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Oct 7 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

October 5, 2010


INTRO: The story (read it in a Children’s Bible if you don’t know it)

When we move closer into the story we start noticing various themes and sub-themes:

  • “Royal” (throne, glory, wine, crown, position, etc.)
  • The frequent drinking of wine and its role in affecting human emotions (merriment and rage)
  • The way in which one character is played off another
    – Queen Vashti versus Esther
    – Mordecai versus Haman
    – Queen Vashti (who has no voice) versus Zeresh (who speaks)
    – Esther and Zeresh
    (note also how the intelligence of the three women add texture to the story)
  • A sub-theme: Males protecting their control over females (1:22)
    – Vashti took a stand against a command she considered it unreasonable, unacceptable and she was banished for it
    – Esther, ever obedient to the male head-of-house, took Vashti’s place
    – all Esther had to do to become queen was to be beautiful and compliant (2:7, 20)
    – at the end, it’s Mordecai who gets the recognition (ch. 10)

What did the storyteller have in mind in weaving this subthem into the story? Perhaps:

  1. He is simply reflecting the norms of their social environment
  2. He is reinforcing the fundamental hierarchy of the sexes that he felt neccesary to maintain an ordered society
  3. Or maybe this is a classic and brilliant example of Hebrew parody
    – for another example, consider the way the storyteller makes fun of Haman
    – he keeps misreading his circumstances and miscalculating his moves so that everything he does comes back to bite him

Memucan’s counsel is blatantly chauvinistic (1:16-20, and you must read this to appreciate it)

  • Is the storyteller also mocking this pagan counselor to a heathen king?
    – his anxiety has caused him to exaggerate the situation, “all princes. . . all people . . . all provinces . . . all women”
  • The king is silly, childish, and capable of taking action on the basis of ridiculous advice

Is the sub-theme possibly a deconstruction of Persian culture? That is to say, Esther’s liberation from a Persian stereotype
– but unlike Vashti, she does so wisely–without losing her crown
– by ch. 4 she is giving commands
A woman taking charge is not unheard of in Israel’s history, from Miriam and Deborah to Golda Meir

But if so, how do we explain Esther’s subservience to Mordecai?

  • Under normal circumstances (in that time and place), a woman’s submission to the male head-of-house served her interests as well as those of the family and clan
    – Bible is not counter-cultural or anti-culture
    – God treats human culture like language–for the communication of his revelation
  • But this story presents a unique situation
    – they’re under the pressure of a crisis and looming threat
    – Esther has a destiny to fulfill and everything depends on her making decision and speaking up

It is precisely at this point that the sub-theme and main theme intersect
– the woman who takes action and raises her voice is the very one who has been situated to save her people

Furthermore, all of Esther’s words and actions were of her own design and in them she demonstrates
– political savvy and diplomatic skill
– perfect timing
– the strategic use of her feminine charms and sexuality

The question is not,
Should women be considered and treated as co-equals? (Ga. 3:28 has already resolved that issue)
Or, Should women serve as pastors and preachers?
Rather, the question is: Does anyone dare keep quiet when God had told her to speak?

A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord GOD has spoken! Who can but prophesy? (Amos 3:8)

Culture poses a very real challenge

A week ago, after giving blood, I noticed man reading Stephen Hawking’s new book, Grand Design
– immediately, the conversation went to controversy because  Hawking says,
“Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist,” and then, “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”
– it is not a denial of God, but neither is it an investigation into God

The real issue is not any dogmatic theological claim or denial, but what the media did with the few words written in Grand Design

That’s the challenge of our culture
– we can pass through an entire day without hearing God mentioned
– we can do work at our jobs, earn a degree, hold a political office and never be confronted with God

We will soon see the publication of The Book that Started It All–the original “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous
– how they toned down the specifically Christian message in order to bring help to people outside of Christianity
– it was necessary to do this, not as a denial of Jesus Christ, but to reach alcholics where they were
Today, popular culture is in a place similar to where the alcholic was in the early twentieth century
– they are open to spiritualilty but not to religion

It is not only a problem of culture pushing God outside its circumference, but also that God hides himself – he is silent (as far as having a voice in the public square)
– and that is exactly the world of Mordecai and Esther
– there is no mention of God at all in the book of Esther
Therefore, Mordecai had to raise his voice and Esther had to find hers

For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Hews from another place and you and your fathers house will perish. (4:14)

As for us, we do not see burning bushes or have conversations with angels
– rivers don’t part for us, the dead aren’t raised to life
– we have to find our way without constant feedback or the support of our environment
– and we must do so in the face of the very real threat of evil

But, as Paul said, “we do not lose heart”
– how can that be?

CONC: God’s silence can break a person

God even uses it sometimes for that purpose
– at other times, God’s silence is simply the challenge of our human condition in the world

We don’t lose heart, because the greatest silence and most tragic silence was that which hovered over the cross of Jesus
– Jesus knows the silence of God (and the agony, frustration of it)
– so even when we feel the forsakenness of suffering under a silent sky, we are not alone
One stands with us who has also suffered the silence of God and come through it
– now he lights the way for us

Perhaps the strongest theological message in Esther is that of God’s providence
– being hidden does not mean God is absent or not at work
– no sign from flashed from the heavens, but even the darkest hour through which Mordecai and Esther struggled was in God’s hand
Haman had proved that he could move the heart of the king
– his frustration with Mordecai boiled over to murder
– nothing in the physical world stood between him and Mordecai’s death
Nothing but the king’s insomnia (6:1-3)

We don’t know how all the pieces of our lives fit
– Eshter’s story tells us that we don’t need to know
– what we need to do, is take our destiny into our hands, make the right decision, take the risks, and trust God for all the hidden things we can’t control

God loves it when a person relies on him with a bodacious faith

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