Esther’s story has so often been told and re-told to the point that I’m tired of hearing the phrase ‘for such a time as this.’ Where’s the encouragement in that?! you say. Bear with me, for I know that phrase presents a necessary challenge to stand up! speak up! do something! at times we may be tempted not to or to, as we’ll see in a bit, rise up to meet the challenge in a less than optimum way. In a recent re-reading of the book of Esther it was as though I stepped into the story for a bit with the real people in their real situations. What stood out to me was the difference a day makes, largely hinged upon the motivation of one’s heart. Due to its length, part one and part two will follow a day apart. Submitted with prayerful love and care for all ishshahs ~ Nancy
A lot can happen in twenty-four hours. Think about it. History has been redirected so many times on the pivot of one sunrise/sunset/sunrise, it’s like watching a tennis match. Oh, the difference a day makes!
The Bible is full of such stories:
Adam. Eve. One day living Life together with the Life Giver in pleasant Eden. The next, ushered out stage east to begin the demise of life, as we know it.1 No need to rehearse their story. We’re well acquainted.
Noah. Six hundred years and seven days later. A week onboard with his family and the ark door wide open for whosoever will to come. They didn’t. A day later, the door shut by the Lord and a flip of the deluge switch above and below. Eight people and animal sevens and duos of every kind safe and sheltered within. Loss of all other life that remained without.2 History began again. Or continued.
Saul. One day king of Israel (reigning forty years, mind you); the next un-king’d in Spirit by a repentant LORD.3 Saul’s spiritual dethroning and actual death set the stage for David to ascend to the throne promised him years before.4
King Xerxes. Queen Vashti. Hadassah commonly known as Esther. 5 The story of a king and two queens whose rise/fall/rise changed history – over some years and overnight. Oh, the difference a day makes!
One Virgin (of many)
Esther, Jewish orphaned but adopted by her cousin Mordecai Susa girl, knew the difference a day makes.
- One day she had a father and a mother. The next day she had neither.
- One day she was living life as she now knew it. The next she was whisked away to the king’s palace and handed over to the keeper of the harem, along with a likely minimum of 127 other virgin girls, given there were 127 provinces under King Xerxes’ rule. One would think there was at least one beautiful virgin in each town! Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder. King Xerxes had ordered a kingdom-wide beauty beholding brigade.
- One day she was doing her and cousin Mordecai’s laundry and pounding out flour for their next loaf of bread. The next she had seven maids awaiting; twelve months of grooming; and eating honeyed fruit from the pear tree.
Hers was a life dotted with critical twenty-four hour junctures that, added together, positioned her to be in the right place at the right time to move the heart of the king. But guess what?
Esther only knew the half of it. Or one-third, actually. The only thing she knew about ‘such a time as this’ was the circumstances of the day she was in at any given time. Let’s look at the difference a day makes.
Two Queens (in the palace)
Ah, Vashti. Whenever I read her story in Esther 1:1 through 2:4, a few things stick out. Her husband, King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) was filthy rich. He liked to party and he liked his wine. However, the people liked him because he was not a stingy rich guy who only shared his wealth with the nobles. He was quite generous. The least to the greatest was invited to a weeklong palace banquet where the decor was gorgeous and the wine was abundant ‘in keeping with the king’s liberality’.6
Meanwhile, Queen Vashti was partying with the women in another part of the palace. Well, every party needs a pooper and Vashti was it. Summoned by a drunken husband (I like how the Bible records it – merry with wine on the seventh day – and that after six months of similar celebrating gone before!) to display her beauty to (read be ogled by or worse) the male partygoers, she put her dainty foot down and refused to honor the king’s command.
Ah, Vashti. It took courage to say NO. To count your own soul worthy of respect, honor and dignity even if it cost you dishonor and being deposed from the royal role you held. I, for one, am grieved that as a result of bravely drawing a line for yourself, you were banished from the presence of the king and your royal position given to someone ‘better than you’. By suggestive counsel of the seven nobles closest to your husband the king, you and women everywhere were put in their place – or rather, where the men wished to put and keep them. History may have changed overnight, but some things in history haven’t changed much.
Protocol ensured you lived in occasional proximity of the king, Vashti; the frequency determined by his desire and possibly others’ alliances. You had a fair idea of what made him tick and what ticked him off. How many concubines suffered compromise before this summons you received? You were the queen and such treatment, in a sober state of mind, would have been ill-advised.
From our historical vantage point centuries later is it safe to say that, for you, the day arrived when too much water had flowed under that Susa bridge? While there was partying in the palace on the outside, your brave stance pointed to a different story playing out on the inside.
You could have been put to death that day. But you weren’t. Whether you knew of a living, loving God or not, even then the king’s heart was being turned7 for your ultimate protection.
How many of us have wrestled with ‘role’ and ‘heart’ and hard-won freedom that costs us something!
We’re having to learn, just like Vashti and Esther did…
Ah, Esther. While the king’s men were intent on preventing disrespect of husbands everywhere (by making an example of Queen Vashti), you were oblivious to the role you were about to play as a history changer, not to mention becoming the next Queen of Persia.
While the king’s men were intent on commanding respect by a royal decree proclaimed kingdom-wide (not realizing, wise men that they were in matters of law and judgment, that one cannot rule hearts), you were soon going to bring who you were, along with your own advisor, to the mix.
Ah, Esther. You challenge us women eons later. But, like those of us trying to learn and follow the Divine order of love in matters thrust upon us, you only knew your third of the story too. You were one of us – unwittingly poised to show ishshahs across cultures and centuries the difference a day makes.
To be continued in Part Two.