Sin begets sin.
As surely as man begets man, beasts beget beasts, birds beget birds, and fist beget fish, sin brings forth more sin. And on this earth, as fertile soil, sin develops until, as Paul writes in II Thessalonians 2:3, it has brought forth the man of sin, the son of perdition. Or, if you will, and as John calls him in I John 2:18, the Antichrist, who will appear and bring sin to its horrible climax.
There was an antichrist—a forerunner of the Antichrist to come, the man of sin in his final, dreadful form—in the day of shadows that saw Esther as queen through a series of sinful deeds. That antichrist was king Ahasuerus, and his sins set the stage for another antichrist whose name was Haman, and who did all in his power to seek to keep the Christ from being born, and to wipe the Church of Christ from off the earth. Let us take note of this series of sins as sin thrived and brought forth abundant fruit in the realm of the Medes and the Persians.
King Ahasuerus, moved by the spirit of alcohol, ordered his wife to display her beauty to the men whom he was entertaining. The sin of intoxication, even though it did not cause him to lose his rationality, did affect him enough to stir him to an act he would not have committed had he not imbibed. We read of that in Esther 1:10. “When the heart of the king was merry with wine he commanded” his seven chamberlains to bring Vashti the queen “to show the people and the princes her beauty.” She must, according to the king’s command appear with the crown royal. O, yes, all must see that this beautiful woman was his possession. The sin of taking too much wine leads to an open display of sinful pride and gratification of his fleshly ambitions.
There is no evidence that he demanded any immoral display of her body. Verse 11 says that she was fair to look on. And this can be translated “of a good countenance.” And wearing the crown royal certainly suggests that she had queenly apparel on above and beyond that crown. We had better not read into the passage what is not stated or suggested.
Therefore, although the king’s sins set the stage for Vashti’s sin, we must not try to defend Vashti, when Scripture gives no indication that she refused in order to walk uprightly. We do well to look at what is stated, and thus at what those said who were present at the time, and lived in that day. The king’s wise men called her deed one of contempt and wrath. And they were not afraid that the women in the land, hearing of Vashti’s deed, would become too chaste and spurn all sensuous advances.
Scripture declares that it was her facial beauty that the king wanted revealed to the people and princes. And we must conclude that Vashti was not concerned with sin before God. Her refusal to do as the king said was not based on a conviction of what Peter and John said in Acts 5:29, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” No, she had contempt for this drinking husband of hers, who, with a heart merry because of wine, ordered her to show her beauty. And she hated this man! She hated him not simply for this demand, but had no love for him long before this day.
Vashti was a proud woman. Consider that exceptional gifts, that is, natural gifts of God’s providence, whether that be a fair countenance, musical abilities, athletic prowess, mental brilliancy and the like, because of our depraved natures make us proud. Instead of being filled with thankfulness and of striving to use that gift to the utmost to God’s glory, we elevate ourselves above those given other talents, as though we got these by our own strength or wisdom. A woman with physical beauty, therefore, likes to display it and welcomes opportunities to get the praise, the looks and the oohs and aahs of men, and even the jealous looks of other women. To be the best, the most talented, the most beautiful among others, our flesh wants, and not to hide but to display. (Yes, to be the most popular, or best liked preacher also throbs in the breast of those called to be humble servants to God and of His people.) We may, therefore, believe that Vashti, with all that exceptional beauty, delighted in having it seen and in having the applause, if not even loud murmurs and cryings of approval and praise.
She enjoyed being queen. That was one redeeming feature of being the wife of this man whom she despised. The rich clothing, the luxuries of her palace were not to be frowned upon but to be enjoyed by the flesh. The word contempt can be translated loathe, despise. And the word wrath can be translated, and is so translated in Deuteronomy 29:28, as indignation. Put the two together and you see what her attitude was toward her husband, the king. She loathed him and was indignant about past deeds. This request, and opportunity to get the praise of men, did not bring such strong feelings toward a man she loved and respected. One request would not bring such vehement reaction. And love would have excused him because he was “merry with wine,” or at least have done his bidding—since she was not concerned with God’s law—and at the first opportunity requested him never to do such a thing again.
The king likewise was proud. And is not the sinner, no matter who he may be, always a proud creature? Sin is an act of pride. It always is. In every sin, without exception, man exalts himself above God, and in every sin man reveals himself to be so haughty that he dares to disobey and defy the living God! The proud, whom God sees afar off and resists, according to James 4:6 andI Peter 5:5, in his sinful acts declares that there is no God, and that He Who claims to be God is not in actuality. The God upon Whom he depends for every breath of life, and on Whose earth he walks, he denies and defies. Is that not pride? Conceit of the worst sort? Before men that sinner may be meek and humble, but before God he is proud. In his proud mind the sinner says, “He Who calls Himself God is wrong. He has forbidden me a good thing. He has no right to deny me this pleasure. I may do this that He calls evil. What He does not want me to do, I may do; and to show you that He is not God, I will do it!” He says that also in his sinful deed. Is that not pride? But remember that you say that in every sin; and I reveal it in every transgression of God’s law. Though men may call us meek and humble, the question is, “What does God say of our thoughts and works?”
And king Ahasuerus responded in a proud way to Vashti’s act of pride. He did not respond in a righteous indignation, claiming that she went contrary to the Fifth Commandment and dishonored one whom God placed over her. Humility would have moved him to reconsider his request of her, and driven him to search the Scriptures to see whether he had sinned against the living God. But pride does not do that. Pride always says, “I can do no wrong. The other fellow is wrong.” And as I pointed out a moment ago, that is what we say about God every time we sin. We think He is wrong in demanding of us that we conform to His law. We in our deeds say that He is not sovereign and has no right to demand this or that of us. If we believe He is God, then in humility we say, “Teach me, O Lord, Thy way of truth.” We echo the words of Jesus, “I come to do Thy will, O Lord.” And Ahasuerus did not do that. In pride he ordered his wise men to advise him as to what must be done to Vashti, not what confession Ahasuerus must make. That too, of course, is pride, to refuse to confess sin and to demand a confession from those against whom you sinned.
And so we see that the sin of drinking too much wine moved the king to a sinful command for his wife. This led to a sinful reaction on her part. The king continues to walk in his sin and seeks advice from sinful men to maintain himself in his evil way. Step by step he proceeds until he takes that clearer step of sin in that he divorces his lawful wife, who was not guilty of adultery, and for whose divorce he can find absolutely no Scriptural ground. But then pride does not want to look for God’s will, and know what pleases Him. Soon it is the next sinful step that he marries another woman and lives in adultery with her. That little seed of sin consisting in drinking that brightly colored wine in such a graceful drinking vessel has sent forth a tree with branches, leaves, and fruit. For there is more coming out of that sin. Mordecai and Esther are drawn into this chain of sinful deeds. Be patient and we will show that. But their sin sets the stage for Haman to plan his dastardly deed of having the Jews killed, and in that way to prevent the birth of the Meek and Humble Savior of mankind. No, Haman did not have that in mind. But that would have been the fruit of his sin.
But to return to the line of the story. Too much contempt and wrath? Is there an amount that is allowed? It does sound as though Vashti had shown a measure of contempt and wrath before this time. There may have been previous nasty encounters between the king and the queen. Contempt could have been building up while the king had his one hundred and fourscore days of feasting; and wrath may have been building up by his celebration and boastful display of his majesty. In all this she was given no part. And now for his satisfaction, with his royal crown, she must display her beauty before his drunken friends?!
At any rate, there was too much contempt now. And there always is too much contempt when man sins. There was too much when Adam committed his first sin. One sin is too much! For just that one sin God sent forth a world of curses and prepared a lake of everlasting fire. It was not after a multitude of sins that God drove Adam out of paradise, among thorns and thistles and away from the tree of life. And we must not deceive ourselves today into thinking that one sin is not too bad. One sin is too much contempt of God and too much hatred towards Him!
But consider that Satan is at work here. He had been at work for a long time before this incident. Through the years he has had a bumper crop of sin. Esther and Mordecai find themselves in Shushan, and not in the land of Canaan, because Satan succeeded in leading the Kingdom of Judah into idolatry. And God brought the nation into captivity. While the seed of Abraham is under the rule of heathen nations, Satan’s devilish plan to prevent the birth of the Christ seems on the threshold of being fulfilled. He, who in heaven was filled with pride (I Timothy 3:6), seems on the verge of succeeding in the proud work of keeping God from fulfilling His promise to His church, namely, The Seed of the woman Who would save us from Satan’s power.
And why is this history recorded and preserved for us? As we saw in that opening statement of the book, all things come to pass out of God’s counsel. And although there is too much contempt and hatred against God in the world, He has too much mercy and sovereign grace in His Son to let Satan succeed. God Himself has too much contempt and hatred of Satan and his evil works to let him succeed in keeping His elect church under his evil rule. He has too much love for His own to let the abundance of evil in the world keep Him from saving all His elect, and reveals this by sending His Son in the weakness of our flesh, and pretty soon in the glory of His kingdom. All will work together for good to those that love God, because God eternally loved them.