Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Women of the Word {Vashti - how not to be a good wife}

Before I launch into looking at Esther - that young girl who went from humble beginnings to Queenly status - I think it's very important to look at Vashti.

The book of Esther is intriguing. No mention of God at all.  Yet, filled with a story of redemption.

Esther - an example of strength and bravery.

Vashti - an example of how NOT to be a wife.

Let's get the back story, First. King Ahasuerus decided to throw a lavish party. It was no small feast - it lasted one hundred and eighty days! At the end of this great feast, where he displayed his power, he threw a shorter feast - seven days - in his garden.  It was a place of great beauty, reflecting the great riches of the Kingdom, with colourful hangings, marble and a multi-coloured flooring!  All the people drank from golden cups - each one unique. They didn't drink with excess - it all fell within the limits of the law.  It must have been quite a feast!

At the same time, Vashti made a feast for the women, separately.

On the seventh day, the King requested that the Queen should come to him, so he could show off her beauty to those gathered.  He quite obviously admired the good looks of his wife, and wanted others to appreciate such.

Then came the problem.

Vashti point blank refused to come.

It made Ahasuerus angry.

He consulted his wise men, to decide what should be done.

It was decided, according to the law, that she would no longer come before the King, and her estate should be given to one "better than she".

All of this was decided for one pivotal reason - they didn't want  Vashti's in-submission to be a bad example to the women in the kingdom. They needed to see that it was something that was wrong, and had consequences.

As much as the kingdom of Ahasuerus was an ungodly one, there was much wisdom in their views on marriage.

Here is the basis for the decisions of the wise men.

"Vashti the queen hath not done wrong to the king only, but also to all the princes, and to all the people that are in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus. 
For this deed of the queen shall come abroad unto all women, so that they shall despise their husbands in their eyes, when it shall be reported, The king Ahasuerus commanded Vashti the queen to be brought in before him, but she came not. 
Likewise shall the ladies of Persia and Media say this day unto all the king's princes, which have heard of the deed of the queen. Thus shall there arise too much contempt and wrath. 
For he sent letters into all the king's provinces, into every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language, that every man should bear rule in his own house."
Esther 1


Vashti's actions could potentially cause other women in the kingdom to "despise" their husbands, and lead to "contempt and wrath".  In other words, it would lead other women to think they could copy the actions and attitude of Vashti, leading to anger and contempt. It wasn't the way marriages were supposed to work.  Going against the way that things should be would cause hurt and damage.

Now, before I get to the nitty gritty...

I am a woman, trying to share with other women what I find in the Bible. It is not my job to teach men, or instruct husbands. So, I will not be dealing, in any great detail, about what men should, or shouldn't, be doing.

I have simply come to this topic as a natural progression, studying through the women of the Bible, and I am not trying to make a point out of something that's not obviously there.

That said, what can we see from Vashti, and what can we then conclude from what the Bible teaches, elsewhere?

Firstly, what can we learn from this chapter, from the incident with Vashti?

* Vashti, as a wife, was expected to obey her husband.

* Vashti didn't obey her husband.

* It was wrong to disobey her husband.

* Vashti was being a bad example to other wives.

* Men are to rule their homes.


Amongst many, this would not be popular or tolerated.

Obey husband? Men rule in the home?

Seriously?

Surely this is just a heathen kingdom's rules, and not at all in line with GOD'S teaching?

Erm, wrong.

If you are a child of God, who longs to serve and honour Him with every fibre of your being, the ruling given in this Persian kingdom is EXACTLY the same as what God requires of you.

EXACTLY the same!

Don't believe me?

Read on.

"thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee."
Genesis 3:16


This is an edict given in GENESIS.

THE BEGINNING.

Husbands, ruling over the wife.  This is the start of it all.  The fall.  The curse.  The punishment given to women.  We are to be ruled over by our husbands, and it's our CURSE.  We won't like it, and our spirit, by nature, will fight it, tooth and nail.  Ergo - it's not going to be easy, but it's what God has ordained.

It's so disliked, even to this day, that feminism has reared its ugly head, and tries to imply that this must mean that women are somehow lesser beings by this requirement, and we must battle to gain equality.

What sad, sad falsehood.

God has created us equal, in His sight.  He loves women and men equally.  He hears and answers our prayers equally.  He desires to bless us equally.  We are equal.

However, due to sin, and our fallen nature, He established that there needs to be order within our lives.  There can only be one leader in every marriage.  It's not actually the man.

No.

It's GOD.

He is the ultimate authority, and we are both, as husband and wife, under His authority, and expected to obey Him.

Life, of course, throws out, time upon time, instances where decisions have to be made, and leadership is required.  God has planned that the husband is to take that role.

GOD.

HE decided.

Now, please bear in mind, I am NOT talking to non-Christians here.  I am talking, primarily, to those who claim Christ as their Saviour.  I am telling you that GOD chose that this is the way it should be.
This ALONE should be reason enough to want to follow it!

It's not about being bossy, oppressive, or most of all misogynistic. It's not an excuse for men to exert unloving, and harsh, command over their wives.  It's about taking on the role of "the buck stops here, so I need to make choices as the head of this home", and the wife lovingly accepting that's the way it should be.

I'm not saying that wives have no opinion, no point of view, or any other such nonsense.  If a man loves his wife as Christ loved the Church, He will want to hear what his wife has to say, and treat her as a spiritual equal, with respect and love.  It doesn't mean that she gets to be disrespectful and obstinate. It doesn't mean she has leeway to be self-centred and manipulative.

Look back at the verse in Genesis. The husband rules.

The example of Vashti is a clear one, regarding respect for our husband.  If your husband asks you to do something that is not wrong or sinful, then we should desire to respectfully do it.  If we respect that role of leadership that God has placed in his hands - which is no small thing, and bears the weight of responsibility to God for each decision he makes - then we should WANT to submit. If we want to honour GOD, we will want to honour our husband.  He is accountable to God for the decisions he makes, which require our submission - we are accountable to God to submit to our husband.  It's that simple.

Biblical headship is ultimately about protection, not "being the boss". It's about Christ protecting families, husbands protecting their wife and family, and wives protecting their family and caring for their home. We all have responsibilities to rule well, and to honour the Lord in how we do it.  So, as wives, if our husband asks us to do something, we submit.

I once saw a graphic that explained it well, and I have attempted recreated it myself.






You can see here the way it all works.  It's about caring, protecting, and ruling well.


"One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;"
I Timothy 3:5


Yes, it's an instruction to those being considered as Elders, but given that they are in a position of example, we can safely say it's how  ALL men should behave!  Ruling WELL their household, which includes the wife, as well as the children.  Ruling well means loving like Christ loves us.

"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 
For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 
Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing." 
Ephesians 5:22-24

"Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband."
Ephesians 5:33


This is the biggie.   We submit to our husbands as we submit to the Lord.  Maybe that is where we need to start, in our hearts. DO we submit to the Lord, first and foremost? Are we desirous to honour Him, love Him, respect Him, and obey Him, above all else? Listening to His voice, over the clamouring voices of the world?  If we are, then we will WANT to submit to our husband.  Christ is the head of the Church to lead her, guide her, protect her, teach her, love her.  In the same way, the husband is the head of the wife. Christ isn't domineering, abrasive, unheeding, and without love and care.  Neither should the husband be. Likewise, as we, as a church, should be subject to Christ - in EVERYTHING - so should we be to our husbands - IN EVERY THING.   We need to deeply respect our husband, and SHOW it.

Herein was the downfall of Vashti.  She did not respect her husband, and his desires, and was plucked from her lofty position as wife of the King, and all honours and riches were taken away. He didn't ask her to do anything wrong or crazy. He just asked her to come to him.  To leave what she was doing, to come to him.  She didn't want to.  That curse that was put upon her, as all women, was fighting within her, and she gave in to self.  

Like Vashti, when we choose NOT to respectfully, and humbly, come  under the authority and protection of the headship of our husbands, as God has ordained, we put ourselves in harms way. We are sinning, and choosing to disobey God, when we fight against it.  It displeases God.  It grieves His heart. It's not for us to judge whether our husband is making the best call - it's up to us to respectfully obey, and leave it in the hands of the One under whose authority our husband stands. 

As for the reasoning behind Vashti being removed from her role as queen, we read that it was so that her actions were not a bad example to other women.

We can see, similarly, what I Peter teaches  us.

"For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: 
Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement."
I Peter 3:5-6

We have the GOOD example of women like Sara - she loved and respected her husband so deeply, she called him "lord".  Yes, LORD.  We are her daughters - we are from her lineage, as those who faith in God.  We need to follow her example, and BE an example to others, too.  To the world, watching what real love should be.  To our daughters, growing up and learning how a good marriage should operate. To young Christians, wanting to learn how to live a life honouring to God.

*sigh*

It's a HUGE issue.

It's a HARD thing.

It's simply not easy, and we will battle with it until our dying day, because it's part of our curse.  Our child bearing years will pass, and so passes that part of the curse - but, until our husband passes to glory, it's our duty to submit to our husband.

Hang on.

Let's just finish on a positive.

If submitting to our husband is submitting to God's will, how should we be doing it? Yes, it's our duty. Yes, it's a command.

The Psalmist sums it up.


"I delight to do thy will, O my God:"
Psalm 40:8


DELIGHT.  That's how we should do God's will.  With delight.  With joy.


"Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart."
Psalm 119:2 


If we obey God's commands, and seek to follow after Him with our whole heart, we will be blessed.

I can tell you, unequivocally, when you don't honour and obey your husband you will NOT be happy. You will NOT be blessed.  You will be miserable. Seeking self, and thinking you know best, will NOT lead to joy and happiness. Ask me how I know.  Actually, don't.  Just take my word for it.

Is it easy? 

No.  Fighting against sin and self is not easy.

Not every husband is easy to submit to, I must add.  Men are sinners, just like women.  They don't always lead and rule with the love and grace that they ought to.  Does that mean we shouldn't have to do our part? NO! We are only ever accountable for ourselves.  Leave it to God to judge our husbands.

Is it worth it? 

Yes. Obeying God's perfect will is ALWAYS worth it.  I can tell you, hands down, that my marriage has been more joyful, happy, blessed, and strong, when I have submitted to Robert.  Do I always get it right? Do I always do what I should? Shamefully, no.  When I do, we have such sweet union, and heartache is averted. 

Don't be like Vashti.  Don't be headstrong and self-willed.  Delight to do God's will, and see the blessings that come your way.





TheJoyfulKeeper

1 comment :

  1. How do you know that the Bible isn't bias. Assuming it's written by men, maybe they placed roles of women in their to benefit themselves. What if a woman is experiencing abuse? What if they were forced into marriage? How are women supposed to support a husband if he sins.

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