Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“He was despised and rejected and forsaken by men, a Man of sorrows and pains, and acquainted with grief and sickness; and the One from Whom men hide their faces. He was despised, and we did not appreciate His worth or have any esteem for Him.”
“There is no place where thou canst go, where Christ has not been before thee – sinful places alone excepted. He hath been before thee; He hath smoothed the way; He hath entered the grave, that He might make the tomb the royal bedchamber of the ransomed race, the closet where they lay aside the garments of labor to put on the vestments of eternal rest.
In all places whithersoever we go, the Angel of the covenant has been our forerunner. Each burden we have to carry has once been laid on the shoulders of Immanuel.
His way was much rougher
and darker than mine;
Did Christ, my Lord suffer
and shall I repine?
Dear fellow-traveler, take courage! Christ has consecrated the road.”
Pastor Charles H. Spurgeon
Today’s Study Text:
“But the Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s commandment by his chamberlains: therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him. Then the king said to the wise men, which knew the times, (for so was the king’s manner toward all that knew law and judgment: And the next unto him was Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, which saw the king’s face, and which sat the first in the kingdom.)
“Nurturing The Embers of Hope”
“Vashti the Valiant” Part 7
Definition of the word “valiant”: Having or exhibiting courage.
“Valor is strength, not of legs and arms, but of heart and soul.”
Michel de Montaigne
Have I ever been in a situation which required me to exhibit the quality of “valor”?
“The ultimate measure of a man (or woman) is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
“To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men (and women).”
It is a sad fact that a year like 2016, political noise does a good job of drowning out any other voices – especially those voices that encourage us to participate in the work of Jesus here on earth. Thankfully, the book of Esther helps us keep an eye on the turmoil found in our world today but allows us to also be reminded that God is really in charge and Ruler over all.
Vashti’s refusal to come when ordered by her wine-impaired, merry-hearted husband, to be used as just another one of the “riches” of his kingdom for public display and bragging rights, made King Ahasuerus furious. It’s interesting to read Esther 1: 12 where we are told: “Therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him.” If we take the time to go to the Hebrew translation, we’ll find that the Hebrew word, “qatsaph” is used only once in the Old Testament and it is in the book of Esther describing the king’s emotional meltdown or as the translation enlightens us – the king experienced a “crack-down, bursting out in a rage.” If this doesn’t give us an idea about the king’s reaction, I don’t know what would. Moreover, the words “his anger burned” serve to enlighten us further for they mean “to become a heat that consumes by fire and to act brutish.” I wanted to get a clearer understanding of the word “brute” and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary gave me the necessary information: “Coarse, crude, lacking reason or intelligence.”
Now if the explanation regarding King Ahasuerus’ behavior sounds familiar it should. I’ll say again, “I just love studying the Bible!” One of the many important lessons I’ve taken away from our nearly 10 years of studying through the Bible is that when God repeats Himself, allowing us to recognize divine lessons throughout history, we need to pay attention. This is exactly what we find in the very first chapter in the book of Esther. In often overlooked verses in Chapter 1, in our race to the climax of the story of an orphan who becomes queen of Medo-Persia, we too quickly leave Vashti in the dust bin of history, forgetting that in order for God to have His child Esther in a pivotal place, the queen, Vashti, could not still be wearing the royal crown. As an aside, maybe God is up to something in your own life right now. Possibly it appears to contradict everything and everyway you think God should handle things. But you knew He is leading and is up to something. And when in the future, you look back on how He has placed your footsteps along the road, you’ll marvel at the timing of His perfect plan, just like He had for Esther’s life.
And it is here where two very interesting stories in the Bible intersect and I might add that just when I thought I’d found all the information that was pertinent to the book of Esther, I found this information buried deep in a book in a series called The Old Testament Library. In his commentary on Esther, Jon D. Levenson brought out this interesting connection to his readers:
“The absence of women at Ahasuerus’ banquets enhances the perception that these were really just overdone ‘stag parties,’ with all the licentiousness and disrespect the term implies…Having shown off his wealth and his power, Ahasuerus now seeks to show off his wife, as if she is in the same category. That he seeks to do so when he is ‘merry with wine’ does not augur well (Does not serve as a good sign or prediction for him.) ‘Wine is not for kings,’ a royal mother admonishes her son in Proverbs 31: 4, and a number of Biblical narratives with close affinities bear this out…For example, ‘Nabal was in a merry mood and very drunk’ (1 Samuel 25: 36) just before his wife, Abigail, tells him of her solicitude for David.” In fact, the same Hebrew word described Nabal and the merry King Ahasuerus. Here are the exact words spoken in I Samuel 25:36: “And Abigail came to Nabal; and, behold, he held a feast in his house, like the feast of a king; and Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunken; wherefore she (Abigail) told (Nabal) nothing less or more, until the morning light.”
It is interesting to me how Abigail is lauded for her discernment and courage in dealing with both a drunken husband and an angry and rash David, who when hearing about Nabal’s spiteful behavior, ordered all his men to grab their swords and take revenge upon the “brute” by murdering him and anybody else who got in the way.
What these interconnected stories tell me is that when God chooses to use His daughters, whether it be a courageous and valiant Abigail who calmed the angry spirit of David or it is the queen of a foreign king who recognizes that she is not just a physical body to ogle and so she valiantly stands up to the monarch’s command that she come and show-off for his drunken friends, the power of our Almighty God to use anyone He chooses to carry out His providential will on this earth is not limited. If we are willing God will use us no matter the limitations we think we have.
I’ll be bold enough to state that there is a reason Vashti’s name stands out as the first female we read about in a book of the Bible called Esther. Vashti’s valiant behavior in the face of a raging king should reinforce in all of God’s children, both female and male, that the desire to stand courageously, yes, valiantly for the right no matter what threat we face is one God honors.
We need to never forget that there may not have been Esther the queen without Vashti the queen. In God’s plan, He needed both to act valiantly in the face of death if necessary. And when called to behave boldly, these two queens of Medo-Persia stood tall and bold.
One of my heroines, a woman I would call valiant was the social reformer Dorothy Day. So when in college I had to do a term paper on the life of a woman I admired, having read a great deal about this often maligned woman, I decided I could really cover a lot of territory writing about her. While I got a top grade on the paper for its literary correctness and perfect punctuation, I’ll never forget being asked by my professor as well as my parents, “Why did you choose to write about this woman, anyway?” To be honest, I first was drawn to Dorothy Day’s life because we shared the same first name. Let me make this clear, while I didn’t agree with all of her beliefs, it was her writing that inspired me to put pen to paper many years ago and raise millions of dollars for some of the most life-changing organizations around the world – especially those that fed the hungry, clothed the naked and went into prisons worldwide to deliver the message of God’s eternal love for all of us. Just recently, as I was again reviewing some of the articles, books, and even a movie which portrayed the “revolutionary” work of Ms. Day at a time in history when she was ignored or defamed, I found it amazing to read that this once reviled lady is being held up today as an example of social active behavior that touches the lives of the forgotten as well as calls all of us to follow the path of Jesus where ‘justice for all’ isn’t just an empty slogan but is on the lips of all of God’s valiant children.
The prophet Isaiah, writing at a time of great apostasy called out: “None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity” (Isaiah 59: 4, K. J.V.). These words could easily have been written about life in Medo-Persia during the reign of King Ahasuerus and in fact, they could be written about our conflicted world on a planet called earth in the 21st century. Who knows what our Almighty God can do with valiant men and women named Vashti, Esther or Mordecai. Who knows, maybe the voice God calls for is yours and mine.
“Everyday courage has few witnesses. But yours is no less noble because no drum beats for you and no crowds shout your name.”
Robert Lewis Stevenson
“Valor grows by daring, fear by holding back.”
(1st century BC)
“O Prince of Life, teach us to stand more boldly on Your side, to face the world more courageously, and not to let ourselves be dismayed by any storm of temptation; may our eyes be steadfastly fixed on You in fearless faith; may we trust You with perfect confidence that You will keep us, save us, and bring us through by the power of Your grace and the riches of Your mercy.”
“O God our Father, let us not be content to wait and see what will happen, but give us the determination to make the right things happen. Give us the courage to be either hot or cold, to stand for something, lest we fall for anything. In Jesus name. AMEN.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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