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The Power of Refusal

Words of Faith Final

The Power of Refusal

Words of Faith 5-24-2021

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2008, 2021

Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL

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Esther 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 in his own way, 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 Carcas-- [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.


      The story of Esther begins with a woman named Vashti.  Esther will become one of the most renowned in all of Judaism.  Her Hebrew name "Hadassah" is now a name around which Jewish women unite in service, humanitarian concern, and medical excellence.  The Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem is the finest in the Middle East and one of the finest in the world.  But the story of this strong and courageous Jewess begins with a pagan queen named Vashti. 


        The story could be right out of the tabloids.  King Xerxes, a powerful King with a glamorous queen at his side, decided to impress the whole world with a lavish banquet.  For half a year Xerxes displayed his wealth in a massive preparation for the seven-day banquet.  Gold, marble, linens, and pearls adorned the kingdom.  Where are the E! Entertainment crew and the paparazzi?  Why it almost sounds like the Academy Awards!  Except this gathering has all the men drinking together for seven days while the women have a separate party.

       Finally, the banquet got beyond the point of too much wine.  The King sent for Queen Vashti (who was very lovely to look at) to come and "display her beauty" wearing her royal crown.  Her refusal to come and dance before the guests offended his male ego and set off a national incident.

        At first, we might wonder at Vashti's refusal.  Was she just being stubborn?  But Jewish interpreters of the text tell us that the request was for more than a cordial family appearance.  The Hebrew can be understood as a request for Vashti to appear before the drunken guests wearing ONLY her royal crown!  The royal "men only" party had turned into a stag party!  Oh, the scandal of it!   There are some things a King ought never to ask of a Queen and no wonder Vashti declined!  We can admire her for standing her ground.

       We will soon see that Vashti's refusal opened a much wider debate over the place of women in ancient culture.  Little did she know, she had also set in motion a series of events that would eventually make possible the salvation of the Jewish people throughout the region-- but we are getting ahead of the story.  The point is that God works in mysterious ways.  We may wonder as we read this book in which God seems so silent-- Is it possible... just possible... that God was whispering in the ear of Vashti?  Giving her courage? Setting the stage?

       One of the powerful messages of the Book of Esther is that God is at work all around us-- even when we don't see the obvious signs.  Most of the Hebrew Scripture is not subtle about providence.  Most of the Hebrew Scripture plainly tells of God blessing the faithful and cursing the rebellious-- destroying armies and using pagan Kings to punish His people.   Esther is not a "secular book" as some have suggested, but it does speak to a secular age-- the time after the exile when prophets were silent.  The book of Esther reminds us that God is at work even at times when people are not noticing-- even when His name is not spoken, written, or honored.  God is at work even in obscene displays of worldly wealth and power and the strange scandals of the world.  God is at work even in those who do not know Him!  Simply put: God is at work!

        But don't miss the courage of Vashti.  If indeed, God was whispering in her ear, it took some intestinal fortitude to rebuff the King.  Putting him in his place would cost her everything of value in the world.  But she would not sell out.  We might ask ourselves: Is God calling us to take a stand?  Even against a person or a powerful system?  Is God calling us to stand up and do what is right even if it is costly?  And if God could call Vashti to have such courage, even though she did not know Him, perhaps He will call us to courageous places as well.


        Lord, thank you for Vashti and for all those who are courageous and even obedient though they do not know You.  Thank you for working all around me in my world even in situations where You are not mentioned or appear to be silent.  Lord, give me the courage to take a stand.  In Jesus' name.  Amen.


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© Jeffrey D. Hoy 2008, 2021

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy - Faith Fellowship Church (EFCA)       

2820 Business Center Blvd.

Melbourne, Florida 32940 (321)-259-7200

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The Words of Faith devotion is published five days a week by E-mail, excluding Federal holidays. Please feel free to forward this devotion to a friend who might be blessed by this devotion. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is quoted from the New International Version (R) of The Holy Bible. Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. Words of Faith (c) 1997, 2010 Jeffrey D. Hoy. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to forward this copyrighted material or use portions of it with appropriate notation of the source for non-profit purposes.