Esther 1 Uneventful Beginning
My bible study group is just began a study of the Old Testament book of Esther. I don’t feel ashamed to say I don’t quite understand what this book is trying to teach us. Don’t look at this post of any of the future posts on Esther as comprehensive or deeply theological commentaries; see them more as personal spiritual notes from someone trying to understand them. I have felt challenged studying these Old Testament books. We just finished studying Ruth. You can read my findings of that book on this site.
As I study this book and share my findings, I will say this prayer with hope, joy, and unease. “Thank you, God, that at some point in the future, the lights are going to come on for me.”
The first chapter of Esther tells of a Persian King throwing a party for 180 days and then demanding the presence of his queen, when she refuses his order he calls forth a committee then decides to depose of her. At the end of the chapter, the king issues a royal decree that all the women will respect their husbands, from the least to the greatest.
Esther reads as a story. The beginning line is basically once upon a time. The biggest criticism of this book has long been the lack of God. This I find interesting, I wonder if just because God is missing doesn’t necessarily mean that God is not present. I have read a commentary that teases at this possibility. I suspect that this book points to the fact that God is often present in the little things, behind the scenes.
Rob Bell writes, “The Bible is still so powerful: these ancient stories are our stories. These stories are reflective of how things are. The Bible is about today. These stories are our stories. They are alive and active and teaching us about our lives in our world, today. What happens when the Bible becomes living and active. The strangest dimensions of these stories grab us and won’t let go.”
The first chapter shows Xerxes wanting to impress and failing to do so at least for us. He shows off his wealth and power and comes off as a petulant child. As Christians, I believe we should present ourselves as the hands and feet of Christ in all our dealings by extending the love and grace that has been lavished on us. We should preach Jesus with words, actions, and the way we live our lives. We do this in how we interact with others, how we respond to life, and how we treat ourselves. All of life is relational and interdependent.
The overall lesson of this chapter is that pride is bad. Pride is the first sin. Seeing ourselves as better and as more important than others is what leads us to sin in other ways. The moment we think we are better we have made our brothers and sisters into the other. As C. S. Lewis writes, “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man… It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition is gone, pride is gone.”
Jesus was not proud. He was humble. Jesus did not call attention to himself or his actions; he even advised some to keep what he did and who he is a secret. He even argued at the weeding with his mother saying that it was not time yet. Jesus was always pointing to his father. I believe this is how we should live. We should live our lives the best we can in thanks and praise to Our Lord to the glory of Our Father.
I have found that studying the bible and coming together in community has helped me to be less prideful, less selfish. I have found that the more I am left on my own the more wickedness I get up to, the more trouble I make for myself. I have also seen how much I have grown since I joined my bible study group and have tested and become more involved in this group. I have grown into a more mature, loving Jesus follower. I know that I have further to go, I have not arrived at my complete whole self.
The more I am content with what I have and who I am the less selfish I am. The more at ease, I am with how life is now the happier and more helpful I am. Life is not about us, it is all a gift, all grace. We should live it in praise to this gift, this grace. Contentment is the recognition that life is a gift, not a right.
Grace and Peace