The Unseen Sovereign.

Then Memucan said in the presence of the king and the officials, “Not only against the king has Queen Vashti done wrong, but also against all the officials and all the peoples who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. For the queen’s behavior will be made known to all women, causing them to look at their husbands with contempt, since they will say, ‘King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, and she did not come.’ This very day the noble women of Persia and Media who have heard of the queen’s behavior will say the same to all the king’s officials, and there will be contempt and wrath in plenty. If it please the king, let a royal order go out from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes so that it may not be repealed, that Vashti is never again to come before King Ahasuerus. And let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she. So when the decree made by the king is proclaimed throughout all his kingdom, for it is vast, all women will give honor to their husbands, high and low alike.” This advice pleased the king and the princes, and the king did as Memucan proposed. He sent letters to all the royal provinces, to every province in its own script and to every people in its own language, that every man be master in his own household and speak according to the language of his people. – Esther 1:16-22 ESV

The king is angry. He has just thrown a six-month long celebration for his dignitaries and the citizens of his kingdom. He has pulled out all the stops in an effort to flaunt his vast wealth and power. And it all went south when his own queen refused to respond to his command to put herself on display like a piece of royal property. In his anger, Xerxes summoned his wise men, and in doing so, he turned a family dispute into a national crisis. Queen Vashti’s refusal to obey the king’s command for her to appear in all her royal finery and parade herself in front of his drunken guests was seen as an affront against all men. One of the king’s wise men declared his fear of the shock waves her actions were going to have on the entire kingdom.

Queen Vashti has wronged not only the king but also every noble and citizen throughout your empire. Women everywhere will begin to despise their husbands when they learn that Queen Vashti has refused to appear before the king. Before this day is out, the wives of all the king’s nobles throughout Persia and Media will hear what the queen did and will start treating their husbands the same way. There will be no end to their contempt and anger. – Esther 1:16-18 NLT

At face value, this appears like a bit of over-reaction. But we must keep in mind that the king is asking his counselors for advice, and so they feel they must give it. Did Memucan truly believe that Queen Vashti’s actions were going to have national ramifications? We will never know. But he knew the king was angry and, as we will see, the king seems to have an anger problem. Perhaps Memucan was simply trying to placate the king by providing him with a viable way of dealing with this affront to his sovereignty. It was obvious to all who had just taken part in the king’s non-stop revelry that his power and influence were important to him. He was not a man who was used to being refused. He got his own way on a regular basis. So Memucan came up with a plan that appealed to the king’s pride and gave him a way to reassert his authority in the eyes of the people.

So if it please the king, we suggest that you issue a written decree, a law of the Persians and Medes that cannot be revoked. It should order that Queen Vashti be forever banished from the presence of King Xerxes, and that the king should choose another queen more worthy than she. – Esther 1:19 NLT

What better way to get the king in a good mood than to encourage him to flaunt his power as king by having him issue a royal decree. And this decree was to be “proclaimed throughout all his kingdom.” It would not be enough to simply let Queen Vashti know that she was no longer welcome in the king’s presence and that she was going to be replaced. No, the king needed to send out a royal edict to all 127 provinces, from India to Ethiopia. Yes, this was overkill, but it was intended to be an appeal to the king’s obvious megalomania. Memucan was truly a wise man. He knew exactly what he was doing. He was very familiar with the king and had more than likely seen this episodes of anger before. So he came up with a plan to pacify the king’s anger and feed his overactive ego.

Memucan’s advice pleased the king, so the decree was issued and sent across his vast empire, having been translated into all the languages of the kingdom. Queen Vashti’s fate was sealed. Her snubbing of the king’s command had proven to be costly. We are not told what happens to the queen from this point forward. She disappears from the scene, like an actor who has played her part and exited the stage, never to be seen again. But her absence creates a vacancy, a void that begs to be filled. The king must have a queen.

And this is just another turning point in the story. Queen Vashti’s actions have set the stage for something significant to take place. The king’s edict has left him without a queen. And this was not something a man with an ego like Xerxes could live with for very long. And so a new chain of events was about to take place. God was setting the stage for something significant to happen that no one in the kingdom of Persia could have foreseen or expected. What appears to be nothing more than a series of unfortunate events is actually the hand of God working behind the scenes. There is an unseen Sovereign issuing decrees and orchestrating events and even Memucan and his team of wise men have no idea He is there. All they can see is an earthly king and their influence over him. He is a monarch who is easily upset and just as easily influenced. He is prone to listen to their advice and susceptible to their suggestions. But God is operating on His own. He is truly sovereign, determining the future without the need for human advice or influence. Neither King Xerxes or Memucan have any idea what the outcome of their decisions will be. They think they are in control. They believe they are the arbiters of their fate. But God is at work behind the scenes. His sovereign plan is greater than that of kings and wise men. His will trumps the will of earthly rulers. His decrees are greater than those of despots and dictators. We may not see Him, but God is always at work and always in control.

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