Refuse to bow
This week we begin a new scripture series on the book of Esther. It’s an interesting choice because it doesn’t actually mention God at all! I know, right, risky choice. Grab your Bible and have a read over the first few chapters, and I’ll give an overview too. Don’t be afraid to check the contents for a page number – it’s pretty small book so easy to miss. You’ll find her between Nehemiah and Job.
Quick overview of chapters 1 & 2
In this story (it’s all true, by the way) the action all takes place in a place called Susa, which is where King Xerxes hangs out in the winter. If you’ve seen the film 300, Xerxes is the big guy with all the jewellery. He’s the most powerful man around at the time – and this is seriously powerful. What he says is what gets done – no debate.
In chapter 1, he’s having a banquet that lasted 180 days to show off all his wealth and how wonderful he is (1:4). He’s had the place done up really nice to impress everyone (1:6). He then calls for his wife, Queen Vashti, because he wants to show off to everyone just how beautiful she is. But Queen Vashti refuses to come (1:10-12). Xerxes is furious – what’s he going to do next? If this was a soap, this is where the credits would roll and we’d be left on a cliff-hanger waiting for the next episode.
Basically, the King decides he’s going to banish Vashti and find himself an even better wife to replace her; and this, in chapter 2, is where we are introduced to our heroine, Esther.
Xerxes sends out a decree to find all the beautiful young virgins and bring them to his citadel (2:2-4). There, the girls would be given beauty treatments and then brought one by one before him so that he could find one who “pleases” him and make her his queen.
Esther lives in the citadel with her cousin Mordecai. He took her in as his own daughter when her parents died. He’s a good man. Esther was “well fit” (2:8 para) and so she was taken to live in the harem to be prepared for presentation to the King. Hegai, who was “in charge of the women” (2:3) liked Esther a lot, so gave her seven maids and the best room.
After 12 months of beauty treatments (I know!!) (2:12), she was finally ready to be presented to Xerxes. He was more attracted to her than any of the other women, so he made her his queen.
Mordecai refuses to bow or pay him honour
One more important detail before we move on: in chapter 2:19-23, we read that Mordecai overheard a conspiracy to kill the King and told Queen Esther. She reported it to the King and his life was saved. This is important later on in the book.
That’s all a lovely story, and we’ll come back to some of it in future blogs, but the bit I’m really interested in is at the beginning of Chapter 3. Mordecai, Queen Esther’s cousin, makes a bold decision. King Xerxes had honoured one of his nobles, Haman, and given him the highest place amongst the nobles. All of the royal officials have bowed down to pay him tribute, but Mordecai (who is a Jew) refuses to bow or pay him honour (3:2). This really cheesed off Haman, to the extent that he decided to try and find a way to wipe out all the Jews.
they will only bow down to the one true God. For their punishment, they’re thrown into a fiery furnace.
This is by no means the only place in scripture where people have refused to bow down and profess that another man or idol is lord. In the book of Daniel, we read about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who are, first and foremost, three guys with incredible names. They’re commanded to bow down and worship a golden image, but refuse to do so as they will only bow down to the one true God. For their punishment, they’re thrown into a fiery furnace. They do survive unharmed, and you can read about it all in Daniel chapter 3, if you like.
In Luke 4:5-8, we read of Jesus’ temptation where Satan asks Him to bow down and worship him. Jesus rightfully refuses and answers “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only’.”
And it was an issue for the early Church in the Roman Empire, too, as they were required to say ‘Caesar is lord’, but many refused and were persecuted because of it.
If we are to take anyone as a role model from these few chapters in Esther, it has to be Mordecai. He has stood firm in his belief and refused to bow down and pay tribute to Haman.
there are all sorts of things in our world that command and tempt us to let them be lord of our lives
Most of us don’t have a Haman or a Caesar who is telling us to bow down and call them Lord, at least not a physical human being. But there are all sorts of things in our world that command and tempt us to let them be lord of our lives for a little while, or in a particular area.
I regularly allow other things to be lord of my life. Sometimes it’s my friends: I want to please them, so I worry about what they think of me before I think of what God really cares about. Sometimes I allow laziness to be lord of my life. Other times it’s just me – I quite fancy the idea of being lord of my life!
But this is not right. As Christians, we have handed over ownership of our lives to Christ. We have decided to become living sacrifices for His glory. I am no longer lord of my life, Jesus Christ is, and Christ alone.
“If you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
What are you allowing to be lord of your life today? Who or what is your Haman?
How can you stand up, like Mordecai, and profess that Jesus is Lord? How can you stand firm and refuse to bow before the enemy?