Made it to church today. Out of the house for four full hours with another two-hour trip planned for later. Woo Hoo.
So today's message was all about Esther. If I was in charge of teaching Esther, I'd spend a week at least on the beginning.
Growing up we were always told the beginning was all about obeying when you're supposed to or suffering severe consequences. In case you don't know the story it goes like this: King Xerxes called Queen Vashti to come to him and she refused, so she was banished from the kingdom. See obey or be banished. Obey=good Banish=Bad.
In reading it today, I saw things in a different light. My message on Esther would be:
SO King Xerxes has this six-month party and after drinking way too much and trying to show how Bad A he was and how he ruled all and everything he told someone to go fetch his queen, Vashti.
Only see, Vashti hadn't heard anything from Xerxes for six months, so she was ticked and said, uh-uh, I don't think so.
Xerxes hears that message and is infuriated. How dare his queen, a WOMAN, refuse to do exactly what he said. And in a drunken fit of rage decides with his drunken advisors to banish Vashti from the kingdom.
What a creep.
An it gets worse. Those same advisors say, hey Xerxes. You need to round up a bunch of gorgeous virgin girls from your kingdom and add them to your harems. And Xerxes thought, "gorgeous virgins, YEAH," and so he did.
In comes Esther. A beautiful young girl, minding her own business with her uncle and cousins, living her perfectly happy life when the king's men see her, say HEY, she's a sexy virgin, let's make her go. And without any choice on her part, Esther is moved into Xerxes' harem where for twelve months she's taught how to please the king for the one night she gets to spend with him. If she pleases him, he might let her stay in that harem. If not, she goes to the other harem where she'll basically cease to exist.
Lucky girl, she pleases the king.
Then the king decides she's too beautiful to simply be one of his harem wives, she's got to be the new queen.
When I was a kid, we were taught that Esther was lucky to be chosen as queen. That her life was one of luxury. That she was blessed. Looking at things now, I see it in a different light. One, look at what Xerxes did to Vashti. He partied for six months and when she didn't come to him immediately one time, he tossed her on her ear. He calls all these harem girls up to impress them with their twelve month lessons. He listens to advisors who encourage this type of behavior and worse as the story progresses.
I don't think Esther was lucky at all. In fact, I figure Esther felt completely lost and afraid and hurt. The bible doesn't give us any insight into what she was thinking, but I figure it was something like "Hel-lo, God, I've been GOOD, really good. I've done everything as expected. I followed your law. I honored my family. WHY are you letting this happen to me? God please, I just wanna go home."
And I figure she was saying that kind of thing from the first day she got carted off to join the harem.
Then Xerxes, acting on his advisor's idea, decides to destroy the Jews in his kingdom, but he doesn't realize Esther's a Jew. And Esther ends up saving the Jews and Xerxes because the advisor was plotting against him too, and the advisor who came up with this plan ends up impaled on a big stick. And Esther does all this by taking charge, going against the way things have always been and using her femininity.
While I was reading that story today, the preacher was saying God uses you, even when you're alone. And while I totally agree that message is part of Esther, I also see a bigger lesson. That God uses our bad times even when we don't have clue what's going on. AND then there's the female power part of the story. If Esther hadn't been brave, if she hadn't stepped out of her comfort zone and gone in to see Xerxes even though he hadn't called for her, the Jews would've been killed. It's a powerful story. Far more powerful than I realized until today, Because while I'm all or honoring and obeying when it's the right thing to do, it never was the right thing to do in this story. My early teachers were WAY wrong about that. WAY wrong.