I believe one of the hardest lessons in this life to learn is obedience. It starts when we’re young. As soon as a toddler learns the word ‘no’ it becomes his or her favorite word. As a wife, the Bible calls me to submit to my husband. Ouch. It is still a struggle for me because I have a strong personality.
Now, before I get hate comments from wives on here, let me preface this by saying I don’t think submit means to grovel or to put up with physical abuse. Jesus was a great example of what pure submission out of love for and obedience to the Father looks like. For Him, it was doing the hard things, sacrificing His own comfort, and surrendering His will in order to save the people He loves and thus also obey the Father He loves. He willingly left Heaven in order to come and suffer in this fallen, sinful human world in order to redeem His creation.
In Chapter 1 of the book of Esther, we read about King Ahaseurus, who reigned over several provinces, from India to Ethiopia (v.1). He first threw a six month long feast for the nobles, then afterward, a seven-day feast for all of the people in Shushan. Queen Vashti also threw a feast for the women of the royal palace.
The story continues, “On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus, to bring Queen Vashti before the king, wearing her royal crown, in order to show her beauty to the people and the officials, for she was beautiful to behold. But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command brought by his eunuchs; therefore the king was furious, and his anger burned within him (vv 10-12).”
To be honest, when I read this, I really didn’t blame Vashti for being upset. Her husband gets tipsy and then wants to parade her as his “arm candy” in front of all the people? I might be pretty miffed too. On the other hand, maybe he was proud of his wife and thought she was beautiful and wanted to introduce her to the people.
It made more sense when I read the next part. The king apparently sought legal advice from the wise men on the matter, “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 the women, so that they will despise their husbands in their eyes, when they report, “King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought in before him, but she did not come.” Thus there will be excessive contempt and wrath…'(vv 16-18).”
In this light it does make more sense, given Vashti’s position as Queen. After all, her husband did not ask her to do anything that was immoral or disobedient to the Lord, he just wanted her to make an appearance before the people. An equivalent example would be if the President was giving a banquet and the First Lady was ticked at him and refused to show up and everyone heard about it. We’d be the laughingstock of the world. And no, this is not a political statement, just an example to illustrate the point that this account is making.
Because of her important position, her actions were disrespectful to and affected not just her husband, but the nobles and citizens of the entire community.
From my research, there are differing opinions as to exactly what the king’s intent was, and some contend that she was basically ordered to appear naked, which would then make her refusal completely justified. But the Word doesn’t say anything like that that I could find. It just says, “wearing her royal crown” to “show her beauty before the people and the officials.” One would think wearing the crown means being in her full royal regalia, much like the Queen of England.
Assuming the latter is the case, then we can conclude that Vashti’s refusal was like a snub to the courtiers and citizens. She ultimately lost her position as Queen because of this, and was later replaced by Esther.
The King could definitely be a cad, as Chapter 2 of Esther goes on to prove, but I believe the greater lesson in this story is that we have all been placed by God into important positions. I’m not a noble, but as a wife and mother, I’ve been placed into a position of influence over my children. I also have influence with my husband, though I’m not in authority over him (even if I admittedly do act a little bossy sometimes!). My children are watching how I treat their father.
Even more importantly, as Christians and as people, we influence those around us. What would the world look like if we gave up our selfish desires more and thought of ourselves less and others more? What if we were willing to obey God with all our hearts no matter what the cost, just because we love Him, just like Jesus did? Submission isn’t such an awful word after all.
“Lord, I know that I am stubborn, and just plain pig-headed sometimes, and I’m sorry. Please forgive me and help me to be more like You. I pray that You would give me an obedient heart like Jesus, and that I would be willing to honor and serve You no matter the cost. I pray that You would give me strength in this area, for it feels like I am weak. Help me to serve You with a humble heart. I pray that others would see more of You in me, not for my glory, but for Yours, Father. I pray that my children would see a mom who loves the Lord and lives it out with her actions, and that I would be a better, more loving wife as well. I thank You Lord, that You’re still working in my life, and that You’re not done with me yet. I praise You for You alone are worthy. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”