When we read the book of Esther we usually focus on Mordecai, the King, Haman, and queen Esther herself. But rarely do we take the time to pay attention to the king’s servants—the men in the background who are actually integral to the story. Focusing on the king’s men in the book of Esther can teach us some valuable things about what ministry means in the life of a Christian. In the New Testament, the Greek word for a minister is διακονος (diakonos). The only time that this word is used in the entire Greek Old Testament (LXX) is in the book of Esther, to describe the servants of the king. This little quirk should catch our attention, because it makes a connection between the ministers in the kingdom of Ahasuerus and the ministers in the Church of King Jesus.
We are introduced to these διακονοι—these ministers of king Ahasuerus—in the first chapter of Esther.
On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven chamberlains that served (τοις διακονοις) in the presence of Ahasuerus the king, to bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on. (Esther 1:10-11)
Right away we notice that the episode we are about to witness happened on the seventh day, which is usually associated with the sabbath, the day that was set aside for God’s people to enjoy his presence. This makes it all the more powerful when Vashti refuses to come into the king’s presence. We also notice that there are seven ministers. We know that the number seven has a lot of significance in scripture, but perhaps we are reminded of the seven Spirits of God or the seven ministers of the seven churches in Revelation (Rev1:20, 4:5, 5:6). Notice where these chamberlains served: in the presence of the king. As ministers, this is the most blessed and powerful place to be! It is a privilege to be near our king.
As the king’s ministers, these seen men were charged with caring for the king’s bride. This is the exact responsibility of NT ministers. It is our job to take care of the God’s bride the church, as overseers (Acts 20:28) to protect her. For those of us who are ministers, we should always keep this in mind as our sacred duty. For those of us who are under ministers, we should always remember to obey them that have the rule over us, because they watch for our souls (Heb 13:17). Our pastor does not “get in our business” because he is trying to be hurtful; he is trying to protect us, as is his duty.
Notice also the king’s ministers were responsible for bringing the queen into the king’s presence. This is exactly what preachers are trying to do during a church service—they are trying to bring God’s people before him. As a minister myself, I want to have this on my mind constantly: my job is to bring the King’s Bride into the King’s Presence.
Just like these Old Testament ministers of Ahasureus, the New Testament ministers of Christ are responsible for bringing the King’s word to the King’s wife. When we preach, we are trying to help the church hear the King’s word. But notice to how queen Vashti responded to the king’s word.
But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s commandment by his chamberlains: therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him. (1:12)
When Vashti refused to come, she was not disobeying the words of the chamberlains; she was disobeying the word of the king. When we refuse to obey the word of God preached to us by the ministers of the church, we are not disobeying our pastor or a traveling evangelist—we are disobeying the words of King Jesus! And just as Ahasuerus was angry when the queen disobeyed his ministers, so also Jesus is angry whenever we disobey ministers in the church. Ministers are the King’s men, and bring the King’s word.
As a result of Vashti’s disobedience to the king’s ministers, she was dethroned and another queen was sought to replace her (1:19ff). When I read this, I cannot think about Israel and the Gentile church. At first, like Vashti, Israel enjoyed the benefits of being queen alongside the Lord; but whenever Israel refused to hear the words of the prophets, when Israel rejected Jesus, God rejected them and sought for another bride among the Gentiles (Hos 2:23). This parallel is especially powerful to me, because in this story a Gentile queen is cast out and the new queen is a Jew—but in the Church, the Jews have been cast out because of unbelief and the new queen is a Gentile one (cf. Romans 11).
The next time that the king’s servants are described with the Greek word διακονος is at the beginning of Esther chapter 2, where we read
Then the king’s servants that ministered unto him (οἱ διακονοι του βασιλεως) said, Let there be fair young virgins sought for the king: and let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom, that they may gather together all the fair young virgins unto Shushan the palace, to the house of the women, unto the custody of Hege the king’s chamberlain, keeper of the women; and let their things for purification be given them: and let the maiden which pleaseth the king be queen instead of Vashti. And the thing pleased the king; and he did so. (2:2-4)
The king’s ministers were concerned with finding a wife for the king. In much the same way, New Testament ministers are concerned with finding a wife for King Jesus by evangelizing the world and bringing people into “the bride, the Lamb’s wife” (Rev 22:17). Notice that it was the ministers’ idea that a new bride be found. When we are ministers in the church, no body should have to remind us of our job as a soul winner. That is part of our job as a minister—to find a wife for the king. It was the ministers’ idea to gather all of the young women into the palace: it should be our idea to bring as many as we can to church.
Keep in mind, these ministers were not looking for a bride for themselves. They were looking for a bride for the king. The king’s ministers were chamberlains; the Greek word for chamberlain here is εὐνουχος, a eunuch. They were not driven by desire to satisfy themselves, but by a passion to please the king and make him happy. In much the same way, our ministries should NEVER be about ourselves. We are supposed to serve Jesus and bless his church; we are building his kingdom, not a kingdom for ourselves. If necessary, we must spiritually make ourselves eunuchs (Matt 19:12) and cut off our own desires, so that we can properly serve our Savior.
Notice that these ministers wanted to find a virgin for the king. A good minister will want to present a chaste virgin to Christ (2Cor 11:2). You better thank God every time your pastor preaches about holiness and living a life that pleases God. Don’t get offended if he tells you, “We don’t talk that way,” or “We don’t dress that way,” or “We don’t go to places like that.” Your pastor is trying to make sure that the church he ministers to is a pure virgin for the King.
In this same vein of thought, the ministers wanted to give the women the things that they needed for purification. Fellow-ministers, it is not only our job to keep the church pure. It is also our job to give to the church the tools that she needs to keep herself pure. We should pray for our congregations, but we should also teach our congregations how to pray. We should study so that we can preach sanctifying sermons, but we should also teach our congregations how to study the Bible for themselves and apply the Bible to their own lives.
Notice again that, as soon as the young women were brought into the king’s palace, they were committed “unto the custody of Hege the king’s chamberlain, keeper of the women.” As soon as people come into the church, it is God’s plan that they be under the direction of one of his ministers. Pastoral authority is so important. If you do not have a church and a pastor, find a man of God and submit to his ministry. King Jesus has placed his church under the care of his ministers, to protect the church, purify the church, and bring the word to the church.
Above all, the goal is to find people (as ministers) and to be people (as saints) who are pleasing to the king! The reason that we desire to purify the Lord’s church from carnality, and the reason that we strive to purify ourselves through the power of the Holy Ghost, is because we want to be “the maiden which pleaseth the king,” the Church that will have the privilege of being his queen.
By way of closing, the last time that the king’s servants are described with the Greek word διακονος is in Esther chapter 6.
On that night could not the king sleep, and he commanded his servant (τῳ διακονῳ) to bring the book of records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king. And it was found written, that Mordecai had told of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s chamberlains, the keepers of the door, who sought to lay hand on the king Ahasuerus. And the king said, What honour and dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this? Then said the king’s servants that ministered unto him (οἱ διακονοι του βασιλεως), There is nothing done for him.
I want to make one final observation as I close: the King’s ministers kept the King’s book. We are introduced to the King’s Men when they brought the King’s Word, and the last time we see them they have the King’s Book. Study the Bible with all you have; know it inside and out! This is the defining factor of New Testament ministry: ministering the word of God (Acts 6:4). As ministers, we must “preach the word” (2Tim 4:2). As saints we must “hear the word of the gospel and believe” (Acts 15:7), and then be not only a hearer but a doer of the work (James 1).
Let’s never forget: God gives his word to his church through his men. Let’s be ministers of the word, and let’s heed the words of our ministers!