In the opening pages of the Book of Esther we get a glimpse at what can happen when you fuel an oversized ego with bad advice and too much wine. It is not pretty.
Today on Truth for Life we'll find out how one impulsive moment can cause lasting damage. Alistair Begg is continuing our study in the Book of Esther with a message he's titled Wine, Women and Self. I invite you to turn with me to the Old Testament, to the Book of Esther, where we'll read a selection of verses. We'll read from verse 10 of chapter 1 to begin with. On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Bistha, Harbonah, Bigtha, and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcass—if you're looking for names for your grandchildren, I suggest you steer clear of this—the seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus, to bring Queen Vashti before the king with her royal crown, in order to show the peoples and the princes her beauty, for she was lovely to look at. But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king's command, delivered by the eunuchs. At this the king became enraged, and his anger burned within him. The writer then tells us that he inquired of his wise men as to what he ought to do.
Their answer was, You should issue legislation. And in verse 19, this is what they say, If it please 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royal order go out from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes, so that it may not be repealed, that Vashti is never again to come before King Ahasuerus, and let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she. So when the decree made by the king is proclaimed throughout all his kingdom, for it is vast, all women will give honor to their husbands, high and low alike. This advice please the king.
Now go to verse 1 of chapter 2. After these things, when the anger of King Ahasuerus had abated, he remembered Vashti and what she'd done and what had been decreed against her. Then the king's young men who attended him said, Let beautiful young virgins be sought out for the king, and let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom to gather all the beautiful young virgins to the harem in Susa the citadel, under custody of Haggai the king's eunuch, who is in charge of the women. Let their cosmetics be given them, and let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.
This pleased the king, and he did so. Now there was a Jew in Susa the citadel whose name was Mordecai… Okay? We pray, gracious God, for help, that as we turn to this ancient book as very twenty-first-century dwellers, that you will help us to ask the question, What concerning its content?
So what concerning its implications? Now what in terms of our follow-through, so that we might increasingly become the people that we've been singing, that we believe ourselves to be, at least want to be, and that Jesus might be everything in us and through us. For in his name we pray. Amen. I woke up this morning, realized what I had done. I sat alone in the cold gray morn. I knew I'd lost my morning sun. I lost my head, and I said some things. Now come the heartaches that the morning brings.
I know I'm wrong. I couldn't see. I let my world slip away from me. Hey, did you happen to see the most beautiful girl in the world? And if you did, was she crying? Hey, did you happen to see the most beautiful girl who walked out on me? Now, don't look alarmed. This is not autobiographical. That was Charlie Rich from a long time ago. Those of you of a certain vintage understand that.
The rest of you are saying he has finally taken leave of his senses. No. I'm going to call that song The Song of King Ahasuerus, a la chapter 2 verse 1.
And I'll try and explain to you why. Look at the beginning of the second chapter. After these things, when the anger of King Ahasuerus had abated, he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what had been decreed against her. We said last Sunday morning in introducing this book that what we're dealing with here is essentially a historic novella. It is a short story. It is historical. It has the qualities of a good little novel about it.
There is a horrible character called Haman. There is a kind of love thread which runs through it. There is a beautiful queen.
There is a deposed queen. There is an enigmatic little character known as Mordecai the Jew. It really is quite super.
And I commend it to you. If you haven't done your homework, you needn't put up your hand and acknowledge it, but I suggested to you last time that it would be good for each of us to read the story through at least a couple of times. Because in order to really do justice to providing instruction from this book, it almost demands an awareness of the totality of the story. In some parts of the Bible, you don't really need that.
The linear progression of things, whether it is in a New Testament letter or even in a study of some of the psalms, you can simply say, This is verse 1, and as we get to verse 2, then we can understand and go along. But in actual fact, in this kind of literature, the impact of this story as a story lies in its narrativity. It lies in the narrative nature of the way in which the information is conveyed. That there is, if you like, a literary quality to the story that is vital to the way in which we understand it. So that if I were simply to go, as it were, verse by verse through the text of the first chapter, we would pick up things and understand them, but I actually may rob the story of something of its impact. It makes perfect sense, doesn't it, in relationship to any other short story? I mean, if you're reading stories with your children or your grandchildren, the reason for the story is you read the whole story, especially if it is a short story.
Otherwise, if you don't really get the plot, if you don't get the characters, then bits and pieces of it will mean very little to you. Now, we noted last time that the events recorded in the book of Esther are in accord with the events recorded in the entire Old Testament. And we said they are recorded because God wanted them recorded. I want to add to that this morning and say, and they are recorded in this particular fashion because God wanted them recorded in this particular fashion. What you have here is history as story more than history as chronicle.
I think you understand that. So in other words, it's not just a list of dates and places, and on this day this happened, on this day that's happened, but in actual fact, the story, the drama is woven through this literary piece. And Paul, remember, in Romans 15, he says, All the things that were written in the past were written for our instruction, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. The hope that is found in and through the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Messiah who comes from the line of his people—a people who, at this point in the fifth century, many of them have chosen to remain in Persia, even though Cyrus had offered to them an opportunity for repatriation. Some chose to go back to Jerusalem, others chose to stay. And Jeremiah had given instructions a hundred years before to the people of God living in an alien place as to how they should conduct themselves. Daniel gives us an insight into that, the book of Nehemiah gives us an insight into it, and here it is also so in this lovely story of Esther. Well, my first point goes under the heading, The King Lost His Head and the Queen Her Crown. All right? That is my attempt to summarize the end, or the second half, of chapter 1. Those of us who were here last Sunday night advanced the ball a little from the morning.
Some of you, if you really care, will have to get the recording of that, or just go online and watch it for your help. The king lost his head, and the queen lost her crown. Now, the Persian Empire was in many ways glued together by laws and rules and edicts. It's not uncommon in everyday parlance to hear somebody make a statement or make a demand and then follow it up by saying, However, that's not the law of the Persians and the Medes, or the Medes and the Persians.
And you may actually have used that without realizing where it comes from. Well, it actually comes from here, at least in the biblical record. And the edicts extended to all kinds of details. And that becomes apparent as you look down here and see verse 8 of chapter 1, and drinking—and we've just been told that the drinks were served in golden vessels of all different kinds, and drinking was according to this edict. So there's an edict about drinking. And what is the edict? There is no compulsion.
There is no compulsion. What does that mean? It means that the guests could drink as much as they liked or as little as they liked, and they could drink when they liked. If you saw Mrs. Brown, the story of Queen Victoria following the death of Prince Albert—much of it said in The Beauty of Scotland, I hasten to add—and the part of Queen Victoria played by Judi Dench, if you remember any of the eating scenes there, you will get some kind of idea of what's involved in this little statement. Because no one touched any cutlery until the queen did. No one ate or drank until the queen did. If she drank, they drank.
If she didn't, they didn't. And so on. If she stood up to leave, the meal was over, and everybody had to leave. Well, that would be the way it would work in this—that the people were there for this big banquet, they had all the provisions made for them so that they could enter into this opulent and very lavish feast, and routinely it would be that every time the king went for it, everybody else would go for it. So he issued an edict.
You don't have to do that. You can drink as much as you like, or you can drink as little as you like. Now, in the case of the king, it seems apparent that he went for as much as you like.
He went for the As Much As You Like program. Because it is also difficult to read the ensuing verses without acknowledging the fact that his judgment seems at least to be a little impaired, that his decision-making has been unduly influenced by the impact of the alcohol in his system. Because here, in a display of his pride and his bravado, he issues a command for the presence of his queen.
And we're told that the reason that he wanted to do this, in verse 11, was in order to show the peoples and the princes her beauty, for she was lovely to look at. So it's very, very important to understand that. This is not a sort of nice husband saying, We're having a lovely time up here in the men's grill, and we would love for you just to come down and meet my friends before they all go home.
It's not like that at all. No. This is Mr. Big. For this Ahasuerus guy, bigger is better. Everything is an indication of his majesty and his might and his significance. And so he says to his boys, Go down and bring the queen up here. Make sure she has her crown. So what he's planning to do is a show-and-tell for his friends.
He's going to let them ogle his wife. The Jewish commentaries around this suggest that there is a distinct possibility, well, that when it actually says there that she should come and come with her royal crown, that that was all she was to come with. So in other words, he was breaking the bounds of propriety in every way, whether that's true or not. Because Josephus, the Jewish historian, records the fact that it was a violation within the code and ethics of Persia for a man's wife to be the occasion of observation, approbation on the part of any other man. And if you think about Mideastern or Eastern dress, no matter what you might think about these things, it certainly covers up a lot of potential difficulty, doesn't it?
It saves from a lot of harm. And it is in that context that he issues this command so that they may be able to observe her beauty, see her beauty, because she was good to look at. Now, okay, you can say he was proud of his wife, she was good-looking, and that was fine.
But there's a progression here, and I want to point it out to you. See if you think this is accurate. First of all, we're told that his condition in verse 10 was that it was on the seventh day when the heart of the king was merry with wine. With wine. It would be fair to translate it, on the seventh day, when the wine had gone to his head.
All right? When he's not totally out of control, but he's sufficiently knocked off balance. And the writer wants us to understand the part that is played here. So his condition is that his heart is merry with wine. He then issues his edict, sends for his wife, she refuses to come, and his reaction at the end of verse 12 is that he became enraged, and his anger burned within him. He was enraged, and his anger burned within him. Now, again, this is where reading on in the story would be of help to you, because if you have done, you'll say, Well, that seems to be something of a recurring pattern for this fellow.
And it is. And I'll show you where, if you just go to verse 7 of chapter 7, in a different context, and we don't need the context for the moment, I just want you to notice the point. Verse 7 of Esther 7, and the king arose in his wrath from the wine drinking. He arose in his wrath from the wine drinking. In other words, the writer wants us to understand that there is a correlation here between his intake and his output.
What he's taken into himself is in some way influencing what is coming out of him. It's not our purpose to stop here and give a dissertation on the uses and abuses of alcohol and the way in which it's addressed in the Bible, but let me just say a couple of things in passing. Number one, wine is the principal drink that is mentioned in the Bible.
There's no other—you don't have 7-Up or anything like that in there, right? So when you read the Old Testament, an evidence of God's blessing is found in the production of grain, of wine, and of oil. Find it again. The trilogy comes again and again, for example, in the book of Deuteronomy. And God blessed his people, and they were the beneficiaries of it, and they saw the evidences of it in the grain and the wine and the oil that they enjoyed. It is therefore one of God's good gifts—a good gift which the psalmist tells us, at least in Psalm 104, has the capacity to gladden the heart of man.
It's one of the capacities that is there in this. At the same time, the Bible warns that when taken to excess, it can lead men and women astray. Proverbs 20 and verse 1. And when you move from the Old Testament into the New, you find that, for example, the apostle Paul, while he encourages Timothy to drink wine for his stomach's sake, warns the Ephesians against becoming debarched as a result of their imbibing of too much wine. Do not be drunk with wine, Ephesians 5.18, wherein is excess, which leads to debauchery, but instead be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Our purpose is not to discuss this, but let's just lay this down as axiomatic. That Paul is making it absolutely clear for the Ephesians and for the church at all times that there is a huge no-go area when it comes to the issue of a Christian being controlled by anything other than the Holy Spirit. There is no legitimacy, no legitimacy in the Scriptures given to us to be out of control.
The only out of control that it envisages is being so filled with the Spirit of God that we're out of control, as it were, with love and affection for God and with the good news that is then conveyed. His condition—the wine had gone to his head. His reaction—he lost his temper. He was enraged.
This is a bad combination—a big ego, an inordinate interest in alcohol, and a quick temper. Now, he clearly wants to benefit from those who are his counselors, and so his question is straightforward. And you'll find it here in verse 15. He says, according to the law… You see? It's all about the law. What edict do we have about this? According to the law, what is to be done to Queen Vashti? Because she has not performed the command of King Ahasuerus delivered by the eunuchs. And they say, well, what needs to be done here is the issuing of legislation. And so, verse 19 and 20, which we read earlier, we needn't reread it, but let a royal order go out, let it be written among the laws of the Medes and the Persians. Notice the phrase, so that it may not be repealed, that Vashti is never again to come before King Ahasuerus.
Now, just think about that for a moment. Do you think if his heart hadn't been merry with wine that he would have gone for that edict? Do you think if you'd said to him in the morning when he got up and he'd gone out for a walk, you know, by the time you get to midnight, you'll have banished your queen from your life forever. You'll never see her again. She'll never be anything to you again. He would have said, that's not possible.
She's my queen. He did it. How did he do it? He had a fat head. He drank too much. He had a horrible temper. And he took bad advice. That story is repeated again and again and again. That's not the point of the passage. But it is a point that ought not to be missed as we read the passage.
Do you realize how in a moment of foolish passion you can alter your life forever? He was merry with wine. He was mad. He said what?
They said this. He was weak-willed. He said, okay. He could have said, you know, I shouldn't have asked my wife to do that. That wasn't proper. It wasn't proper as it relates to the law of the land, and it wasn't proper as it relates to her and her beauty and the esteem that I have for her. Why would I want my wife to do that?
Why would I do that? He could have said all of that, couldn't he? But he didn't. Now he said, fine, let it be done.
I guess even highly successful leaders can still make rash and foolish decisions, right? You're listening to Truth for Life. That is Alistair Begg talking to us about the importance of self-control. We'll learn more tomorrow from the book of Esther as we continue in this series. In the meantime, if you have not yet requested your copy of the book we're talking about this month, a book about the attributes of God, let me encourage you to get in touch with us. The book is titled 12 Things God Can't Do. And unlike a lot of books about the subject of God's attributes, this book explores 12 unique features that are true of us as humans, but things that God can't do.
It's not his nature to do them. For example, God can't change his mind. He'll never decide to abandon his promises. In particular, he'll never decide to rescind his gift of salvation.
In fact, as you read through this book, you'll discover that the things God can't do are actually a tremendous source of comfort and encouragement. You can request your copy of the book 12 Things God Can't Do today when you give a donation to support the ministry of Truth for Life. You can give online at truthforlife.org slash donate or call us at 888-588-7884. And if you'd rather mail your donation to us along with your request for the book, write to Truth for Life. Our address is post office box 398000 Cleveland, Ohio.
Our zip code is 44139. I'm Bob Lapine. We heard an important reminder today of the danger of an impulsive, foolish decision. So what does God do when we make a mess of things? Join us tomorrow for the conclusion of today's message. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-20 05:11:24 / 2023-02-20 05:20:11 / 9