Monday, July 31, 2023

Bringing Out the Best in People

 By Alistair Begg

Then Esther spoke to Hathach and commanded him to go to Mordecai and say, “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days.”

Esther 4:10-11

Mordecai had made a big request of Esther: “to go to the king to beg his favor and plead with him on behalf of her people” (Esther 4:8). Esther basically responded, That’s easy for you to say! You’re not the one doing this! Many of us respond similarly when there is some great drama before us, adventure awaiting us, or challenge confronting us. We tend to put on the brakes and insist, “Let’s not get carried away. Let’s use our minds and be sensible.”

It was risky for Esther to do what Mordecai was asking of her. The likelihood of Esther losing her head was significant. The only chance of pulling off such a scheme was if the king indicated his approval by holding out his golden scepter—and Esther was not hopeful. She didn’t feel she had special access or leverage to go in uninvited, as she had recently slipped down the list of the king’s desirables.

Esther recognized that Mordecai and the Jewish people had a major problem, but, at least at first, she didn’t see herself included in that problem. She was not going to play the beauty card or the queen card. Frankly, she didn’t want to play any card. The cost of getting involved was too great.

We can be encouraged by the faintheartedness of Esther. When the word of Haman’s plot reached her, she was not enthusiastic about taking the initiative on behalf of God’s people. If we’re honest, we see our own hearts in her response. Most of us are reluctant to step up and to put our reputations or comforts or incomes (let alone our lives) in jeopardy for the living God and for His people. We tend to echo Esther’s instinctive reaction: “I’m not doing that. I’m not going there.”

Nevertheless, God didn’t set Esther aside. Esther would go to the king, and Esther would be the means by which God’s people would be saved. God brings the best out of people in order to achieve His purposes, even when we say no at the outset. It’s remarkable! Be encouraged, then, to go and do what you know God is asking of you, even when—indeed, especially when—you feel fainthearted.

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Remember Failing and Grace

 By Charles Spurgeon

And Peter remembered… . And he broke down and wept.

Mark 14:72

It has been thought by some that as long as Peter lived, the fountain of his tears began to flow whenever he remembered that he had denied his Lord. It is not unlikely that it was so (for his sin was very great, and grace in him had afterwards a perfect work). This same experience is common to all the redeemed family according to the degree in which the Spirit of God has removed the natural heart of stone.

We, like Peter, remember our boastful promise: “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.”1 We eat our own words with the bitter herbs of repentance. When we think of what we vowed we would be and of what we have been, we may weep whole showers of grief. He remembered denying his Lord—the place in which he did it, the little cause that led him into such heinous sin, the oaths and blasphemies with which he sought to confirm his falsehood, and the dreadful hardness of heart that drove him to do so again and yet again. Can we, when we are reminded of our sins and their exceeding sinfulness, remain stolid and stubborn? Will we not make our house a place of sacrifice and cry to the Lord for renewed assurances of pardoning love?

May we never take a dry-eyed look at sin, in case we discover our tongue parched in the flames of hell. Peter also remembered his Master’s look of love. The Lord followed up the rooster’s warning voice with an admonitory look of sorrow, pity, and love. That glance was never out of Peter’s mind so long as he lived. It was far more effectual than ten thousand sermons would have been without the Spirit. The penitent apostle would be sure to weep when he remembered the Savior’s full forgiveness, which restored him to his former place. To think that we have offended so kind and good a Lord is more than sufficient reason for being constant weepers. Lord, smite our rocky hearts, and make the waters flow.

  1. Matthew 26:33

Leaving the Shadowlands

 By Alistair Begg

Mordecai also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa for their destruction, that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her and command her to go to the king to beg his favor and plead with him on behalf of her people.

Esther 4:8

“Her people.” The secret was out. Esther was the woman who won the beauty pageant, became queen to the most powerful king in the known world, and kept her true identity concealed for years. Yet if no one had known before, Hathach the eunuch now knew that the queen was a Jew. She and her family were included in the edict of extermination. Esther’s identity had been flushed out, not as a result of God intervening with a burning bush, a miraculous sign, or a dramatic voice from heaven but by a message from her cousin.

The queen was confronted with a situation that called for her to leave the shadowlands behind and reveal who she was, what she believed, and to whom she belonged. In her private world she knew she was a Jew, part of the covenant family of God, but she had been living in a public world where that fact remained undisclosed. Privately she had one identity, but publicly she had another—and now circumstances had brought her to the moment when she would have to determine who she would be. Was her identity primarily in being a queen of Persia or in being a woman of God?

Some of us are confronted by that very same predicament: we’ve got a private little world, we believe the gospel in our hearts, and we’re in church on a Sunday, but there’s no one in our office, on our streets, or anywhere around us who knows. And then the moment comes when private and public cannot be kept apart: a note from a friend, a call from your mom, a conversation with your business colleague, or a seemingly random interaction brings you to a moment when you must choose which side of the fence you will live on. The ancient words of Joshua challenge you: “Choose this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15). For ultimately, a private faith that never reveals itself publicly is not a true and living faith at all. If our allegiance to King Jesus is real, it must be public.

So perhaps this verse and this page bring you to your moment of challenge. Perhaps today you find yourself in the shadowlands between two worlds, and you know that you are being challenged to declare boldly, in the place where you have been keeping it private, “This is who I am, this is where I belong, and this is what I believe.” Will you do that? God is worthy of nothing less than your full, open devotion.

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Queen Esther chose sacrifice over comfort

By Alistair Begg

Mordecai told him all that had happened to him, and the exact sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king’s treasuries for the destruction of the Jews. Mordecai also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa for their destruction, that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her and command her to go to the king to beg his favor and plead with him on behalf of her people.

Esther 4:7-8

Mordecai regularly walked up and down the streets outside the entrance to King Ahasuerus’s gate in order that he might pick up snippets of information and hear the latest news. What he heard on the day described in these verses, however, was irregularly distressing: the Persian Empire was about to drive the Jewish people to extinction.

His cousin, Queen Esther, wasn’t around the city gates. She was isolated in her palace and had no clue about what was going on. When the news reached her that the Jews, including Mordecai, were mourning, fasting, and weeping, she responded with compassion, but she was in the dark as to the nature of the problem (Esther 4:3-5).

Though one understood the gravity of the situation and the other was at this point unaware, both Mordecai and Esther were confronted with weighty questions. How was a man like Mordecai to hold the line as both a believer in God and a significant subject of the king? Was he helpless against the tyranny of the Persian Empire, or could he make a difference and change the course of events? How was Esther, who had been taken into the king’s bed, to navigate the fact that she had a Persian name and a Jewish name? Would she identify with God’s people? Or would she choose to live in the splendid isolation that was afforded her in the palace?

Ultimately, Mordecai did not just sit back. He attracted the attention of Esther’s companions and helped her to understand what was happening—and the role she could play. Esther chose to sacrifice her comfort, and possibly her life, to risk intervening on behalf of God’s people. Both understood that the providence and sovereignty of God do not relieve believers of their responsibility to do what is right and use whatever influence they have on behalf of His people.

As people believing in God’s providence, then, how should we live in a world that is opposed to the gospel? At times, we may feel that we are helpless to effect any change in a culture that seeks to undercut our faith. We may also simply prefer the comfort of naivety, isolating ourselves from society by talking only with other believers, reading only Christian books, and watching only “faith-based” movies or TV shows. But God’s providence doesn’t call for inactivity. It calls for activity. For God’s providence is often worked out through the bravery of His people, through their refusal to cease striving for what is right and good. Today, as you read your Bible, seek to understand how it relates to the current events of your world. And ask God’s Spirit to show you how He might be calling you to step out in faith, take risks, and speak up, for the sake of the gospel and the people of God.


Friday, July 28, 2023

Morcecai Morned at the King's Gate

 By Alistair Begg

When Mordecai learned all that had been done, Mordecai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and he cried out with a loud and bitter cry. He went up to the entrance of the king’s gate, for no one was allowed to enter the king’s gate clothed in sackcloth.

Esther 4:1-2

The outfit these verses describe Mordecai wearing wasn’t a fashion statement but a means of conveying the grief which had engulfed his heart. Throughout the Old Testament, tearing clothes and wearing sackcloth and ashes was a common way to publicly display mourning, agitation, and consternation (Job 1:20Jonah 3:6-9).

This anguish was especially personal to Mordecai because he carried the burden of knowing his people were about to be exterminated on account of his refusal to bow before Haman (Esther 3:2-6). He had done what he thought was right, and he had to leave the rest to God. But that did not mean he glibly walked about, singing of God’s providence. No, Mordecai headed for the middle of the city, wailing bitterly. It’s a sad picture, and one replicated throughout the provinces as the news spread and others reacted similarly (4:3).

As he cried and mourned, the king’s gate was as close to the throne as Mordecai dared to go. If he had gone any closer, he would have been a dead man. Kings generally don’t like it when people are grieved by their decrees. At times, we have a similar disdain for sadness within the church. Perhaps you have even heard it said that solid, faithful, believing souls never feel the need to lie on the ground, wail, or mourn. This is an error, foisted foolishly upon believers and owing far more to self-help books than to God’s word.

George Lawson writes that “the faith of God’s people does not interfere with the exercise of affections suited to mournful dispensations of providence.” These “mournful dispensations of providence”—tragedies that take your spouse when you want her to stay living with you, that take your child when you expect him to grow old, that take your health or your security or your dreams—bring with them a tumult of emotion. And we see in Mordecai an honest and understandable reaction which sets many of us free to do the same: to feel and acknowledge and communicate our emotions in a godly way, rather than to suppress or ignore them.

A trust in God and a commitment to the understanding that He overrules everything for the praise of His glory and will bring everything underneath the rule of Christ does not rule out lament over the sinfulness and brokenness of this world. It is legitimate and even good for us to express deep sadness, lament, inquiry, discouragement, disappointment, fearfulness, and faintheartedness when our path leads us through difficulty. As you face such emotions, cry out to God. He does not forsake His people. He does not sneer at your pain or disdain your tears. Indeed, “the LORD is near to the brokenhearted” (Psalm 34:18).

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Esther and the Persian King (continued)

 By Alistair Begg

When Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage to him, Haman was filled with fury. But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone. So, as they had made known to him the people of Mordecai, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus.

Esther 3:5-6

It has been observed that no proud man ever received the respect and regard which he thought was due to him. Such was the case for Haman. It wasn’t sufficient for him to have everyone else treating him with reverence when there was a Jew named Mordecai who refused to. Haman’s fury was clearly over the top. He had a problem with Mordecai, but his anger was such that even the man’s death would not be enough for him. Every one of that man’s people also had to be destroyed.

How does one Jew saying “no” result in a desire to destroy the entire Jewish community? Haman’s conniving, malicious pursuits represented the activities of his spiritual father, the Evil One (John 8:44). Satan understood that the Deliverer-King, the serpent-crusher promised in Genesis 3:15, would come from the Jews, the descendants of Abraham, and so he was committed to their destruction. This also explains Herod’s overreaction centuries later in killing every male child under the age of two (Matthew 2:16). These weren’t just the frenzied actions of desperate men; they were Satan’s attempts to obliterate the Messiah.

When Haman went to the king with his plot, the king (who made decisions based solely on what pleased him in the moment) was easily manipulated, and the edict was written (Esther 3:8-11). Significantly, it was given on the thirteenth day of the first month—the day before the celebration of the Passover (3:12Leviticus 23:5). In the shadow of the news of this pogrom that was due to descend on them in twelve months’ time, the people of God gathered to remember God’s miraculous intervention when they were in an impossible situation in the bondage of Egypt. The edict of Haman pronounced that their destruction was inevitable—yet the terror they faced was an occasion for them to look to Him who had promised that He would keep them to the end. Would they act in mistrust and fear, or faith?

The people of God would eventually discover that the very means planned for their destruction was the means God would use for their deliverance (Esther 7:9-10). This points us forward to the cross of Jesus, where the method by which the Evil One sought to destroy God’s purposes was the means God used for the great victory Christ achieved.

At times you may live in the grip of fear because you are in what seems to be an impossible situation. When you do, remember this: “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe” (Proverbs 18:10). There is not one promise that God has made that He will not keep, whatever the Evil One may seek to do. You can rest in the confidence that comes from knowing that God’s word and promises will never pass away, and that the darkest moments are often used by God to bring His greatest victories.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Esther and the king of Persia

 By Alistair Begg

When Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus, into his royal palace … the king loved Esther more than all the women, and she won grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.

Esther 2:16-17

Hadassah, the Jewish girl who became queen of Persia, is better known to us by her Persian name, Esther, which means “star.” She was an orphan, adopted by her cousin, and she was especially attractive (Esther 2:7). When the king held a beauty pageant in search of a new queen, Esther “was taken into the king’s palace and put in custody of Hegai, who had charge of the women” (v 8). Up to this point, she had concealed her Jewish nationality (v 10).

Hegai, the eunuch in charge of all the women, was especially pleased with Esther, quickly advancing her, and when it was her turn to go before the king, he coached her accordingly (Esther 2:9, 15). It worked out well, as she won first prize and was made queen. Esther was in a position to help her people—but there’s nothing to suggest that her goal was anything greater than wearing the crown.

This story has elements that are awkward and difficult. The average Jewish mother would not have been thrilled to find out that her Hadassah was sleeping with an uncircumcised pagan king. The average Jewish father would not have been thrilled to know that his Hadassah had gone undercover in Persia and refused to let anybody know about her kindred, background, or identity. She may be a heroine of this story, but she was a heroine “of questionable morality and orthodoxy.”

It isn’t necessary, however, for us to approvingly reflect on the path Esther took. While we recognize that God was providentially in control of the drama that was taking place in her life, we don’t need to say that she made good decisions every step of the way. God in His providence granted Esther a little piece in the unfolding drama. But we are to look past Esther and her choices to the true hero of the story: God, who is committed to working out all things for the welfare of His people.

The events of Esther’s story were not as tidy as we might perhaps wish. Of course, that’s not an excuse to intentionally make decisions that aren’t pleasing to God. But it is a reason to be encouraged, because the events of God’s providence in our lives are not as tidy as we might wish either. Review your own life, and realize that although not all your decisions have been good ones, not all your plans have been selfless, God in His providence has brought you to this day. As you tell your story, be determined to tell of the true hero: God, who is the First and the Last and is working His purposes out in your life. Continued.....

What Is God Doing?

As Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Bigthan and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs, who guarded the threshold, became angry and sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus. And this came to the knowledge of Mordecai, and he told it to Queen Esther, and Esther told the king in the name of Mordecai. When the affair was investigated and found to be so, the men were both hanged on the gallows. And it was recorded in the book of the chronicles in the presence of the king. After these things King Ahasuerus promoted Haman.

Esther 2:21-3:1

Have you ever done something great at school, at work, or maybe even at church, only to see someone else get the credit?

This was the experience of Mordecai. He had discovered and revealed an assassination plot against King Ahasuerus, and the king promoted… Haman, giving him a throne of his own so that all the royal servants and all those within the government circles were subservient to him. All Mordecai received was a few lines at the bottom of a page.

But Mordecai did not yet understand how significant his recorded actions would prove to be, not only in his life but for the entire Jewish population—indeed, to some extent, for the whole world! For, five years later, at a moment when God’s people faced being wiped out at Haman’s command, one night the king could not sleep, “and he gave orders to bring the book of memorable deeds, the chronicles … And it was found written how Mordecai had told about Bigthan and Teresh … who had sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus” (Esther 6:1-2). The world would call that a coincidence. The believer knows it to be God’s providence.

It is important that we do not try to interpret the events of our lives only in terms of their immediate impact or personal relevance. God’s providences are seldom self-interpreting, and if we try to understand all that’s going on solely in the immediacy of the moment, we will usually come to the wrong conclusion. We want answers to appear clearly and quickly and the resolutions to come now, but God calls us to cast our gaze on Him, trusting that His unfolding plan covers everything that is past, present, and future. We are to live and die in faith, believing that God will fulfill His purposes in every event, both big and small, both those we have dreamed of and those that feel like nightmares.

It is justifiable to wonder what God is doing in your life and in this world. You probably will not get the right answer, though, by trying to analyze things within the frame of your life itself, in terms of the here and now. What God is doing with you, in you, through you, and for you is almost certainly something far more significant than anything you can see. God is a covenant-keeping God who is sovereign over all the details of your life. That is the truth and hope on which to stand. Continued.....

God Is Not Mocked

After these things King Ahasuerus promoted Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, and advanced him and set his throne above all the officials who were with him. And all the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate bowed down and paid homage to Haman, for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage.

Esther 3:1-2

Nothing written in the Bible is accidental or irrelevant. The writer of Esther, for example, introduces Haman to us as “the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha.” That description is reinforced later on with the added emphasis “the enemy of the Jews” (Esther 3:10). When such repetition occurs, we should recognize that the writer wants us to understand a piece of information as significant. Some biblical background will help us appreciate the importance of this particular description of Haman.

After leaving Egypt, God’s people had been advancing toward Sinai when Amalek came and fought with them. We read that “Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword. Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven’” (Exodus 17:13-14).

Later, when Saul was made king of Israel, he was given a charge by God to destroy the Amalekites, their king Agag, and all that they had (1 Samuel 15:2-3). In other words, Saul was to enact the judgment of God on those who had lived in active opposition to Him and His people for centuries, refusing to repent. Yet despite the clarity of God’s command, “Saul and the people spared Agag … and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them” (v 9). Saul later confessed to Samuel, “I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice” (v 24).

In the Persia of the 5th century BC, power resided in the hands of Haman—and the writer wants us to understand that he was “the Agagite,” a descendant of Agag. Not only that but Mordecai’s grandfather was a “son of Kish” (Esther 2:5). Kish was Saul’s father. Mordecai, then, was a Jew whose lineage was connected to Saul, the king who had decided that God’s word didn’t really matter. As a result of Saul’s decision, an old conflict was allowed to keep simmering, and then bubbled up and boiled over as Haman sought to destroy all the Jews (3:6). Mordecai is confronted by the evil of an Agagite who shouldn’t exist—but who does exist because of the disobedience of Saul, Mordecai’s own ancestor.

God is not mocked when He gives His commands, issues His warnings, and says what He wants done. Failure to obey God always has ramifications. When we listen to the suggestions of others rather than to the directions of God, we will live with the implications for ourselves, and so will those who love us and those who live within our sphere of influence. The wisdom of God is vaster than the wisdom of man. Be quick, then, to obey God’s command, that you may live in the blessing of obedience and not store up trouble for yourself or those who follow you.

Monday, July 24, 2023

One of Them?

 By C.H. Spurgeon

You were like one of them.

Obadiah 1:11

Brotherly kindness was due from Edom to Israel in the time of need, but instead of showing kindness, the men of Esau joined with Israel’s enemies. Special stress in the sentence before us is laid upon the word you, as when Caesar cried to Brutus, “and you, Brutus.” A bad action may be all the worse because of the person who has committed it.

When we sin, who are the chosen favorites of heaven, we sin with an emphasis; ours is a crying offense because we are so peculiarly indulged. If an angel should lay his hand upon us when we are doing evil, he need not use any other rebuke than the question, “What, you? What are you doing here?” Having been gloriously forgiven, delivered, instructed, enriched, blessed, do we dare give ourselves to evil? God forbid!

A few minutes of confession may be beneficial to you, gentle reader, this morning. Have you never been like the wicked? At an evening party certain men laughed at uncleanness, and the joke was not altogether offensive to your ear—even you were as one of them. When hard things were spoken concerning the ways of God, you were bashfully silent; and so, to onlookers, you were as one of them. When worldlings were bartering in the market and driving hard bargains, were you not as one of them? When they were pursuing vanity without restraint, were you not as greedy for gain as they were? Could any difference be discerned between you and them? Is there any difference?

Here we come to close quarters. Be honest with your own soul, and make sure that you are a new creature in Christ Jesus; but when this is sure, walk carefully in case anyone should again be able to say, “You also are one of them.”1 You would not desire to share their eternal doom. Why then be like them here? Do not enter into their secret, in case you enter into their ruin. Side with the afflicted people of God, and not with the world.

  1. Luke 22:58

Citizens and Foreigners

By Alistair Begg

Now there was a Jew in Susa the citadel whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Kish, a Benjaminite, who had been carried away from Jerusalem among the captives carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had carried away.

Esther 2:5-6

In this world, you are a foreigner.

In this, you and I have something in common with Mordecai. As “a Jew in Susa,” Mordecai was from a family that had been carried off into exile during the Babylonian invasion of Jerusalem. A few generations later, and now in Persia, we encounter Mordecai. Enough of an elder to play the role of father, Mordecai had adopted his orphaned cousin Esther (Esther 2:7). He was a pragmatist. Deciding that nothing helpful would come from Esther declaring herself a Jew, he commanded her to conceal her identity when she was taken to the palace (v 10). Mordecai then put himself in the right place to observe what was happening to this cousin he cared for (v 11). And he later discovered an assassination plot which allowed him to gain favor with the king (v 21-23).

It appears that Mordecai, like many second- or third-generation exiles, had a particular interest in his country’s welfare. He was removed from his family’s homeland, and he was trying to figure out how to be a good Jew and a good citizen in Persia. The conditions weren’t ideal; he and the other exiles who were with him were in a minority context, in the midst of a majority that was overwhelmingly opposed to them. However, as Jews in this foreign land, their job wasn’t to take over Persia or bring down the government. Their job was to learn what it meant for them to affirm their faith in an unfamiliar and difficult situation.

Many Christians in the West need to stop thinking in majority terms. Genuine, Bible-believing, gospel-affirming Christianity is in the minority. (Indeed, it often has been—perhaps more often than we might think!) We are like exiles living in a foreign land. But there is no need for alarm. The story of Esther reminds us that God preserves His people within ungodly environments so that they might be witnesses to His name.

The questions we must consider as believers today, then, are these: How can I be a good Christian and a good citizen? How can I live for Jesus and “seek the welfare of the city” where He has sent me (Jeremiah 29:7)?

Paul reassures us that we are indeed a part of God’s plans, saying, “In [Jesus] we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:11-12). So, as you attempt to live faithfully for God in this foreign context—and make no mistake, if you are a believer living in this world, you are a foreigner!—you still have great reason to hope.


Sunday, July 23, 2023

Foolish Passion

By Alistair Begg 

On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha and Abagtha, Zethar and Carkas, 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.

Esther 1:10-12

In a display of pride and bravado, King Ahasuerus issued a command for the presence of his queen. This was not the gesture of a kind, caring husband who wanted his wife to meet his friends. Rather, this was Mr. Big planning a show-and-tell for his friends in which everything was calculated to indicate his majesty, might, and significance. Josephus, the Jewish historian, records that it was a violation of the Persian code of ethics for a man’s wife to be the occasion of observation or approbation of any other men. The king, then, was breaking the bounds of propriety in every way.

There was a progression in the king’s behavior. The wine had gone to his head, and he made an ill-thought summons to his wife. When she refused to come, he became enraged. He then sought the advice of those around him, who only pandered to his ego. He could have paused to consider if their advice was proper in relation to the laws of the land or to the queen and his esteem for her—but instead, his anger and weak will led him to a quick, foolish decision. Earlier that morning, if someone had told the king that by midnight he would have banished the queen from his life forever, he probably would have thought it impossible. But still he did it. A big ego, too much alcohol, a quick temper, and bad advice led to an outcome he surely never desired.

Three years after he had deposed the queen and fresh off a disappointing military campaign against the Greeks, we read that “the anger of King Ahasuerus had abated,” and “he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what had been decreed against her” (Esther 2:1). He was bruised in his ego and saddened by his past—a picture of the empty sorrow of someone who has pursued everyone and everything, and particularly his own agenda, at the expense of the living God (Ecclesiastes 4:7-8). King Ahasuerus’ experience serves as a warning to us that in a moment of foolish passion, we, too, can alter and diminish, or even destroy, our lives forever.

There is a path that seems right, but we are told that in the end it leads to emptiness and death (Proverbs 14:12). As you face decisions, be quick to ask yourself whether your ego, your temper, false friends or overconsumption are guiding you; and be equally quick to look to the Savior to guide you in the way of wisdom, along the narrow road that leads to fullness of life (Matthew 7:13-14).