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Now (1) In the 80s, there was a southern-rock band that reached prominence named .38 Special. One of the band’s hit songs was entitled “So Caught Up In You.” The focus of the song was a relationship with a girl, but have you ever known those people whose theme song could be this one if the words were changed just a little? There are some whose theme song could be “So Caught Up In Me” (Personal Illustration). B. Then (1) Obviously, this song theme song could have applied to Xerxes, the king of Persia. (2) Xerxes threw a six-month-long party in order to show off his power and wealth, and well as to generate support for his next military campaign. (3) By placing his own selfish desires first, he was publicly humiliated by his wife Vashti. C. Always (1) The central idea that we gather from Esther 1:1-12 is that placing ourselves before others always creates problems. (2) To help us not to place ourselves before others, I want to share with you two actions that we need to take. (3) First, don’t self-exalt. D. Read Esther 1:1-9. 1
II. Don’t Self-Exalt. A. Exposition (1) Ahasuerus (Hebrew; pronounced Ahashweerush; TNIVAC, 59) was the king of Persian, ruling from India to southern Egypt (“Cush”; v. 1; HCSB, 1178). (a) The Greek form of his Persian name was Xerxes, and he ruled from 486-465 BC (EBC, 797). (b) Xerxes was the son of Darius I, which was the king that permitted the rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple (Ibid.). (c) Unfortunately for Xerxes, he was murdered by a court official in order to throne his son, Artaxerxes I (Ibid.). (2) At the time this historical account was written, Xerxes was ruling from the summer palace in Susa, which was one of four royal palaces (v. 2; Ibid., 798). (a) Therefore, the time frame must have been winter, for Susa was the winter capital (Ibid.). (b) It was recorded about Susa that the summers were so hot that if a lizard crossed the roadway, it would cook before it could get off (Ibid.). (3) While at the fortress of Susa, Xerxes held a feast in the third year of his reign that lasted half a year (vv. 3-4; Ibid.). (a) As many as 15,000 guests (recorded in Jewish history books) composed of local officials, military personnel, and conquered allies were in attendance (Ibid.). (b) The Bible teaches that Xerxes used this time to display his power and his greatness, but behind the scenes he was preparing for another assault on the 2
Greeks—a battle that Darius had lost (v. 4; TNIVAC, 59-60). (4) At the conclusion of the 180-day feast, Xerxes hosted a “banquet” in the courtyard of the palace for the guests already in attendance and for all the residents of Susa (v. 5). (a) Archaeologists have confirmed the opulence of the palace that the Bible describes in verses 5-7 (EBC, 799). (b) The Jewish Targum, a commentary-like history book, indicates that the goblets used by the Persians were those captured by Nebuchadnezzar from the temple in Jerusalem (Ibid.). (c) The goblets were vital, for the Persians included the consumption of alcohol in deciding matters of the state, and Xerxes was hoping to go to war (TNIVAC, 67). 1. There was no restraint placed on the amount each man could consume, for Xerxes wanted a favorable response (v. 8). (5) At the same time Xerxes was conducting a banquet for the men, Vashti was hosting one for the women of Susa (v. 9). (a) Separation was not required in the Persian culture, but this may indicate the division between Vashti and Xerxes (EBC, 799). B. Illustration (1) Ultimately however, this passage focuses on the attitude arrogant attitude of Xerxes, who arrogantly displayed his wealth in order to promote his agenda of war, no matter how many lives it would cost. There is always a 3
danger involved when we try to impress others in order to promote ourselves. There’s a story about a businessman who spotted Lee Iacocca while dining in a fancy restaurant. “Mr. Iacocca,” the man said, “You are the American business hero. I’ve studied your career and any success I’ve had I owe completely to you. Would you do me a favor? I’m with some colleagues. Could you please come by my table and say, ‘Hello, Harry,’ and let me introduce you? It would mean so much to me.” Iacocca agreed. He waited for the man to sit down and then walked toward his table. One of the men sitting at Harry’s table said, “I don’t believe it! There’s Lee Iacocca, and he’s heading this way!” Iacocca came up to the table and said, “Hello, Harry. Introduce me to your friends.” Harry looked up at Iacocca as if greatly disturbed by the interruption and impatiently said, “Come back later, Lee. We’re trying to have lunch.” Needless to say, this man did not advance his career in the long run (The Story File, 28). C. Application (1) Wait for others to point out our accomplishments and achievements. (a) Very few people enjoy being in the presence of a boastful person. (b) In fact, the apostle Paul taught the Philippian church (3:8) that nothing we have accomplished on our own is worth boasting about in the first place. (c) If God has blessed us by allowing us to achieve a certain level of success in our professions, or in education, or financially, then let’s just be thankful for the success and not have to point it out to others. (2) Emphasize what God has done for us instead of exalting what we have accumulated. 4
(a) There is nothing wrong with a believer having some nice possessions, as long as those possessions do not become the passion of that believer. (b) Pursuing Christ-likeness is to be our passion. (c) Pleasing God is to be our passion. (d) Attaining material possessions is never to become our passion. (e) Along side someone who boasts about their achievements, the one who is just as offensive is the one who points out all the things that they have. (f) Instead of falling prey to worldly desires such as this, let’s maintain our self-control. D. Read Esther 1:10-12. III.Maintain Self-Control. A. Exposition (1) At the end of the week-long banquet, the constant consumption of wine had taken its toll of Xerxes, and he commanded seven of his eunuchs to go and retrieve Queen Vashti wearing her royal crown (vv. 10-11). (a) The number seven was sacred to the Persians as it is prominent to Jews and Christians, but in this instance, the number probably represents the men needed to transport her on the portable throne (EBC, 800). (b) However, there were a couple of problems with the scenario: 1. First, Xerxes himself did not go and request the queen’s presence, but felt his communication through others was enough. 2. Second, he didn’t necessarily desire her company for his own sake, but instead, because he wanted to show her off like a trophy (Ibid.). 5
3. Third, many Jewish documents reveal that he commanded her to come wearing nothing but the crown in order to impress his drunken allies (EBC, 800). (2) The Bible doesn’t specify why she refused, but Vashti did not present herself to the king when summoned (v. 12; Ibid.). (a) This would have been a great blow to the ego of Xerxes (Ibid.) in addition to being an extreme embarrassment for a man trying to display his power (TNIVAC, 68). (b) Therefore, there is no wonder that he was filled with rage at the refusal of his wife. B. Illustration (1) Xerxes lack of self-control in the consumption of alcohol led to him making unreasonable demands of Vashti, which led further to Xerxes even less selfcontrol over his temper. Some stories make very clear the importance of self-control. In December 1993, a 32-year-old-man in Buenos Aires died of overeating. At death he weighed 660 pounds. Five days before he died, he ate an entire pig for dinner, which put him in the hospital intensive care ward. To carry him to the hospital, doctors had to call the town’s fire brigade for assistance. Any appetite that’s out of control is dangerous, whether it is the appetite for food, sex, money, or recognition (750 Engaging Illustrations, 653). C. Application (1) Stop commanding others, and ask instead.
(a) Part of being self-controlled is not forcing our desires on others. (b) Yes, there are some limits to this, especially when it comes to parenting, because there are some absolute rights and wrongs. (c) Yet, when it comes to our day to day relationships with others, we must value their opinions, ideas, and emotions, and not just impose ours onto them. (2) Avoid those things that contribute to the loss of selfcontrol. (a) The use of alcohol contributed to Xerxes already self-centered problem. (b) That is why the refrain from alcohol consumption is the best course of action. (c) Alcohol changes our inhibitions and definitely limits our self-control. (d) But there are many other situations that test our self control like: 1. Watching questionable television shows when no one is there to hold us accountable. 2. Surfing the web without any form of popup blockers and obscene site filtering. 3. Continuing to go shopping when there aren’t cash funds to pay for purchases and credit cards are not paid off. 4. Listening to someone gossip about another. 5. Focusing on the things that we like as opposed to what is good for the whole. IV. Conclusion A. Summary
(1) When we maintain our self-control and we don’t exalt ourselves, we stand a much better chance of placing others before us. (2) This is vital, for placing ourselves before others always creates problems.
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