Esther 1:18-21                           "Vashti Abashed"



            Have you ever made a friend or had a teacher or a boss whom you greatly respected for their sensitivity and righteous moral stances and maybe had assumed that they were naturally of the Christian faith only to learn later that he or she is an atheist? Maybe you learn of this when you begin to share your own faith with the person and he or she lectures you on how silly your own belief is–how weak-minded you must be to believe in God and Jesus Christ. You are heartbroken. That of course has happened to me, and has most likely happened to all of us.

            Hey, what is going on here God? Obviously you have blessed people with greatness and intelligence, yet they deny the very source of their blessings. So, I was interested recently in purchasing an author’s book–that is until I heard the same author ranting online against any belief in the Almighty. “God, you gave this person an amazing intelligence and wit, great sensitivity in language, and then skipped over the spiritual with her.”

            I need to be careful in my assumptions. The majority of people I am going to meet today are the “nones.” You may be thinking now: “What did happen to those nuns that were abiding in Kekaha at St. Teresa’s Church?” We used to see nuns in the market and riding bikes between here and Kekaha. Well, all of those nuns are no longer. We do not have any catholic nuns on the island left. That is very sad actually. “I missed hers the sisters!”

            No, the “nones” that I am speaking of today that I am most likely to run into are those that when asked on an official form of their religious affiliation mark the “none” box. You know what I mean? You can check the Muslim, Jew, Christian box or go to the bottom of the list and mark “none.” Most people today mark “none.” In religious circles today we simply refer to them as “nones.” And, the nones are good people. They could be your doctor, dentist, airplane pilot, professor–hopefully not your pastor, however! They could be the ones who help you most when you are in crisis.

            You may even look to their lives and see something genuinely Godly there–yet they are nones. They do not accept that there is an eternal almighty being. And, we spend so much time in church talking about “saving sinners” that we might almost forget that even the non-sinners might not know their savior yet.


            Keep all this in mind please as we check out this first chapter of Esther–a book in which the name of God does not appear, yet it was still included in the Holy Word of God, the Bible. In the first chapter of this Book of Esther, even Esther does not appear! The focus at the start of this book is on Queen Vashti and King Ahasuerus, neither of whom are believers! They have both checked the “none” box on the religious survey. Well, actually technically they think of themselves as gods, so you get the picture!

            We need a bit more of the back story: I am sure you may recall that the Jewish nation had been overrun by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar. The temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed. The people themselves were brought into slavery in Babylon. Then, the Babylonian Empire itself is attacked by none other than the Persian Empire. Those Persians beat the up the Babylonians and take over the entire empirical operation. As a result, the Jews are allowed to head back to Israel to rebuild the temple. The Persians even give the Temple treasure back to the Jews.. The King of the Persians at that time was a fellow named Xerxes, which some Bibles call Cyrus the Great in the Book of Isaiah, but who is referred to in the Book of Esther as Ahasuerus. They are the same guy, his name was just different in Persian, Hebrew and Greek.

            Some of you may be wondering if this is the same Xerxes King of Persia who fought at the battle of Thermopylae against the Spartans–the recent move “The 600.” Yup, this is the same gut!  I know, we were all rooting for Leonidas and the Greeks for that one! But, in the Book of Esther, and to the Hebrew people, Ahasuerus is considered the good guy, the hero, the one who freed the Hebrew slaves from captivity in Babylon and helped to re-establish the Temple in Jerusalem. Let me just share with you what the Prophet Isaiah says about Ahasuerus from Isaiah 44:24-28, “Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, who says of Cyrus, ‘he is my shepherd, and he shall fulfill all my purpose,’ saying of Jesurusalem, ‘you shall be built, and of the Temple, your foundation shall be laid.’” That is a huge endorsement from God for someone who does not believe in God!

            How God uses people not even of the faith is truly one of the central themes of the Book of Esther. Now you know I have to bring Jesus into this as well: Think about how many times in the Gospel story we see people who are not of the faith taking a part in the story! That will be your homework. Start with the Roman guard at the crucifixion who proclaims Jesus’ innocence and work your way backward! Take this to heart: even though someone does not believe in God, that does not mean that God does not believe in them!


            Back to the story we have of Queen Vashti and her role in this story we have before us today. She is called by her King to do what? The King is having himself a celebration that has been going on for a really long time–months it seems–and all of his good-ol’ boys are happy and drunk. Then, someone whispers into the King’s ear, “Hey, where is that beautiful queen of yours? Why not have her come and dance and entertain us a little?” That is like saying, we just want to disrespect your wife publicly! The King thinks that his wife should be with him at the moment. Maybe he thinks there is no problem with an on-demand female entertainment request.

            Queen Vashti, on the other hand, is thinking, “You want me to put on a peep show for a bunch of drunken government officials? No way, Jose!” This raises an important question for us of the faith: When is it okay or even advisable to disobey the authorities of the day? You see, the Apostle Paul in his Letter to the Romans, 13:1, states, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.” We Christians take that to heart. WE pay our taxes. We stop at redlights. We even show up for jury duty even though they are asking us like every three months to serve!

            One of my favorite theologians of course is Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was imprisoned by the Nazi regime for not endorsing Adolph Hitler. Perhaps his most enduring quote is: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” I often think to myself what I would have done if I had been a pastor in Germany in WWII. Would I have remained silent? You know, Romans 13 and all that! Or, would I have stood up for justice and righteousness even in the face of my own suffering and death? You know, pick up my Cross and follow Jesus! That is the question I ask of all of you this morning. As far as I can determine, Vashti was absolutely right not to answer the King’s beck and call to be put on display like an object of desire to a room full of drunken male officials.


            Vashti does however end up paying a price for standing up for herself. She loses her title to the crown. I suppose that this is not as bad as it could have been for her. She could have been killed outright for not heeding the King’s command. Yet. in some ways, this might be the cruelest punishment for her. You know everybody is going to be talking about her behind her back. She is being shamed for doing what is just and right–no good turn goes unpunished.

            Likewise, if you stand up for truth, justice, and the Way of Christ, you are definitely going to suffer. If you are a good person in this world, people will make fun of you.

            I wish to share with all of you an interesting dynamic that I have seen at the Middle School Bible Club: Most of the regulars who come are just outstanding examples of young people. Just a lot of goodness and love in their hearts. When we meet together it just feels so good and so right. But then, there are sometimes these two girls who come into the classroom who just openly state that they are just there for the snacks. They make fun of the other kids. When they are there, just the heart of the Bible Club seems to suffer. I have even prayed “Lord, can’t you just keep them out of the Bible club or change their hearts or DO something!” I know I cannot ask them to leave; that would not be just and right either.

            Vashti, the former queen, finds herself in that kind of a struggle. And maybe, in that struggle when she is denigrated and isolated, she will finally come to know the Almighty God. Of course, the story of Esther does not let us know on this point.


God does use unbelievers for God’s purposes. Sometimes unbelievers are really great people. Sometimes they are not. Yet, they suffer injustices, too. As Christians we should be ready with a little bit of grace. Vashti was a good person who took a righteous stand. God bless her.