I read that in a book recently, so I had to go back and look for myself. Sure enough. Esther chapter 1, describes a ridiculous party thrown by King Xerxes, the guests being "all the military officers of Persia and Media as well as the princes and nobles of the provinces." The purpose of this party was to display all the wealth and opulence of the kingdom. The party went on for days, and when it was over, he threw yet another shindig. To prove he was a generous soul, "by edict of the king, no limits were placed on the drinking, for the king had instructed all his palace officials to serve each man as much as he wanted."
During this party, while the king was drunk off his butt, he decided to send for Vashti (the current queen), so he and all his three-sheets-to-the-wind buddies could "gaze on her beauty." How nice. He wanted to share. After all, he was trying to prove his generosity.
But, guess what! Vashti refused to stand before the king and his minions to let herself be gawked at (and who knows what else). REFUSED. Boom! She just did that.
My personal guess is that if those men hadn't been too drunk to stagger their way to her quarters, she would have suffered much. But, as it was, the king just decided to banish her from his presence. Oh, no! Not that, King Xerxes! "Don't throw me in da' briar patch!"
Skip the part where the men start to worry that their wives will follow Vashti's example and start to stand up for themselves and fast forward to where the king isn't drunk and he's starting to feel a bit lonely. Poor little dude. So, his super-smart personal advisors suggest that he let them "search the empire to find beautiful young virgins for the king." They would round these women up, bring them to the palace and pretty 'em up a little more, and then let him choose his favorite one to be his new queen! Oh, my gracious! What a great idea!
"As a result of the king's decree, Esther, along with many other young women, was brought to the king's harem at the fortress of Susa and placed in Hegai's care."
|Do you think this image of a group of Jewish girls is too "modern" to illustrate my point?|
I don't. Cuz sex trafficking still happens, my friends.
She, along with many other young women, were taken from their families and trafficked for the sexual pleasure of the king. I somehow missed that part of the story in Sunday School. We always skipped over the how-she-got-there-in-the-first-place part and went right to the part where her people (the Jews) were in danger of mass extermination and her cousin, Mordecai, tells her, "Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?"
Most of us know that, in the end, Queen Esther chose to risk her life, went before the king uninvited, pled her case, and ended up saving the lives of her people. I'm glad she did. But does the belief that maybe she was made queen for "such a time as this" mean God somehow approves or condones the brutal way in which she (and many other young women) came to that position?
No. God does not approve the mistreatment and degradation of his daughters. Not then. Not now. Esther's life is, however, proof that God has always been true to himself in "caus[ing] everything to work together for the good of those who love God."
And I am stunned again at the realization that the women of Biblical times understood far greater than I ever can, that Jesus was offering them liberation. He treated them like they had value. Like they had something more to offer the world and his heavenly kingdom than their bodies. And I love Jesus even more because he offers to give my life purpose.
There are still thousands and thousands of girls being trafficked every single day on our planet. It is absolutely and unequivocally wrong. I have been blind to this issue for too long. And so have you.
I am just me. Just one women who's voice has a tendency to either stay quiet when it shouldn't or get loud and passionate and say regretful words in church leader team meetings. When I get passionate about something, I tend to make a bigger mess than there was to begin with. I hate that. But my trip to Africa opened my eyes to some of the realities that millions of women still face. Realities of abuse, oppression, trafficking, poverty and I can't stand the fact that American Christians are in the process right now of dropping billions of dollars on the "hottest new toys of the season" for our children (who are, as I write, plotting new ways of destroying said toys) and creepy robotic reindeer for our front yards, and stringing every inch of our homes with electric lights made in China. What in the world are we doing?
So, I will take a deep breath and calm down now.
I know we will buy gifts for the people we love this season. My kids will get gifts from me. Only 3: 2 from their dad and me and 1 from "Santa." Yes, it's okay to give gifts to our children, our parents, our friends. But could we do it in a way that also helps women globally?
This coming Friday night, November 22, my precious church (www.salinegateway.org) is hosting an event we call Acoustic Cafe. It's an event where we invite local musicians and song writers to share their art with us. Some of the music is of the Christian genre, but mostly it will be a mix of pop, country and bluegrass. It's free to attend, but bring a little money because we will be selling desserts to benefit our efforts to drill clean water wells (through www.water4.org) all over the world! AND...
I will personally be representing and offering products for sale from www.eternalthreads.org. I will have items such as scarves, baskets and jewelry, hand made by women in 3rd world countries who are trying to send their kids to school and provide a better life for their families and items made by young girls who have been rescued from traffickers in Napal. I won't make a single penny from these sales. Please, please come to 1201 Longhills Road in Benton, Arkansas, this Friday night starting at 7pm. Enjoy some music and do some Christmas shopping! If you can't make it, consider clicking on those links above and spending some of your Christmas dollars there.
It's the least we can do.