But after Xerxes’ anger had subsided, he began thinking about Vashti and what she had done and the decree he had made. So his personal attendants suggested, “Let us search the empire to find beautiful young virgins for the king. Let the king appoint agents in each province to bring these beautiful young women into the royal harem at the fortress of Susa. Hegai, the king’s eunuch in charge of the harem, will see that they are all given beauty treatments. After that, the young woman who most pleases the king will be made queen instead of Vashti.” This advice was very appealing to the king, so he put the plan into effect. At that time there was a Jewish man in the fortress of Susa whose name was Mordecai son of Jair. He was from the tribe of Benjamin and was a descendant of Kish and Shimei. His family had been among those who, with King Johoiachin of Judah, had been exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar. This man had a very beautiful and lovely young cousin, Hadassah, who was also called Esther. When her father and mother died, Mordecai adopted her into his family and raised her as his own daughter. As a result of the king’s decree, Esther, along with many other young women, was brought to the king’s harem at the fortress of Susa and placed in Hegai’s care. Hegai was very impressed with Esther and treated her kindly. He quickly ordered a special menu for her and provided her with beauty treatments. He also assigned her seven maids specially chosen from the king’s palace, and he moved her and her maids into the best place in the harem. Esther had not told anyone of her nationality and family background, because Mordecai had directed her not to do so. Every day Mordecai would take a walk near the courtyard of the harem to find out about Esther and what was happening to her. Before each young woman was taken to the king’s bed, she was given the prescribed twelve months of beauty treatments~six months with oil of myrrh, followed by six months with special perfumes and ointments. When it was time for her to go to the king’s palace, she was given her choice of whatever clothing or jewelry she wanted to take from the harem. That evening she was taken to the king’s private rooms, and the next morning she was brought to the second harem, where the king’s wives lived. There she would be under the care of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch in charge of the concubines. She would never go to the king again unless he had especially enjoyed her and requested her by name. Esther was the daughter of Abihail, who was Mordecai’s uncle. (Mordecai had adopted his younger cousin Esther.) When it was Esther’s turn to go to the king, she accepted the advice of Hegai, the eunuch in charge of the harem. She asked for nothing except what he suggested, and she was admired by everyone who saw her. Esther was taken to King Xerxes at the royal palace in early winter of the seventh year of his reign. And the king loved Esther more than any of the other young women. He was so delighted with her that he set the royal crown on her head and declared her queen instead of Vashti. To celebrate the occasion, he gave a great banquet in Esther’s honor for all his nobles and officials, declaring a public holiday for the provinces and giving generous gifts to everyone. Esther 2:1-18
CONSIDER:Women had few, if any, rights during the time of this Persian reign. The king decided he wanted the most beautiful young virgins in each of his provinces brought to him and that is what happened. These young girls were probably between the ages of 12 and 14 years. They were expected to leave their families and the only lives they had ever known to live out the remainder of their lives in seclusion within the gates of the king’s palace. Esther was just one young girl among many who were taken for the king’s pleasure. She was young and she was a woman living in a kingdom where men had all of the power and the king was considered a god. Even though she knew the one true God, she may have thought she had nothing for Him to use. The only thing she had was her beauty, both an internal and external beauty. But this one thing she had is the very thing that God used to place her in the position he needed so she could ultimately save His people. Esther first impressed Hegai who was in charge of the king’s harem. Because of this, Hegai gave her special treatment and personal advice on the best way to win the king’s favor. Her beauty, along with Hegai’s advice, allowed her to win the king’s favor and become queen. She accomplished all of this because she alowed God to use the one thing she had to offer~her beauty. When I think about this, I am humbled. If God were to ask me to enter a man’s world to save a nation, I would want him to give me the same rights as the men. I would want more authority, or more power~anything to put me on equal footing with the men. And I most certainly would never expect God to use my beauty. In fact, the thought almost causes me to sneer. Use my beauty? It feels like a cheap trick. It feels less somehow. It feels demeaning. It feels as if the enemy has purposely deceived me along with many other women. We diminish our beauty…consider it unimportant, or worse, unholy. In fact, if we are honest with ourselves, most of us do not even view ourselves as beautiful. And even when we feel we might be a little beautiful, the enemy swoops in and perverts our view of beauty to make us think only of Victoria Secret Angels or Playboy Bunnies. Society upholds so many demeaning views of women’s beauty, it’s no wonder we feel ashamed. But God created our beauty. It is in our beauty that we reflect a part of God’s own character for God is beautiful. He displays His beauty throughout all of creation. Take a look at a sunset, or a beautiful bird…a flower. All of these display God’s beauty! And my sweet friends…so do you. Yes, our beauty should begin with an internal beauty, a gentle, quiet spirit that honors the Lord. And that internal beauty radiates into an external beauty that offers itself as a loving gift to others and points them to the Creator of all beautiful things. For too long the enemy has attacked our beauty as women…made us feel ashamed…made us feel ugly. But God made each of us in his image…He made each of us beautiful! The only thing Esther had to offer God was her beauty. Her offer was not inferior, but rather it was the very thing God needed most to accomplish his plan. You have something to offer God as well. You don’t need anything extra to accomplish his will. He simply asks you to offer what you have, even if the only thing you have is your beauty.
BREATHE:Breathe in His love…exhale all your struggles… Have you allowed the enemy to cause you to feel ashamed of your beauty? Has he stolen the truth of your beauty from you? Do you feel less than beautiful? Dear girlfriend, God made you in his image~he made you beautiful! Take a moment to breathe that truth deep into your soul!
PRAY:Lord, when I started this devotion I had no idea the direction your Holy Spirit would take me~the truth that you would reveal and the lies that you would expose. Forgive me for demeaning the beauty you created within me as a woman. Forgive me for thinking of beauty as less. I want to offer you everything I have, including my beauty. Use it all for your will and your glory. In Jesus’ name I pray…Amen!
Michele is married to the love of her life, Jeff. She has 3 grown children and 1 very sweet grandson! Most days you can find Michele laughing with good friends, writing, or working with women. In the evenings she enjoys spending time in a few creative outlets like creative lettering, drawing, painting, and pottery. She loves snuggling with her dog, Tebow, and reading. But one of her favorite passions is playing with her grandson and laughing at his bright smile! You can find her most weekends worshiping at our Real Life Clermont campus.