In a display of pride and bravado, King Ahasuerus issued a command for the presence of his queen. This was not the gesture of a kind, caring husband who wanted his wife to meet his friends. Rather, this was Mr. Big planning a show-and-tell for his friends in which everything was calculated to indicate his majesty, might, and significance. Josephus, the Jewish historian, records that it was a violation of the Persian code of ethics for a man’s wife to be the occasion of observation or approbation of any other men. The king, then, was breaking the bounds of propriety in every way.
There was a progression in the king’s behavior. The wine had gone to his head, and he made an ill-thought summons to his wife. When she refused to come, he became enraged. He then sought the advice of those around him, who only pandered to his ego. He could have paused to consider if their advice was proper in relation to the laws of the land or to the queen and his esteem for her—but instead, his anger and weak will led him to a quick, foolish decision. Earlier that morning, if someone had told the king that by midnight he would have banished the queen from his life forever, he probably would have thought it impossible. But still he did it. A big ego, too much alcohol, a quick temper, and bad advice led to an outcome he surely never desired.
Three years after he had deposed the queen and fresh off a disappointing military campaign against the Greeks, we read that “the anger of King Ahasuerus had abated,” and “he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what had been decreed against her” (Esther 2:1). He was bruised in his ego and saddened by his past—a picture of the empty sorrow of someone who has pursued everyone and everything, and particularly his own agenda, at the expense of the living God (Ecclesiastes 4:7-8). King Ahasuerus’ experience serves as a warning to us that in a moment of foolish passion, we, too, can alter and diminish, or even destroy, our lives forever.
There is a path that seems right, but we are told that in the end it leads to emptiness and death (Proverbs 14:12). As you face decisions, be quick to ask yourself whether your ego, your temper, false friends or overconsumption are guiding you; and be equally quick to look to the Savior to guide you in the way of wisdom, along the narrow road that leads to fullness of life (Matthew 7:13-14).
Nebuchadnezzar's Golden Image
1King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits1 and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. 2Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 3Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” 7Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
The Fiery Furnace
8Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. 9They declared2 to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. 11And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. 12There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
13Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. 14Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good.3 But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”
16Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.4 18But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
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