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Women Who Win

The Three Musketeers!

(Just reading through the following discussion will not help you. Get together with two or more of your friends and find the answers to the questions. Only then refer to the answers given.)

Three women stand out in the Book of Esther. Each used a musket to get along with her husband: Vashti her beauty; Esther her commonsense, and Zeresh her devotion. Let’s see how it affected their lives.

Vashti

Was what Vashti did right...... Why?......

The answer of most women would be that she was right in disobeying her husband because she was called to go among a drunken gang. But someone better than Vashti was chosen for the queen’s throne and Vashti deposed (1:19). Why was Vashti deposed?...... More than disobedience, she was a bad model for other women (1:8). What does this teach Christian women living among non- Christians?...... How was Esther better than Vashti?......

May be Vashti was more beautiful than Esther since her husband went to the extent of displaying her beauty before others. Probably that’s why she thought her husband would never reject her and she would forever remain his queen. What do husbands prefer, obedience or charm of the wife?...

What could Vashti have done when her husband called her?... When she was upset at her husband’s command she could have controlled her anger. What is the result of quick temper?... (Prov 14:17,18). “A quick-tempered woman does foolish things... The simple inherit folly, but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.” When we learn to control our emotions, God gives us wisdom to take the right decision. Or else we end up doing foolish things.

Vashti could have sought the counsel of her friends dining with her. She could have asked for the opinion of a senior lady. The Bible says there is safety in taking counsel (Prov 11:14). She could have sent an interim reply or question that would have allowed some time for her to cool down and decide. For example, “Can I come with a friend?” or, “I feel very shy, how can I come?” It was the outright disobedience and point-blank ‘No’ that triggered her husband’s fury. In other words her spirit was not right.

What would you have done in Vashti’s shoes?... Most women reply they would have done the same. We say Vashti was ‘disobedient’ and deserved the punishment and yet we choose to do the same. What would Esther have done?... She would have gone modestly dressed. Obviously as queen, many times Esther would have faced the same situation. By doing that she was not committing a sin. So there are times when we can obey our husbands sensibly without committing sin, though we may not like it, but we don’t.

What did disobedience cause?... Separation. Many wives are emotionally separated from their husbands because of disobedience and some are even physically put away, some even permanently like Vashti. How can we set it right?... Vashti chose not to apologise. For her, ego was more important than her family and God-given position.

What does the Bible say about the obedience of wives?... “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Saviour. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything” (Eph 5:22-24). “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord” (Col 3:18).

Do the above verses give room for any disobedience?... They do. The first reference speaks about the sinless, infallible Lord. Husbands are not infallible. In the second reference the Bible gives room for the wife to decide whether her obedience will please the Lord and bring glory to the Kingdom of God or not.

What does a wife need in such situations?... Read 1 Timothy 2:9-15. In this short passage women are twice commanded to be sensible (propriety or commonsense), and twice commanded to be silent. Also she is commanded ‘full’ submission. Is it possible?... Was Vashti silent?... Was Esther silent?... Was Zeresh silent?... So silence does not mean shut-up. It only means a spirit of submission.

What is the difference between obedience and submission? Obedience is the act. Submission is the attitude. We can obey our husbands unsubmissively, just doing the act grumbling and griping. It is also possible to disobey our husbands submissively, graciously explaining our inability to obey.

How can a wife decide whether to obey or disobey?... She needs wisdom. If a wife has to blindly obey her husband in everything, the Bible would not admonish her to think and behave sensibly. Every woman needs wisdom. What is wisdom?... 1. It is discerning between good and evil (Heb 5:14). 2. It is expecting the best, but being prepared for the worst (Mt 25:1-13).

Wisdom is beauty for women (1 Tim 2:9). If you had been with Vashti when she was called, what counsel would you have given her?... How can we get wisdom?... (Js 1:5). Daily, regularly, always, pray for wisdom.

Esther

Was Esther right in disobeying her husband? (4:16)... Why? ... Why do we say Vashti was wrong in disobeying and Esther right?... Esther submissively disobeyed. Was it disobedience or divine obedience! Why was not her husband angry at her disobedience?... Because of Esther’s attitude. It will do us good to examine our attitude when we obey or disobey our husbands. Another reason why her husband could accept her disobedience was probably because Esther was obedient in ‘everything’ and when she acted against his order, he knew she had good reason for doing so. In other words the privilege of disobedience is only for the obedient wife. Obedience in everything helps the husband to respect his wife when she questions him at times. Can you think of examples in your life where you disobey in small things and irritate your husband?... To cook better, to dress better, to maintain the house clean, to change your hairstyle, to get ready in time! Can you change?... Do you make an effort to become better?...

How does Esther’s behaviour contrast with that of Vashti?... She did not go in straightaway and charge her husband for his irresponsible behaviour of giving the signet ring to Haman, for unwisely choosing bad friends or for believing lies. She did not introduce her relative and speak of his faithfulness to her husband. Rather she prepared herself for the confrontation beforehand. She gave heed to counsel. She planned. She fasted and prayed. Definitely she would have prayed for wisdom too. She was not in a hurry to speak out her mind. Instead she had her emotions under control, though she was full of emotions. She opened her mouth with wisdom. What would have happened if Esther had emotionally charged her husband?... Can you recount an incident in your life when you flew in an emotional rage at your husband?... What was the consequence? What could you have done instead?...

Esther knew the tact. She prepared a banquet for him which he loved, as we understand from the Book of Esther (1:3;2:18;3:15). A wife needs to prepare a conducive atmosphere to point out to her husband his unwise decisions and deeds. Then he will be in a position to receive her counsel and think and understand the consequences of his hasty acts. When Esther was tactful it was not “I want” from her but “What do you want?” from her husband. Pleasing the husband every way gets the husband on our side.

More than obedience what does Paul admonish wives to do? Reverence or respect! (Eph 5:33; Esth 1:18). Disobedience is disrespect. How can a wife respect her husband?... Read 1 Pet 3:1-6. “Wives, be submissive... reverence... gentle and quiet spirit. For this is the way the holy women of the past... were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.” We are Sarah’s daughters and we ought to be like her. Does this passage suggest that we should not blindly obey our husbands?... Yes. It says we should do what is right. Again here we are advised a quiet spirit. Was Sarah quiet?... What did Mordecai counsel Esther?... “If you remain silent... you and your father’s family will perish” (4:14). Many wives let their families perish because they remain silent when they should speak up. So a woman must discern when to speak and when not to speak. That’s why the passage on Sarah concludes, “...if you do what is right.” Now see Hebrews 5:14 again. A woman needs wisdom and discretion during critical situations in life to know what is right and what is wrong. She learns this by experience.

Can you recount an incident in Sarah’s life when she was disobedient to Abraham?... Read Genesis 21:10-12. How did Sarah get into this mess?... (Gen 16:5). Sarah said: “I” gave my maid into your bosom. It was because of her own foolishness that she suffered. Why do we hear of more and more women losing their husbands to other women?...... One reason could be because more and more women are throwing away their God given responsibility to pursue their own selfish interests. Esther did not grab the half kingdom offered her. Half the kingdom was nothing to her compared to her family and people. What similar situations do you observe in your neighbourhood or city or country?- - - A career-obsessed woman leaves the care of the husband, children and household to another woman; a careless woman goes to her parent’s home or holidaying or shopping, leaving her husband with another woman; an unwise woman takes her friends even into her bedroom not realising they may be a source of temptation to her husband. An uncooperative wife who for selfish reasons fails to satisfy her husband’s needs; some couples share an apartment with another couple. And there in the timid wife who is afraid to voice her objections. They give women into their husband’s bosom. We are not to condemn any wife who has lost her husband to another woman as unwise. There are other reasons which are beyond the scope of this article.

What does the Bible say about such a situation?... (Pro 6:27, 28). “Can a man carry fire in his bosom without his clothes being burned?  Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being burned?” How can a man as godly as Abraham succumb to such a situation?... Why didn’t the father of those who believe, counsel Sarah to wait for the promise?... The godliest of men are men. Most believers do not want to commit adultery, but are powerless to stand the temptation. They hate what they do, but they buckle under the devil’s pressure. Inwardly they keep crying for help. They need help. That’s why God gave man a “helper” (Gen 2:18).

Does this mean a woman should stand by her husband’s side and watch over him?... Some women feel if they trust God, He will take care of their husbands. Others feel they cannot let their husbands out of their sight. But a woman needs to trust God (expecting the best) and be careful (being prepared for the worst). A wise woman will not put fire in her husband’s pockets and expect his trousers to remain unburnt. Pray for your husband and protect him whenever you cannot be with him.

How did Sarah handle the situation?... Knowing fully well Abraham was unhappy about severing his ties with Hagar, Sarah stood her ground. What do you think her feelings would have been before confronting her ‘lord’?...... Confusion?...... Fear?...... Nervousness?...... Probably. What if Abraham said that he preferred to live with Hagar, and Sarah could please vacate the tent if she wanted?...... This is where Sarah had to really trust God. “... do what is right and do not give way to fear” (1 Pet 3:6). When a husband senses that his wife is fearful he may find some way to continue his liason or despise the wife’s counsel or tears. A woman needs to be strong-willed and bold to confront the situation with a quiet confidence without fear. Esther said, “If I perish, I perish.” Taking bold risks to hold the family intact is part of life. Taking no risk is the greatest risk.

When you know what you do is right, you don’t need to be afraid. The righteous are bold as a lion. What kind of spirit has the Lord given us? ... (2 Tim 1:7). “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind.” It should be a powerful love confrontation with a clear head. A wife does it not out of hatred for her husband or the other woman but out of love for her husband, her family and the kingdom of God. When a wife is bold and lets the husband choose between her and the other woman, in all likelihood he would not think of losing a devoted wife for a passing affair.

What would you counsel a woman who says: a) My husband lost all my jewels in business. Now he wants my property to be transferred to his name, so he can invest again?... b) My mother-in-law wants to take away my elder child and bring him up. My husband urges me to give him away. I am unable to obey my husband?... Submissively disobey. When in confusion, seek the counsel of a godly person, for difficult situations.

Assertiveness should bring glory to God. What happens when we blindly obey our husbands?... If Esther had obeyed her husband’s command what would have happened?... She would have died and brought great sorrow to her husband. Her wisdom was enough to reverse even a foolish husband’s blunders.

By using her godly commonsense she decided to submissively disobey and therefore brought him and the nation great joy. When a woman is obedient to God first, tables turn.

Did Esther enjoy sexual satisfaction? No. She was one among many women for her husband. Did she enjoy close companionship with her husband? No. She could not talk to or be free with him as any other Jewish husband. Then what was her satisfaction in marital life? That she did the will of God. Our married life may not be perfect. But our ultimate goal should be to fulfill the will of God.

Zeresh

How was her relationship with her husband?...(5:10-14). They seem to be a jolly good couple. She enjoyed full freedom with her husband unlike Esther. What was the suggestion she gave her husband?...Why… She wanted to please him. She knew boosting his ego would delight him. She knew by experience that he didn’t like to be contradicted. Probably she was one who hated to hurt other’s feelings.

What was the end result of her suggestion?... What was Zeresh’s response to her husband’s defeat?...(6:12-13). Knowing for sure her husband would not win over a Jew, why did she not pre warn him?... Probably she was afraid to displease him and face his fury and lose him too. So what happened to her?...(7:10). Zeresh became a widow. She lost whom she wanted to keep, for lack of good old commonsense.

How does the Bible describe attractive women without discretion?... (Prov 11:22). An unhealthy combination of beauty and the beast. People will kill the pig and take the ring. They will not value the woman but only use her beauty. Favour is deceitful and beauty is vain, but only a woman who fears the Lord shall be praised (Prov 31:30). So to conclude the discussion, how does the Bible contrast wise and foolish women? … (Prov 14:1). The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish plucks it down with her hands.

A last question to answer: Are you building your house or breaking it down?......


   Address for Correspondence & Contributions:

Lilian Stanley
13 Church Colony
Vellore 632006, India
Tel: +91 9843511943
Email: lilianstanley@gmail.com

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