The Foolishness of Kings


Let us never forget that our rulers' authority is not ultimate and that their power is not absolute. Our first duty is always to obey God, even if it means we must violate the demands of men.

“So Haman took the robes and the horse, and he dressed Mordecai and led him through the square of the city, proclaiming before him, ‘Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor’” (Est. 6:11).

- Esther 5:1–6:13

God’s will, Dr. R.C. Sproul reminds us, “is absolutely free. It is bound and determined by no creaturely thing. It is not subject to our whims or actions. His will is not only free but immutably so. Nothing can change His freedom or suddenly arise to block it” (The Invisible Hand, p. 21). In other words, the Lord’s freedom means nothing can stop Him from accomplishing His ultimate ends. He cannot fail to do what He has purposed even if some conspire to stop Him. From an eternal perspective, no apparent setback to God’s kingdom truly hinders His eternal plan (Zeph. 3:5; 1 Cor. 1:18–25; 2 Cor. 13:4).

The book of Esther teaches this truth in two primary ways. First, it tells us the Lord freely accomplishes His will despite His people’s sin. Yahweh covenanted never to destroy His people Israel completely, even if they were unfaithful (Lev. 26:43–45). Esther expands on this, showing us He may freely use even the questionable motives of His people to save them. Esther and Mordecai are compromising figures (Est. 2:10), and yet God makes use of the positions they obtained by dubious means to rescue His people in Persia (chap. 8). Sin is never praiseworthy, but our transgression cannot bind the Lord’s hand.

Secondly, the author of Esther mocks the sovereignty of the Persian government to teach God’s absolute freedom. When the name Ahasuerus is read aloud it sounds like the Hebrew for “headache.” His kingdom is described as lavish, and his reign is viewed as extensive (1:1–9), but, ironically, this king who was sovereign over the most powerful world empire in his day cannot even get his own wife Vashti to follow his wishes (vv. 10–22). “King Headache,” ruler of the known world, cannot rule his own house!

This passage mocks the Persian court when it records Haman’s reversal. Thinking Ahasuerus wants to honor him, Haman suggests a fitting way to exalt himself (6:1–9). Yet Haman ends up honoring the one he detested (vv. 10–13). These events critique the world system. Human governments often consider themselves infallible, sovereign, and omnipotent, and therefore worthy of unqualified honor. The book of Esther says this assumption is an arrogant delusion.

Coram Deo

Paul tells us we must subject ourselves to the ruling authorities (Rom. 13:1–7). Yet in submitting to human governments, let us never forget that their authority is not ultimate and that their power is not absolute. In fact, when rulers imagine that they can demand our ultimate allegiance or otherwise rage successfully against the Lord, He sits in heaven and laughs (Ps. 2). Our first duty is always to obey God, even if it means we must violate the demands of men.

Passages for Further Study

  • Ps. 46 
  • Isa. 14:12–23
  • Dan. 4:28–33
  • John 10:17–18
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