December 3, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“Now in the days of Ahasuerus, the Ahasuerus who reigned from India to Ethiopia over 127 provinces, in those days when King Ahasuerus sat on his royal throne in Susa, the citadel, in the third year of his reign he gave a feast for all his officials and servants. The army of Persia and Media and the nobles and governors of the provinces were before him, while he showed the riches of his royal glory and the splendor and pomp of his greatness for many days, 180 days. And when these days were completed, the king gave for all the people present in Susa the citadel, both great and small, a feast lasting for seven days in the court of the garden of the king’s palace. There were white cotton curtains and violet hangings fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rods and marble pillars, and also couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl, and precious stones. Drinks were served in golden vessels, vessels of different kinds, and the royal wine was lavished according to the bounty of the king. And drinking was according to this edict: “There is no compulsion.” For the king had given orders to all the staff of his palace to do as each man desired.”—Esther 1:1–8 ESV
Imagine you are the child of Israelites who were exiled into Babylon. Your parents were taken captive but have made a new life there. You’ve heard prophecies that one day God would bring His people out of captivity, though you can’t imagine how. Then the Persians conquer the Babylonian empire, and an edict is decreed ordering Israel’s temple to be rebuilt, allowing your people to return to their homeland. Many others decide to make the journey back; however, as you consider your family and the life you’ve built, you decide to stay. Little do you know of the threat that awaits God’s people who’ve chosen to remain in this foreign land.
The Book of Esther tells the story of the Israelites who didn’t return to Israel in 521 BC (under King Cyrus’ decree), but rather stayed in the lands belonging to the Persian empire. The story takes place over ten years, beginning in the year 483 BC, during the third year of King Ahasuerus’ reign. King Ahasuerus (or Xerxes in Greek) has a lust for power, and he flaunts his wealth by throwing a six month banquet for the military noblemen of his empire. If that weren’t enough, he then throws a seven-day feast for the royal citizens of Susa—the Persian capital.
Ahasuerus’ lavish feast equated him with a deity, portraying him as a god to his subject—all-powerful and sovereign. His name is mentioned 192 times in the Book of Esther while God’s name is not mentioned at all. But this irony is intentional, for the god-like ruler who has all earthly wealth and authority ultimately has neither. Furthermore, King Ahasuerus promised his guests that each man should receive whatever their hearts desired, that there was no such thing as excess of pleasure in his banquet feast. Yet, only God can truly satisfy our souls’ desires.
As the story will reveal, it’s not Ahasuerus who is all powerful, but God. Every choice made and every event that occurs in this story or in our lives is not random or in vain, but happens according to God’s plan. God is the one who sovereignly ordains and sustains all things, the only one in control of time, history, and the cosmos, and the one who orchestrates all things to work together for His intended purpose (Romans 8:28).
The Book of Esther reminds us that kingdoms rise and fall, that things of this world will all pass away, but God’s kingdom will endure forever.
Friend, may you find comfort in the truth that no matter what happens in your life, our nation, or this world, you’re under God’s sovereign and loving care. God is the one true King and ruler of the universe, and He is at work to accomplish His sovereign plans for you, me, and the whole world. “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable” (Isaiah 40:28 ESV).
Pause: Why do you think the author doesn’t mention God’s name in the Book of Esther? How is God revealed in this story?
Practice: Consider the ways God is at work in your life (e.g. family, job, finances, health, relationships, nationality) and list the ways you see His hand moving in your life.
Pray: God, I praise You for Your power and sovereignty. You alone are God, and You are in control of all things. I don’t understand how, but I believe that nothing in my life or in this world has happened by accident. I may not see the reason now, but I know that You are love and that You are good, so I can trust You in all circumstances. Keep my heart at peace when You seem silent, and help me to trust Your plans above my own. Amen.
Gabriella Bemis serves as a volunteer for Calvary’s communications and worship teams. She holds an M.A. in psychology from Fuller Theological Seminary and is passionate about integrating her knowledge of human behavior with the truth of God’s word. When she is not writing resources or singing at church, Gabi loves to paint, cook, and enjoy time outdoors with her family and friends.