January 03, 2017

. . . In a Faraway Palace

Esther 1:1-12

King Xerxes . . . gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials.

—  Esther 1:2-3

Life in a Persian palace was difficult to imagine for ordinary people, especially when the king showed off his wealth and splendor and entertained ­nobles and officials with the best food and drink his kingdom could offer. Whether you lived in the suburbs of Susa or at the border of the empire, the palace was a faraway place. And what happened in the palace stayed in the palace—usually.

Like any grand king, Xerxes spoiled his guests. For 180 days he showed off the splendor of his kingdom, and then he gave a weeklong banquet—at which his guests could choose their own wine and drink as much as they pleased.

On the last day of the feast, Xerxes demanded that his queen, Vashti, parade her beauty before this besotted crowd. Her refusal and its conse­quences did not stay in the palace; this would affect all who lived outside, even those who might have thought they lived beyond the king’s reach.

“A king’s wrath strikes terror like the roar of a lion” (Proverbs 20:2). Vashti lost her royal posi­tion, and the results would threaten even God’s people.

But it is also true that a king’s “favor is like dew on the grass” (Proverbs 19:12). As we will see in Esther’s story, a young Jewish woman will win the king’s favor, and she will use her position to save her people.

Let us seek the favor of God our King, that we may enjoy the bounty of his kingdom.

Thank you, Lord, that because of Jesus, we may enjoy your favor forever. Amen.

About the author — Arie C. Leder

Dr. Arie C. Leder is the Martin J. Wyngaarden Senior Professor of Old Testament Studies at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He previously served as pastor at Ebenezer Christian Reformed Church, Trenton, Ontario, and with Christian Reformed World Missions in Latin America. He teaches courses on the Pentateuch and on historical books of the Old Testament.

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