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The first woman I’d like you to meet is a woman who was not—as far as we know—a believer in the true God. She was not Jewish but rather Persian. In fact, she was married to the Persian King Ahasuerus, who was a wimpy, weak, narcissistic man. Most Christians are familiar with the story of Esther—the courageous Jewish Queen who God used to save her people. But what about her predecessor, Queen Vashti? Do you know her story? It’s in the first chapter of the book of Esther.
In a drunken stupor and at the end of a five-day drunken feast, the king had a brilliant idea to bring down the house with a final display of his superiority. He commanded his servants to summon the prized Queen Vashti decked in her royal crown, so that he could show off her beauty. It is probably true that she was summoned to appear naked, with just her crown on.
Vashti refused to appear and that enraged the king—his own wife was defying him in front of all the men of Susa. The royal wise men advised the king that Vashti’s humiliating behavior could not go unpunished because, if the king let the incident slide, all the women in the kingdom would have contempt for their husbands, thinking, “If Queen Vashti can get away with disrespecting her husband, so can I” (verses 16–18).
King Ahasuerus responded to the situation by sending out a royal edict saying that Queen Vashti was never to be allowed to come before him again, and the king would give her crown to another. So Queen Vashti was banished, and a search began for a new queen to replace her.
And why was Vashti vanquished? Why did she lose her title, her position as “first lady” and all the wealth and privileges that came with it? We aren’t told why, but what do you think would cause a Queen in that culture to refuse to obey the King? She had to know it would cost her the crown, but she refused to be paraded before drunken men just to show off her body.
Her refusal is truly amazing. Whatever her reason, it took great courage. Beauty and wealth were considered the most important things in that culture. The King was wealthy, Vashti was beautiful. She could have simply accepted her position and used her beauty as her “calling card,” but she refused.
Listen again to what the Bible says is more important than riches and beauty:
Proverbs 22:1: A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.
Proverbs 31:30: Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Can you think of any parallel situations we might encounter in our culture today? What compromises could be asked or even demanded of us that would be in opposition to our faith and the principles of Scripture which are our guidelines?
As we watch our culture slide quickly into a godless secular culture; as we see how the things considered virtues even a few short years ago are now passe; at what point will you and I have to decide whether we will take our stand against what is wrong regardless of the cost? I think it’s important that we think in advance, so that if and when we are faced with such choices, we will be grounded in the truth of God’s Word and have the courage to make a “Vashti choice,” to stick with God’s truth regardless.
In a very enlightening article from Breakpoint Daily on transgender issues and the use of transgender pronouns, they point out that Christians should avoid unnecessary offense whenever possible, and I certainly agree with that. But the article continues: “And we should know that calling males men and females women will not in and of itself resolve the thorny cultural, psychological, and spiritual challenge of transgender ideology. Still, caving on words will destroy our ability to understand and undermine our ability to debate the issue truthfully. And it is truth, not niceness or relevance or even hospitality, that can set people free.”
I recognize that there are different responses from Christians on this issue, but the truth of Scripture is our final word, and the day is coming—the day has come—when we must decide if we will be courageous enough to stand with God’s truth. Vashti could have reasoned that it was just one night, one request, and what’s the big deal anyway? Just get it over with, go with the flow, and don’t cause an uproar. But she chose to be courageous and do what she knew to be right, regardless of the cost.
Though she had no way to know the ultimate result of her decision, God used it to put a Jewish woman in her place as Queen and through her to save his people from destruction. And that introduces us to the second very courageous woman, Esther. Their stories are intertwined. Because Esther was very beautiful, she was chosen to replace Vashti.
Esther could never have imagined why God would allow her, a Jewish girl, to become a Persian Queen. That wasn’t what she wanted to be when she grew up! But there she was, and in that place, she was able to take a courageous stand that saved the Jewish people—her people—who were refugees in Persia, from annihilation. It’s a wonderful, amazing story and if you’re not familiar with it, please read the short book of Esther for the whole story.
But at one point, Esther had to decide whether or not she would put her life at risk and go before the King to rescue her people. She knew the king had the power to destroy her for coming into his presence without an invitation. But she also knew there was no time to waste, so this was her decision:
Esther 4:16: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”
She got her support group around her, no doubt she prayed during those three days of fasting, and then she counted the cost, knowing she could perish, but also knowing it was the right thing to do. God had put her in that spot “for such a time as this,” she said, and she courageously did the right thing.
Was she afraid? I’m sure she was. You see, being courageous doesn’t mean you have no fear. Courage recognizes fear and acts anyway. Fear is a primal emotion—it just happens and threatens to overtake you in any given moment. We are not immune to fear as Christ-followers, but we have been given the tools to conquer fear through our faith in Jesus.
You’re not likely to have to take a stand like Vashti or Esther, but what kind of things might you face which require courage:
- When telling the truth would get you in trouble and no one would ever know if you didn’t tell the truth, would you tell the truth anyway?
- When faced with criticism and misunderstanding from people who know and may even love you, would you hold fast to your biblical convictions even if the relationship is damaged?
- When a difficult conversation with a friend or a spouse or a boss is needed, even though it would be easier to shrink back, would you confront?
- If you are wrestling with a pattern of sin or addictive behavior, would you take the courageous step to bring it into the light and maybe talk about it with a trusted friend when it seems to be so much easier to just keep it hidden in shame and darkness?
- When asked by your company or your supervisor to do or say something that is not accurate, to complete a form deceptively, to make a presentation that is not truthful, would you refuse to do it even at the risk of losing your job?
There are so many challenges we face in our everyday lives that require courage. God’s Word is full of encouragement and strength for us when we face our everyday fears. There are over 365 references to fear and courage in the Bible, one for each day of the year. Here is a good one:
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging (Psalm 46:1 – 3).
The truth of God’s Word is what you need to face the fear you feel. That’s one good reason to read it, know it, and memorize it. When the disciples were frightened when they saw Jesus walking on the water, he said to them, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Take the courage Jesus is offering you today—his courage, his strength. You’re not on your own. Jesus said “It is I”; he is with you, so take his courage for whatever you are facing, and through Christ, conquer your fear to do what he wants you to do.
Do you ever wonder if you would be brave enough to declare your allegiance to Jesus Christ no matter what the cost, even if it cost your life? It’s not too far-fetched to think of how that could happen to us in our world today. Indeed, it is happening to Christians in many places in this world. But you don’t need to worry about those what-ifs. God will give you grace to do the right thing when you need it. It is our responsibility to be prepared as we read in Jude (verses 20-21):
But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
So, let’s keep building ourselves up in our faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, and trusting God for the courage we will need, no matter what comes across our paths.