Esth. 1:13 Then the king consulted the sages who knew the laws (for this was the king’s procedure toward all who were versed in law and custom, 14 and those next to him were Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven officials of Persia and Media, who had access to the king, and sat first in the kingdom): 15 “According to the law, what is to be done to Queen Vashti because she has not performed the command of King Ahasuerus conveyed by the eunuchs?” 16 Then Memucan said in the presence of the king and the officials, “Not only has Queen Vashti done wrong to the king, but also to all the officials and all the peoples who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. 17 For this deed of the queen will be made known to all women, causing them to look with contempt on their husbands, since they will say, ‘King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, and she did not come.’ 18 This very day the noble ladies of Persia and Media who have heard of the queen’s behavior will rebel against the king’s officials, and there will be no end of contempt and wrath! 19 If it pleases the king, let a royal order go out from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes so that it may not be altered, that Vashti is never again to come before King Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she. 20 So when the decree made by the king is proclaimed throughout all his kingdom, vast as it is, all women will give honor to their husbands, high and low alike.”
The drinking had been going on for days without restraint and by now the men where “merry” with wine. In his drunken revelry the king thought he would show off his beautiful queen and called for her to come before the men. This, however, was completely inappropriate. The Queen was to be modest and secluded from public gaze. To ask her to “perform” for other men was degrading and her response was one which would have been in line with saving both her reputation, and that of the King.
The king turned to his advisers, who were all filled with wine as well and the one, Memucan, spoke up. He “turned the matter into a national crisis that threatened male supremacy!” (Ryrie Study Bible) He played to the interests of those present, flattering the king and drawing all of the other counselors into agreement. Probably too intoxicated to disagree, or to think clearly, they all determined that Vashti would need to be punished for the sake of maintaining order. It wasn’t just about maintaining order, but about power and control. Even if they were in the wrong, they could not have admitted it, for doing so would have meant sharing power with women. The men were in the wrong and the woman was trying to do the right thing for all of them. Unable to see this truth and face their own limitations, they punished the one who was in the right, all for the sake of power.
It’s easy to point fingers at the drunken officials at King Ahasuerus’ party and see the folly of their decision making. Unfortunately, we continue to make decisions about power as well, and we don’t always have the excuse of not thinking clearly! When we refuse to do the right thing to “keep the order” we are in the wrong. Being the people of God means that we become intentional about doing the right things. The result is potential disruption of order and power, but those should not be the definitive factors. As God’s people, we may need to go against the powers that exist to make a difference.
At the same time we need to examine the ways in which we hold onto power. Each of us has power in some sphere of life and, if we were to be honest, we don’t like to share. There are pockets of corporate America who are suddenly discovering a dearth of individuals to fill upcoming leadership voids. The problem is that some individuals have held onto positions of leadership for such a long period of time, retaining power, that they have been unwilling to share with those who may be developing leaders. When power is not shared, people will leave and go somewhere else where they feel empowered and wanted. The same is true in the church. If we do not allow for the sharing of power with younger people, minorities and women, the church will suddenly find herself devoid of fresh and upcoming leadership. The argument may be made that these individuals don’t have as much experience and that they don’t know how to do it the ways in which it has been done. That is probably true, but unless we share some power and give people a chance to learn and grow, there will be precious few who will be around to carry on into the future.
The King’s advisers held on for the sake of power, for power itself becomes intoxicating. Release from the addiction of power is necessary to become intentional about empowering others and, being a genuine follower of Jesus Christ. Jesus gave up all of his power to save you and me. He did not hold to the conventions of the world, but intentionally empowered his followers. Jesus reached out to the down and out and gave them new life. The religious officials, who thought they had the power, were not amused. Ultimately they lost everything and the simple fishermen from the Galilee were empowered to heal the sick and preach new life throughout the world. When it simply becomes about power, everyone loses.
Lord, may your power be released through your servants — all of them. Amen.
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