We are now hitting the book of Esther. I must admit it took me by surprise that assuming, as many people do, that the Xerxes mentioned in Esther is Xerxes I, that these events happened during the time Ezra. Somehow, I always thought it happened well after Ezra and Nehemiah. I will say here, however, that there is some disagreement on whether it was Xerxes I or not. Some believe he was Artaxerxes I and some believe he is Artaxerxes II. For the purposes of this blog, I’ll go with the traditional view that it was Xerxes I.
In this passage, we see the background to Esther’s rise as queen. Xerxes was holding a great banquet for all of his nobles and officials. It seems that during this feast, he was attempting to impress all of these people with his wealth and power. But in doing so, he chose to call his queen to the banquet in order to basically parade her beauty in front of them all. But to his humiliation, she refused to come.
When he asked his advisors to advise him on what to do, they said,
Queen Vashti has done wrong, not only against the king but also against all the nobles and the peoples of all the provinces of King Xerxes. For the queen’s conduct will become known to all the women, and so they will despise their husbands and say, ‘King Xerxes commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, but she would not come.’ 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. (16-18)
They then counseled him to permanently banish her from his presence in order that,
all the women will respect their husbands, from the least to the greatest. (20)
Xerxes agreed, issuing the proclamation while adding that,
“Every man should be ruler over his own household.” (22)
What do we get from all this?
So many husbands are like Xerxes, who treat their wives not as people, but as things. Despite this, they demand respect from their wives, some even quoting scripture while doing so.
But while God does indeed command that wives respect their husbands, it would be much better for husbands to worry about how they’re treating their wives than how their wives are treating them.
If husbands were the kind of leaders that Jesus was, and as God has commanded us to be (Ephesians 5:25-28), do you think they would have much of a problem getting respect from their wives?
If you treat your wife not as an object, but as a person that you value highly, if you sacrifice your own needs to meet hers, if you love her as Christ does, how do you think she’ll respond?
So many people are caught in a downward spiral in their marriages. The husbands don’t love their wives so they don’t respect their husbands. The husbands don’t feel respected so they show less love. The wives feel less love so they show less respect. And the cycle goes down in an endless spiral all the way to divorce.
May I suggest husbands, if you’re reading this, that as the leader in the household, God calls on you to be the one that stops that spiral downward? That instead of showing less love because you feel no respect, you should start showing more love? I would bet that if you start to do so, your wife will start showing you more respect. It may take time, however, as there are probably years of wounds that have to be healed. She’ll be wondering, “How long will this last? Is it just a phase? I’ve been hurt so often by him. Can I really trust him?”
Husbands, keep at it. Win her trust once again. It’ll probably have to start with setting aside your pride and apologizing to her. Tell her, “I haven’t been loving you as I should. Will you forgive me?”
And ask for God’s help in the process.
Wives, if you are reading this, then maybe God is calling you to stop the downward spiral. It’s not easy. We men can be pig-headed and hard-hearted. But pray for us. And ask God to help you find at least one thing, however small, that you can respect him for. Then voice that respect to your husband. You may be amazed at how such a little thing can make such a big difference.