Chairman's Message - A Tale of Two Queens
by Rev. Eu Hong Seng - NECF Malaysia Chairman
AFTER enduring oppressive rule by the Babylonians brought about by their own sins, idolatry and refusal to listen to the prophets, the Israelites' persecution continued under their new Medo-Persian masters. It was during this period that Esther emerged on the scene to bear influence upon the regime of the day to save God's recalcitrant people from destruction.
The book of Esther depicts literal events from which we can draw parallels on the relationship between the King of Kings and His bride, the Church.
In the first two chapters, we read of the tale of two queens - Queen Vashti and Queen Esther. These characters appropriately serve as a precursor to the two brides mentioned in Revelation - the Harlot Church and the True Bride.
It began with the feast hosted by King Ahasuerus (Xerxes). The King's objective throughout the feast was to show off "the riches of his glorious kingdom and the splendor of his excellent majesty" (Esther 1:4). His realm was indeed vast: 127 provinces stretching from Ethiopia to India, covering the greatest portion of civilization. The feast lasted 180 days! One grand week of festivities at the palace was held at the close of the feast, for both the rich and poor, all at the king's expense. The grand finale of the whole event was to be the presentation of what he treasured most - his queen. Queen Vashti was to come before the king wearing the royal crown and the finest royal garments that the king had provided for her to show his people and the princes her beauty. But she refused (1:12).
Vashti was the king's wife, but she refused to wear his crown before him. She refused to wear his royal apparel before him. She refused to show her beauty to the people and the princes. Her insolence causes the feast to unexpectedly end in chaos. The king was more than dismayed - he was angry1.
Similarly, the modern day Church has been ignoring God's call to His bride to come before Him "without spot or wrinkle." Like Queen Vashti, she has no deep honour for the King and her refusal to come reveals an ignorance of the consequence of "contempt and wrath" in the kingdom2.
Vashti had status, but was imprudent about her relationship with authority. She had beauty, but did not possess the attractiveness of submission. She had counselors, but was not able to receive wise counsel. She had royalty, but had no sense of destiny. She had everything, but carelessly forgot that her king was sovereign. What an indictment that day was on the queen's attitude.
Consider young Esther when she was brought into the king's household. In the palace, she was given whatever she needed to please the king and to potentially become queen. She was given things for purification, received new belongings, provided with seven maidens to assist her and stayed in the best place in the house (2:9).
Her preparation to become queen took a year (2:12). If it takes a year to become a queen for an earthly kingdom, should we be surprised of the extended seasons of maturity tests, and the many spiritual battles that the Church has to undergo, in order to be prepared to become the Bride of the King of kings in the everlasting kingdom?
After the preparation, came the evaluation by the king (2: 15-17). When Esther went in, we are told that "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" (2:17).
Esther's secret - her hidden life of faith. She could transcend the material trappings - the food, drink and costume. Surrounded as she was by the luxuries of palace life, she maintained her Jewish faith. As queen, she had access to the riches of an entire kingdom and could have easily chosen to give up her identity for the sake of riches. Instead, she kept God's law in secret and, ultimately, risked her life in order to save her people.
Esther's character - her hidden beauty. Scriptures tell us that Esther was unaffected by her own physical beauty and that she was extremely modest. The word "beautiful" is used four times in the book of Esther and the word "beauty" is used three times. Once in the palace as a candidate to marry the King, Esther had one year's access to the latest and most elaborate beauty treatments. While other female contestants indulged, Esther accepted only the minimum prescribed treatments. She did not aspire to either the title or the comfort that would soon be thrust upon her. Instead, Esther wanted only to understand why God had placed her in such a difficult position, and what service He wanted of her. As such, Esther used her modesty to maintain her simplicity, successfully avoiding the distractions of vanity.
Esther's destiny - a hidden vehicle for redemption. While in captivity as a Persian queen, Esther prayed for the redemption of the Jews and spoke boldly to the King on behalf of the people3.
Esther risked her life to maintain her faith in God4. She ultimately triumphed, in great part, because she knew when to speak out and when to remain silent.
Esther was no pretty ding-a-ling who got her way by crass manipulation. She was a woman who made an impact on the nation like no other, because the king loved her more than any other (2:17). That was to be her biggest edge. She did mighty things, not because she was queen, but because the king loved her.
So, is the Church in our nation more like Queen Vashti or Queen Esther? Today, God is calling His Church to be His obedient bride who will bring glory to the Lord. But all too often, the Church clearly lacks comeliness, no thanks in part to her tactless outbursts in the name of social injustice and her continued stubborn insubordination, like Vashti's.
The Bride of Christ needs to repent.
The New Testament is full of exhortations to the saints on what we are to put on - the garments at the wedding feast5, the armour of light6, the new man7, tender mercies, kindness, humility, love8 - to be ready for the crowns that will be bestowed.
The King wants His Bride to be sanctified, washed and cleansed, and finally crowned. If she refuses to show her beauty to all; if she refuses to wear the royal crown and clothes provided; if she refuses to show that she is changed, beautified, and prepared to live as the Bride of Christ in a glorious kingdom, what would happen then? Vashti disobeyed the king to her detriment. The modern-day church could face a similar fate.
Is it not time for the Church to "ubah"? We need to come back to a place of obeying and honouring God, watching our conduct before all. The litmus test rests on whether our God loves us, like the way Ahasuerus loved Esther. That would be the difference between the Harlot Church and the True Bride.
One bride is presumptuous; the other is ready to enter in. The harlot is lost in her own beauty; the other has a different beauty that the King desires. One, like the foolish virgins, is cast out; the other like the wise virgins, enters in with the Groom. One cannot be commanded to come; the other desires to enter although the sceptre has yet to be extended. One, the people are happy to see rid of (they celebrated the departure of Vashti); the other, they joyfully celebrated.
Which Queen, then, shall we be?
1 Esther 1:12
2 Esther 1:18
3 Esther 4:16
4 Esther 7: 3-5
5 Parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22
6 Romans 13:12
7 Colossians 3:10
8 Colossians 3:12-14