DESERT STORM

Sermon delivered April 13, 1996

by Pastor Don Gettys, McDonald Road SDA Church, McDonald, TN

For most of my life I had absolutely no interest in the desert. In Indiana everything was green. About the closest interest I had in the desert was my sand-box. I was interested in that. Not until Desert Storm did I really get interested in the desert. And then it seemed like we were all glued to CNN. Any time we came in the house we turned on the TV to see what's going on. Saddam Hussein. What an interesting thing, and when our laser guided missles went right down their chimneys, I was just excited. I never saw anything that precise. When their SCUD missiles were introduced to our Patriots, what an exciting thing. It was great. However, now the dust has settled, the war is over, the fires are out.

But I want to take you back in the Bible to another exciting time when another desert storm brewed. In fact one whole book of the Bible is devoted to the desert and the storm that went on in that place. The bible name of Iraq was Persia. The entire book of Esther is devoted to a crisis centered in the brand new winter capital of Xerxes, called Susa, two hundred miles east of Babylon. As we investigate. we're going to gain insights into the lives of the rich and famous. There are a lot of interesting things that go on. The book of Esther records events that took place two thousand five hundred years ago. Like a sudden bolt of lightening, the book of Esther illuminates just about six years of the history of that place. We peek into the throne room of one of the greatest empires. You can see how lavish this place really was. This tremendous open house displaying the wealth of the entire kingdom.

Let's begin reading now with Esther, chapter one. This is the record of Xerxes and his big party held in the year 483 BC. Verse one. This is what happened during the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who rule over the hundred and twenty seven provinces stretching from India to Cush. At that time king Xerxes reigned his royal throne in the citadel of Susa. They had several capitals.

In the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials, the military leaders of Persia and Media and the nobles of all the provinces were present. For a full one hundred and eighty days he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and glory of his majesty. That was a long time, wasn't it? And the garden banquet at the end of this time lasted for seven days. There were rich hangings of white and blue linen with silver rings holding this up in the garden. How beautiful this must have been. Hanging from marble pillars. And couches made of gold and silver. The floor had a mosaic of costly stones. The military and all the VIP's were there. And they drank from golden goblets.

Now Xerxes was a billionaire. Why is it that when we get a lot of money we tend to consume it on ourselves? Why wasn't he out there helping his people with that money? Why is that when we get all that money we think that we can blow it? We go past the store, or we see this advertisement, and we think, "I need that gizmo. I need that little thing. I've got the money. I'll just go and buy it for myself. I could use a new one of those." What a rare thing it is to meet up with those few people when they get a lot of money they share it with others. They're liberal. They're rare. Could it be that God gives us wealth to help other people? I think so. We're going to have to let go of this world some day, and should right now be letting go, not collecting more of the world. Of course we need a retirement, and we need different things, but if we have excess, let's at least help others with it. Only what is done for Jesus will remain.

Notice verse nine. Queen Vashti also gave a banquet for the women in the royal palace of king Xerxes (Ahasuerus in the KJV). Now queen Vashti held a banquet. Do you think the women were drunk, too? The men got drunk, didn't they? It's interesting that there is only one verse about the women's banquet and there's sixteen verses about the men's banquet. Let's read something about Queen Vashti's banquet. It was a nice banquet. What a contrast to the men's feast. You can read with pleasure about the banquet of Queen Vashti. This was not a feast that was attended by a non-orderly group of promiscuous of women. It was a dignified feast given by the queen for women of rank in the kingdom. It was done in modesty, grace and courtesy and without excess. They were not drunk. They were not having that type of party. And yet it's interesting that the Bible devotes one verse to her and her banquet and sixteen verses to the men's banquet that ended up a little bit bad. We still do that, don't we?

Unfortunately something stronger than root beer and postum were served at the men's banquet. Even today the wealthy have partying as a way of life. In fact, if you read the book of Esther feasting and banqueting occurs nineteen times in this one little book.

Let's read verse ten where the real desert storm started. "On the seventh day when king Xerxes was in high spirits from wine he commanded the seven eunuchs who served him. In the high moment of the party, "Bring out Queen Vashti (in verse 11) wearing her royal crown in order to display her beauty for the people and the nobles." For she was lovely to look at. "Bring her out so we can feast our eyes on her beauty. And let her wear the crown."

Well, these seven eunuchs came out: Mehumen, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zether and Carcas. Imagine a mother naming.... "Look at my beautiful Carcas." Eunuchs are a little bit different anyway. The women were safe around these eunuchs. The king wanted to parade his wife before the drunken friends. You know, we still do a bit of that today. Too often men value the appearance of women rather than their character. Even in Barby dolls we make a statement. The good looks are the highest value. Good looks are fine. There's nothing wrong with beauty. Men and women should honor each other, though, for value, for integrity, for Christ-likeness, for industry. You should choose a wife with your ears first and then your eyes. Beauty is great, but character will last.

And so the king said, "Bring out Vashti so we can gaze on her beauty." Now this request places the wife in a difficult position. She knew the mind of her drunken husband was at half mast. He was about a quart low or maybe several quarts high, however you want to say it. You know what Vashti did? Vashti operated with a pure conscience. She thought that when her husband came to himself he would commend her for her decision. She knew wine had been freely used and it was for her husband's sake as well as her own that she refused to go. That's an interesting thing, isn't it. In other words, she wasn't drunk and he was and she was trying to save him from something she thought would bring disgrace to him. So it was for his benefit. She loved him. She loved her husband. Now I don't hold up Vashti as some saint, but she acted out of a pure conscience. She loved him. And yet, I want to tell you, she got divorced for doing it. Sometimes the innocent people get divorced, don't they? Vashti refused her husband's demand. Do you think Vashti did wrong? I don't.

I think we need to put God first. I can respect her thinking. Her husband seemed to value her as an object of beauty (verse 11); to be put on display rather than as a person whose worth emanated from her character. And I think it's time men stopped devaluating women. And I think it's time women stopped nagging men. It's time that we stopped dragging each other down, and it's time that we started loving and admiring each other for the good that we find in each other. We shouldn't be criticizing each other, neither of us.

So what happened? Esther 1, verse 12 says this: "But when the attendants delivered the king's command, Queen Vashti refused to come." What did the king do? "The king became furious and burned with anger." Now that's pretty upset isn't it. A little bit upset there. He just burned with anger. He was terribly upset. And when he got mad, you need to watch out for him, because Persian history tells us that actually Xerxes was a very cruel king. One time at the Hellespont there by the seaside a huge storm came up. This was a monster storm and it came in and ruined all of his ships. And it also knocked down the bridges in portions of the harbor and also inland. Devastated the area. You know what Xerxes did? He commanded his soldiers to go out and give the sea three hundred lashes. Whip the sea! Spank it!! Inflict wounds on the sea for what it did to his property. And then he turned to his mechanics who built those ships and who built those bridges and beheaded them. Nobody crossed Xerxes. When he said, "Jump." You said, "How high?" And Vashti said, "I'm not going to display this type of thing before you."

So notice, now, verse 13, It was customary for the king to consult experts in matters of law and justice, he spoke with the wise-men who understood the laws. The king consulted with his counsellors. This was in the third year of the king and what he was basically trying to do; there was a big war looming with the Greeks on the horizon, and so king Xerxes was trying to inebriate all of his generals as military men, and say, "Okay, now that you're in your right mind do you think we can do this? We can do it." And, you know, the Greeks won the battle. The Persians were decimated.

Wine gives you a false sense of ability. I want to tell you, Brothers and Sisters, if you drink, you are setting yourself up for a bad fall. You can believe that. You can be sure of that. Don't drink.

Xerxes was hoping to impress these military leaders with his power and his wealth and here he couldn't even rule his wife, and if he can't rule his wife, how can he rule the kingdom? So he's in a bad problem here. So he says, "Bring in the wise men."

It's interesting that the Bible says that the wise men understood the times. Understood the laws, understood the times. Wise-men should understand the times. I think wise people, as Seventh-day Adventists living in these last days, we need to understand the times in which we live. Are you aware that the world is about to have its sixth thousandth birthday? Do you realize that Jesus could come right now? This could be it! You look at what's happening over there in Israel and Lebanon. You look at what's happening around the world... I believe the signs of Matthew 24 are being fulfilled. The gospel is going to all the world. I think the end is right here! I believe we're ready to go. We need to understand the times. And we need to understand Jesus Christ.

Xerxes sat on the throne, he wore the crown, and yet notice that most of the decisions were made by his cabinet. He said to the cabinet, "What do you think I should do about Vashti?" and the said, "Well, do this." and He said, "Okay, I'll do it." He didn't make very many decisions.

In Esther 1, verse 16, 17 and 18, you can read about the counsellors. The chief counsellor was Memucan. He said, "You know, you've got a bad problem on your hands. Your wife won't obey you and soon word's going to get out and all the women in your whole kingdom in the whole world, this is a world-wide kingdom, all the women are going to take over if we don't come down on this one. We're going to be ruled by the women."

Do you agree with his conclusion? Should the men rule their own homes. That's what it says here, "Let the men rule their own homes." Should we? Yes we should. But not as a Adolf Hitler bully. How should we rule our own home? Just like Jesus Christ rules the church. That's how. Men are not to rule their home like Adolf Hitler, like some dictator, like Saddam Hussein. I don't known how he rules his home, exactly, but I've heard some things. What we need to do is rule our homes like Jesus Christ rules His church. And how does Jesus rule His church? Jesus gave His life for His church. Men, we aught to be willing to give our life for our wife. Jesus loves the church. Jesus set an example before the church. That's what we aught to do. Jesus prays for the church. We respect Jesus. He is respectable. We need to be respectable. Men, be the spiritual leader of your home. If you're married, you need to be the leader, you need to be like Jesus, you need to be the spiritual high priest of your house.

Now when Xerxes sobered up, and here's something interesting that I did not know. When Xerxes sobered up, he afterward considered the matter and he felt that Vashti deserved to be honored for what she did. Honored rather than to be treated as she was. When he sobered up he thought, "I have done wrong here." But you know, the law of the Medes and Persians can't change. Honored, and yet he divorced her in a moment of rage. It might be good that we have a waiting period for divorce. He might not have done that. Of course there was a purpose in all this.

Memucan reacted to Vashti's strength the way that some men react to strong leadership among strong women. Now listen carefully here. He's saying that if we let women have too much authority they are going to take over. And you know, I hear that a little bit in the church. If we let women have too much authority, and there, I say that if we ordain them, pretty soon they will be running everything, and so in some cases our churches and our institutions sputter along running on half their cylinders because of our insecurities about strong Christian women in leadership. Do you think all the women in the Persian Empire would be disrespectful to their husbands. I don't think so. In fact, if I read my Bible correctly in Acts 2:17, 18, both men and women are empowered by the Holy Spirit. God uses both of them. If women can't be leaders then why do we have a prophetess? Sometimes we fear like Memucan did. And I don't think we should ever be afraid of a woman who is empowered by the Holy Spirit. We can't retain our power by keeping others in chains. We don't prove our manhood by treating others like objects. We show our leadership by the quality of our life. By overcoming such things as alcohol, Xerxes could have shown his character and his leadership. "The greatest want in the world today is the want of men who will not be bought or sold. Men who in their inmost souls are true and honest. Men who do not fear to call sin by its right name. Men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle is to the pole. Men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall." That's the need of the world today.

Let's read Esther 1:18, 19, 20. Here's what happened. "This very day the Persian and Median women of the nobility who have heard about the queen's conduct will respond to all the king's nobles in the same way. There will be no end of disrespect and discord. Therefore, if it pleases the king, let him issue a royal decree and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media, which cannot be repealed, that Vashti is never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes. Also let the king give her royal position to someone else who is better than she. Then when the king's edict is proclaimed throughout all his vast realm, all the women will respect their husbands, from the least to the great."

That's love by legislation, isn't it? Is that the way all women would respect their husbands, because then king in Susa put out a proclamation? No way. You know how women respect men today? If that man is a leader in his own home after the pattern of Jesus Christ. If he's a man of admiration and nobility, a good person.

Now it's interesting, here. You may say, "Pastor, you know, you realize you're preaching from a book where the name of God is not even mentioned." Are you aware that in the whole book of Esther that God's name is never mentioned. I want to tell you this book of the Bible is like a play. When the curtain rises the play begins. We enjoy the actors. They act out their parts. But the most important person in a play is never seen, and that is the director. I want to tell you that God is the director of this. You can see Him behind the scenes. The director rehearses for weeks with the cast. He works behind the scenes; He bring out the best in each one. That's what God does. And the play is successful because of the director. And in the book of Esther it is true the name of God is never mentioned, although cryptically it is mentioned four times. But God is a key character in this book. we should always remember that God is in charge behind the scenes, overruling, guiding, in control, things are going to end up according to His master plan. Don't worry about China and Taiwan; Don't worry about Israel and Lebanon; Don't worry about the United States. God is in charge. God is overruling. He is the director of our life. I was so glad to see the new hundred dollar bill; In God We Trust is still on there. I hope we do trust in Him. We aught to trust in God. we aught to turn over the keys of our life to God. God is the director of our life. Allow Jesus to come into our heart and direct our daily activities, to be the director of our family. Whether you've been married one week or thirty years or fifty years you will have the happiest home if Jesus is in your hearts. That family that worships together, that prays together, they are going to stay together. If they both love Jesus they will love each other. You will only be successful in life if you give your heart to Jesus Christ.

I really appreciate the book of Esther. This is a desert storm. Next week we're going to talk about Desert Shield. How God overruled, and how He shielded His people. We're going to get into how Esther was made queen. An amazing story. I want you to read the second chapter of the book of Esther in preparation for next week. Interesting story here. Realize that you are Esther. Or Vashti. Or Xerxes. Or Haman. Or Mordecai. You are like one of these people. And God can help you to be the best. If you're like one, you can be like the other, because as I read this, some of these people portray to me exactly what Jesus was. When I read the story of Joseph I fell that Joseph was a model of Jesus Christ. And when I read about Esther and Mordecai, I see the same thing. It never ceases to thrill my heart how God leads among His people. And I believe God is leading today. I believe He is coming soon. Here we are in nineteen-ninety-six, I just can't help but think we're on the edge of eternity. And I urge you to be faithful. Now is not the time to be a party drunk, to be the leader of some great nation and be drunk. Where is that nation going? Thank God that God is the unseen director. And he needs to be the director of your home and your life.



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