A City Perplexed

In the story of Esther, Haman receives permission from King Xerxes to destroy all the Jews, young and old, and to take their possessions as spoil. Historically, Xerxes was a notoriously wicked king, ruling his domain with brute force and cruelty. He had banished his wife and queen and spawned a nation-wide beauty pageant for the woman who would bring him the most pleasure, spending the night with an impressed contestant, then casting her off for the next one in the morning. History records that a grieving father came to him, begging that his only remaining son be allowed to stay home from the war. Xerxes commanded that the father's son be cut in two, and he marched his army between the body as the distressed and heartbroken father looked on.

So after a hard day's work of ordering the apartheid and annihilation of an entire people group, of sending out the command by post in every language of the land, royal resources directed to accomplish this nefarious act, and of organizing the logistics of a mass slaughter, the king and Haman sat down to drink--perhaps relaxing after a stressful day at the office. The wheels had been set in motion, momentum was gaining, and they had only to sit back and watch a nation carry out their directives. All in a day's work.

But the capital of Shushan, Esther chapter 3 records, was perplexed. When the righteous rule, the city rejoices. But at the seemingly random rulings that come down from wicked rulers, that are rooted in pride, liberality, and self-satisfaction, the city is perplexed. There are many correlations to modern-day democracy and government.

The book of Esther is an interesting study n authority. Mordecai, Esther's cousin, sat in the king's gate, and overheard a plot to kill the king. Maybe the instigators were the good guys. Maybe they were starry-eyed idealists who dreamed of a better world, where girls weren't wrenched from their homes forever for the pleasure of one man, where old men's sons weren't brutally murdered before their eyes, and where entire nations weren't wiped out at the whim of a debauched ruler. It makes me wonder whether Bigthan and Teresh, the chamberlains plotting the affair, had the better of intentions.

And yet, Mordecai reported the news to his queen, Esther, who in turn informed the kin g, who promptly executed the two disgruntled chamberlains. End of story, or so we think. God uses all the "coincidences" to tie together into one of the most dramatic narratives in Scripture. And it started with one girl staying under the authority of her God-given guardian, even when she moved away from home and was elevated to be his authority instead. It was helped along by one man who continued to honor the position of the king, rather than viewing the king as a man and the king in his position of authority as combined.

The rest, as they say, is history: it is a challenge to me to recognize that God works through authority, even when it seems that the authority is incapable of responding to God's Spirit. Even when a city is perplexed because of the wicked rulings of its leaders, God has the last Word. And He speaks it, most often, through people who are yielded to Him, committed to His glory--and under His authority.