Tag Archives: respect

A deacon! — 1Timothy 3:8-13

A deacon! — 1Timothy 3:8-13
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 12, 2012

Often all you hear about, read about, or see in the movies and TV is a gross characterization of evangelical church leadership. In fact so much so that there is a societal mythos that is completely false concerning Christian leadership in evangelical churches; especially concerning deacons. The truth is there are literally tens of thousands of pastors and hundreds of thousands of deacons who serve in evangelical churches all across America and worldwide with grace and compassion as the servants of Jesus they are called to be.

Paul is writing to his young friend in the ministry Timothy on how a church is supposed to function and how congregations were to choose their leadership. Were Paul’s suggestions supposed to be the absolute law for all time and all churches everywhere concerning how a local church chooses its leadership? No, I do not believe so, however, since his writing is Spirit-inspired we as believers would do well to give it the weight it deserves and see it as extremely important guidelines in choosing a church’s local leadership. Let’s see what Paul writes concerning a deacon…

READ: 1Timothy 3:8-13

I believe if churches truly followed Paul’s suggestions to Timothy in choosing their leadership we would have fewer problems within churches. The problem is that pastors and deacons have been given authority they were never supposed to have and are often seen as a hierarchy rather than the chosen servants they are supposed to be. In fact Paul writes Timothy that…

I. Deacons are to be men worthy of their calling! (Vv. 8-9)

Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience.

1. You would think that if Paul held the standards for a church’s pastor in high regard that he would do so for other leadership within the church and we discover he does. He immediately refers to his assessment for pastors by writing Timothy that “Deacons, likewise, are to be men of respect”. He is telling Timothy that in the exact same way Deacons are to be like their pastors in that they should also be “men worthy of respect”. Remember, respect is earned not automatically given. The idea is one of honest and deep devotion to the Lord. There should be no question as to where his spiritual allegiance lies. The deacon should be “sincere” not double-tongued, saying one thing and meaning another. Deacons have to be straight-shooters and therefore “sincere”. A leader cannot be sincere or worthy of respect if they are influenced by outside stimulates so they should “not indulge in much wine”. In our day and age there is a segment of the Christian church that is rebelling against past teaching that wasn’t necessarily biblical but not necessarily wrong either. One of these is the willingness of millennials and others to justify drinking alcohol. Churches for centuries never taught against drinking alcohol such as wine and the Bible does not teach against it. It was during America’s prohibition when many evangelical churches adopted a strict no alcohol policy because alcoholism was so rampant. People have forgotten that it was the American voter who demanded Prohibition in the first place. Alcoholism was a national problem. Personally I believe this is a good standard since so much grief comes from alcohol. And Paul did write, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18 NIV) This is the idea Paul was writing concerning pastors and deacons imbibing. However the deacon should not be consumed with worldly wealth “pursuing dishonest gain” either. Paul summarizes this section by stating that deacons “must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience.” This should be the man of God’s focus in life, not booze or dishonest gain. Deacons are to be men worthy of their calling!

EXAMPLE: In the past there were those who did not think that being called to a ministry by the Lord was necessary, that instead it was simply an office conveyed or passed on by the church to certain people whom they thought of as deserving. Nothing could be further from the truth. Being called to be a deacon in a church by God is an awesome and noble task. Churches are to be very careful in whom they set aside for deacons because these will be the men who will serve you as literally God’s waiters. Therefore deacons are to be men worthy of their calling!

Deacons are not to rule their churches nor are they to be seen as mini-pastors. They are to be the called out servants of the church that the church can depend upon to minister to its particular needs. The Book of Acts gives us an example of some men who were chosen by the Jerusalem church to literally “wait on tables” in taking care of the needs of widows in the church. (Acts 6:1-7) “They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.” (Acts 6:5 NIV) Paul writes Timothy that…

II. Deacons should be weighed in the balance! (v. 10)

They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.

1. Deacons are not deacons for life as some churches teach just as pastors are not pastor for life. It is not some worldly rank conferred by the church. A deacon should be a man of God who is called by God to serve his church. We realize then that deacons are called out men of God for a specific local church to serve that church. Therefore these men “must first be tested”. Literally Paul meant these men who are being considered should be proven by their actions, attitudes, and lifestyles. Their lives should be an open book and they should be ready, willing, and able to have their lives examined by the church they are gonna serve. Sadly there are always examples of deacons who were poor examples, authoritarians or self-indulgent men who focused on themselves and the personal power they gained from their title of being a “deacon”. Yet there are many more deacons, as I shared before, who serve graciously and with great humility, honoring Jesus with their lives and service. The writer of Hebrews reminds us to “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” (Hebrews 13:7 NIV) And this is what Paul was trying to teach Timothy, namely that a church’s local leadership should be made up of men who the world, new believers, and the church would want to emulate. Therefore, “if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.” As we look at those who want to serve us in our church we should remember that deacons should be weighed in the balance!

EXAMPLE: King Belshazzar is one of those tragic figures of biblical history. The Bible relates that he “gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine with them.” And that “he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them… As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone. Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall… The king watched the hand as it wrote.” (Daniel 5:1-5 NIV) He called for Daniel to interpret the writing and was told “You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.” (Daniel 5:27 NIV) Paul knew if men are called to serve him as deacons, they should be weighed in the balance!

Leadership in the local church will be the example the local community sees as leading the church. How they equate the men who serve says a lot about the church itself. The title “deacon” is the
Anglicized form of the Greek word diakonos, meaning a “runner,” “messenger,” or “servant” and like pastors must also be men of quality, even though their function in the congregation is significantly different. Paul writes Timothy that…

III. Deacons should be good family men! (Vv. 11-13)

In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well. Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.

1. Continuing in his directions to Timothy Paul writes “In the same way” referring to the guidelines he had just laid out for pastors. In the same way deacons, if they are married, should have wives who “are to be women worthy of respect” as well. Some believe this to be a pronouncement that deacons should be married and this is possible under the way the original language is constructed. His wife is worthy of respect because she is honorable, honest, and not one of those “malicious talkers but temperate (meaning even keeled) and trustworthy in everything”. In fact I believe that the wife has a lot to offer in her support, insight, and encouragement to her husband who is a deacon. A wife that makes poor choices or is a gossip can be a huge detriment to their husband who desires to serve the church. Deacons and their wives must be able to keep things to their selves and not spread rumors or gossip. And again, like with a pastor Paul relates that “A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well.” A person’s spiritual skills begin in one’s home and how they are respected and honored by their own family reveals a lot about a man’s ability to serve his church. Paul knew that “Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.” Paul reminds us that deacons should be good family men!

EXAMPLE: Early in ministry I was exposed to a deacon whose family was well let’s just say not the best example in the world. I caught his son on top of the roof of the church yelling at and making improper finger salutes to passing cars one Sunday morning. The deacon’s response was to yell at his wife and his son in public and humiliate both of them. Needless to say he was not the best example of a deacon. Paul tells Timothy that deacons should be good family men!

Conclusion:

Deacons are to be men worthy of their calling! Deacons should be weighed in the balance! Deacons should be good family men!

This article is copyrighted © 2017 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.

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Parents and children! – Ephesians 6:1-4

Parents and children! – Ephesians 6:1-4
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 26, 2017

A child rebelling is as old as well couples having children. Some think that it is worse today than years ago, but it probably isn’t it just may seem that way. However, there has become a shift in how children are disciplined. The issue is not in whether a parent spanks or not but rather in the teaching that there are consequences for one’s actions. Consistency in parenting has degraded in our society and it has infected the school system as well. There are actually folks who think it is harmful to tell a child “no” or to hold them accountable for their behavior. This is simply not true nor is it emotionally healthy for the child to not know their boundaries.

When we look into the pages of Scripture we can sometimes be hard pressed to find good examples of parenting yet we do discover some of the best advice for raising healthy, emotionally stable, and spiritually sound children. And here in Ephesians Paul gives great advice to both parents and children; let’s discover what he writes…

READ: Ephesians 6:1-4

No one likes to have to do what they are told all of the time. It is part of our sin nature to rebel when we are told what to do because we would rather do whatever we want when we want. However this simply isn’t possible nor is it mature. In his instructions to the family Paul writes that…

I. Children are to be obedient! (v. 1)

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

1. You would think that this little bit of advice from Paul would be straight forward and easy to understand, but in our day and age people have earned doctorates from dissecting, ruminating, and discussing this ad nauseam to the point where may children are left confused, harmed, and unstructured in life. My dad would tell us that while we may not always like what he told us to do we had better always obey what he told us to do! Obedience is the foundation of any society; if you do not believe me then why do we have laws that people are supposed to obey? Paul succinctly states, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Now notice Paul is not speaking to the world in general but to believers. He writes that children are to obey their parents “in the Lord.” What does this mean? While obedience is kind of a foreign word in our nation today we would do well to remember just how important it is. Recently a young man, who was high on cocaine, was breaking into neighborhood homes, which was caught by police was shot and killed. He did not obey what the police told him to do because he was high, caught doing a criminal act, and was trying to get a very real looking toy gun from his waistband; the officers thought it was an actual pistol because it looked genuine and therefore shot him to death. Obedience would have saved this young man’s life. Paul writes that Christian children are to be obedient to their parents in the Lord. Paul meant in their spiritual instruction, in their personal following of God, and in how they respected him. Paul knew if children followed God they would be obedient to their parents. His reasoning was simple: “for this is right”. Paul would write the Colossian Christians, “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” (Colossians 3:20 NIV) Pleasing God is our first and foremost duty in life no matter how young or old we are and we learn that in order to do so children are to be obedient!

EXAMPLE: Often when people think of the word obedient they think it means mindless devotion and nothing is further from the truth. I find it interesting that there are those in our day and age who think children know how to respond sexually concerning their individual identity but they are too young to understand right from wrong when it involves religion, diet, smoking, or criminal activity. Children are to obey because children are immature physically, emotionally, and spiritually to understand all the consequences of their actions. Paul knew Children are to be obedient especially in the Lord!

My father would remind us as kids that respect is earned and not simply given. Few in our day understand this concept because many think that they should be respected simply because they breathe the same air as everyone else. This is simply a false notion and Paul teaches us that…

II. Children are to respect their parents! (Vv. 2-3)

“Honor your father and mother”–which is the first commandment with a promise–“that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

1. Obedience some would say comes from respect however many have forgotten that respect is not simply given, it is earned. Paul writes that his readers were to “Honor your father and mother” a reality that is often misplaced in our day. A life that is not focused on the Lord and filled with the Spirit of God is one that can never understand what real reverence means. Honor in our day and age is hard for a lot of people to give others because we live in such a victim-oriented world. It seems as if there is special kind of sport or enjoyment in tearing down anything or anyone that might have earned our respect or be honored in our world. National heroes, historical figures, and others are torn and ripped apart with great glee. In fact in some arenas if you are not on the side of the worst degenerates, the most despicable of society, or the absolute immoral you are bigoted, racist, or a phobic of some sort and need to rethink your “preconceived colonial” notions. Proverbs teaches us that “He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding. The fear of the LORD teaches (people) wisdom, and humility comes before honor.” (Proverbs 15:32-33 NIV) No matter how old we are we are to give honor, deference to our parents. Certainly there are those whose parents may not have been the best sort but Paul is speaking to Christian households here, those who have given themselves to the love and discipline of the Lord Jesus. Paul wrote that this honor is required because it comes from “the first commandment with a promise”. It isn’t the only commandment with a promise from God nor is it the first or primary commandment one is to learn, rather it is the commandment with the promise of God “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” It is understood that obedience fosters self-discipline, which in turn brings stability and longevity in one’s life. In order for our lives to go well and for us to have a life that is long in the Lord we must learn the lesson of Paul that children are to respect their parents!

EXAMPLE: If you have not been in a public school classroom lately I challenge you to go and volunteer for a couple of weeks. Not for just a day or two. Let the class get used to your presence; follow them out to recess, gym, music, and lunch. I think you would come away shocked at the lack of respect, discipline, and focus there is. The one complaint I hear from educators is the lack of support they receive to be able to consistently discipline their students. When there is no consistency kids know it and use it for their own personal gain. Don’t believe me, which parent does a child learn to go to first in order to get what they want? Remember Cain and Able? Respect teaches children to value themselves, others, and their community because they value and abide by specific standards. Children are to respect their parents!

No one likes to be teased to the point where it makes them sad or mad. Teasing someone until they are angry is just plain cruel and the same is true from demanding such high expectations from someone that they can never ever meet. Paul reminds us that…

III. Parents are not to frustrate their children! (v. 4)

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

1. Paul wrote in Colossians, “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” (Colossians 3:21 NIV) He addresses fathers because they were seen as the head of the household in which the consistency of parental discipline rests. How the peace and structure is often regulated by the mother in the home, fathers are to make sure there is consistency in discipline. People often forget that children first and foremost need structure in their lives. Boundaries give children security and therefore being too harsh or too lenient in rearing children can lead to frustration. So fathers were cautioned by Paul to “not embitter” their “children” with unreasonable demands, petty rules, or useless favoritism. Such actions cause children to become discouraged or angered because they are in constant emotional flux. Consistency in raising children is extremely important and I am reminded of when Paul wrote his friend Timothy “how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”.  (2 Timothy 3:15 NIV) Timothy’s parents and grandparents were both instrumental in his spiritual maturation and Paul wrote, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” (2 Timothy 1:5 NIV) Training our children in the beautiful things of God is extremely important. Far too many Christian parents live under the false notion that they should allow their children to “decide for themselves” when they get older as to what they believe about God. Where they get this completely ungodly idea is beyond me because by the time a child is an adult it is often too late. And it is a fact that most teens rebel when they go off to college! Paul relates that “instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Paul had been trained from his youth that parents were to “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV) Consistency in discipline is the key and parents are not to frustrate their children!

EXAMPLE: We all laugh at the poor sap who tosses the instructions on how to put something together but anyone who has ever tried to put something together from IKEA knows the importance of following the instructions exactly. Clear and concise instructions are important and in fact this is one of the reasons IKEA has been so successful. They learned that if you had the buyer build their products using easily understood instructions they developed a personal sense of achievement at finishing the project and were very likely to come back and buy more products. The key was using those clear and concise instructions. Frustration occurs when a child does not know what to expect. Parents are not to frustrate their children!

Conclusion:

Children are to be obedient! Children are to respect their parents! Parents are not to frustrate their children!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2017 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.

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Wives and husbands! – Ephesians 5:22-33

Wives and husbands! – Ephesians 5:22-33
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 19, 2017

Interestingly there have been some articles recently that show that marriage is coming back into vogue. In fact, research has shown that married couples live from 5 to 10 years longer than singles do. Married couples are more financially, emotionally, and spiritually secure. And contrary to what you may have been told about divorce, recent studies show that evangelical Christian couples’ divorce rate is around 10% and nowhere near the regurgitated story of 50% like you often hear.

Contrary to what we may know about the Bible we are more often shown what not to do in marriage than what to do as we look at the lives of some of the biblical characters. This is because God deliberately gave us his words concerning his interaction with mankind with warts and all. However there are some great verses that do teach Godly concepts of how wives and husbands are to interact. Here in Ephesians Paul teaches us about the church and in doing so also instructs us about wives and husbands; let’s see what he teaches us…

READ: Ephesians 5:22-33

A happy and secure marriage begins and ends with what its focus is; if it isn’t focused solely on God first at its core it is misdirected. And within this relationship…

I. Wives are to willingly yield to their spouse! (Vv. 22-24)

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

1. This has become one of the most talked about, misunderstood, or disdained pieces of Scripture there is within the Bible. Millennials hate it because it suggests they must be submissive and in a “me first” society this is an anathema! However when Paul wrote “Wives, submit to your husbands” he did not end his thought there but he continued by writing what he meant exactly: “as to the Lord”! All believers are to be in total submission to the Lord, period. The original Greek word for “submit” (hupotassō) means to be subordinate to, to be under obedience, or willingly submit oneself to another. It is a personal willful choice as in when one willingly submits their selves by faith to Jesus! Was Paul a misogynist, a narrow-minded bigot, or just plain old fashioned in his thinking? No way! In fact he was very progressive because he continues by sharing his reasoning: “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.” Like Jesus who established the church through is willing sacrifice, husbands are to be respected or submitted to by their wives because of their willingness to make sure their wives are successful in marriage by their own sacrifice! It is done just “as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” Paul never meant this as a form of slavery or second class citizenship but rather as a godly union of a couple where the man should do his manly duty and be the wise, kind, and compassionate example like Jesus he should be so his wife can submit to him! Wives are to yield to their spouse!

EXAMPLE: Does this mean a woman should be a willing doormat to her husband? No way! God never endorses one sin over another. Paul is teaching relationship. Just as Jesus sacrificed everything for his church, his bride, husbands should be willing to sacrifice everything in their relationship with their wives so she can willingly submit to his displayed wisdom, kindness, and compassion! Wives are to willingly yield to their spouse!

Paul continued in discussing what he meant a married couple’s relationship should be like. Wives were to willingly submit to their husbands however…

II. Husbands are to surrender to their spouses! (Vv. 25-28)

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

1. Far too often folks have a tendency to ignore the fact that in the New Testament that when the word “love” is used it is most often translated from the Greek word agapaō, meaning “sacrificial love” and not the emotional kind of love the world at large wants to give it. This is the love Paul uses and is the same we find in verses like John 3:16 where we learn that God so sacrificially loved the world that he sent Jesus. So Paul writes, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church”. So often we hear liberal Christians putting the emphasis on the emotional aspects of Jesus’ love; that he was kind, compassionate, and “loved” people while ignoring the action part of the word. Jesus showed, displayed, and proved his love by his actions and especially by his willingness to die for our sins! So husbands are to sacrificially love their wives “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word”! It is a husband’s duty to love their wives by making sure she is exposed to and mentored in God’s Word the gospel message! To make sure his family, beginning with his wife, is in Jesus’ body his church! Why would this be so important? Paul knew that any family is centered in how the home is run and that always begins with the mother and wife. Husbands are to make sure his wife’s needs are met; especially her spiritual needs “to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless”! So Paul writes that “In this same way”, just as Jesus sacrificed himself “husbands ought to (sacrificially) love their wives as their own bodies.” We want to make sure we are taken care of and so as husbands we are to make sure our wives are taken care of first because Paul understood that “He who (sacrificially) loves his wife loves himself.” Husbands are to surrender to their spouses!

EXAMPLE: We live in such a “me first” society that we have often lost what marriage is to be all about. It is not making sure your needs are met, rather it is an investment in a deep personal relationship that is to last a lifetime. Marriage is based on personal sacrifice and not emotional needs. Yes, certainly emotional needs are to be met within marriage but they cannot be until we are willing to do whatever it takes to have a successful marriage. Husbands are to be like Christ in leading in personal sacrifice with their wives. Husbands are to surrender to their spouses!

Paul understood what personal sacrifice meant because he had given up everything, including being able to have a family for the ministry of the gospel! So he understood what it meant to be totally committed and he understood that in marriage…

III. Both spouses must give their all! (Vv. 29-33)

After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church–for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

1. Paul realized that both wives and husbands might have a problem with what he was trying to teach them. He also knew one of the first arguments would be that he was not married. How could he understand what it took? Yet Paul did and he wrote that “After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church–for we are members of his body.” Jesus had come to seek and save the lost but he also left behind something so radical that it would change the world within a few hundred years; namely his body the church. And just as Jesus cared for and fed his church, as married couples we are to make sure each other is fed and cared for in every way: emotionally, physically, and spiritually. The church is to care for one another. So Paul was not just making a point about marriage but about the church body. The body of Christ is to sacrifice for one another just as Christ did for his church. Each member is now part of the whole because of what Jesus did “for we are members of his body”. Marriage is the same, we are no longer our own we become part of something bigger than ourselves and it is “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” We spiritually, emotionally, and physically become something more than we are as ourselves as a church body and as a married couple! This is why Paul would continue by stating that “This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church.” Jesus’ love for his church should be reflected in marriage by both husband and wife and so Paul finishes by writing, “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Both spouses must give their all!

EXAMPLE: Just as there are many reasons for people joining a church there are many reasons why folks get married; some for personal fulfillment, some for personal gain, some for love, and some for utterly selfish reasons. And just as folks have forgotten how the church is sacred thing established by Jesus; marriage is sacred as well. It is not to be entered into lightly. It demands more than some individuals are willing to give but if they want to be successful in marriage they must learn and respond to the fact that both spouses must give their all!

Conclusion:

Wives are to willingly yield to their spouse! Husbands are to surrender to their spouses! Both spouses must give their all!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2017 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.

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Esther 1:1-22 – Obedience and responsibility!

Esther 1:1-22 – Obedience and responsibility!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 7, 2013 AM

The Book of Esther is entitled by the Jews, “the volume of Esther,” or simply “the volume.” In ancient times, it was always written on a separate roll, which was read entirely at the Feast of Purim. The Greek translators retained only “Esther,” which became the ordinary title with Christians. There is much controversy concerning the date of “Esther.” The extreme minuteness of the details and vividness of the portraits in “Esther” suggest it was written by the hand of a contemporary rather than someone who lived long after the events commemorated. The entire tone of the book is in accord with the history, which it narrates, and is not unlike that of Zechariah. Therefore, overall, there is no sufficient ground for placing the composition of Esther later than that of Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah.

Esther is the only book of the Bible in which the name of God is not mentioned. The New Testament does not quote from the Book of Esther, nor have copies of it been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Law is never mentioned in the book nor is sacrifices or offerings mentioned. Prayer while possibly inferred is never specifically mentioned in the book either, though fasting is. Both Esther and Mordecai seem to have lacked spiritual awareness except in their assurance that God would protect His people. Esther was written to encourage the returned Jewish exiles by reminding them of the faithfulness of God who would keep His promises to the nation. The author instructs us how the Feast of Purim began. It also teaches us about obedience and responsibility in trusting God no matter what the circumstance.

READ: Esther 1:1-22

Obedience and responsibility are twin pillars of a strong faith. This first chapter in Esther graphically exposes the contrast between King Xerxes who ruled by royal writ and Mordecai who was wise by faith and especially between Queen Vashti who was self-centered and the commoner Esther who we discover is self-sacrificing. Let’s look at the role of…

I. Obedience! (Vv. 1-12)

1. The author gives us a very personal account of what occurs within the confines of the royal court of the time of the Medes and Persians. “This is what happened during the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush: At that time King Xerxes reigned from his royal throne in the citadel of Susa, and in the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. The military leaders of Persia and Media, the princes, and the nobles of the provinces were present.” This special occasion was held by the mightiest king of the time. King Xerxes ruled the Persian Empire for 21 years from 485 to 465 BC. He held absolute sway in all things and his orders were to be carried out immediately. This banquet lasted “For a full 180 days” where “he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and glory of his majesty.” It was a political show for those who were part of his inner circle. However, we discover that “When these days were over, the king gave a banquet, lasting seven days, in the enclosed garden of the king’s palace, for all the people from the least to the greatest, who were in the citadel of Susa.” No one was left out in order for the King to show off his prowess. The party took place in a beautifully decorated garden, with an abundance of the King’s best wine served in goblets of gold! This was a men’s only event, however, we find that “Queen Vashti also gave a banquet for the women in the royal palace of King Xerxes.” And, “On the seventh day, when King Xerxes was in high spirits from wine, he commanded the seven eunuchs who served him… to bring before him Queen Vashti, wearing her royal crown, in order to display her beauty to the people and nobles, for she was lovely to look at.” The King wanted to use his wife as a trophy, as one of his things to be shown off when he desired. He was not used to being ignored or refused. “But when the attendants delivered the king’s command, Queen Vashti refused to come. Then the king became furious and burned with anger.” It should not have mattered to Vashti why the King called her; she was to be obedient to the King. When the King calls, you obey!

EXAMPLE: My father expected to be obeyed immediately when he asked us to do something for him. There were no other options. However, we are such ornery people and so obedience comes hard for us. I remember thinking, after my father had asked us to weed the flowerbeds, “He can’t make me!” Of course, he not only could, he did. When King Xerxes gave a command, whether others felt it was justified or not, even if it was for his personal pleasure in order to show off his trophy wife, he expected obedience. Vashti was asked to show up “o’ natural”, so-to-speak, and she was miffed. She refused to obey, forgetting that when the King ordered, he expected obedience. The same is true for our lives in Christ. We may not want to do what He asks of us or we may not desire to do what He asks, but when the king of Kings asks, we are to be obedient.

What we can fail to realize is that respect flows from our willingness to be obedient. When we are obedient, we show that we respect the one who asked us. The contrast could not be more surprising between Vashti and Esther and I believe this is why the author wrote about it. We discover that we should not only be obedient but also…

II. Responsible! (Vv. 13-22)

1. The crime the queen had committed was that she disobeyed a command of the king. Obviously, the king and queen did not share an emotionally intimate relationship based on mutual respect. It did not matter, with position comes responsibility. Xerxes was not foolish; he seeks advice on how to handle the situation with his queen. He could have had her forcefully dragged from her chambers, but he did not. “Since it was customary for the king to consult experts in matters of law and justice, he spoke with the wise men who understood the times.” These men were “the seven nobles of Persia and Media who had special access to the king and were highest in the kingdom.” Xerxes wants to know what is to be done and is told, “Queen Vashti has done wrong, not only against the king but also against all the nobles and the peoples of all the provinces of King Xerxes.” Herein is our clue. If Vashti could get away with refusing her responsibilities, then maybe other women and then others would dare to do so as well! “For the queen’s conduct will become known to all the women, and so they will despise their husbands and say, ‘King Xerxes commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, but she would not come.’ This very day the Persian and Median women of the nobility who have heard about the queen’s conduct will respond to all the king’s nobles in the same way. There will be no end of disrespect and discord.” Now whether we agree with it or not, there are roles within society that keep society functioning the way it should. Christianity has brought about the “liberation” of not only slaves but of women as well. And, rightly so, however, there was concern Vashti’s arrogance and disrespect would spread dissent. Others would emulate her, so it was decided, “Therefore, if it pleases the king, let him issue a royal decree and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media, which cannot be repealed, that Vashti is never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes. Also let the king give her royal position to someone else who is better than she.” It was hoped that, “when the king’s edict [was] proclaimed throughout all his vast realm, all the women [would] respect their husbands, from the least to the greatest.” So the King “sent dispatches to all parts of the kingdom, to each province in its own script and to each people in its own language, proclaiming in each people’s tongue that every man should be ruler over his own household.” Vashti learns that position carries with it responsibility.

EXAMPLE: We live in a day and age whereby we arrogantly declare, “It’s my life, and I can do what I want.” And then we are shocked when others do that very thing to innocent people by murdering them in droves. We try to solve our societal problem of irresponsibility by making those who are responsible suffer by taking away their constitutional rights. Or we try to redefine irresponsibility to make it sound acceptable; such as in the redefinition of marriage or what constitutes a family. In our sin sick society, there are those who would see Vashti as a heroine. She is just as arrogant as King Xerxes was. You can rest assured that this was probably not the first time Vashti had been asked to present herself. Vashti is not someone to emulate. She blithely tosses aside her position by arrogantly rejecting her responsibility as queen.

Conclusion:

Today we learned about being obedient and being responsible.

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.

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