Esther 2:1-23 – Inner beauty and outer beauty!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 14, 2013 AM
Jesus once related, “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’” (Mark 7:20-23 NIV) While in our day and age we place great importance on outward beauty, we discover biblically that what matters most is what is inside a person. This is what reflects the true inner qualities of a person. During the days of Esther, folks were not much different than they are today; they valued outward appearance more then what was found inside.
My Fair Lady is a musical based upon George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion and with lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe. The story concerns Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower girl who takes speech lessons from Professor Henry Higgins, a phoneticist, so that she may pass as a well-born lady. What transpires is that Eliza’s true inner qualities stand out through her course Cockney flavor, and when it is highlighted by her new personification, Eliza truly shines both inwardly and outwardly. While we discover that Esther needed little preparation in her outward beauty, we also discover her true inner beauty as well. It is something believers need to remind themselves, concerning their relationship with God. Let’s discover why…
Esther teaches about the importance of a good…
I. Foundation! (Vv. 1-7)
1. How we weather the storms of life is contingent upon what we’ve used as a foundation! The Jewish historian Josephus says that when Xerxes’ anger was over he was exceedingly grieved that the matter was carried out. He would have liked to have been reconciled to Vashti but because the judgment was irrevocable, those around Xerxes had to make him forget her. They contrived how to entertain him with a bevy of beauties and then to get him to like the most agreeable among them in order to find a new wife and queen instead of Vashti. As the world often does, it is out with the old and in with the new; yesterday’s queen is today’s bag lady, and the superstar that once shown so brightly is but an ashen cinder in the eyes of the ever-fickle world of today. “Then the king’s personal attendants proposed, ‘Let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king. Let the king appoint commissioners in every province of his realm to bring all these beautiful girls into the harem at the citadel of Susa. Let them be placed under the care of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women; and let beauty treatments be given to them. Then let the girl who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.’” (Esther 2:2-4a NIV) Proverbs reminds us, “My son, keep your father’s commands and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” (Proverbs 6:20 NIV) And, “The eye that mocks a father, that scorns obedience to a mother, will be pecked out by the ravens of the valley, will be eaten by the vultures.” (Proverbs 30:17 NIV) Just as foundation is important when applying makeup, a strong spiritual foundation is important for one’s life! Esther did not forget her foundation. Of course, “This advice appealed to the king, and he followed it.” God was preparing just the right girl for the job. There was a man named “Mordecai [who] had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This girl, who was also known as Esther, was lovely in form and features, and Mordecai who had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died.” Esther was being raised with the proper foundation!
EXAMPLE: Over by the Costco next to the Panda Express near our church, they built a small strip mall. The buildings look great, modern, and they are in an excellent location. There was only one problem; they did not establish a good foundation. The doorways and windows in the buildings soon sagged and buckled because when they put the building in place they did not make sure the ground was stable. A poor foundation creates all kinds of problems. This is true of our lives in God as well. Many mega churches and new work starts are discovering that they have failed to properly train their congregations concerning what it means to be a Christian, a member of a local church, and how to develop themselves in the Lord. Esther had a good foundation passed down to her by her uncle.
We discover from Esther that our lives cannot be glossed over with…
II. Spackle and paint! (Vv. 8-15)
1. God does more than make us look good; He cleanses us completely for His service! Paul wrote that we need to be careful what we build our lives from, “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:11 NIV) Xerxes’ order was followed and all the girls that met his criteria were pampered, prettified, and brought before him. “Esther also was taken to the king’s palace and entrusted to Hegai, who had charge of the harem.” Of course, Esther “pleased him and won his favor. Immediately he provided her with her beauty treatments and special food. (Spackle and paint.) He assigned to her seven maids selected from the king’s palace and moved her and her maids into the best place in the harem.” Now, Esther was not stupid, she did exactly what Mordecai told her to do, “Esther had not revealed her nationality and family background, because Mordecai had forbidden her to do so.” In fact, we discover that “Every day he walked back and forth near the courtyard of the harem to find out how Esther was and what was happening to her.” Not only had Esther’s upbringing helped her now to cope with what was happening, but the wisdom she had gained helped her to use those around her for her benefit as well. We learn that Esther “had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics.” Esther learned that “Anything she wanted was given her to take with her from the harem to the king’s palace.” The idea was that she had to be completely cleansed from her old life in order to be able to enter the presence of the king. No stink, sweat, or old odor could remain. It is not unlike those of us who must be completely cleansed of our old sins in order to go before our King of kings. Far too often, the world tries to cover up the mess instead of completely cleansing it away. (Spackle and paint.) No amount of Febreze, Spackle and paint, can rid your life of the stink of sin. Esther “asked for nothing other than what Hegai, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the harem, suggested. And Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her.” True inner beauty is found in God alone.
EXAMPLE: The old hymn asks, “What can wash away my sins?” The immediate answer is, “Nothing but the blood of Jesus!” God alone is the one who can cleans us completely of the stink of our sin. Humorously, Ecclesiastes tells us, “As dead flies give perfume a bad smell, so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.” (Ecclesiastes 10:1 NIV) When building restoration occurs after a fire one of the things they work hard to do is to get rid of the smell of smoke. Restorers will tell you it is more than just using paint and Spackle. We often try our own way to cover our sin and it never works, only God can cleanse us completely. Only God can clear the air of the stench or of sin condition. When we reject God’s ways we come under His judgment; He reminded Jeremiah, “What do I care about incense from Sheba or sweet calamus from a distant land? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable; your sacrifices do not please me.” (Jeremiah 6:20 NIV) Esther did not depend upon the world’s paint and Spackle, her inner beauty shown through because her outer beauty was in her faith.
Esther and Mordecai show us how God is involved in the…
III. Highlights! (Vv. 16-23)
1. God’s grace is always at work. Finally, Esther “was taken to King Xerxes in the royal residence in the tenth month, the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign.” Her foundation and all the paint and Spackle now come down to whether or not she can impress the king. No worries, “the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.” It is the highlight of her life! She is the queen and no one suspects she is a Hebrew because she had kept that her little secret as per her uncle’s instructions. “And the king gave a great banquet, Esther’s banquet, for all his nobles and officials. He proclaimed a holiday throughout the provinces and distributed gifts with royal liberality.” Esther was where God wanted her, and “Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate,” where God desired him. God always works behind the scenes in our lives to highlight His work and His ways. Nowhere is this seen more than in the lives of Mordecai and Esther. God’s grace was working in Modecai’s life; it was working in the life of a young teenage girl named Esther, and God’s grace was working in the life of an unworthy arrogant king. We find that “During the time Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, became angry and conspired to assassinate King Xerxes.” In fact, when “Mordecai found out about the plot and told Queen Esther,” she, “in turn reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai.” Isn’t God amazing! God worked in Mordecai’s life, Mordecai worked in Esther’s life, who also allowed God to show her what to do. And God is glorified because we discover “when the report was investigated and found to be true, the two officials were hanged on a gallows!” Nehemiah and Ezra would profit from God’s grace extended to this king through Esther. Proverbs reminds us to “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV) Here we discover the highlights of God working in the lives of Esther and Mordecai.
EXAMPLE: Highlights are important in makeup and in art. In fact, the great masters knew how to use highlights in such a way that made their art come alive. Highlights can give art depth, vibrancy, and bring the viewer into the work itself. Thomas Kinkade was an American painter of popular realistic, pastoral, and idyllic subjects. He is notable for the mass marketing of his work as printed reproductions and other licensed products via The Thomas Kinkade Company. He was claimed to be “America’s most-collected living artist” before his death it has been estimated that one in every 20 American homes owning a copy of one of his paintings. He characterized himself as “Thomas Kinkade, Painter of Light,” a phrase he protected through trademark but one originally attributed to the English master J.M.W. Turner (1775–1851). Turner was a British Romantic landscape painter, water-colorist, and printmaker. Turner was considered a controversial figure in his day, but is now regarded as the artist who elevated landscape painting to an eminence rivaling history painting. Although renowned for his oil paintings, Turner is also one of the greatest masters of British watercolor landscape painting. God highlights our lives as well, just as He did with Esther and Mordecai.
Today we learn from Esther about the importance of a good foundation, that Spackle and paint cannot hide our true nature, and God is involved in the highlights of our lives.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2013 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.