By Bryan Ho
The devotional series on the book of Proverbs has been going on for a couple of weeks now via Zoom meeting. Various brethren have shared and expounded from different scriptures and the primary focus is on the subject of wisdom. One very important aspect of wisdom is making good decisions. One of our goals in life should be to become people who make good choices because a lot rides on the choices we make. The course our life takes, to a large degree, depends on the choices we make.
The book of Esther tells us about two kinds of choices and two kinds of people; people who make wise choices and people who make bad choices. Let’s begin with the decision-making track record of King Ahasuerus and what we can learn from it. Esther 2:1-4
“1 After these things, when the wrath of King Ahasuerus subsided, he remembered Vashti, what she had done, and what had been decreed against her. 2 Then the king’s servants who attended him said: “Let beautiful young virgins be sought for the king;
3 and let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom, that they may gather all the beautiful young virgins to Shushan the citadel, into the women’s quarters, under the custody of Hegai the king’s eunuch, custodian of the women. And let beauty preparations be given them. 4 Then let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.” This thing pleased the king, and he did so.”
What had been decreed against Vashti? What had happened four years ago? (cf chapter 1:3 with chapter 2:16). Queen Vashti was banished from the king’s presence and had her royal position taken away from her – by none other than the king himself. What were the circumstances that led to this act? Let’s revisit. From chapter 1, the relevant verses are these: –
5 And when these days were completed, the king made a feast lasting seven days for all the people who were present in Shushan the citadel, from great to small, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace. 7 And they served drinks in golden vessels, each vessel being different from the other, with royal wine in abundance, according to the generosity of the king. 10 On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus,
11 to bring Queen Vashti before the king, wearing her royal crown, in order to show her beauty to the people and the officials, for she was beautiful to behold. 12 But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command brought by his eunuchs; therefore the king was furious, and his anger burned within him. 13 Then the king said to the wise men who understood the times (for this was the king’s manner toward all who knew law and justice,
14 those closest to him being Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, who had access to the king’s presence, and who ranked highest in the kingdom): 15 “What shall we do to Queen Vashti, according to law, because she did not obey the command of King Ahasuerus brought to her by the eunuchs?”
16 And Memucan answered before the king and the princes: “Queen Vashti has not only wronged the king, but also all the princes, and all the people who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. 17 For the queen’s behavior will become known to all women, so that they will despise their husbands in their eyes, when they report, ‘King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought in before him, but she did not come.’
18 This very day the noble ladies of Persia and Media will say to all the king’s officials that they have heard of the behavior of the queen. Thus there will be excessive contempt and wrath. 19 If it pleases the king, let a royal decree go out from him, and let it be recorded in the laws of the Persians and the Medes, so that it will not be altered, that Vashti shall come no more before King Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she. 2
20 When the king’s decree which he will make is proclaimed throughout all his empire (for it is great), all wives will honor their husbands, both great and small.” 21 And the reply pleased the king and the princes, and the king did according to the word of Memucan.
Subsequently, the king regretted his rash actions but one of the peculiar points of Persian law was, once an order was enacted it could not be rescinded (Est 1:19). It is good to know that God does not operate this way! He doesn’t change the consequences of our actions but He does give us second chances to make good choices!
Through His providence, we can make new and better choices. Coming back to the account of King Ahasuerus, since the King cannot undo his rash decision to get rid of Queen Vashti, his counselors suggested gathering the most beautiful women in the empire to find a suitable replacement for her.
They are probably quick to suggest this because, if the king did try to bend the Persian tradition and go against his own decree by restoring Vashti to the throne, this would mean that the counselors gave the wrong advice in the first place and they would most likely be punished severely. After all, they were the ones who suggested that she be deposed. This sequence of events brings us to the first point of decision-making.
1. Be cautious of advice from biased parties
If you are going to make a major purchase, do not take everything the salesman says at face value. Read up on the item you are thinking about purchasing. In this day and age, comments and reviews from consumers are easily available on the internet. Many of them are actual users of the product, therefore they are less biased. The bottom line here is that it is always wise to consider the source of your advice. Getting advice is good, getting it from the wrong source leads to failure and regret.
2. Do not base decisions on outward appearance alone.
The recommendation of the king’s counselors was to basically pick the prettiest girl to be his next wife. The only criterion for choosing the next queen given by the counselors was that they were young and beautiful (Est 2:3). Consider these passages. 1 Pet 3:3,4 “3 Do not let your adornment be merely outward–arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel 4 rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” Yes, Esther was beautiful on the outside, but so were all the other young women who were in consideration to be the next queen. May I suggest to you that God did not work behind the scenes in Esther’s life to make her queen because she was outwardly beautiful – but because of her good character.
God does not see the same way as people see. 1 Sam 16:7 “7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.“
Pro 31:30 “30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”
2 Cor 4:18 “while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
In making vital decisions, not just with choosing a spouse, we are easily tempted into believing that external appearances are the most important. They are not. God wants us to look beneath the surface! When we decide where to live, where to work, making purchases and yes, relationships, these decisions need to be on the basis of character, integrity, and principle, not window shopping. The single most important question to ask ourselves is, does this please God? Or do we do as we please?
3. Consider the needs of others
Learn from Mordecai how to make good decisions. Mordecai adopted Esther as his own daughter when her parents died. This was clearly a selfless act. It was an act of love. They were living in exile in a foreign country at that time. How often do we make decisions based solely on what the outcome will mean to us? Do we then only do certain things when we stand to gain and profit from it and if we are not the main beneficiaries, then we would not want to have a part in it?
We have arrived at mature decision-making when we take into consideration the effect of our choices on others. What does the Bible say?
Phil 4:5 “Let your gentleness be known to all men”
Phil 2:3,4 “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Tit 3:2 “to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.”
1 Pet 3:7 “ Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.”
1 Cor 10:24 “Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.”
1 Cor 10:33 “just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.”
Gal 6:9 “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”
4. Practise teachability
Esther had been taken to the palace and given the beauty treatments and she had become a favourite of the custodian in charge of the young ladies being considered for the queen of Persia. She was also given maidservants and the best place in the house. Esther 2:8,9 “8 So it was, when the king’s command and decree were heard, and when many young women were gathered at Shushan the citadel, under the custody of Hegai, that Esther also was taken to the king’s palace, into the care of Hegai the custodian of the women. 9 Now the young woman pleased him, and she obtained his favor; so he readily gave beauty preparations to her, besides her allowance. Then seven choice maidservants were provided for her from the king’s palace, and he moved her and her maidservants to the best place in the house of the women.”
Each young woman can choose whatever she desired to take with her from the women’s quarters to the king’s palace, so when it was Esther’s turn to be presented to the king, she asked for only what Hegai suggested she should take. Esther 2:15-17 “Now when the turn came for Esther the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her as his daughter, to go in to the king, she requested nothing but what Hegai the king’s eunuch, the custodian of the women, advised. And Esther obtained favor in the sight of all who saw her. So Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus, into his royal palace, in the tenth month, which is the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign. The king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins; so he set the royal crown upon her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.”
What was it about Esther that made the king choose her? For one, we know God was involved. Pro 21:1 “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.” God chooses people to carry out His plans because He sees they have the right attitudes as well as aptitudes. The quality that stands out most about Esther is her teachability. She was open to the suggestion of the king’s eunuch. We do not know what he told her to take to the king. All we know is it must have been good advice. And just as Esther had followed Mordecai’s advice earlier not to reveal her Jewish blood, she now follows the eunuch’s advice.
We began by talking about being cautious of advice from biased parties. But do not make the mistake of going to the other extreme and not be willing to take any advice at all. Choose the right people from whom to take advice but practice teachability. Choose people who love you and have proven their willingness to make sacrifices for you. Choose people who have experience in an area like Esther chose the eunuch’s advice. Lastly, do not make the mistake of thinking we do not have anything to learn from others. This entails being humble. 1 Pet 5:5 “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”
Pro 12:15 “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But he who heeds counsel is wise.”
Pro 11:14 ”Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.”
Pro 13:10 “By pride comes nothing but strife, But with the well-advised is wisdom.”
Pro 19:20 “Listen to counsel and receive instruction, That you may be wise in your latter days.”
Pro 15:31-33 “The ear that hears the rebukes of life Will abide among the wise. He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, But he who heeds rebuke gets understanding. The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom, And before honor is humility.”