And when these days were completed, the king gave for all the people present in Susa the citadel, both great and small, a feast lasting for seven days in the court of the garden of the king’s palace. There were white cotton curtains and violet hangings fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rods and marble pillars, and also couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl, and precious stones. Drinks were served in golden vessels, vessels of different kinds, and the royal wine was lavished according to the bounty of the king. And drinking was according to this edict: “There is no compulsion.” For the king had given orders to all the staff of his palace to do as each man desired. Queen Vashti also gave a feast for the women in the palace that belonged to King Ahasuerus. – Esther 1:5-9 ESV
After a non-stop, no-holds-barred feast that lasted 180 days, King Xerxes was far from finished. He threw another feast lasting seven days for all the people living in Susa, the capital. It was held in the court of the garden outside the king’s palace. By this time, everyone would heard about the king’s 180-day soiree. The rumors about his opulent, invitation-only party would have become legendary. Now he was opening up the gates of the palace to invite anyone and everyone to join in the celebration. And it was another, no-expense-spared spectacle. Rather than showing signs of exhaustion from his 180-day long binge of drinking, eating and over-indulging in all kinds of ways, the king upped his game. The description provided for the decorations alone reveal that this was not a scaled-down, low-budget party for the common people. This was a setting designed to create awe in the eyes of the beholder. It was intended to drop jaws, catch the breath, widen the eyes, and elicit emotional responses of amazement, awe, and even envy.
There were white cotton curtains and violet hangings fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rods and marble pillars, and also couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl, and precious stones. – Esther 1:6 ESV
Imagine the impact this all had on the common people of Susa. They would have never experienced anything like this before. And as amazing as the surroundings were, they were allowed to drink the king’s finest wine from golden goblets. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And it was all a show. We are not told why the king was celebrating or what prompted him to throw these extravagant and expensive parties. The reason for the parties is not the important point of the story. We are being given a glimpse into the power, pride and wealth of a king who knows no bounds, answers to no one and enjoy unprecedented authority and has access to seemingly limitless resources. He is a man at the top of his game who rules over a nation that is at the top of the food chain. Xerxes is a force to be reckoned with. He is all-powerful. He knows no limits. He has no equal.
We are being set up. The author wants us to read the opening lines of his story and see King Xerxes as the central figure in the narrative. His power and possessions are proof of his importance. He is the king after all. He is in control. But all of that is about to change. A series of events is about to take place. Unbeknownst to the king, things are about to get really interesting. His sovereignty is about to get challenged and in ways he never could have imagined or foreseen. This is a man used to getting his own way. He is addicted to power and control. He has the wealth to do whatever he wants. He has an army that allows him to conquer whoever he wills. And while his power and possessions may amaze and astound his people, there is someone who is not in awe of Xerxes: God Almighty
God was not blown away by King Xerxes’ party. He didn’t look down from heaven with slack-jawed amazement at the wealth of this king or the staggering breadth of his kingdom. Xerxes might sit on a throne in his palace in Susa, but God ruled from His throne in heaven. God didn’t need to throw a party to prove his worth. He didn’t need to put on a show to prove His power. In fact, God will operate behind the scenes throughout this story, without recognition and seemingly invisible to the eye. His name will not be mentioned, but His presence will be felt. He will not appear, but His hand will be seen orchestrating events in such a way that His power will be indisputable.
This is a story about sovereignty – God’s sovereignty versus man’s. It is about providence, “the foreseeing care and guidance of God” (dictionary.com). The author wants us to see God in the everyday affairs of life, even though He is not visible to our eyes. He wants us to realize that God’s seeming lack of presence does not mean He is not there. God does not have to put on a show to prove He is powerful. He doesn’t require a burning bush or a pillar of fire to prove His existence. Just when we think He is no where to be found, He shows up. About the time we conclude God is absent from our midst, we realize He has been there all along. God is always at work. He never sleeps or slumbers. He is never out of control, out of touch or out of reach.
Xerxes was the king. But he was about to find out who was really in control.