A Tale of Two Women

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We often hear of the courageous deeds of Esther and her role in saving the Jewish people, and agree this moral woman did great deeds, but we tend to forget the story started off with another great woman of courage-the queen before her. “On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus, to bring Queen Vashti before the king, wearing her royal crown, in order to show her beauty to the people and the officials, for she was beautiful to behold.

But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command brought by his eunuchs; therefore the king was furious, and his anger burned within him…And Memucan answered before the king and the princes: ‘Queen Vashti has not only wronged the king, but also all the princes, and all the people who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus…let it be recorded in the laws of the Persians and the Medes, so that it will not be altered, that Vashti shall come no more before King Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she.’” Esther 1:10-19

“After these things, when the wrath of King Ahasuerus subsided, he remembered Vashti, what she had done, and what had been decreed against her. Then the king’s servants who attended him said: ‘Let beautiful young virgins be sought for the king’” Esther 2:1-2 According to the law anyone who approached the king without invitation could be killed (Esther 4:11) but “So it was, when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, that she found favor in his sight, and the king held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther went near and touched the top of the scepter. And the king said to her, ‘What do you wish, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given to you—up to half the kingdom!’”Esther 5:2-3

Do you notice that? Although Vashti's righteous act is often overlooked when reciting the story of Esther it paved the way for the righteous act of the next queen. And after the king sobered up and thought about what happened to her, the next time a queen didn’t blindly submit to what was expected of her, he wasn’t quick to exercise harsh judgment against her. Instead he took the time to let her speck herself and instead of simply consulting his feelings or what others think about her and assume she was rude. And even if most people don’t seem to focus on it, we should take time to acknowledge it was indeed a righteous act of courage to refuse be put on display for the lust and pleasure of drunken men regardless as to the position they held in the country and who commanded it. That is not something one can write off as a mere matter of pride, it is a matter of principle and modestly that all Godly women should follow.

In this day and age it still takes courage for women to be like Vashti because society still commands women to put themselves on display to gratify the lust of immoral men in order to obtain or maintain a position of favor in this world through the media and at times perhaps even by friends, coworkers, and family.  Many women the world greatly honors as celebrities and fashionable tend to submit to the pressure to needlessly expose themselves for the pleasure or acceptance of others although a lot of women may not mean to participate in the sexual objectification of themselves but innocently dress poorly just because that is what others do and consider it normal with no wrong intent, while women who honor modestly are dishonored as old fashioned and shamed for not putting their body on display.

Modestly in dress as noble as it is does not however, as some people may suggest, dismiss the fact that people are responsible for lusting regardless as to if a woman (or man) welcomes it or not. Because lust is not an unavoidable external reaction based on what a woman or man wears or how she or he behaves, it is a heart issue and a personal choice. (“Do not lust after her beauty in your heart, nor let her allure you with her eyelids.” Proverbs 6:25 “I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a young woman?” Job 31:1)

While modestly is good and lust is wrong we must also understand that there nothing wrong with beauty, beauty is pure and from God. It is just wrong to misuse it. In fact, it was even commanded that those who served God in the temple dressed themselves beautifully which makes it clear God wants those who serve him to dress well. “And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.” Exodus 28:2 Both Esther and Vashti were beautiful to behold. Vashti courageously refusing to consent to be put on display as an object of vile lust because of her beauty opened the door for Esther to become queen and save God’s people because of her beauty.  Both had to go against the will of authority to honor Biblical principles of right and wrong, and both did well. Although doing the right thing didn’t seem to turn out right for both of them.

This world is unjust. Because of doing the right thing Vashti lost her crown and we don’t know of any justice being done on her behalf due to the wicked counselor’s plot against her, while Esther who hid her identity at first (Esther2:10) but did right at the end was able to maintain her crown and Haman was obviously punished for his wicked counsel against her people. This teaches us that the reward of well doing isn’t always clearly seen or experienced by us in this life. Likewise, the wicked don’t always seem to be held accountable for everything in this life either, but that doesn’t mean God won’t repay. So don’t measure the rightness of following God by the limited results we see in this life. Influence is powerful and good can come of right doing even when it looks like nothing did. We can’t judge what is right or wrong based on what truth may cost us.

We can only truly judge right and wrong by God’s word. And we can trust in God whether we gain or lose temporary for doing right and know he will give us the crown of his approval in the next life which is worth more than praise from man.  “But your dead will live, LORD; their bodies will rise--let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy--your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.” Isaiah 26:19 “For the LORD loves justice and does not forsake His godly ones; they are preserved forever, but the descendants of the wicked will be cut off. The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever.” Psalm 37:28-29

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