Praying with Esther: Days 2 & 3

(Excuse the lack of post yesterday. Prayer was happening but blogging was not.)

A YSP Novena, Day 2

But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command. Therefore the king was furious, and his anger burned within him. Then the king said to the wise men who understood the time, “What shall we do to Queen Vashti, according to law, because she did not obey the command of King Ahasuerus?” 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. For the queen’s behavior will become known to all women, so that they will despise their husbands in their eyes…”

Esther, born Hadassah, eventually becomes queen because the king put aside his former queen, Vashti. At a dinner for noblemen of his realm, the king summoned forth his wife, in order to parade her beauty and adornment, and to ultimately show how rich and powerful he was. It’s as if he had told her since meeting her, “You are mine. I will give you riches, luxury, beautiful things. In return, you must be my belonging, a thing I show off, a thing I use to emphasize my own power and prestige. A thing. You have dignity in the sight of the world because I give it to you. And I can take it away.” Vashti, in what must have been a heretofore unthinkable act in the vain king’s experience, said no. We don’t hear Vashti’s tale, where she came from, whether she came from a common or noble family, whether she was betrothed by her family to the king or rose through the ranks of his harem. All we know of Vashti is that one time, she said no to the demands of a king.

Whatever made Vashti refuse, we don’t know. It could have been spite. It could have been a bargaining chip for something she wanted, like a child stamping her foot or holding her breath because she wants a toy. But maybe it was because Vashti wanted to have dignity apart from being the possession of a king. Perhaps she wanted more than the decorations of gold and jewels, the things that make us rich and admired in this world. But where does real richness, lasting dignity come from? And what if we said no to worldly prestige? And what if everyone heard about it and did the same?

A YSP Novena, Day 3

To replace Vashti, the king decrees that all the girls in the land should be brought to his “court of women” and be beautified to be presented to him. Just like with Vashti, the king lavishes them with luxury and jewels, but takes what little worth they have in their society. The ones who do not please him are sent back to the harem without any of the favors he promised them, and the ones who do, for a time, receive a single material gift. Mordecai, Esther’s cousin and guardian decides to send her. He is shown as a man of faith, working in service to the king. As a faithful Jew, though, he refuses to bow down to the king’s highest advisor, Haman. He would not give homage to a man in the way that he would to God. And so Haman has it out for Mordecai and all the Jews. Mordecai carefully counsels Esther not to divulge her nationality and faith when entering into the women’s household. But knows her character, and also places his trust in God. Mordecai sees, through the eyes of faith, that Esther is far stronger and more capable than anyone could guess, and foresees that she will be an instrument of God’s work among His chosen people.

Sometimes we underestimate ourselves and what we can accomplish. Whether we recognize it or not, God has created a plan for each of us, one that uses our unique gifts and experiences to reveal God’s kingdom here and to come. Perhaps because God knows how rarely we glimpse our own dignity, worth and potential, God places people in our lives who recognize those things more aptly than we can ourselves. Parents, teachers, coaches, friends…Who are the Mordecais in our lives? Who builds me up, foresees greatness in my future? Who has faith enough in God to have faith in me? Especially when I am faced with a new challenge, do I listen to the people who believe in God’s plan for me, and believe in me?

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