 Corinthians 12:27-13:13, Psalm 37:1-11, Proverbs 21:23-24.

If Esther’s life were a stage play, there would be 12 key scenes that trace the development of her story:  Today, I want to share with you the first 7 scenes and tomorrow we will look at the last five scenes.  My prayer is that as you learn about Esther, you will see valuable life lessons for yourself.

Scene 1:  What a party!

The story of Esther begins in the setting of a great feast.  King Xerxes was having a grand banquet for all of his nobles, officials, military leaders, princes, and other dignitaries from the surrounding provinces.  The banquet was in celebration of his great successes, and it lasted for seven full days.  Wine was flowing freely, and the king had instructed the wine stewards to serve each man whatever he wished.  Queen Vashti, the wife of King Xerxes, was at the same time giving a banquet for the royal women.  On the seventh day, when King Xerxes was in high spirits from wine, he commanded that Queen Vashti be brought before him in order to display her beauty to the nobles present, for she was very lovely to look at.

Scene 2:  Who does she think she is?

However, Queen Vashti refused to come.  The king was furious because she had disgraced him in front of the dignitaries.  You see, at that time, a wife was more like a piece of property.  Legally, she had no right to refuse to come.  So the king consulted experts in matters of law and justice and it was decided that Queen Vashti would have to give up her crown and be banished from the King’s presence.  This was announced throughout the land as an example for the other women.

All of this was fine, until later when the king’s anger had cooled and he began to miss his wife.  So, to cheer the king, his attendants suggested a royal beauty pageant.  The king appointed commissioners from all over the province to find the prettiest virgins to bring to the palace for a year of beauty treatments.  At this point, Esther steps into the scene.


“Now there was in the citadel of Susa a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish,  who had been carried into exile from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, among those taken captive with Jehoiachin  king of Judah.  Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This girl, who was also known as Esther, was lovely in form and features, and Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died.”

(Esther 2:5-7)

Scene 3:  And who are your parents?

When we first meet Esther, we immediately see that she has several strikes against her.  She had a heritage of slavery.  She was a foreigner in the land.  She was an orphan.  But we also see that Esther was a beautiful, young Jewish girl who had been raised by her cousin, Mordecai, after her parents had been killed.  Mordecai had been carried into exile, but eventually worked his way into some sort of official role in the king’s court.  So, Mordecai arranged for the beautiful Esther to be one of the contestants in the royal beauty pageant.  It is unclear whether Esther wanted to do this, but she obediently followed Mordecai’s instructions, including keeping hidden that fact that she was Jewish.

“Esther had not revealed her nationality and family background, because Mordecai had forbidden her to do so.  Every day he walked back and forth near the courtyard of the harem to find out how Esther was and what was happening to her.  Before a girl’s turn came to go in to King Xerxes, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics.”                                                                       

                                                                                                            Esther 2:10-12

 One thing that I noticed in those verses was that Esther was humble enough to listen to godly, wise counsel.  Mordecai obviously cared for Esther and he cared greatly about completely following God’s way.  I believe that God will send people into our lives to speak godly wisdom and wise counsel, and to encourage us in our journey to God’s extraordinary plan for our lives.  But we must be humble enough to listen.

Once, I had a dream.  I have always dreamed vividly.  My old roommate, Kelli, called it “story time” in the mornings when I would tell her what I dreamed.  I don’t remember all my dreams, but I remember this one.  In my dream, a ferocious lion was chasing me.  I was ahead of him, but I could feel him catching up, and I was getting very tired of running.  Then I ran into a big arena, and when I entered the arena suddenly people started cheering.  I looked up and realized that they were cheering for me!  The more I looked, the more people I recognized—family members, people from my church, friends.  They were all cheering for me.  Shortly after that, I read Hebrews 12:1-3:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Suddenly that verse made sense to me.  God will provide a great cloud of witnesses for each of us, to cheer us on and encourage us during our lives.  1Peter 5:8 says, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”  God will provide this cloud of witnesses to strengthen our faith so that we will not be devoured.  But most of all, He will give us Himself, a very present help in time of need.

Scene 4:  Win him over!

Esther won the favor of the man in charge of the new harem and he immediately provided her with beauty treatments and special food.  He provided her with seven maids and moved them into the best place in the harem.  We don’t really know if each candidate had seven maids, but I think the Scripture tends to suggest that they did not.  Remember that the number seven means completion and perfection.  When God begins to prepare you for His extraordinary plan for your life, He will send you everything you need to complete you and perfect you and make you ready for extraordinary fruitfulness.  But, once again, you must be humble enough to receive all the things He sends your way for preparation.

Scene 5:  Don’t forget your beauty rest! 

Every day Mordecai walked back and forth near the courtyard where Esther was staying in order to find out how she was doing.  For twelve months it was a continual spa experience.  The girls were prescribed beauty treatments: six months with oil of myrrh and six months with perfumes and cosmetics.  After the twelve months, each girl was presented to the king.  The girls were allowed to take anything from the harem with them in order to entice the favor of the king.  When it was Esther’s turn to be presented to the king, she went before him simply adorned, taking nothing with her except what was suggested by the man in charge. She did not try to be something that she was not.  She simply trusted that her ordinary life was in the hands of an extraordinary God.

Scene 6:  Victory!

Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her, including the king.  She basically won the beauty pageant, a royal crown was placed on her head and she became queen in place of Vashti.  The king once again gave a royal banquet to celebrate his new queen!  Queen Esther was now far above Mordecai in social standing and importance, but she continued to show him a father-figure respect.  She did not forget her “ordinary” status.  They kept in close contact through a maid, and Mordecai continued to sit at the king’s gate keeping tabs on his beloved Esther.  One day, while sitting at the gate, Mordecai overheard a plot to assassinate King Xerxes.  He immediately told Queen Esther, who in turn reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai.  And this incident was reported in the book of the annals, or royal history books.

Scene 7:  The sins of the forefathers.

Now go back in time to King Saul’s day.  Remember, the people disobeyed God, and allowed some of the Amalekites to live.  One of the nobles of the royal court of King Xerxes was a man named Haman.

“After these events, King Xerxes honored Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, elevating him and giving him a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles.  All the royal officials at the king’s gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor.

“Then the royal officials at the king’s gate asked Mordecai, ‘Why do you disobey the king’s command?’  Day after day they spoke to him but he refused to comply. Therefore they told Haman about it to see whether Mordecai’s behavior would be tolerated, for he had told them he was a Jew.

“When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor, he was enraged.  Yet having learned who Mordecai’s people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes.”                        

                                                                                                                  Esther 3:1-5

 Scripture says that Haman was on Agagite.  Centuries back, King Agag was the ruler of Amalek.  So Agagite was another way of saying he was an Amalekite.

He was a descendent of the Amalekites that had been allowed to live 500 years before, when King Saul did not completely obey God.  And Haman the Amalekite hated the Israelites just as much as his ancestors had.  Now Haman had continued to rise in power and all the royal officials would bow as he walked by—all except Mordecai, who was determined not to bow to anyone except his God. This allegiance to God set in motion a conflict with great repercussions.  But God ….

Once again, we must remember those two precious words:  But God ….  When all looks hopeless, when we feel helpless, when we can’t see how our story could be redeemed, we must remember our God is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  He can create something new and different and beautiful out of the great messes of our life.  Tomorrow we will see how God came through for Esther and His people.  They were set for sure destruction, but God ….

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