Series: Shaped by Environment
Preacher: Jessyka Albert
Refresh: Open with prayer. Read or listen to Psalm 68:32-35.
Read: Esther 1-4 (ESV). As you read the English Standard Version, note 1-3 insights or questions.Esther 1-4 (ESV). As you read the English Standard Version, note 1-3 insights or questions.
Reflect: As you read through the first four chapters of Esther, I hope you realize how quickly the story takes off and begins to make interesting turns. The narrative found in Esther seems easy to chew because many of us have heard it—or portions of it—since we were children. We know that Esther is an orphaned girl who becomes queen to the most powerful ruler of her day and ends up saving her people, God’s people, from genocide. This is all true—but there is much more to this story.
In the first chapter we are introduced to a very powerful man, King Ahasuerus, who reigned from India to Ethiopia over 127 provinces. When the story begins, the great kingdom of Babylon has been taken over by the Medes and the Persians and history has moved to the "silver chest" of the statue referenced in the book of Daniel (2:39). Many Jews who were in Babylonian exile chose to stay in Babylon and did not return to Jerusalem because of the comfort and success they had found in their adopted land.
We find the king hosting a seven-day-long banquet for all kinds of people from the greatest to the most humble (1:5). There’s no lack of expensive decorations and no shortage of drinks. Funny how we aren’t even told of the food, just the drinks. We are told that there is no holding back:
“The drinking was done according to the law, there was no compulsion, for so the king had given orders to each official of his household that he should do according to the desires of each person.” (1:8)
You can tell that the environment here comes with a “Do whatever makes you happy” motto stamped on it. It becomes very clear that what made the king very happy was drinking—a lot. There’s a Japanese proverb that says, “First a man takes a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes the man.” This environment of authority and alcohol brought him to the decision to have his queen paraded before the princes and people. He wanted to show off his “goods.”
As you follow this story you will notice all the small actions taken that lead to big moments in history and how God works even through the drunkenness of a pagan king to fulfill His will.
Respond: Pray for clarity.
Research: Look up a map of the area that Ahasuerus ruled over.Look up a map of the area that Ahasuerus ruled over.