We are witnessing a powerful moment in American history as women stand up for themselves. Between the honest accounts coming to light that have long been hidden in shadowy corners of fear and intimidation, the #MeToo movement, and the promised inclusion of our voices – the times, they are a changin’.
But this isn’t the first time in history that a woman has changed the world with her boldness. We can look across our textbooks and our own family trees to find incredible stories of bravery and benefit thanks to one of us girls. And one thing I love about our God is that He made sure to emphasize the equality of women in His image. In the time of most biblical settings – women were more than “less than” … they were voiceless.
But our God has shaken things up more than once, and His story of Esther did exactly that.
So, way back, waaayyyyy back in 486 BC there was a Persian king named Xerxes who reigned over 127 provinces stretching far and wide. After a couple of years he decided to throw a banquet, a banquet that lasted for seven whole days and included every single person in the citadel of Susa. He let everyone drink with no restrictions, including himself. And it was while more than soused he ordered his wife to be brought out to the crowd for everyone to gawk at her beauty, but Queen Vashti refused to come.
King Xerxes flew into a rage and his close friends took his side. The response from one of his consultants, Memukan, sounds eerily familiar, and could very well be a conversation recorded from a year not so far in the past:
“Queen Vashti has done wrong, not only against the king but also against all the nobles and the peoples of all the provinces of King Xerxes. For the queen’s conduct will become known to all the women, and so they will despise their husbands and say, ‘King Xerxes commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, but she would not come.’ This very day the Persian and Median women of the nobility who have heard about the queen’s conduct will respond to all the king’s nobles in the same way. There will be no end of disrespect and discord.
Therefore, if it pleases the king, let him issue a royal decree and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media, which cannot be repealed, that Vashti is never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes. Also let the king give her royal position to someone else who is better than she. Then when the king’s edict is proclaimed throughout all his vast realm, all the women will respect their husbands, from the least to the greatest.”
The response from men in power to a woman who refused to be paraded around like a prize hog? To silence her. The fear was that if one woman stood up for herself that word would spread like wildfire and before they knew it, women everywhere would dare to do the same.
Here’s the irony I find: if women are so much less, so unequal, so weak – what would the threat be in their having a voice? I don’t believe these men, and millions of others across history, really believed in women’s inferiority but had to convince themselves and others so that they could maintain an untrue sense of superiority.
The great part about being a child of God is that it both levels us and elevates us. Because we are told in Genesis that we are made in His image, both men and women, there is an innate sense of humility – every breath we breathe is given by the Creator! Apart from Him we can do nothing, we wouldn’t even exist! But by being His children, once we receive His son as Savior the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our insides – offering in the most eternal and mysterious of ways a true transformation that will last through eternity.
Our concern should be ensuring making our voices heard, but solely for the sake of spreading the truth of this incredible God who made us all. To promote our own message would be foolish, we are not omniscient or omnibenevolent, but to use the power and passion of our being to promote a truth that will save mankind!? There’s nothing more worth the wealth of our womanhood.
You won’t hear much more about Queen Vashti as we walk through the following chapters of the book of Esther this week, but as we set the stage for you to see what just one woman who trusts God and is unafraid can do to change everything – you need to know that the stage was set for her arrival by another strong woman who was dismissed because she chose to be known for more than her beauty.