And The City Was Bewildered
The following article first appeared in the Feb-April 2010 issue of SALT Magazine.
AND THE CITY WAS BEWILDERED
By Cindy McDermott
My reading today was in the book of Esther. You probably remember the story. King Xerxes of Persia, while banqueting with his honored and important guests, commanded Queen Vashti to appear before them. But she refused, and so he deposed her, as a sort of example, so that women throughout the kingdom would not follow her example and disobey their husbands. A search was then made to replace her, and after a time Esther became queen in Vashti’s place. Now, Esther was a Jewess, but she kept that a secret as her cousin Mordecai (who raised her) instructed her. As the story unfolds, the king’s highest official convinces the king to proclaim an edict for the Jews in his kingdom to be destroyed on a certain day. Eventually a new edict is issued, allowing the Jews to retaliate against their enemies. Esther and Mordecai play key roles in this happening. It is a story of God protecting His people and orchestrating events to accomplish His will.
But it wasn’t those truths that really struck me this time around in reading Esther. By the way, have you ever noticed that different things stand out each time you read a story or a book in the Bible? I think that’s one of the reasons we need to read the whole Bible, over and over again. I don’t think we can ever say we’ve exhausted all the lessons we can learn from a certain portion of Scripture. God can reveal so many things to us. As the psalmist wrote, “I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me.” (Psalm 119:102) But back to the discussion at hand! What really affected me in my reading today was the end of chapter 3: “Spurred on by the king’s command, the couriers went out, and the edict was issued in the citadel of Susa. The king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Susa was bewildered.” And into chapter 4: “In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes.” There was only one event – namely, the issuing of the edict. But there were different reactions to that edict from the three groups of people involved.
First we have the king and Haman, the official who deceptively got the king to make the proclamation. The order was sent and the two of them sat down to drink. I think they did a lot of drinking in this story, so who knows if it had anything to do with the proclamation. It may have been life like usual for the king, who didn’t seem to care that an entire people was going to be destroyed, and he may not have known which people they were! Now Haman – he had something to celebrate, for it was his goal to kill Mordecai specifically and all the Jews with him.
While the two of them were drinking and making merry, the city of Susa was bewildered. Where did the edict come from? Why? Let’s remember that Susa was a Perisan city located in present-day Iran. We’re not talking about Jerusalem or the land of Israel. While Jews did live in Susa, a lot of other peoples also lived in this foreign city. They could afford to only be bewildered because the consequences of the edict didn’t affect them, and it wasn’t an ethical issue for them, either. They were surprised and confused, but their lives weren’t at stake.
Finally we have the Jews throughout the Persian kingdom. They wake up one day facing the destruction of their lives, their family’s lives, and everyone they know. They weep and wail and fast, mourning and pleading that these events, somehow, would not come to pass.
I said in the beginning that there were three groups of people. But let me add a fourth. We have Esther. Although a Jewess with her own life potentially threatened, she doesn’t know what is going on. She is oblivious. She doesn’t understand why Mordecai is in such great distress. She sends one of the eunuchs “to find out what was troubling Mordecai and why.” (4:5) Esther, in a sense, was part of the kingdom issuing the edict and at the same time part of the people it was meant to affect, but she had no idea of what was happening.
So I read all of this, and I couldn’t help but think of our country and our current government. And although I don’t intend for this to be a political article per se, I find myself thinking about the healthcare bill, because that is the current story in the news. And here in our own national scenario we have all the same groups of people. The bill passes late on a Sunday, and can’t you just picture President Obama and Nancy Pelosi sitting down to drink? (I’m not saying they do, this is just a picture.) They are not shocked by what has just occurred. They have brought it about, consider it good and acceptable, and it doesn’t affect them anyhow. They got what they wanted, and only they know their true motives. And I imagine there were some others who “sat down to drink” because they got what they wanted, too – and it’s not just a bill that I’m talking about.
Meanwhile the country sits back, bewildered. How did this happen? How could the majority say they didn’t want this, but it’s here now, anyway? And although it will affect them, there are not any great moral issues coming into play for them. They can be bewildered today and continue with life as usual tomorrow.
And finally we have God’s people in this land, the Christians, and some of them are fasting and mourning because they understand what has taken place – and the things that can likely come from it in the future. They understand that the government as a whole is not on their side. They know this is no longer a Christian country. They know that the government does not love God, that this is the same government that kicked God out of the schools and decided it was okay for moms to let their babies be killed in their wombs. They know that it is conceivable that in the not so distant future a family’s size may be controlled by national healthcare and sick people’s lives weighed in the balance because the money is running short. And so on from there. And so they weep and wail and plead to God for mercy.
And then there are some of God’s people who are oblivious. They don’t truly know what is going on and don’t understand the implications. They just go about their usual daily routine. And they look at their fellow believers and ask what is troubling them so, and why.
As said, I’m not trying to be political here. There are other issues involved. I am saying that perhaps we Christians need to rouse ourselves out of our ignorance and complacency. We need to open our eyes to the fact that this nation is against God, and as such cannot presuppose that God’s favor and mercy will rest upon it. We need to be aware of what is going on, and be prayerful and vigilant, even acting as did Esther and Mordecai. We can’t assume that we will be spared as the Jews were in Esther’s time, for even in the Bible we see many instances of God’s people being destroyed and of a remnant going into captivity. We have become complacent of sin in ourselves and in our culture, but God will never be mocked. We need to wake up and remember the purpose for which we have been called, so that while our leaders are drinking and the city is bewildered, we will be sanctified for Christ and His purposes. “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17)
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