We’ve been playing a lot of cards over the Christmas break. The whole family is in on it and it’s been a lot of fun. But I can’t tell you that every moment during this break has been “Leave it to Beaver.” (Sam cried all day on Christmas because Santa was nervy and insensitive enough to give him sneakers!) Quite honestly, some days I’ve wanted to lay down my cards and fold. Today I want to tell you about a queen of great heart. Her name is Esther and she received her royal title in Persia in 479BC.
Four years before Esther married King Xerxes, he was married to another woman, Queen Vashti. Xerxes was planning a campaign against Greece. He met with officials and dignitaries for 180 days in preparation for this military campaign. At the end of 180 days, Xerxes held a banquet for the military leaders, princes and nobles in the kingdom. This banquet lasted seven days. On the other side of the palace, Queen Vashti held a banquet of her own. That was not uncommon. Men and women were often separated. Each banquet had a flavor of its own. The king’s was festive, loud and boisterous…spurred on by alcohol and drunkenness. In fact, that was typical of these gatherings—especially when men deliberated matters of state. They thought intoxication put them closer in touch with the spiritual world and that would help them make good decisions!
An inebriated Xerxes called for Vashti. He wanted to show her off in front of all the men. But Vashti’s response was unprecedented. She refused. She refused the king. The king was enraged! Trusted experts in the law advised him to have her stripped of her royal position and banished from the king’s presence forever. It was a rash move, made in temper, not temperance.
And temper, not temperance, characterized Xerxes. It flared at a moment’s notice, often entirely unprovoked. One time, a leading official offered him four million dollars to pay for one of his military campaigns. Xerxes was so pleased that he refused the money and instead, gave his commander a gift in return. When the commander asked if his eldest son might be excused from fighting, Xerxes exploded in anger. He had the boy cut in half and his army marched between the mutilated corpse. That was Esther’s husband.
On another occasion, Xerxes lost 300 ships at sea in a terrible storm. With a strap clenched in his fist, Xerxes beat that sea three hundred times—once for each ship—to punish it.
Perhaps one can understand why Xerxes acted the way he did. People were always trying to kill him. Esther’s cousin, Mordecai, uncovered an assassination plot against Xerxes. He informed the king and saved his life. If it hadn’t been for Mordecai, Xerxes would have died. But, Mordecai was given no reward for his service to the king. This lack of gratitude was peculiar. The king always honored those who honored him. But, Mordecai was forgotten, overlooked.
Maybe you know what it’s like to be deserving of credit, yet you are ignored.
Xerxes did not even express an ounce of gratitude to the man who saved his life. Xerxes was explosive, volatile, unpredictable. That was Esther’s husband. Was God in that marriage?
It’s easy to see God in the good. His fingerprint is easily identified. Like seeing your reflection in crystal clear water. You see him at work…for good. But life is often cloudy. Waters are murky. Surrounded by gifts, kids still cry on Christmas morning. Happily ever after with a prince of Persia—that’s about as real as a magic carpet flying through the sky on a dark Arabian night. How is God in the murky waters? Is He in the bad or the confusing or the sad?
Yes! As Psalm 121 says, God is watching over His people. He’s actively involved in the lives of those who trust Him…even when they’re exiled in Persia; even when they live in a difficult relationship…even when you find a dead mouse in your dining room while you’re playing Rummy 500 (yup, we did). He’s working in the good and He’s at work in the bad. Even in a beauty pageant marriage, God is at work.
God used Esther’s marriage to save lives. Here’s the key to Esther’s story: wherever you are right now, is exactly where God can use you. We’ll hear more about that in future posts. But for now, I hope that’s encouraging to you as we begin a new year.
 Alice Mathews, A Woman God Can Lead, 148.