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Wine, Women, and Self (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
February 21, 2023 3:00 am

Wine, Women, and Self (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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February 21, 2023 3:00 am

Impulsive choices can cause irreparable damage. So what does God do with our messes? Examine a foolish decision that left a king without his queen—and learn how God used the error for good. That’s our focus on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



Have you ever made an impulsive, reckless, harmful decision?

Something that couldn't be undone, no matter how much we regretted it? What does God do with our messes? Well today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg looks at how a king's foolish decision left him without his beautiful queen, and yet God still used the king's error to further his own plans. 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. 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. At the same time, the Bible warns that when taken to excess, it can lead men and women astray. Proverbs chapter 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. There is 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, 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 married with wine, that he would have gone for that edict? 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 married 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? He could have said all of that, couldn't he? But he didn't.

Now he said, Fine, let it be done. It's amazing, isn't it? He spent all of this time explaining what a big shot he is.

I actually think it's quite funny. I don't know if you do, but it's, you know, his dominion extends from India to Ethiopia, over a hundred and twenty-seven provinces. His banquet lasts for six months.

The people are in there from all the surrounding places. He's got nobles and governors and the army of Persia and the army of Media. Media, he's got all the pomp, he's got all the sermon.

No one's in any doubt. This guy's a big guy. He's a big deal.

Oh, yeah, nobody else is going to be able to pull off this banquet. Do you see how powerful he is? There's no limit to his power. He goes to the ends of the earth, the ends of the unknown world. He has control of everything, except what? Except his jolly wife. That's funny.

That's funny to me. I'm in control of everything. Would you get my wife? She says she's not coming. What are you talking about? I'm the king of the universe! She's coming!

No, she isn't. And then—and I think this is funny too—that he's placed in the unenviable position of creating legislation to impose on others what he had been unable to achieve himself. So he uses an edict so that the men in his little world will not be subjected to the same thing as himself.

He thinks that his edict is going to achieve for them what he couldn't achieve on his throne? That's funny. Now, for those of you who find your pro-feminist juices rising in this little story here, I want to tell you, sit down and stay steady. This book in twenty-first-century Western culture has become, for many, a pro-feminist tract.

Some of my own friends have written in that vein. There is no question here that we could say that Vashti is, if you like, a woman before her time. But if we were to think for a minute that the reason that this is in here and the reason that this story is in here is in order that we might advance that cause, then we'll go immediately wrong. No, what we're discovering here is the way in which Esther eventually becomes the queen alongside Ahasuerus. And so the writer is explaining the events that unfolded that brought this to pass.

Once again, I have to say to you that it is imperative that we stand back far enough from the drama so as not to miss the wood from the trees. This is how it was that he was going to get an improved model, another one, another queen, who, according to verse 19, is better than she. Well, that's how chapter 1 ends, and then we have to go into chapter 2. We'll just make a stab at chapter 2, and then we'll stop. So, first of all, the balance of chapter 1 explains how the king lost his head and the queen lost her crown, and then the search begins for a new queen.

Or, if you want another heading, you could say, now we have a beauty pageant to outdo all beauty pageants ever come up with. After these things, when the anger of the king Ahasuerus had abated, he remembered Vashti and what she had done. Now, here's something you need to know. Did you know that the Battle of Salamis and the campaign of Thermopylae in the fifth century, the campaign of Persia against Greece, was one of the great military campaigns in the entire history of the world?

Hands off all those who knew that. Three people? Four? Five? Six? Seven? Anyone over in this section? Good.

I feel much more comfortable over here, because I had no clue about that, I must say, and I thought I was fairly educated, but apparently not. When I read that there was a battle, I said, so there was a battle, then I read this battle is one of the most significant military campaigns in the entire history of the world, and I said, how did I miss that? And also, I didn't know that it took place in between chapter 1 and chapter 2. So if you go immediately from chapter 1 to chapter 2, you need to keep in the back of your mind—which is why I'm telling you this—that there's a three-year gap. Because Mr. Big, the king Ahasuerus, after he has now deposed Vashti, goes out to lead the forces of Persia against the Greeks. And then you can read the history. You can read it in the history of Herodotus, in the histories. You'll find it there. There's no point in me, you know, going on about it, because I didn't know much about it myself, and you can read the same books as me.

But I think it's important, because the campaign began with some success and ended with great disappointment. So here you have this man, if I ruled the world every day would be the first day of spring—you know, that kind of guy? He's back at his house 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. Don't you think he sat somewhere in his royal palace, squeezed his eyes closed, and saw again the six-month banquet, that extravaganza? All that eating and drinking, and all his ego fanned into a flame. Now he comes back, hasn't made much of a conquest at all against the Greeks, bruised in his ego, saddened by his past. And I say to you again, fifteen minutes in the wrong company, imbibing the wrong material, making the wrong decisions, may have a lasting impact on our lives. You read it in Ecclesiastes, there was a man all alone.

He had neither brother or sister. It's a picture of the sadness and the emptiness of someone who has pursued everyone and everything, and particularly his own agenda, to the expense of the living God. Now, there is a wealth here in this opening verse. It's a verse that leads us to the encouragement of these young men.

Verse 2, the king's men who had attended him, presumably trying to pick up his chin from his chest, said, Well, listen, why don't we just do a thing? We'll call it the search for Miss Persia. You know, we'll call it something.

Persia's got talent. We'll come up with something, but we'll just scour around. We'll get, Don't you worry, king.

We'll get it sorted out. Hey, guy, the king's eunuch. He's in charge of the women.

And we'll bring them in, and we'll get it going. And then it says, This pleased the king, and he did so. It's the same as verse 21, This advice pleased the king, and he did as Memuken proposed. He's a bit of a vacillator, isn't he? He apparently doesn't have much of a mind of his own.

It's good to take advice. It's important to know your mind. So he is influenced for the deposing of Vashti.

He's now influenced in the strategy for the discovering of this model replacement. Now, we'll have to stop, and so we stop, as it were, prematurely in the narrative, but let me just finish it in this way by constantly trying to remind ourselves of what is going on here. The story of the book of Esther is the story of God's providence and is the story of deliverance. It is the story of how, in the same way that God dramatically, manifestly, miraculously intervened to bring his people out of Egypt, as they walked through with the sea piled up on either side of him, they were in no doubt what God was doing. He was achieving a purpose. They did not understand that what he was doing was he was bringing all things into conflation, into confluence with one another, according to the eternal purpose of his will, where he was going to unite all things in heaven and earth in Christ Jesus. If you'd said to anybody walking through the Red Sea, Do you know that's what happened?

He said, No, I don't know what you're talking about at all. But when you read your Bible backwards, you realize that's exactly what God was doing. He was preserving his people, because out of his people was going to come the Messiah.

Out of the people was going to come Jesus. And in the same way here in fifth-century Persia, among some of his people who have decided not to go back to Jerusalem, he's doing the same thing. But he is accomplishing his purpose by providentially overruling natural events, not supernaturally interfering with the mechanism of the world.

Right? He's capable of both. He doesn't choose always to stand the sea up. He's never parted the sea from me once in my life.

I'm not anticipating that he will. But he has worked providentially in the details of my life. He determined my DNA, and yours too. If you're pretty, you better not be proud. You can be proud if you're pretty at seventy because you're responsible for your face, but you can't be proud if you're pretty at seventeen because you have no part in your face. If you're bright, there is no place for arrogance.

God made you that way. He ordered your steps, the boundary of your habitations, and that's exactly what he's doing here. Who's in control of the decision to have a beauty competition? From a human perspective, the young fellows. The king accedes to it.

It's a good idea. That's all it is. Who was responsible for the deposing of Vashti? The queen.

The king. He did it. He didn't do it because he was pre-programmed to do it.

He did it because he wanted to do it. And what we discover is that if we try and examine the small, immediate events of our histories in the immediacy of what's happening, we will almost inevitably go wrong. Because we only see bits.

We only see part of it. The providence of God is a great mosaic. And when we find ourselves in circumstances that appear upside down, you've got to sing to yourself. And you sing to yourself, even the bad times are good. Right? You remember this one? Let's see how old I am.

This is theology according to the tremolos. All right? There are times in this life of mine that I think the sun forgot how to shine, but as long as you're always there, it don't bother me, because why should I care when all I've got to do is run to you? Because even the bad times are good. As soon as I get to you, baby, I just got to hold you.

And even the bad times are good. You say, He's lost his mind again. He's done it again. No, no. This is my mind. This is the way it works.

I'm sorry I have all these songs in there. But I said to myself, Listen, the name of the LORD is a strong tower. The righteous run into it are safe. He guides his flock like a shepherd. He gently leads those who are young, and he gathers the lambs close to his heart.

I get it. Even the bad times are good. As soon as I get to you, Jesus, I've just got to hold you.

And even the bad times are good. You see, some of us are so stuck on the idea that God ought to be doing miraculous, supreme, engaging, transformative, manifest interventions, and we miss the fact that there is as much providence in the crawling of a spider up a wall as there is in the unfolding drama that is contained here in the book of Esther. The hymn writer—you say, Well, you can't just quote all these ridiculous songs. The hymn writer keeps us. The hymn writer will always keep us. That's why we need hymns. We so badly need good hymns. Because when we come back to this, we're gonna see that God is most present when he appears to be most absent.

That's one of the themes that runs through the book—that he is unmistakably involved, mysteriously involved, in the details behind the scenes. And if you're wondering about these things today, if you're saying to yourself, Well, I don't know where I fit in this thing. God, Jesus, I mean, I came, but I don't know. George Weissel wrote, in the introduction to this book entitled The Light of the World, Weissel says this, that the present society, present American society, is stuck because it views humanity as a cosmic chemical accident, existing with no intentional origin, with no noble destiny, and so with no path through history.

A cosmic chemical accident. No intentional origin. Don't know where I came from. No noble destiny. Don't know where I'm going, and therefore I have no pathway through history. Here's the Christian worldview from the lips of a lady in the nineteenth century, Dorothy Greenewald, I think her name was.

Daughter of a manse. I am not skilled to understand what God has willed, what God has planned. I only know at his right hand stands one who is my Savior.

Loved ones, that's security. That's biblical theology. That's not some superficial feel-good notion. That is through the dangers, through the toils, through the snares. When I see through a glass darkly, when the waves overwhelm me, when I find myself set aside on the ventures of life, there's a ton of stuff I don't know, and I'm not skilled to understand it, and I'm not even supposed to understand it, but I understand this, that at God's right hand I have a Savior. And if you don't have that, then you need that, because what is our only hope in life and in death?

That we're not our own, but belong, body and soul, both in life and death, to God and to our Savior, Jesus Christ. You're listening to Truth for Life. That is Alistair Begg reminding us that God is providentially at work behind the scenes, even in those moments when he seems absent to us. We hope that the teaching you hear on Truth for Life offers you a quiet respite during your day, time away from your daily demands, time when you can hear and reflect on God's Word. It's easy for any of us to get caught up in our schedules and our to-do lists, to become immersed in the here and now. This current study in the book of Esther is a great reminder for us to hit the pause button, to rest in God's promises and his providence, no matter what your current circumstances might be.

And I hope you're finding it to be helpful in this way. Here at Truth for Life, we have a book that will help you trust God as you learn how constant, reliable and unchangeable he is. The book is titled 12 Things God Can't Do. And as you read this book, you'll see how God's inabilities can actually be a source of great comfort. For example, we're reminded in the book that God can't change, or he can't lie.

He can't die. These are limitations that are actually attributes that are good for us, that assure us of God's faithfulness, that enable us to trust him, even when we're unaware of his presence or we can't sense his presence. Request your copy of the book, 12 Things God Can't Do, when you donate to Truth for Life at slash donate, or call us at 888-588-7884.

Now here's Alistair to close with prayer. O gracious God, we thank you for the Bible and for the opportunity to study it together, to read it on our own, to ponder these things. And we know that you speak to us because we've discovered this before in ways that may not be dramatic and peculiarly obvious. Sometimes it's just in the stillness of our own minds as the Word of God reverberates there. We realize that we do need a Savior, that we don't know what our path is through life. It seems right to us, but then we read in the Bible and it says there is a way that seems right to someone, and in the end it leads to death. And then we say, well, everybody's going this way, it must be okay. And then we read the Bible and it says there is a broad road that leads to destruction, and many people find it.

And there is a narrow road that leads to life, and few there be that find it. Look upon us in your mercy, we pray, and thank you that we can be confident that even when we are unable to understand many of the details, when we do not understand your hand, as it were, we can trust your heart. May the grace of the Lord Jesus, the love of God, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be our portion today and forever. Amen.

I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for listening today. Join us tomorrow as we'll discover how King Ahasuerus became captive to his own free choice. How did a decision he made impact God's plan and purpose? We'll find out tomorrow. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-21 05:35:29 / 2023-02-21 05:44:26 / 9

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