I order you to obey
“When this decree is published throughout the Kings vast empire,husbands everywhere, whatever their rank, will receive proper respect from their wives.” Esther 1:20
The background to this interesting line is as follows. King Xerxes was very angry with his wife Queen Vashti when she refused his demand that she come out of her room and parade around in front of his guests to show how beautiful she was. He was so annoyed by this that he consulted his advisers for some words of wisdom on how to deal with this show of disrespect. These advisors took Queen Vashti’s act of defiance a bit further, warning the king that if he didn’t deal harshly with this, soon all the wives in the land would be brazenly disrespecting their husbands- and that was simply not to be tolerated. So what did they do to solve this problem? They drafted a decree that in essence forced the women to obey their husbands.
Obedience that is required by law. Now that is an interesting concept. We see that same principal at work in the legalism of the Pharisees don’t we. In order to deal with problems that arose from the inability of people to follow God’s laws to the letter, the Pharisees-smart biblical scholars that they were-made all kinds of decrees and rules that they required people to follow. But it didn’t work did it! They had decrees and laws about how many feet you could walk on a sabbath, about certain ways to wash your hands, about the way to dress-many rules that they came up with and enforced believing that they could MAKE people obey by law or decree.
Then along came Jesus. He turned it all upside down by entering into a relationship first with people. He loved them. He accepted them where they were at that moment and his followers fell in love with him. When you love someone, obedience is not as hard. And respecting them is not something that you have to order by decree. It is through our covenant relationship with Jesus Christ that our ability and desire to obey is born. Not because it is the law but because we love and so long to please, honor and respect the object of our love. I would suggest it is like that in a healthy marriage as well. When a covenant between two people exists, and where love is the foundation, respect is the natural outpouring of that covenant.
Poor King Xerxes. He didn’t understand that all the decrees and laws in the world can’t force someone to obey or respect you. You need a covenant that is built on love.