Thursday, August 9, 2012

Who's in Control?

I was reading through the story of Esther again this week and saw something I have never seen before. I love it when this happens with Scripture.

The story tells us that Xerxes is powerful, influential king.    He throws himself a party that is unlike any other party in an attempt to put his wealth and control and influence on display.

Xerxes has all the control.

His queen, Vashti, is asked to come out and parade in front of all the men at a party that king Xerxes has thrown for himself.  She asked to come out in her royal crown, a reference that a number of people think means come out in only your royal crown.
Queen Vashti becomes one of my favorite characters in the story at this point because she refuses to do the thing she has been asked to do and parade herself naked in front of the men in Xerxes kingdom.

Xerxes may not have as much control as he thinks.

But because the story tells us so much about Xerxes power and influence you know it isn't going to end well for Vashti.  She's banished and the search for a new queen begins.

So the unlikely jewish girl Esther is chosen after her cousin Mordecai reminds her that she may have come to her royal position "for such a time as this."

In the midst of all of this a guy named Haman, is being elevated to a high position in Xerxes kingdom and convinces Xerxes to sign a decree that all Jews need to be killed.  The story tell us that Haman is a descendant of Agag, I guy Saul should have killed back in 1 Samuel 15.  But Saul didn't kill him and now his descendant is influencing this story hundreds of years later.  Haman is holding a grudge because of what the Israelites in almost wiping out his people and would like to return the favor.  

But the powerful Xerxes let's Haman issue this decree.  A signal that he has less control that we were first made to believe.

So the story goes on and Esther musters the courage to go the king and point out that Haman is trying to wipe her people from the earth.  This makes Xerxes angry and he hangs Haman and elevates Mordecai to Haman's position.

The drama becomes a comedy.

A decree issued by the king cannot be reversed so the Jews are still awaiting their annihilation at the hands of the people in Persia.  But now Xerxes also allows Esther and Mordecai to issue a decree that Jews will be allowed to defend themselves when attacked.

And defend themselves they do.  Killing more than 75,000 non-jews.

Esther and Mordecai were responsible for issuing the decree for Jews to defend themselves.   Because of this a war breaks out in Xerxes powerful provinces and 75,000 people die as a result.

The king who controlled everything actually controls nothing. 
But something we might miss unless we were looking for it is that God is not mentioned by name in the story of Esther.  The unnamed character has more control than the character who we are told from the beginning has the greatest amount of influence.

Maybe you, like me, can identify with Xerxes.    I do my best to make it clear that I have control.  I'll tell you, I'll behave in a way that works to convince you and I can even talk, teach and preach about it.

And I can do this on some days without a mention of God.  I've got this.
And then the foundation gets a crack.

The person who thought they had control over everything is actually out of control.  Maybe it is overworking, stress at home, with family, relationships or something else.

"For such a time as this" gets a lot of attention in the story and rightfully so.  But let's remember to notice too that all the characters in the story (and all of us) can get caught thinking that we have all the control.

God, the unnamed hero is in control at all times...even when life seems out of control.

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