Monday, November 9, 2009
Vashti: Called to Step Down?
The book of Esther introduces us to one woman before we meet the star of the story. Meet Vashti, the queen of Persia. We meet her in the midst of celebration. While King Ahauserus was having a party for the men in the kingdom, Vashti was hosting her own banquet for the women.
Ahauserus called to Vashti to come and dance for his crowd because he wanted to show off her beauty (Esther 1:11). However, Vashti refused. With one act, Vashti had not only broken the law of the land by disobeying the king, but she had defied the rule of the home by being defiant to her husband.
The king and his men gathered to discuss what her punishment should be. Quickly, the fear among them became that all women would follow the example of Vashti and begin going against their husbands. It appears all of Persia was affected by the example of the queen. The men made a quick decision to banish Vashti from her throne and seek another queen. Because of one decision the king did not like, Vashti’s royal position was up for grabs.
I'll admit. Whenever I've read Esther before, I've rushed through this part of the story. After all, the good part starts when my girl Esther comes on the scene. But this time...I've really had a hard time getting past Vashti. I've been asking myself one question over and over again.
Was Vashti wrong?
Maybe. She might have been wrong. Selfishly, she may have been having fun with her friends and just wanted to stay at her own party. But what if that wasn't her motive? What if her response was out of respect for herself and the created purpose of a woman?
After all, the king had requested that she come dance in front of him and all of his guests. Hear me out first. While I agree that wives are called to submit to their husbands, I also know that Vashti was a human being, created in God’s image. I don’t think complying to her husband’s demands to dance in front of him and his drunk friends (who would have nothing in their hearts for her but lust) sounds like the submission described in Scripture. Her courage to protect her dignity and purity would be admirable in this case.
On this earth, we may never know the motive behind Vashti’s actions. Scripture doesn't reveal her motive. However, from knowing the whole story of Esther, we can be sure of one thing. God didn’t need Vashti in place to save His people. He needed a Jew so He made arrangements to bring Esther into power.
But what about Vashti? She was banished into exhile in a world whee news of the deliverance of the Jews may have taken years to reach her...or may have never reached her at all. She couldn't check Esther's Facebook status update: "Just saved the Jewish nation. Guess God needed me to be queen for a reason!"
I wonder how Vashti must have felt. IF (and I stress the word IF)she did refuse the king's wishes out of spiritual conviction, how do you think it felt to be removed from your position of influence for doing the right thing? Was she bitter? Did she resent God, think He was unfair and reufse to trust Him again? Or did she know in her heart that God's plan was best, thank Him for the king choosing to banish her instead of kill her and praise Him from exhile?
I guess it's always been easier for me to relate to Esther because I've always prayed for God to use me like he used Esther. Since I read this story in elementary school, I've prayed for courage to step up. I've prayed for a position of influence so I could make a difference for him. Sure, Esther had to take risks, and she took some pretty hard knocks in life (death of both of her parents, being raised by her older cousin, etc.), but wouldn't the satisfaction of your obedience to God's plan for your life and the perks of being queen compensate for that?
Vashti's life has helped me recognize that God might not always call us to step up. Sometimes, He may call us to step down. God choosing to use someone else doesn't neccessarily mean that we did anything wrong. It just means that He knows what we cannot know. And even though it's definitely harder to accept stepping down, shouldn't we praise Him just the same for revealing Himself to a lost world...even if He uses someone else to do it?
As I have been wrestling with this, Steve Furtick, a pastor in North Carolina, eluded to this same idea with a Twitter post just last week. It simply said, "Motive check: What if God does everything you ask Him to do in your city, but He does it through someone else's ministry?" (Follow him by clicking here.)
This doesn't mean we shouldn't desire to be used like Esther. But it does mean that if instead, God calls us to step down like Vashti, we should praise him and trust Him just the same.
My prayers are different now. Instead of requesting favor, I'm asking for wisdom to trust Him in decision making. I don't want to doubt his response to my prayers. Sometimes, I will like His answer, but at other times, I'm sure I will not understand His choice. I want to fully grasp with my words and my actions that His ways are higher than my ways and His thoughts are higher than my thoughts, just as Isaiah 55:8-9 teaches.