Friday, August 18, 2006

Errors to avoid...

The book of Esther begins with a banquet given by a powerful king, Xerxes, who ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush (Egypt) (Esther 1.1). This banquet was for military leaders, princes, etc. For a full 180 days he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and glory of his majesty. When these days were over, the king gave a banquet, lasting seven days, in the enclosed garden of the king's palace, for all the people from the least to the greatest, who were in the citadel of Susa. (Esther 1.4-5)

The chronicler goes on to describe the excesses of this banquet, one of several Errors made by this king, which we do well to avoid.

OK, I don't know if I mentioned this earlier, but some years ago there was a message about five things to look for when reading a Bible passage. I don't remember the original order of the five things, because I immediately reordered them so I could remember 'em using the acronym SCENE. OK, so is there:
  • a Sin to forsake,
  • a Command to obey,
  • an Example to follow,
  • a New thought about God himself, or
  • an Error to avoid?
Even a guy like me, with no poetic sense at all, can tell that's not in the right order, but the main thing is to look for some of these things.

Anyway, chapter 1 of Esther is full of these errors. The first is the error of excess:
There were couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl and other costly stones. Wine was served in goblets of gold, each one different from the other, and the royal wine was abundant, in keeping with the king's liberality. By the king's command each guest was allowed to drink in his own way, [i.e., drink as much as he wanted -collin] for the king instructed all the wine stewards to serve each man what he wished.
Esther 1.6-8
Now that is excessive.

Today, though, we don't have things like that. Or do we? There were some lavish employee parties here in Silicon Valley during the tech bubble. And sometimes we hear about lavish birthday parties for kids, with professional entertainers and this sort of thing. What's that about? Here's my shot at it: the king (the CEO, the parent) wants to show off how rich and powerful he is. "My kingdom (company, kid) is better than yours is." Vanity and conceit, in other words.

At the end of the banquet, the king summons Queen Vashti to this gathering of rowdy, drunken men. This is another error committed by the king: Trying to exercise power while drunk.

What's this mean today? Driving while under the influence: very bad idea. Coding while under the influence: Also bad, but probably not that bad. Composing email or sending text messages while...: Almost as bad as coding while under the influence. Just a bad idea.

Next, the king decides to banish the queen. Gaaaa! Whether under the influence or not, this is just dumb. And for no good reason! It's about 4 years later when Esther is chosen as the new queen. Blech!

Now let me switch to Haman, the king's chief of staff, who we meet in chapter 3.
All the royal officials at the king's gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor.
When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor, he was enraged. Yet having learned who Mordecai's people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai's people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes.
Esther 3.2, 5-6
On one hand, I feel like this guy is just beyond stooopid. And really he is, for demanding that people kneel down, and for wanting to commit genocide.

But when people don't show me the respect I think I'm due... does that bother me? A little, maybe. More than it should.

May God help me to take less offense at that.

posted 8/19

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