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WHY HAVE WE DISTORTED THE BOOK OF ESTHER? (Bible Study That Transforms)

IS ESTHER REALLY A BOOK ABOUT HEROES?

ESTHER HID HER FAITH,

SLEPT WITH A MAN TO WHOM SHE WAS NOT MARRIED,

AND MARRIED AN UNBELIEVER.

YET WHEN CALLED UPON TO RISK HER LIFE FOR HER PEOPLE

SHE DID.

 

DID SHE CAPITULATE OR WAS SHE A HEROINE?

Kajol Dulhan

 

 

The story of Esther has been so mis-interpreted. Why?

  • We have so often failed to realize the Bible is not about us but about God.
  • We have been taught wrong and then read it that way, instead of really looking.
  • We have missed the satire and thus reversed the meaning.

WE HAVE MISSED THE TRANSFORMING MESSAGE GOD LONGS TO GIVE US.

One of my favorite books on the planet is:


Sally Lloyd Jones writes:

Now, some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. The Bible certainly does have some rules in it… But the Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done…

Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes. The Bible certain has some heroes in it — but most of those heroes did really bad things, and sometimes on purpose.

No — the Bible is most of all a Story. …It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne – everything – to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!


WE HAVE MADE THE BOOK OF ESTHER ABOUT HEROES

BUT THOSE HEROES DID REALLY BAD THINGS

AND THEY DID THEM ON PURPOSE

NO,

AS SALLY LLOYD JONES MIGHT SAY,

THE BOOK OF ESTHER ISN’T ABOUT HEROES

IT’S ABOUT GOD

AND HOW HE IS SOVEREIGN OVER EVERY DETAIL

FOR HE HAS A GRAND PLAN

HE SEES HOW WE FAIL

YET HE DOES NOT LET OUR FAILURES

DETER HIS PLAN

HE CAN EVEN TURN THE ASHES OF OUR FAILURES

INTO BEAUTY


THERE IS A HERO IN THE BOOK OF ESTHER

 

IT IS THE LORD OF THE STARS

THE LORD OF THE SEA

AND THE LORD OF YOU AND ME


THIS IS THE MESSAGE WE MUST NOT MISS

 

Sally Lloyd-Jones doesn’t cover the book of Esther in her children’s book, and I think that is wise. In order to make it appropriate for children, you would have to leave out so much that it no longer is the true story. Much better to wait until they are ready.

It isn’t just the Jews who have distorted the book of Esther (at Purim the children boo whenever Haman’s name is read and cheer whenever Mordecai or Esther’s name is read — making it a book of villains and heroes), Christians have distorted it too.  I’ve seen books and Bible studies and movies that have completely distorted the story, missing the satire and the sexual abuse involved in the contest for the new queen.

Feminists and liberals want to make Vashti a heroine. She defied the king, refused to be humiliated, and boldly broke the rules. But we do not know why she defied the king – were her motives noble or ignoble? The text doesn’t tell us. Historians say she was a vengeful woman who had the tongues of Ahasuerus’ (or Xerxes in the Greek) concubines cut out. But neither can we know that for certain. This chapter isn’t about Vashti — it’s about God showing the folly of the kings of the earth who do not bow to Him.

Conservatives want to make Esther a heroine. And though it is true and laudable that she risked her life for her people, she made plenty of compromises before that point. This book isn’t about Esther, though she made a turn that is admirable. This book is about God and how He is sovereign over every detail because He loves us so.

It is absolutely vital, in understanding the book, to see the literary device of irony throughout. As Matthew J. Klaassen put it:

The interwoven plot lines of Esther, with different kinds of literary irony,

are identified and illustrated to show the essential fallenness of all peoples.

 

The Persians — Vashti, Xerxes, and Haman were all fallen. But Mordecai and Esther were fallen too.

THERE IS CERTAINLY AN IRONY IN REALIZING THAT GOD GAVE US THIS BOOK

TO SHOW HOW HE REDEEMS OUR FALLENNESS,

YET WE HAVE MADE IT A BOOK ABOUT HOW WONDERFUL WE ARE!

 

This week we will look at the opening of Esther — and of how important it is to read it through its intended literary device: irony. Xerxes thought he was amazing — but he was not. He was a fallen sordid king. His court doesn’t exactly shine either. It’s ironic humor, and you have to see it. When I was growing up there was a television show called Archie Bunker about a man who was a bigot and a sexist. But some people made him a hero — reversing the meaning of the show.

Next week we’ll look at the beauty contest — and if you haven’t seen it before, it will be eye-opening to you. The Keller sermon is amazing and you’ll have this week and next week to listen to it, because I so want you to hear it.

I have a studyguide on Esther, “A Woman of Faith.” (The publisher chose the title, but other than the title, I loved writing this guide and thank God for allowing me to work closely with a woman professor at Dallas Seminary who teaches Hebrew.) If you don’t understand how God is making fun of the king and his “wise men who knew the times,” you can completely misinterpret chapter 1. God was angry at the men who were so abusing women, but instead, this chapter can be used to reinforce bad behavior toward women. Did you know that this is the only place in Scripture were the literal word “obey” is used in regard to wives? And it is used satirically! As Professor Coover-Cox told me, “Women are supposed to respect and submit to their husbands – that is a different concept than obedience. Obedience is appropriate for children, but not for women who are called to be co-heirs. God was angry with these foolish men and is parading their foolishness just as Ahasuerus paraded his possessions.”

 

Let us not be afraid to look at this story carefully. God has a transforming message for us, and we must not miss it.

SUNDAY/MONDAY (ICEBREAKERS)

1. How were you, if you were, taught the book of Esther?

2. What two things stood out to you about the above and why?

MONDAY/WEDNESDAY (BIBLE STUDY)

Do not miss the irony as this six month party is described, a perpetual smorgasbord of gold, glitz, and glamour — that Xerxes (also called Ahasuerus) threw to impress all the leaders of the 127 provinces of Persia. (an area bigger than the United States).

Read Esther 1:1-9

1. As you read, find the satire and any evidence of parading of possessions and pride.

2. Meditate on verse 4. How does this show the fallenness of the king?

Read Esther 1:10-12

3.  What is the last “possession” Xerxes wanted to parade before this drunken group? How did his plan backfire?

Read Esther 1:13-22

4. Find the satirical humor. Discover why God may be “laughing” (yet really weeping) in:

A. 1:13-15

B. 1:16-18

C. 1:19-20

D. 1:21-22

 

This leads into finding a replacement for the queen. Keller thinks as many as 1,000 young virgins may have been taken. Josephus believes the number to be about 400. We don’t know — but there were 127 provinces, and the girls were taken. (Perhaps you’ve seen the movie on the sex trade with the title “Taken.”) Another movie that shows the horror of young girls taken from their homes is Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden’s account based on his interview with a geisha. In this case they were sold by their father. Below is the opening of this movie — 3 or 4 minutes will give you the idea of the horror of being taken.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xUnwmcrucM

We’ll look at this in more detail next week. What you must not miss is that in the midst of a fallen world — whatever your circumstance, God has a plan for His people, to prosper them and not to harm them. No matter the difficulties you face, He is with you. You will see next week how He was with Esther, even in the midst of a terrible situation.

5. What thoughts do you have at this point?

Thursday – Friday

Listen to this amazing message on Esther by Tim Keller. It is free! (LINK) If you don’t get to it this week, you’ll have another chance next week.

6. Share your notes and comments on the sermon.

Saturday

7. What have you learned about reading the Bible accurately?

8. What is your take-a-way and why?


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283 comments

  1. 1. How were you, if you were, taught the book of Esther?

    I am REALLY looking forward to this study! I haven’t done a deeper study on the book of Esther although I have studied it in church and yes it was taught pretty much that Esther was a heroine.

    2. What two things stood out to you about the above and why?

    I loved Dee’s points that the Bible isn’t about us but about God. I liked this: THE BOOK OF ESTHER ISN’T ABOUT HEROES IT’S ABOUT GOD AND HOW HE IS SOVEREIGN OVER EVERY DETAIL FOR HE HAS A GRAND PLAN- HE SEES HOW WE FAIL YET HE DOES NOT LET OUR FAILURES DETER HIS PLAN…

    I liked when Sally Lloyd Jones said the Bible isn’t mainly about what we should or shouldn’t be doing, but it is about God and what He has done. I have to be careful not to portray that to my children when we apply scripture to their issues-it is so easy, and I know I have done that! I think the fruit that comes from approaching Scripture this way is that our yielding to God can become a more dutiful obedience-I know that must grieve Him.

    So, I have to tell you this as it just came to mind. My boys are messy and I said to them years ago, “God says in Proverbs that a lazy man will end up in poverty, and in ruin.” Then during Isaac’s parent teacher conference we were addressing his lack of desire to work hard at school and then out of the blue Isaac exclaimed, “yes..we are christians, we read the Bible and my mom said that people who don’t work are lazy losers.” OH MY! I had a fake grin on my face, looking relaxed with a half-hearted chuckle, shook my head and said, well it wasn’t quite like that. Yet inside I was cringing. 😉

    1. Rebecca, I loved Isaac’s comment! Kids always find the “best” time to misinterpret what you’ve said to them 🙂

      1. Dawn, I felt horrible because there are people who really are unable to work..i could just imagine what the teachers were thinking. 🙂

  2. Looks like another insightful lesson! This was so good, Dee “THERE IS CERTAINLY AN IRONY IN REALIZING THAT GOD GAVE US THIS BOOK TO SHOW HOW HE REDEEMS OUR FALLENNESS,YET WE HAVE MADE IT A BOOK ABOUT HOW WONDERFUL WE ARE!”
    And I am intrigued by Professor Coover-Cox’s comment regarding obedience–helps to clarify the heart level difference between true respect for my husband vs. obedience.

  3. 1. How were you, if you were, taught the book of Esther?

    I had heard that Vashti’s refusal to be paraded before drunken men was to be commended, that she chose not to be a sex object. I had also always been taught that Esther was a heroine. But in her defense about her compromises, I wonder how much control she had over her circumstances as a young woman in such a culture, perhaps I am making excuses for her?

    I look forward to knowing more.

    2. What two things stood out to you about the above and why?

    Years ago I took part in an adult class I believe the study was written by Andy Stanley. The concept for the study was seeing the big picture of God’s love and human rebellion running through the entire Bible.

    The catch phrase was” God’s Passionate Pursuit of a Prodigal People”
    This concept has stuck with me, I am grateful God is determined to show mercy and pursue relationship with those whom He has called. I see myself in the story, a sheep that goes astray and my Shepherd coming to my rescue.

    1. Nice catch phrase, Chris S. “God’s Passionate Pursuit of Prodigal People” – yep, that about sums it up!

      1. Chris and Diane, Agree..love that catch phrase!

    2. Chris, you wrote “But in her defense about her compromises, I wonder how much control she had over her circumstances as a young woman in such a culture, perhaps I am making excuses for her?”
      Esther went willingly. She may not have wanted to, but she didn’t refuse to. It is the same dilemma that the Germans faced under the Nazi’s rule. Those who didn’t comply were beaten, tortured, forced to watch their family members killed, sent off to concentration camps or just “disappeared”. They too felt as though they had no choice, but they really did. They could have refused and suffered the consequences.

  4. SUNDAY/MONDAY (ICEBREAKERS)

    1. How were you, if you were, taught the book of Esther?

    As a kid, I primarily learned that Esther risked her life to save her people, the Jews, and that Mordecai (her relative, who was one of the “good guys”) asked her to do it.

    As an adult, I was told to study Esther to learn how to attract a man (although I can’t remember the exact instructions). After reading Esther, I blubbered back “but she did this and this.” (I wasn’t focusing on the right parts of the book!). Now after reading the intro here, I realize that I should have been more persistent with my questioning.

    2. What two things stood out to you about the above and why?
    1) WOW! Mordecai and Esther WERE fallen — and they weren’t the heroes they’ve been made out to be. They were quite manipulative. I’m looking forward to digging in MUCH more carefully.
    2) “This book isn’t about Esther, though she made a turn that is admirable. This book is about God and how He is sovereign over every detail because He loves us so.” YES! So thankful that He is sovereign and that He is a redeemer.

  5. Sermon is free 🙂 (Thought I’d download now so that I could listen when I don’t have Internet access)

  6. I knew there was a reason to buy that study book on Esther last year!
    I know we were taught about Esther once , but not in the depth in which it should have been taught. This study book really open my mind and understanding on Esther. I purchased it because I wanted to learn more about the women of the Bible for my own understanding.
    There is nothing light about her story.

  7. 1. How were you, if you were, taught the book of Esther?
    I have to confess I have very limited knowledge of the book of Esther. Most images come from the Read and Share Bible videos my kids love—basically that she was a beautiful, brave queen.

    2. What two things stood out to you about the above and why?
    The truth once again that we are so prone to look at the Bible through the lens of “what’s in it for me”. I laughed (not really) at the sign for a spa while we were at the beach, called “It’s all about me”—just made my stomach hurt. Yet that is so often how I’ve approached Scripture—how does this fit my life, what can I get out of it for me. I know there is a balance—He longs to speak to me in His Word, and it IS personal—but less of me, more of Him!

    I too highly recommend the Sally Lloyd Jones Storybook Bible—whether you have kids or not—it’s my favorite.

    1. Yet that is so often how I’ve approached Scripture—how does this fit my life, what can I get out of it for me. I know there is a balance—He longs to speak to me in His Word, and it IS personal—but less of me, more of Him!
      this is SO good Elizabeth! i never really saw how I do that ALL the time.

      1. I once went on a silent retreat and expected that God would give me some big revelation or vision of what He wanted to do with me, I laugh when I think about it. At 5:30 in the morning as the sun was rising I picked up my gospel of John and read where John the Baptist said “I must decrease and He must increase”. That is probably the most important revelation of my entire Christian life. Amazing grace, that God continues to love us and have mercy on us.

  8. Read Esther 1:1-9
    1. As you read, find the satire and any evidence of parading of possessions and pride.
    He invites all his officials and servants to come and look at all his possessions—for 180 days and then a feast that last 7 days.
    2. Meditate on verse 4. How does this show the falleness of the king?
    It’s amazing that the soul purpose of this grand event was to show off his material possessions—sad, really.

    3. What is the last “possession” Xerxes wanted to parade before this drunken group? How did his plan backfire?
    Xerxes has commanded his wife, Queen Vashti, be put on display for all to see her beauty—but she refused.

    Read Esther 1:13-22
    4. Find the satirical humor. Discover why God may be “laughing” (yet really weeping) in:
    As I read these verses I was struck by how Xerxes has many toys, and assumed power, but lacks the respect of his wife. He tries to enforce laws to demand her obedience rather than earn her respect. He abuses his power and tries to just keep creating more rules—and yet, even his own wife doesn’t obey them.

    Maybe it’s the rainy, dreary, day here—but I didn’t see the humor. Of course, Archie Bunker show really depressed me too—so I need to work on my serious-ness at times! Anyway, I just thought it was a sad, pathetic story.
    I read these verses a few times and I could just picture a modern day drama—a rich, powerful husband with lots of toys, but no control over his wife, because with all he owned, he could not own her—she did not love and respect him.

    1. just realized I edited too much of my answer to #1–there was first a feast for all his officials of 180 days, and the 2nd one, 7 days, was for all the townsmen

      1. Maybe God can laugh because He knows he joy we will have one day when we are finally complete…

    2. the problem is I dont think it IS funny, AT ALL, its sad and wrong and just not right but it isn’t ha ha funny at all. I don’t see God laughing at all but shaking his head saying “REALLY, THEY STILL HAVE NOT GOTTEN HOW MUCH I LOVE THEM,,,,REALLY!!!!” “why are these people so darn prideful and rediculous….what di I have to do to get through to them?!?!?!”

      1. have missed you cyndi–always so good to have you join in 😉

  9. Love this…..”the Bible is most of all a Story. …It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne – everything – to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life”!

    Jesus is my prince, coming for me, his beautiful bride! It is just like a fairy tale…but true!! Sometimes when I’m lying in bed and can’t sleep, I picture myself being captured by my prince Jesus, on his white horse with armor and he sweeps me up and later tells me “I am his own”, and he makes me feel like I’m his one and only, whom he loves so very much! Like I’ve never been loved before! Sound like a fairy tale? Yes, but it is true! One day he will! I know I sound kinda rediculous, but do you ever imagine this happing to you?

    I’ve got my Keller sermon ordered and the two movies mentioned being sent via Netflex and have started reading Esther. I’ve never studied Esther! But I have seen the Veggie Tale movie of Esther many, many times, as Kendra loves that one! I know that’s silly, because it does make Esther look like a heroine. I’m anxious to do this study to know the truth about Esther and the King. In Kendra’s movie, the King gets rid of his wife, the Queen, because she wouldn’t get up in the night to make the King a sandwich! It’s funny! It must of been a “no fault” country!!!

    1. oh Joyce–I LOVE this–“Sometimes when I’m lying in bed and can’t sleep, I picture myself being captured by my prince Jesus, on his white horse with armor and he sweeps me up and later tells me “I am his own”, and he makes me feel like I’m his one and only”

    2. Joyce,
      I don’t think you sound ridiculous at all, picturing yourself being swept up by Jesus, on a white horse. You kind of remind me of Joni Earackson, who talks often about how one day in heaven she will dance with Jesus – I think she even sings a song about it. Then she imagines him throwing that wheelchair into hell.

      1. Thanks:-)

  10. I so enjoyed singing in worship this morning. This song touched me particularly because of the picture of Psalm 24. When I went looking for it on you tube I found this and it reminded me of our beautiful Polly. http://youtu.be/KWTSgrBPVOA

    1. !It does remind me of Polly! Beautiful!

  11. With school starting this week, this is my best day to listen–and the sermon–WOW. I’ll wait to post my notes–just wanted to encourage all that it is fully worth the time (and it is free as Renee said!)
    WOW–“Spiritual beauty treatment”–Dee-thank you. Thank you for showing us this one–it’s beautiful and just what I needed to hear today.

  12. 1. How were you, if you were, taught the book of Esther?

    I have studied the book of Esther recently and I have used Dee’s book so I have a different perspective now, but as a youth I thought of Esther and Mordecai as heroes. I had no concept of the girls being basically kidnapped against their will and then forced to sleep with a stranger. I was totally naive.

  13. I am very interested in what everyone will think about this study of Esther, but I will not be able to participate much this week. I am looking after Krista’s boys today and tomorrow (they are in bed now.) Then on Wednesday, hubby and I are leaving for a conference and will be away until Saturday night. I feel bad that I will not be able to participate fully. :<

    1. Will miss you, Diane

    2. I agree, we certainly do miss your input when you are gone, but do have a lovely time with your grandchildren & then your hubby, we will be here when you return.

    3. Thanks, Joyce and Chris S. I am here today and will do what I can today before heading out tomorrow. I had a good time with the boys, but I am exhausted today. Glad to have one day to recover.

      1. Safe travels Diane. Enjoy the conference!

        1. Oh, thanks, Julie. I would also appreciate your prayers for those who lead and for decisions that need to be voted on.

  14. 1. How were you, if you were, taught the book of Esther?
    I was taught that Esther has an almost goddess like quality as she saved her race. Mordecai was a hero as well. Vashti was applauded for refusing to be paraded in front of drunken men. Looking forward to peering into the truth this week.

  15. Do not miss the irony as this six month party is described, a perpetual smorgasbord of gold, glitz, and glamour — that Xerxes (also called Ahasuerus) threw to impress all the leaders of the 127 provinces of Persia. (an area bigger than the United States).

    Read Esther 1:1-9

    1. As you read, find the satire and any evidence of parading of possessions and pride.

    “For a full 180 days he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and glory of his majesty.”

    Then he had a banquet for 7 days feeding the greatest and the least and giving wine abundantly.

    I think the satire is that his wealth defined him-he thought he was big stuff because of his power and wealth-and perhaps his kindness when he invited the greatest to the ‘least’ to come for the 7 day banquet. But compared to the glory and splendor and the love of God-oh, oh, my!

    I could be wrong but in verse 2 I also saw some possible satire in verse 2: “at that time King Xerxes reigned from his ‘royal throne’..

    2. Meditate on verse 4. How does this show the fallenness of the king?

    He put his wealth on display for 180 days to his nobles, military, the princes, and leaders of the other countries around him. He wanted to show the leaders and higher ups just how glorious and powerful he was too. Perhaps he wanted to ‘one up’ them as well-who knows but wow!

    Read Esther 1:10-12

    3. What is the last “possession” Xerxes wanted to parade before this drunken group? How did his plan backfire?

    He wanted to parade Queen Vashti in front of everyone because she was beautiful to look at, but she refused to come.

      1. Dee, He has blessed me so with your weekly studies! 🙂

        1. me too!

  16. Read Esther 1:13-22

    4. Find the satirical humor. Discover why God may be “laughing” (yet really weeping) in:

    A. 1:13-15

    Xerxes was seeking out ‘wisdom’ from those who were experts in law and justice. He was looking to find a way to enact his wrath on Queen Vashti just because she wouldn’t parade herself in front of his drunken friends to make him look good. He treated Queen Vashti like she was a trained dog, or just a trophy he could parade around. I think these men did that to women. This was pride to umteenth degree and the way they treated women must break God’s heart.

    B. 1:16-18

    Now this is PACKED with an oppressive message! Oh my. They were concerned that Vashti’s response would reverberate throughout and the wives of kings and nobles wouldn’t ‘respect’ their husbands-but this isn’t ‘respect’ it is oppression. These women were objects to the men. I know God hates the way these kings and nobles oppressed their wives.

    C. 1:19-20

    They made a royal decree effecting all the women in Persia and Media which can’t be repealed that Vashti can’t ever enter the presence of King Xerxes. He decided to cast her out and find someone else to replace her and put all the women under this law-that way the women would see this and ‘respect’ their husbands which basically means they would be threatened to remain door mats. I think this way of putting fear in women’s hearts in order for them to submit to oppression has to have made God weep.

    D. 1:21-22

    So they dispatched this new proclamation from the King to all the provinces proclaiming every man should be ruler over his own household. This wasn’t Gods intention for marriage-this isn’t how He set it up when He created Adam and Eve-they were to delight in one another-to love and serve one another-worshiping God. God didn’t intend for man to be cruel to, oppress and lord his headship over his wife, or over women in general.

    1. Rebecca, thank you for your wonderful comments…your helping me to understand what’s happening as I read these verses.

  17. 5. What thoughts do you have at this point?

    That video brought me to tears-the terror in being taken at that age. Everything she knew was ripped from her-the security of home, of parents, even her sister. She was ripped away from her family and taken to a dark and evil place. I haven’t seen this movie-now I want to.

    My thoughts throughout the video were-could this get worse for them, then her sister was taken away. Then I thought how God’s heart must be broke when this happens-but then I thought of his rescue and how He can meet her in this dark place in life.

    1. I agree totally. I went out and got the book from my library because apparently it is better than the movie. Hope I have time to read it 🙂

  18. 1. How were you, if you were, taught the book of Esther?

    I had no exposure to Esther as a child since I did not go to church. It wasn’t until my adulthood in Bible study that I first read the book. In Bible studies, Esther was always presented as a heroine. In light of what Dee reveals here, that these young women were forcefully taken from their homes, I don’t think Esther had any choice. If she had refused to go with the king’s men, or had refused to sleep with the king, I suppose she would have been put to death?
    Wow, when I used to read Esther 2:12, “Before a girl’s turn came to go in to King Xerxes…” I thought she just appeared before him. I’ve heard it presented that way by Christian teachers – that this was some kind of a beauty contest/pageant, and he chose his wife based on her beauty. I never caught it before that each girl had to sleep with the king.
    I also know of one Christian book for wives that uses Esther as an example of how she spent months making herself beautiful for the king – and so we wives should also take care of our physical appearance for our husbands. Another study I was in used Esther as an example of how she approached the king by first praying, fasting, and giving him a banquet, etc…before stating what was on her mind. In the same way, we were told, we shouldn’t meet our husbands at the door when they come home from work and blurt out what is on our mind.
    I still think she was a very brave girl, and God’s protective hand was upon her. I don’t know – was she very young? She must have been so frightened. Yet somehow she won the favor of everyone around her – reminds me of how God prospered Joseph in his circumstances when he was sold as a slave in Egypt, and gave him favor in the eyes of everyone he encountered.

    1. Can’t believe people actually wrote a books for women like that!

  19. 2. What two things stood out to you about the above and why?

    “We have so often failed to realize the Bible is not about us but about God” – here it is again, the theme from last week. I do think it is so easy to invert the Bible and read it backwards as if it is primarily about us/me. This is so good to readjust my thinking, to read the Bible with my focus on what is it telling me about God.

    “There is a hero in the book of Esther” – it is God! How different to read the Bible through, looking for our True Hero in each book of the Bible, instead of the different people, like Esther, Moses, etc…being the heroes.

    1. Yea!

  20. 2. What two things stood out to you about the above and why?

    No — the Bible is most of all a Story. …It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne – everything – to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!
    What a sweet way to look at the Bible!

    The interwoven plot lines of Esther, with different kinds of literary irony… I hope I will be able to understand the irony. I am ready to try. 🙂

  21. i HAVE See the movie and now that I have a child adopted at about that age I can not even watch this scene again. it breaks my heart. Even though Lily was given to a kind home her fear was very similar at first im sure. I am not sure how but for as long as i can remember I kinda got what this story was really about. I did think of Ester as a hero, but an unwilling one. now that I am older I see just what she must have had to learn about pleasing a man in those 6 months and just how much her innocence had to have been stripped away and that she was a willing party once she got into the castle and figured it all out. the king would not have picked a scared, crying little girl….she knew her way around a bedroom. She had to have broken most of Gods laws while in the castle, she was not a “devout” jew by any means…..and yet God used her, God used David after he slept with a woman that was not his and killed her husband, God used Peter after denying Him 3 times, God used Saul and turned him into Paul, God used Jonah even after he ran away…..therefor….GOD CAN USE US. BUT not until the brokeness comes, not until we SEE our sin for what it is and submit to HIS will instead of our own….
    We will never be used by him when we are prideful, comfort seeking, idol worshiping children.
    We will only be usable when we get it, when we get that HE is the story not us, that HE is the one who is in control, not us, and When we SEE that HIS ways are so much better then our ways.
    break my pride filled heart dear Jesus, make me a vesel that you CAN use.

    1. Me too, Lord

    2. Me too, Lord. I am so desperately pride-filled.

  22. 1. How were you, if you were, taught the book of Esther? I don’t think that I’ve ever studied this book, but I have read it and heard several sermons on it. Basically they all focused on heroes and villians.

    2. What two things stood out to you about the above and why? 1st–“Sally Lloyd Jones writes: Now, some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. The Bible certainly does have some rules in it… But the Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done…
    Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes. The Bible certain has some heroes in it — but most of those heroes did really bad things, and sometimes on purpose.
    No — the Bible is most of all a Story. …It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne – everything – to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!”
    I love this. The bible is about God and what He has done. I don’t know of anything that is more crucial in our lives and seems to be the most missed concept!

    2nd–“There is certainly an irony in realizing that God gave us this book to show how He redeems our fallenness. Yet we have made it a book about how wonderful we are!” I have never looked at it like this and I really look forward to finding the deeper meaning and the real truth.

    1. I am too!

  23. Sorry these notes are so long–I almost didn’t post, but it’s just very hard for me to edit Keller!

    Silent Sovereignty of God-Tim Keller Esther 2:5-10; 16-23

    Relevance to us of the book of Esther-
    -The Jews were a religious minority living in a culture with completely different views.
    -It is a male dominated society in which a woman becomes a major vehicle for social justice.
    -How do you follow God in morally, culturally, spiritually ambiguous situations?

    What we learn from Esther:
    1. God is always at work in spite of appearances—even when it appears He is not.
    2. The world is obsessed with appearance
    3. How God’s love can free us from the world’s ways

    I. God is always at work in spite of appearances
    King Xerxes has a banquet, gets drunk, brags about his queen, Vashti. He summons her to come exhibit herself before thousands of drunken men—but she refuses. This is incredible bravery. This was a cultural crisis and it was decided to strip her of her crown and find a new queen. The search begins—of perhaps 1000 women; they were taken for one year to go through training for one night with the King. Everything would be determined by their one night—they could be permanent concubines; they could be one called every so often; they could be one of 2 or 3 that he marries; or—you become the Queen. One of the girls taken–Esther, a Jewish girl, raised by cousin Mordecai, was instructed to never admit her Jewish background. King Xerxes marries her, names her Queen.

    The first thing we learn in the book of Esther, is there is no mention of God—no reference to prayer, prophesy, religion. Why? This is a literary device—the point is that the Jews are in great danger. Power forces want to destroy them. When God sees the people of Israel in trouble—He responds dramatically. But here there is no mention of God. Yet God is at work—in ways we call “coincidences”.

    If the king had not gotten drunk, and made his boasting, he would have lost the Queen and Esther would have never been crowned. It is all part of God’s Plan. The book of Esther is telling us—God IS at work, even when we do not see it, in ways we don’t expect—not coincidences—God at work. When He works in extraordinary ways—We KNOW. But when wHe works in ordinary ways, we often miss it and question His presence. . It’s always wrong to be mad at God because we think He’s not working in our life—we miss what He is doing in every day ways. He is always keeping His promises.
    **His silence is not absence; His hidden-ness is not abandonment.

    II. The world is obsessed with appearance but God doesn’t care about appearances. Chapter 1: It took Xerxes 180 days to parade his wealth. Chapter 2: Xerxes gives a beauty pageant. In what ways do we still do this? The world says all that is important are the externals—beauty, money, talent, connections. The world says what you have matters more than what you are. Are you a concubine to the world’s system—taking others and my own value at what I have? Looking at the outside instead of the inside.
    Feminists are disgusted with Esther. They love Vashti for standing up, being brave. But they see Esther as weak and compliant. Conservatists also believe she’s failed because she did not admit she was Jewish, she sleeps with someone before marriage, and marries an unbeliever. But our culture says—but what else could she do?
    Are we guilty—concubines to the world’s system—selling our souls for one night with the King, our big chance? Yes, to some degree all of us are. But the encouragement—by the end, Esther is a brave-heart. Don’t assume the message is God saves those who live moral lives—God continually gives His grace to those who don’t deserve it.

    III. God’s love can free us from the world’s ways
    Real beauty is different than what the world says it is. When the world says I will be your spouse—the requirements are exhausting. But God says, I want to be Your spouse, I love you—we hear this and are not comforted at first. ****We assume He must have incredible requirements. But God grabs hold of our hand when we are Spiritually not beautiful—God is not like any other Spouse. Jesus loves me in spite of my flaws in order to make me beautiful. He gives up His life and freedom for me—not because I’m lovely, but to make me lovely. He was bound, pierced.
    When I grasp God’s love for me, I find:

    1. A real definition of beauty. The world says—physically, financially—surface beauty—you become self-obsessed. When you see Jesus, giving up all for us, that is real beauty—not self-obsession, but self-sacrifice.
    2. A new experience of my beauty to Him. When Jesus says I am your Spouse-He is saying, in spite of all our spiritual flaws, He has so surrounded us with His beauty, so cleansed us of all our sin, He delights in us—He says you have never looked more beautiful. Only when you know this is true of you and to the degree to which you know this is true, can you be free of the world telling you what you have to have to be beautiful.
    3. Suffering refines me. Once I am really assured of God’s love, when I then go through trials and suffering, it will actually refines me. It is a spiritual beauty treatment. When I go through suffering with absolute assurance that I am beautiful to Him, I become a diamond in my heart. Esther’s banquet is nothing compared to the ultimate banquet we will have with Him.

    1. Don’t be sorry your notes are so long, because they are so good!!

    2. Elizabeth, these notes are great. I look forward to hearing the sermon. As I read over them this truth really reached out to me: ‘Don’t assume the message is God saves those who live moral lives—God continually gives His grace to those who don’t deserve it.’ My tendency is to take that for myself and it is meant for me but when it comes to applying it to others I might lose focus on it. Just in this small thing I see how I want to make it only about me.

      1. oh Anne–I think God has gifted you as a mentor. You have such a gentle, wise way of taking the Truth one step deeper–to the step I might shy away from hearing–you taught me in this “My tendency is to take that for myself and it is meant for me but when it comes to applying it to others I might lose focus on it.”

        1. Elizabeth, you are so kind. That is a compliment that blesses my heart. Honestly the last sentence came to me after a brief interaction with my husband and son some of which I shared below. I had gotten up to do something right in the middle of my comment.

    3. Wow! Love these notes, Elizabeth. Thanks for posting them. I especially liked the part about “a new experience of my beauty to Him”. “He says you have never looked more beautiful. Only when you know this is true of you and to the degree to which you know this is true, can you be free of the world telling you what you have to have to be beautiful.” If only that could go deep, deep, deep into our souls. I am not sure I will have the time to listen to the sermon this week, but sounds like another great one.

    1. Shadrach Meshach and Abendgo were also males, being male they likely were taught to be brave and stand up for truth, women were taught submission. Esther was an orphan, she trusted and listened to Mordecai, I wondered what measure of the guilt we would lay on Esther was rightfully his.

      As I listened to the sermon I felt such gratitude that Christ became fully human, that He ever lives to make intercession for us, He understands our weakness, and that we can count on Him, though we deserve punishment He loves us.
      Thinking about all of this along with the repentance theme of last week, how I have no righteousness of my own, if I am looking at myself to cover my sin I despair, but when I look to Him to cover me I am forgiven, it does start to change me, I feel more relaxed and secure in His love, less like backing up.
      It is hard to write down how I feel

      1. I understand what your saying tho, Chris

        1. Thank you Joyce

      2. “women were taught submission. Esther was an orphan, she trusted and listened to Mordecai, I wondered what measure of the guilt we would lay on Esther was rightfully his.” I think you have an extremely good point here, Chris S. But really, is it ever “right” to sin, even when we are culturally told that it is “right”? This is my dilemma with Esther.

        We too, even in our culture, can be caught in cultural sin (e.g. thinking it is alright to sleep with someone before we are married, or thinking it is alright to lie at work to cover for someone or to not upset the boss). I think we all do sin in our culture that we do not even recognize as sin. May God open our eyes to these sins. Thank God that “when I look to Him to cover me I am forgiven”.

        1. Diane,
          Good points. I’m finally realizing that when I rationalize sin because I think I have no other options, I am limiting God. Our culture or my limited perspective might lead me to think that God’s best isn’t a reasonable alternative; when I justify sin, I don’t trust Him.

          I recognize that sex outside of marriage and lies to the boss are sin, but I forget about/ignore sins such as deceiving others by remaining silent when lies are promoted or listening to/sharing gossip. Plus, I wonder about my motives when I justify sin in other people by blaming the sin on circumstances (I sometimes get carried away with empathy). I don’t always “get” the combination of God’s holiness and His mercy. My mind and heart are such tangled messes — so thankful for His forgiveness.

        2. I always appreciate your perspective, Renee. I agree that “when I rationalize sin because I think I have no other options, I am limiting God. Our culture or my limited perspective might lead me to think that God’s best isn’t a reasonable alternative; when I justify sin, I don’t trust Him.”

          This reminds me of 1 Peter 1:3-4

          2 Peter 1:3-4 (NIV)

          3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

          I read an article by Tullian Tchividjian called “The Root of all sin” that speaks to this issue as well.

          He says, “So, here’s the connection between sinning (the fruit of the problem) and unbelief (the root of the problem): our failure to lay aside the sin that so easily entangles is the direct result of our refusal to believe in the rich provisional resources that are already ours in Christ—we’re not believing that, by virtue of our Spirit-wrought union with Christ, everything we need and long for, we already possess. John Calvin rightly said that “Christians are in perpetual conflict with their own unbelief.”

          http://liberatenet.org/2012/08/the-root-of-all-sin-tullian-tchividjian/

        3. “in the Scriptures, unbelief is called the head of the serpent which the offspring of the woman (that is, Christ) must crush, as was promised to Adam in Genesis 3.”

          Thank you Diane for the link to this article, I love the thought that Christ came to crush our unbelief, our part is to fix our gaze on Him.

  24. 1. How were you, if you were, taught the book of Esther? I used to be saddened that I missed a lot of children’s Bible stories in my growing up years. But after I realize many are portrayed wrong anyway I am thankful that I do not have a false spin on them. For my children I have tried to avoid these things as well. We do stick to the Jesus storybook Bible though!! We do study the word for yourself and discover Bible studies.

    2. What two things stood out to you about the above and why?
    The picture of Esther above…It is probably the most accurate one I have seen to set the mood.
    AND that Sally Lloyd Jones left Esther out of the Jesus Storybook Bible.

    Sorry I have been sparse last week and probably this…We started school and I am trying to figure out how my schedule will look now. 🙂 I will get there and work it out but it just takes me some time!!

    I did finally have the visit with little guys family. The step grandmother approached us and suggested we pursue adoption next month if she loses one boy to the state. She even suggested we cut ties with the biological parents. An awkward moment happened when our guy was squirming while his mom was holding him. He was persistent because that is just how he is and she said, What do you want?! He pointed to me and said, Mommy! Oh how heart breaking that was. She tried to hold him a bit longer but he persisted in his wiggling. So she put him down and yelled GOSH real loud and stomped off. Oh very sad but I hope she sees the consequences of her actions. Only God knows what will happen and how this plays out the next few months. I pray it will be supernatural filled with His Spirit not an ugly unloving custody battle. We need to prepare for some hard conversations, harder than what we have had with them before. Prayers appreciated.

    1. I will pray Angela, what a difficult time for everyone involved. How sad that sin has taken such a toll in the lives of these people.

    2. Oh Angela, your little guy knows where his love comes from, but so sorry it put you in such a bad spot. I will be praying for all to go well with adopting him. He is blessed you found him:)

    3. Praying Angela that the Lord will be present as you said and that Little Man’s heart will be protected and nurtured.

    4. Angela, I have you and your little guy on my prayer list for a while now and will continue to pray for you all. My how difficult this must be! So glad that God can take sin and redeem it. So glad you were there to rescue this little boy.

    5. Will be praying Angela for all involved and for his biological mother to see what the best is for her son and not be selfish.

      1. Thank you all! Much love to you. Will keep you posted.

    6. Oh Angela, I have prayed and will continue. So thankful for your faithfulness in answering God’s call to love this little guy-so beautiful. Yet it is so heart breaking to hear he squirmed in his mom’s arms..Sin is so ugly-yet God so often makes beauty out of ashes as you know, and he is moving mightily through you and your husband to work this out in that boys life and perhaps even his mom’s-hate to hear you are going through such heart breaking things though!

  25. 1. As you read, find the satire and any evidence of parading of possessions and pride.
    The satire I think is the parading of the king’s possessions & power contrasted with his lack of control over his own wife the queen.
    The whole first part of the chapter is evidence of parading possessions and pride, a six month long display of wealth, a weeklong party in an ornate garden for everyone, with big one of a kind wine glasses, everyone commanded to drink as much as they wanted. You would think they would get tired of partying.

    2. Meditate on verse 4. How does this show the fallenness of the king?
    I thought he must have been insecure deep down, that he needed these men to see his wealth, he certainly seems to have been placing his self worth in his possessions.

    1. He sure was…that should be a lesson for us.

  26. 1. How were you, if you were, taught the book of Esther?

    I don’t really remember that long ago, but I do remember helping teach Sunday school and VBS as an adult to children. It seems to me that the curricula would teach Esther as a heroine. In the past few years I have studied Esther myself and thought the story was more of teaching me patience. Waiting for the right moment to say or make a move after I have given the situation thought. I tend to speak to quickly, in general. I’m not one to read the Bible looking for specific things. I just read and try to get the point of the reading.

    2. What two things stood out to you about the above and why?

    Two things: that vashti had concubines’ tongues cut out (yikes! That’s AWFUL) and Esther is an ironic story. I suppose you must understand the historical aspect of the times which I do not in most cases.

    1. I know, isn’t that awful:(
      Thanks for everyone helping me to learn tonight. I think I like the queen being thrown out better, because she wouldn’t get up to make the king a sandwich!
      I’ve got a miserable cold and am going to call it a night…early!! Pray Kendra and Maurice don’t catch it, as they are not good about being sick! Goodnight

      1. Joyce, I hope you are feeling better. Praying for you and for Maurice and Kendra to stay well.

      2. How are you feeling Joyce? Any better tonight?

  27. 6. Share your notes and comments on the sermon.

    Loved this! There are some things I highlighted in my notes that stood out to me.

    1. God is always at work despite appearances. He is at work in the ordinary. If the King wouldn’t have gotten drunk then the issue with Vashti wouldn’t have happened and Esther and Mordecai wouldn’t be in the picture, etc.. etc..

    This really stood out to me. It is easy to look for the big obvious ways God is working and easily miss that he works in the mundane daily affairs of my life working out his sovereign plan-so so important to understand this even though I won’t see it. He is sovereign-His sovereignty rules over all.

    I liked this: “When God is working in ordinary ways we think he is unfair but he is working. God’s silence is not absence, his hidden-ness is not abandonment. He is working out your salvation and he is keeping his promises even if it looks like he is no where around.”

    2. I like how he brought out that Esther sold out to the world in the beginning yet God was with her in the beginning holding her hand even in her flaws. Keller said: “By the end she is a braveheart-God works with her-stays with her and is patient with her. God grows her and turns her into something great. No matter how bad you screwed up on the beginning of your life you can’t write yourself out of God’s final script.” Then when he said this: “Esther isn’t a beauty to God, yet God has her by the hand and brings her along-never gives up on her turns her into something great.”

    3. What real beauty is: If you want to be beautiful the way the world wants you to be then you will be self obsessed but Jesus shows us what real beauty is-He gave up his infinite glory, his beauty for us..Real beauty is sacrifice, not self obsession.

    4. “Esther was loved because she was already beautiful, but Jesus loves me in spite of my flaws in order to make me beautiful. Esther had to give her life and freedom up for the King, but Jesus is the only King and only spouse who gives up his life and freedom for you, not because you are lovely but to make you lovely. He was bound, sold for 30 pieces of silver, he was pierced. Once you understand that is what he did, you have the three things you need to be free form the world’s concubine-age.”

    a. Get a real definition of beauty-As I mentioned above. Jesus shows us what real beauty is-sacrifice, not self obsession.

    b. I get a new experience of my beauty to Him. Jesus is using an intimate metaphor when he speaks of being our bridegroom-does he really mean that when he looks at us in spite of what we look in reality, in spite of our spiritual flaws that he has so clothed us in his righteousness, that he has surrounded us with his beauty that he gave up and has so cleansed us from our sin that now his heart burst the sight of us, delights in us and says he hasn’t seen anything more beautiful than this? To the degree I know that is true of me in his eyes will I be free from the world telling me what I need to have.

    c. Once I am really assured of God’s love, when I go through trials and suffering it refines me-it purifies me. It gets rid of pride, fear, foolishness and it makes me more spiritually beautiful bit by bit. There are beauty treatments I go through and it is usually suffering. When I go through suffering with absolute assurance I am beautiful in his sight, I become actually beautiful in my heart-I become a diamond just like pressure creates a diamond bit by bit. Esther’s banquet is nothing compared to the wedding feast of the lamb when the ultimate King Jesus comes and takes us in his arms which we will be so beautiful because of what he has done for us that we will finally have the spouse we have been looking for. If I know that I can live a life of greatness now.

  28. 4. I think God is quickening me now on 4. b and c….

    here: does he really mean that when he looks at us in spite of what we look in reality, in spite of our spiritual flaws that he has so clothed us in his righteousness, that he has surrounded us with his beauty that he gave up and has so cleansed us from our sin that now his heart burst the sight of us, delights in us and says he hasn’t seen anything more beautiful than this? To the degree I know that is true of me in his eyes will I be free from the world telling me what I need to have.

    and here: When I go through suffering with absolute assurance I am beautiful in his sight, I become actually beautiful in my heart-I become a diamond just like pressure creates a diamond bit by bit.

    I want to grow in this-oh I do! I can so easily beat myself up and when I do I am not believing this. He has my hand, He is sovereign and he is making me beautiful and in that process the reality is that his heart burst at the sight of me-he delights in me-I am surrounded by His beauty because of what He has done for me. Jesus is more than enough.

    1. I loved that part too Rebecca–especially when he said suffering is like a spiritual beauty treatment… It doesn’t exactly feel like a day at the spa, but I can imagine the work it is doing in my heart–and that needs a lot more intense treatment 😉

      1. Yes Elizabeth-OH YES!! I soooo agree! I am in desperate need of his intensive beauty treatment. 😉

        I don’t know but when I dare to peer into the murky waters of my heart as I am going through a trial I often get ill!! I often stop there and beat myself up. When I do that I am telling God he isn’t enough and I don’t believe his sacrifice on the cross was enough, YET even when I tell Him this there is Grace because I am His and He is faithful!!! Okay, so that blows me away every time I think of it!

        So.. I am asking him to remind me in the middle of his beauty treatment today the truth of who He is and who I am because of Him-how He sees me because of what He has done for me. I picture myself in a wedding dress coming down the isle and Jesus’ face as he delights in me-His covering of righteousness all over me.

        I hope as I grow more and more confident in this reality I will also desire more and more to turn from my sin faster and let Him break my pride down. What I am learning is the cycle of repentance and faith starts with embracing the reality of who He is and who I am in Him because of what He has done for me-oh the cost! He is my identity-He is my covering. He is my beauty.

        Oh Lord press in deeper the reality of our love story- of ‘you and me’ into me today. Help me not to be short sighted as the world presses in..

        1. I need to clarify when I said-‘growing more confident in this reality’-I solidly believe in the reality of who I am in Him-His covering over me, but I can so easily forget when in a storm-in the middle of a beauty treatment and I end up gazing on the storm. No one told me once I came to know Jesus that after the honeymoon I could forget. I don’t want to forget anymore Lord-help me not to forget.

        2. Yes.

    2. This is really beautiful Rebecca.

      1. Amen.

  29. I was reading Psalm 37 this morning and these verse reminded me some of the Esther text, ps 37:16-19 “Better is the little that the righteous has than the abundance of many wicked. For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous.The Lord knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will remain forever;they are not put to shame in evil times;in the days of famine they have abundance.”
    What reminded me of it is that Xerxes parades all his wealth, yet the Lord says it is better to have little, and be righteous. And then that He knows the days of the blameless….I listened to the sermon again last night and the reminder that there are no “circumstances”–God knows every detail of our lives and He is always orchestrating, always at work. He knows our days. I can trace countless seemingly simple “coincidences” in my life–even the way I found Dee’s blog once by googling “reformed Christian woman ‘free Bible study'”! God is always working–I love that. When things look like I cannot for the life of me understand why they did not turn out differently, I can trust, I can leave the uncertainty at the altar, I can know He is at work–whether I see it or not. And that’s the thing–I hate that I miss so much of what He’s doing, but the importance I guess, is to always trust.

  30. Read Esther 1:1-9

    1. As you read, find the satire and any evidence of parading of possessions and pride.

    He exhibited his stuff 180 days! Then 7 days of partying in HIS honor. He displayed kings colors, silver items, gold goblets, and precious materials including his palace with marble pillars, gold and silver couches, and abundant wine.

    2. Meditate on verse 4. How does this show the fallenness of the king?

    His concentration was on himself for a long period of time. He could think of nothing or no one else.

  31. 1. I don’t remember being taught on the book of Esther. I read through it many times as part of my scheduled reading. It was always sort of fuzzy to me and changed slightly with each reading. My impression of Esther was that she was sort of an unwilling heroine. I thought Mordecai a hero but wondered about him sending Esther to the palace. It seemed to me that if he loved her, he would protect her from that. Perhaps as we study, the text will show that he actually had no choice. The verses that always stood out to me are 4:13-14 when Mordecai tells Esther not to think that she will escape because she is in the palace (how true) and that God will bring deliverance if she keeps silent but she would be destroyed.
    When I saw the movie One Night with the King I wondered where in the world they got that story for it certainly did not jive with the book of Esther. To be honest though, I kind of liked it. It was romantic. Duh…

    2. What two things stood out to you about the above and why? One thing that really stands out is how dangerous it is to misrepresent a portion of scripture. It is clear how it stays with children to color their thinking as adults.
    Another thing is the point about how God gave this book to point out our fallenness and yet we have turned it into how wonderful we are. That reminds me of what Paige Brown shared about the mirror in the hallway of her house growing up.
    I am curious to see the satire for I never noticed it nor would have even looked for it.

  32. I read chapter 1 and went into my study guide as well.
    What I gather from it all is the irony of those days compared to today. We think ourselves so intelligent and advanced. And yet we are foolish in God’s eyes. I don’t think He finds it humorous, I think He is sadden at our failure to see beyond the superficial at times.

  33. Read Esther 1:13-22
    4. Find the satirical humor. Discover why God may be “laughing” (yet really weeping) in:
    A. 1:13-15 Xerxes was embarrassed by Vashti, he should have been embarrassed by his own behavior. He attempts to save face by allowing these “wise men who knew the times” to decide her fate.
    B. 1:16-18 The men feared the wrath and contempt of the women when they ought to have feared the wrath and contempt of God
    C. 1:19-20 A law being sent out that cannot be repealed that all women must honor their husbands (as if such a thing can be dictated) would have brought women into a position of fear and a sort of slavery I would think. Perhaps a man could show his wife had not honored him and have her sent away as Vashti had been.
    This is far removed from a man loving his wife and giving himself up for her.
    D. 1:21-22 The King and the princes were well pleased with themselves and their own wisdom

  34. Bible Study
    1. It seems to me that true greatness is self evident. The fact that the king had to take 180 days to prove his greatness shows that he had to muster it up. He had to show proof and possessions and power were his proof. That could be the sad satire. Another thing is that I wonder if the leaders realized that all of this was paid for by them for it was their wealth and power over their provinces really.

    2. I think verse 4 shows the king’s fallenness in that he was claiming the glory of his kingdom for himself rather than giving glory to God.

    1. Anne, “true greatness is self evident.” So TRUE — I think that’s why so many displays of power bother me.

      “Another thing is that I wonder if the leaders realized that all of this was paid for by them for it was their wealth and power over their provinces really.” Good point — they most likely didn’t have much choice about being there either. They were in “middle management.” I wonder if they got more perks through their demands of the people under them or from the king himself.

  35. 3. The last possession Xerxes wanted to parade was Vashti but she refused to come, which revealed weakness rather than power. If he had true relationship with her she would have been glad to join him and his leaders. So actually it reflected very poorly on him. It seems that the party was over after this.

  36. Sisters I would so appreciate your prayers. My husband is diabetic and does not take care of himself. It has gotten much worse lately and I spoke very sharply to him while we were at the beach. He has Joey collaborating with him because he buys him junk too. The situation seems hopeless to me yet I know that in the Lord it is not. I just don’t know how to handle this. If I give up for the sake of peace it seems to me that I say I don’t care. If I speak my heart it could be very hurtful as it was at the beach.

    1. Oh Anne, praying for wisdom for you and that he will desire to take care of his health.

    2. Praying Anne. How often we just want to take people and make them change, but that is not how God does it. It is so hard to just pray and let God lead, sometimes watching others hurt themselves again and again. I can certainly identify with you on this, Anne.

    3. Will be praying for your husband and God to give you the strength you need to get thru this. My ex-husband is a diabetic and was not taking care of himself and ended up losing a toe from a sore he got that wouldn’t heal and didn’t say anything yo his wife who is a nurse until it was too late. He said he’s learned his lesson and it was a wake up call for him. Praying that your husband realizes before it gets worse.

    4. Dear Anne, I have the same concerns for my husband who is diabetic, also. Is your husband overweight also? I told Maurice about a news video that says if you get a gastric bypass the diabities is no longer a problem, but he wouldn’t talk about that either! I will be praying for your husband.

      1. Maurice (pronounced Morris) has lost a toe to this already:(

        1. Praying for you both Anne and Joyce, that God will grant you wisdom about how to speak the truth in love and that the hearts of your husbands will be soft and ready to receive it.

          I hope you are felling better Joyce?

        2. yes, thank you:)

      2. Thank you all for your prayers. Joyce I am sorry that you are going through this with Maurice. Yes my husband is overweight. He would never have a gastric bypass for he won’t even have needed knee surgery. I don’t encourage him to have it though I did see it work wonders initially in a diabetic woman we knew. We don’t see her anymore so I don’t know if she has remained well. The thing that scares me about it is that many people don’t get adequate nutrition in spite of good diets. I’m afraid of anything that decreases absorption of what little nutrition there is in our food. Perhaps it is because of the population I see but I just can’t recommend it except in cases of morbid obesity. The thing about it for my husband is that he does not eat healthy food now. If he had that done he would eat less but not any better because of it. Sorry, I’m rambling.

    5. In between a rock and a hard place….do you walk together? I know my mom (also diabetic) saw very good results as long as she exercised. I can understand him; I like food as well, and not usually healthy food. It is difficult. I will pray.

  37. Read Esther 1:1-9

    1. As you read, find the satire and any evidence of parading of possessions and pride.

    2. Meditate on verse 4. How does this show the fallenness of the king?

    Read Esther 1:10-12

    3. What is the last “possession” Xerxes wanted to parade before this drunken group? How did his plan backfire?

    Read Esther 1:13-22

    4. Find the satirical humor. Discover why God may be “laughing” (yet really weeping) in:

    A. 1:13-15

    B. 1:16-18

    C. 1:19-20

    D. 1:21-22

    What I see in all of this is that everything that King Xerxes has done is what the Jews did to God and what we are doing to him.
    Xerxes was full of himself and gave credit only to himself for all of the hard work and money that was spent to build HIS kingdom. No credit was given to God. Vashti did the same thing to Xerxes. Without him she was a nobody, yet she refused to do what he commanded her to and ridiculed him in front of everyone. The result, Xerxes banished her and chose another. The Jews took all that God had done for them and through them and turned their backs on him. They made it all about themselves, their rules, their hard work and effort. God gave the Jews over to their sin and opened his kingdom to the Gentiles. He made a new covenant.
    Xerxes is mad at Vashti for doing to him what he is doing to God. That’s why God is laughing at the irony of it all.

    1. Throughout the ages, this is being read by people who are shaking their heads and saying how foolish Xerxes was to not see this, while they themselves are doing the same thing in their own lives.
      I need to open my eyes to what I am doing that is the same or worse than what Xerxes was doing.

      1. I meant I need God to open my eyes.

    2. This is a very interesting perspective, Dawn MS. “What I see in all of this is that everything that King Xerxes has done is what the Jews did to God and what we are doing to him.” Thank you for making me think.

    3. Dawn, I think you may have it here! Great point of irony.

  38. Read Esther 1:1-9

    1. As you read, find the satire and any evidence of parading of possessions and pride.

    Last night, I started reading Esther. I didn’t have the questions/chapters/verses with me, but I did look for satire. I sometimes have a cynical sense of humor and thought it wouldn’t be too hard to see the satire. But it was difficult because I hadn’t read the Bible that way before. As I got further into Esther, finding the satire seemed to get a little easier — but I’m not so sure I was catching it all.

    Six months seems extreme; on the other hand, people from such a large area couldn’t fly in for the weekend. After awhile, I would think all of the officials would have gotten tired of it.

    Some things I thought about when reading the passage:
    -the story “The Emperor’s New Clothes”
    -20th century displays of military strength, parades. I’ve seen some videos of Nazi Germany, but I suspect there have been many prideful displays of power here, too.
    -Xerxes’ party seemed like a large scale drunken frat party
    -the pomp and circumstance of some graduations

    I kept visualizing this in cartoon form, including Vashti refusing to make a sandwich 🙂 (Thanks, Joyce!)

    2. Meditate on verse 4. How does this show the fallenness of the king?

    The phrase in NASB “the riches of his royal glory and the splendor of his great majesty” include words used in Scripture to describe God. It sounds like something out of a worship song, and most likely, the king did want to be worshipped.

    Read Esther 1:10-12

    3. What is the last “possession” Xerxes wanted to parade before this drunken group? How did his plan backfire?

    Queen Vashti; she refused and that emphasized that he wasn’t fully in control. The situation may have been made worse because of the eunuchs delivering messages. I wonder what happened to them! I got distracted later in the book when it seemed ironic that eunuchs were the king’s “bouncers,” and they plotted to kill the king. I became curious about eunuchs and testosterone (but it was hard to read too many sites on my cell phone at midnight!)

    Read Esther 1:13-22

    4. Find the satirical humor. Discover why God may be “laughing” (yet really weeping) in:

    A. 1:13-15 Xerxes “had” to talk to seven “wise” men to get advice because his wife didn’t obey him. How powerless!

    B. 1:16-18 How self-centered. I felt like telling them that they needed to get a life. The culture(s) probably was so male-dominated that most women wouldn’t even have known what Vashti did, let alone dared to start an uprising because of it. (I wonder how the cultures varied from area to area within this “kingdom??”

    C. 1:19-20 They may have had some power, but they were stupid. The king punished himself through some of his edict. Also, it was amusing reading about all these edicts that couldn’t be repealed, even by the king himself. Although they may not have “repealed” edicts, they did seem to edicts which contradicted or reversed previous ones.

    D. 1:21-22 I wondered about the literacy level — and if this message would even reach far enough to have an impact (and if it did, the message probably wouldn’t have had the intended result)

  39. Hi!
    Could someone please provide a clear distinction between “obey” and “submit”?
    I’m trying to share my lesson with friends & family; and pointed out the reference when the word “obey” is first used in the first chapter of Esther.

    1. Laura Marie I can only guess for I don’t really know. When i look them up, one is used to define the other. My guess is that obedience is only outward while submission is inward and outward. Like in Jean’s example of the boy sitting on the outside but standing on the inside.

    2. I’m thinking obey is a response to a command, and submit is more done out of a willingness.

  40. In listening again this morning to the sermon from last week I see another distortion in truth. I remember a sermon growing up in which the pastor put part of the blame for David’s sin on Bathsheba bathing. Wow! Love what the lady said in her sermon that her son’s problem wasn’t his sister but his own heart.

    1. Kim that was a great response to her son. Very wise. What a twist on David’s sin!

      1. Though I do wonder why she was bathing on the roof knowing she could be seen from the palace.

        1. I have heard somewhere that in the Middle East, people bathed on their flat roofs (like a roof patio) because it had the most privacy. (It was obviously before the days of bathrooms and indoor plumbing.) My guess is everyone’s houses were more or less the same height and they had little privacy blinds, except the king’s roof which would probably have been taller than everyone else’s because he was the king. Therefore, she probably had the expectation of privacy. This is just a guess because I have not actually researched it. What do others think?

        2. Perhaps there was hardly ever anyone on the king’s roof or Bathsheba’s roof was quite a distance from the king’s. Again, just speculating. We do know that David did not know who the woman was, so probably didn’t know whose house it was, etc.

  41. Hi. Just listened to Keller’s messsage. To answer the questions about the satire … Kings can never make you do anything (like the little boy who was told to sit down, and he does so saying, “but I’m standing up on the inside”), except outwardly, and in many ways that is very sad. Their inner need is probably to be respected and loved, but when they treat their subjects by edicts, they only get “blind” obedience, rarely respect and often scorn. And all they can do is try to yield more power, with the same results.
    The material excesses, the emphasis on outer beauty, the worldly wise who are not truly wise, the need for control, the telling those in power what they want to hear … all these things are like our culture today.
    One could be tempted to think, “God is not here, doing anything about all this! I guess I must make god in my own image of him.”
    But Keller reminds us of a Truth that I learned some years ago. God is always working, and working for the salvation of His people. I think of Jeremiah 33:3 and Habakkuk 1:5 and 3:13. This won’t always be comfortable, and it will involvement judgment, but if we will let Him, He will change our hearts, and we will learn how to love Him the way God wants to be loved — fully — and we will want to please Him.

  42. 4. Find the satirical humor. Discover why God may be “laughing” (yet really weeping) in:
    A. 1:13-15 the king does not know the law but has to ask.
    B. 1:16-18 they feared an uprising of their women.
    C. 1:19-20 that they think an edict from the king will cause their women to honor them.
    D. 1:21-22 every man was the master of his own house by God’s own law yet because they did not keep all of His law they needed an edict.
    I think the efforts of this fallen man trying to be King may be the satire.

    1. Anne, really liked your answers! I definitely see the satire in what you picked out of the verses. In contrast to God especially!

  43. listened to the sermon. needed to hear it. need to listen again!!

  44. SUNDAY/MONDAY (ICEBREAKERS)

    1. How were you, if you were, taught the book of Esther? – I was not taught the book of Esther as a child. I grew up Catholic and do not remember very much of what was taught in catechism other than a lot of rules. I did not really know about the book of Esther until just a few years ago when some of the ladies did an Esther Study.

    2. What two things stood out to you about the above and why? – this section here was very eye opening when you said “We have so often failed to realize the Bible is not about us but about God. We have been taught wrong and then read it that way, instead of really looking. We have missed the satire and thus reversed the meaning.” how sad it is to me that we just believe what we here because we may have heard it from a priest, pastor, reverend or maybe even a bible class teacher. I stead of really looking in our bibles to make sure what we are being taught is true we just take their word for it. Also what stood out was when you pointed out “and how He is sovereign over every detail for He has a grand plan. he sees how we fail yet He does not let our failures deter His plan. He can even turn the ashes of our failures into beauty” – this is so comforting to me and helps me know that as long as I’m reaching out to Him and building my relationship with Him He can use me in the way or ways He thinks I’m ready for.

  45. HAPPY BIRTHDAY DEE!!!!! You make my day everyday, because you are here for me and all of us on this wonderful blog and we love you so much! Hope your day is fantastic!!!

  46. Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday to You,
    Happy Birthday dear sweet precious-to-us-all Dee—
    Happy Birthday to You!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26

  47. This was from My Utmost for His Highest today and it reminded me of our discussion last week on repentance vs remorse: “Repentance does not cause a sense of sin— it causes a sense of inexpressible unworthiness. When I repent, I realize that I am absolutely helpless, and I know that through and through I am not worthy even to carry His sandals. Have I repented like that, or do I have a lingering thought of possibly trying to defend my actions?”

  48. Happy Happy Happy birthday Dee. Have a wonderful day! You are a blessing to all those that know you!