The term “diva” wasn’t fashionable when I was growing up. We used words such as stuck-up, bigheaded and uppity to describe those who had an air of superiority, who thought they were the center of the universe and who believed they were entitled to the best life had to offer.
It wasn’t until I was well into my 30s that diva became the trendy way to describe such snobbish behavior.
In the Oxford Dictionary, a diva is defined as “a woman regarded as temperamental or haughty.” The word originally was used to describe a female opera singer and it was redefined to refer to any female singer of superior talent.
The term has evolved even more, making a partial return to its original Latin roots when “divus” was the word for “divine one.”
As one writer put it: “The modern musical diva can be arrogant, difficult to work with, high-maintenance, or demanding. In essence, the modern diva sometimes acts like she believes herself to be almost divine and above it all.”
Another wrote: “This word certainly has undergone a change in cultural understanding. Being accused of partaking in diva behavior is to imply someone is being extremely difficult and demanding of others – and is quite the insult.”
I found some lists ranking the top divas of all time. Those lists included pop culture icons Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Mariah Carey and Madonna – among others.
The articles talked about some of the over-the-top demands of these divas from destroying toilet seats after use, eating strictly crinkle free chips and refusing direct eye contact.
The Queen of Persia in 5th century B.C. had every right to be a diva, more than any of the aforementioned divas. She was a hottie or as the bible describes her, “The young woman had a beautiful figure and was lovely to look at.” (Esther 2:7) Everyone called her a name that meant “star”: Esther.
But Esther was anything but a diva. You might even say she was the anti-diva. She was a Jewess (between adolescence and her early 20s at the latest), whose given Hebrew name was Hadassah, meaning “myrtle.” Her parents had died and her older cousin Mordecai took her in as his own daughter.
After the King of Persia decided to replace his queen, Esther was brought to the palace from her hometown Susa and other beautiful young virgins were brought in from their hometowns in the kingdom. Esther stood out almost immediately as the most popular and most beautiful girl in the group, gaining the favor of the person in charge of her harem and all who saw her. She won a beauty contest, and the king made her his queen and held a banquet in her honor.
With all of this seemingly sudden fame and stardom, Esther could have demanded anything (jewelry, clothes, an air conditioned chariot to ride in) because she was the queen of the most powerful empire in the known world at the time.
Instead, Esther was the model of obedience and courage.
Look at what it says in Esther 2:20 – Esther had not made known her kindred or her people, as Mordecai had commanded her, for Esther obeyed Mordecai just as when she was brought up by him. (Emphasis added)
Wow! Read that last part again – slowly – and think about it the next time you don’t want to do what your parents tell you. Even the Queen of Persia obeyed her guardian because she knew that doing so was for her benefit.
Later, when Mordecai discovered a plot to exterminate all the Jewish people in the kingdom, he went to Esther, telling her to step forward and save her people. She was reluctant at first, but Mordecai prompted her to go to the king saying, “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 2:14
Esther responds that after three days of fasting and praying she would go to the king and says, “If I perish, I perish.”
I hope you read the entire true story of Esther or at least watch the movie that came out in 2006, One Night with the King. Esther indeed saves her people from destruction, and Mordecai rises to a place of prominence in the kingdom.
Now, what lessons can we draw from this brave young woman?
Lesson 1: Esther obeyed in the ordinary details of her life. With her parents dead, Esther could have told Mordecai that he couldn’t tell her what to do because he wasn’t her daddy. Instead, she submitted to his parental role and did what he told her – even after she moved into the palace (Esther 2:10-11). Because she obeyed Mordecai in the ordinary things, when he came to her with something extraordinary (delivering her people from annihilation) she obeyed. Personal application – Ask yourself this question: Do I obey in the simple things? If so, it might be easier to obey in the difficult things.
Lesson 2: Sometimes we have to be prompted to obey and do the right thing. Esther initially didn’t want to go to the king, mostly out of fear and because of what it could cost her: her life. But when Mordecai explained to her the situation and that her life would be in danger even if she didn’t, she decided to approach the king. Personal application – Are there times you have to be prompted to obey because disobedience might bring about dire consequences? Did you know that disobedience to parents is listed among some of the most horrific sins imaginable (Romans 1:29-30; 2 Timothy 3:1-5)?
Lesson 3: Obedience could be costly, but it is still better than disobedience. By going to the king when he hadn’t called for her, Esther risked her life. But what would have happened to the Jewish people if she hadn’t gone to him? They would have been wiped out and God’s promises to His chosen people would have all been lies. Esther’s courage in obedience is something we should all try to emulate. She is a true heroine. Personal application – Are you willing to be obedient to God no matter what it might cost you? When you obey your parents you are obeying God (Ephesians 6:1-3; Colossians 3:20).
Lesson 4: Obedience brings about great blessings. Esther became an influential person in the Persian Empire and the Feast of Purim was instituted to celebrate the deliverance of the Jewish people in her time. From then until now, Jewish people have continued this celebration. Obedience, however, doesn’t always bring about the kind of blessings we might expect in this life, but it certainly will in the life to come. Personal application – Are you willing to obey now for blessings later (John 14:23-24)?
For further reading: Esther: A Woman of Strength & Dignity, Charles R. Swindoll, Word Publishing, ©1997.
Next week: Daniel: The Faithful Youth in a Foreign Land