17 September 2023 AM – Text: Esther 1:1-22 – Topic: Vices – Series: Est23
Introduction: The story of Esther is a true narrative about a young, virtuous, Jewish, woman who became the queen of the greatest nation on earth at the time. As queen, young Esther risked her life to save the entire nation of Israel from extermination. The story takes place during a 10-year period from about 482-473 BC. (See Chart). This was about 50 years after Israel’s first return from Babylon (Ezra, 536) and about 40 years before Israel’s third return from Babylon (Neh, 445).
In 606, 597 and 586 BC, the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem and carried the surviving Jews to Babylon. During Daniel’s lifetime, the Persians defeated the Chaldeans. In 536, when Cyrus set the Jews free and gave them permission to return to Canaan, many of God’s people chose not to return. Perhaps they feared the long journey or the hardships. Maybe, after 120 years of life in Persia, they were settled into a comfortable life and had no desire to move. Likely, many had become backslidden and careless about spiritual things. When things are going well, there is always a temptation to fall away from the Lord. There is no mention of God in the book, yet God’s providential care for Israel is the theme of the book.
Ahasuerus (Xerxes), was now the king. He reigned over 127 provinces including modern Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Historians tell us that Ahasuerus “had great power and control. There was one thing, however, he could not control, and that was himself. As we will see, he was proud, greedy, impulsive, prone to temper tantrums, easily flattered and swayed.” Precept Austin
The story begins in Shushan (Susa) the palace, to the east of Babylon. Narrate the story using highlights in my Bible.
Why did God give us all these details? Well, for one thing, they are crucial to understanding the rest of the story. I believe that He also gave them to us that we might learn principles from them.
Transition: I find, in this opening chapter, four vices that we will do well to avoid.
The first vice we will do well to avoid is …
a. Ahasuerus was a very proud man.
1) He was likely the most powerful king in the world at that time. He reigned over a huge territory.
2) He hosted a six-month-long feast for his princes (captains), servants, the (military) powers of Persia and Media, and the nobles (important men) and princes (captains) of the 127 provinces. This feast was probably a time to discuss his planned attack on Greece.
3) During this feast, he bragged about his riches and honour (v.4). He thought a great deal of himself.
b. Pride always leads to problems.
1) The Bible includes examples of problems caused by pride.
a) God warned Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, to turn from his pride, but he did not listen and ended up spending seven years in insanity to humble him.
b) Peter boasted that he would be loyal to Christ, yet just hours later, he denied even knowing Christ.
c) Pharaoh boldly stated, “Who is Jehovah that I should obey Him?” Jehovah brought him down through the ten plagues and the Red Sea that buried him.
d) Goliath proudly defied God before David slew him.
e) Belshazzar proudly mocked God the night of his death.
2) Solomon wrote, (Proverbs 16:18) “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.“
3) Both James and Peter tell us that “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:5). When God resists us, He sets His army against us.
4) Obviously, since God resists the proud, pride is a vice that we must work to conquer. How can we overcome pride?
a) Focus on God’s greatness compared to us.
b) Remember that all we are comes from God.
c) Stop glorying in our achievements.
d) When proud, confess it as sin to God.
e) Focus on others more than ourselves.
The second vice we will do well to avoid is …
a. Ahasuerus had a seven-day drunken party.
1) This second feast was a drunken orgy (v.5-8).
2) Here, too, he boasted of his prosperity.
3) During this festival, he got drunk and did foolish things.
b. Alcohol is always a vice, never a virtue.
1) God warned of this fact. (Proverbs 20:1) “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” (Proverbs 23:31) “Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.” I believe that the wisest choice is to abstain from all alcohol.
2) Whether you agree with my abstinence position or not, you cannot deny that drinking dulls the senses and opens the door to many embarrassments and problems.
3) Alcohol has done more harm to marriages, children, and families than will ever be known.
4) I have never known anyone’s life to become more virtuous because of alcohol. Drinking alcohol will never make you more godly. Alcohol is a vice to avoid.
The third vice we will do well to avoid is …
a. Ahasuerus told his wife to display her beauty.
1) Whether he was asking her to be immodest or not, no one can say. However, displaying herself in any way before a group of drunken men, was not a wholesome thing for him to require of her. It was inappropriate.
2) His subsequent willingness to reject her as his queen because she would not display herself, shows that he did not love her as a husband ought.
3) A husband who truly loves his wife as God commands would never trade her for another woman just because she displeased him.
b. Being inappropriate is always wrong.
1) No doubt, drinking had a huge influence on the inappropriate request of Ahasuerus.
2) Things like immodesty, immorality, harshness, unkindness, name-calling, abuse, neglect of duty, and the like are inappropriate and wrong.
3) While the Bible contains many examples of inappropriate and appropriate actions, the book of Proverbs and Ephesians 4-5 are abundant sources.
The fourth vice we will do well to avoid is …
a. The drunken, embarrassed king got angry.
1) When Vashti refused to parade herself before the drunks, the king got very angry (v.12). Both the king and queen were unbelievers. Whether Vashti was right or wrong, we cannot say, but anger was not the right response.
2) Once again, alcohol contributed to this angry response.
b. Human anger is seldom, if ever, right.
1) If you are an angry person, it is never true to say, “That is just the way I am.” It is better to say, “That is just the way I have become.”
2) Anger must be disciplined and quashed in children, or they will become angry adults. (James 1:20) “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.“
3) God commands Christians (Colossians 3:8) “But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.“
4) If you struggle with anger, admit it, ask the Lord to help you overcome, and consciously guard yourself. Do not allow yourself to get irritated, as that is the catalyst.
Conclusion: God included Esther 1 in the Bible for our benefit. With God’s help, we must avoid the vices of King Ahasuerus. We must avoid pride, drinking alcohol, inappropriateness, and anger. God will not just zap us and give us victory. However, as we apply ourselves, God will work with us to give us victory.
King Ahasuerus’ greatest problem was that he was an unbeliever. If you have not yet repented of your sin and trusted Christ, that is where victory begins. I would be happy to talk with you about this.