Sunday, February 26, 2017

Queen Esther: A Destiny Fulfilled. Day 9, Esther Goes To The King

Queen Esther:
A Destiny Fulfilled
Day 9
Esther Goes To The King

Esther is about to go see the king without having been summoned, an action worthy of death in the Persian culture. In Chapter 4 Esther asked Mordecai and all the Jews to fast for three days while she and her attendants fasted. I believe much prayer was made, day and night, for those three days. Now there is nothing left to do but step out in faith. 

"On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king's hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance." (Esther 5:1) During the days of fasting she would not have been wearing her royal robes but garments of mourning, just as her uncle Mordecai wore as he wept through the city streets in yesterday's passage. But it's against the law to appear before the king in mourning, so she dresses in the garments a Persian queen wears when making a public appearance. Dressed in the full regalia of a queen, looking so beautiful that everyone who sees her will be impressed, Esther hopes the king will look on her with favor. 

There are occasions in the Scriptures where the Lord does all the work, when He commands that everyone be still and watch what He will do. But in most cases He invites mankind to walk straight into the battle with Him, in faith believing He is going to bring the victory. Esther could have remained in her private quarters, praying for God to change Xerxes' heart, praying for God to change Haman's heart, and God would have been more than able to do these things. But Esther will grow more in her faith if she participates in the victory. We know the faith of the Apostle Peter grew when the Lord Jesus told the storm to be still, but I believe he learned even more about the Lord on the night he found the courage to step out of the boat and walk on the water. This is what Esther must do now. She must step out in faith and trust the Lord to hold her up. 

The Lord gives Esther grace in the king's eyes. God heard her prayers and the prayers of her people. "When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold scepter that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter." (Esther 5:2) 

Xerxes knows Esther would not have taken such a chance unless she has a vital request to make of him. "Then the king asked, 'What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you." (Esther 5:3) 

This man who has not been interested enough in his wife to send for her in over a month is pleased at the sight of her. His heart has been so prepared by the Lord that he feels especially indulgent toward her. It was a Persian custom for kings and other wealthy men to endow their wives with lands, but for Xerxes to promise her up to half the kingdom is generous indeed, for the Bible told us in Chapter 1 that he ruled over 127 provinces. I don't know whether Xerxes' and Esther's marriage has been somewhat on the rocks lately, but the bloom had definitely worn off their relationship. And now suddenly, because the hand of the Lord is in it, their marriage seems fresh and new to Xerxes. He is as enthralled with Esther as he was on the night they first met. This should give hope to anyone who is struggling in their marriage. If God could take an evil-tempered despot like Xerxes and make him fall back in love with his queen, God can change any heart and restore any marriage.

"'If it pleases the king,' replied Esther, 'let the king, together with Haman, come today to a banquet I have prepared for him.'" (Esther 5:4) I can understand Esther not blurting out her request to save the Jews in the middle of the king's court. It's a very public setting, filled with the king's bodyguards and various officials and the people who had petitioned for and been granted an audience with the king. Esther wishes to interact with her husband in a more private setting where Xerxes can eat and drink and be in good spirits.

Xerxes is in the mood to accommodate the queen's wishes. It seems harmless enough to attend a banquet and it's probably time for his lunch break anyway. "'Bring Haman at once,' the king said, 'so that we may do what Esther asks.'" (Esther 5:5a)

"So the king and Haman went to the banquet Esther had prepared. As they were drinking wine, the king again asked Esther, 'Now what is your petition? It will be given you. And what is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.'" (Esther 5:5b) We learned in Chapter 1 that Xerxes is a man who likes his wine. He once held a party for 187 days in which the wine flowed freely twenty-four hours a day. He can party with the best of them and right now he's feeling comfortably full of rich foods and is sipping the finest vintage of wine, all while gazing on his charming queen and congratulating himself on having obtained the most beautiful wife in the kingdom. Life is looking mighty fine to Xerxes on this lovely afternoon.

But Esther senses the timing is not quite right. "Esther replied, 'My petition and my request is this: If the king regards me with favor and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come tomorrow to the banquet I will prepare for them. Then I will answer the king's question.'" (Esther 5:7-8)

We know the king agrees to a second banquet because later on we will find him there. It is well that Esther decided not to reveal her request at the first banquet, because the Lord has a sleepless night in store for Xerxes, a night in which he will realize he owes a debt of gratitude to a Jewish man named Mordecai. This will make him feel generous toward the Jews in general. 

Another reason the first banquet was not the right time to present her request is that the first banquet was used by the Lord to make Xerxes feel soft toward the queen and to remind him why he fell in love with her. This will be of great value when Esther announces her Jewish heritage to him. Instead of being angry that her background was kept secret, Xerxes will be filled with a manly desire to protect the woman he loves and to save her people from slaughter. 

Some scholars have criticized Esther for a lack of faith at the first banquet, accusing her of hesitating out of fear. But I don't believe that's what happened. I think the plan included two banquets all along. Esther's appearance in the court and the first banquet were necessary to set the stage for the second banquet. The Lord is putting this plan together one building-block at a time, in a logical order, leading up to the moment when everything will come together exactly as it should. Esther is in the Lord's will when she appears at the court, when she throws the first banquet, and when she asks for a second banquet. She may not understand God's reasons for doing things this way, but she trusts Him. Esther has decided to follow the Lord wherever He leads her, even when she doesn't understand His plan. An attitude like Esther's is vital to anyone who wishes to fulfill his or her destiny in the Lord. 

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