Lessons From the Book of Esther: Part 2

Esther  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 10
History has been said to be "the narrative of the prevalence, by turns, of the several counteractive powers that sway the world; and ordinarily it happens that at the very moment when a certain power, as with a flourish of trumpets, is proclaiming its triumph, it does in that blast of pride announce the appearance of its rival. Despotisms have on many signal occasions thus boasted, and thus fallen, in one and the same day."
How true is this in God's histories, which a thoughtful, reflective mind thus discovers in the general course of the world's affairs! And how have we found it so in this history of Haman! Esther and Esther's people were delivered in the moment of deepest depression, and the controversy between hope and fear ended in the most glorious and wonderful triumph of hope.
The Jews had the sentence of death in themselves; but there is One who raises the dead, and turns the shadow of death into the morning. "The Jews had light, and gladness, and joy, and honor. And in every province, and in every city, whithersoever the king's commandment and his decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a good day" (chap. 8:16, 17).
The month was turned to them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning into a good day. Esther was queen; and, as for Mordecai, he was "next unto king Ahasuerus, and great among the Jews, and accepted of the multitude of his brethren, seeking the wealth of his people, and speaking peace to all his seed." Chap. 10:3.
This I need not more exactly notice. But how profitable it is to watch the spirit and the path of this dear and honored woman! Her care to preserve herself pure, her deep sympathies with her brethren, her trust in the Lord, with decision of soul to do His will at all hazard! How full and instructive an example does all this set before us! And yet circumstances, as we speak, were much opposed to her. She was, I may say, "of Caesar's household"—a condition in life which must have cost a true Israelite, a real decided Nazarite, much watchfulness of spirit and self-mortifying. But her walk with God was so close and so genuine that she appears to have reached some of the deepest secrets of His mind, acting on the great adversary, as I was noticing, precisely in God's own way, nay, in very near fellowship with Him; for we see that as soon as her plan had ripened the heart of Haman, that moment the Lord began to act upon him and prepare the instruments of his destruction. For it was the very night which intervened between the two days of queen Esther's feasts that the Lord sent sleeplessness to Ahasuerus, which led to the humbling of the haughty Amalekite (chap. 6).
Let none say, then, that their circumstances are against them. Hers were eminently so. But decision of heart and singleness of eye brought her that strength which is a match for all circumstances.
This was a time of crisis. There have been others like it in the progress of the government of the world—a time when the master of the house rose up to shut the door, or to discern between the righteous and the wicked. And in this crisis, in the days of Haman and Esther, the great principles of God were expressed with peculiar decision—the exaltation of the righteous in the moment of deepest depression, and the humbling of the mighty in the hour of their proudest thoughts—characteristics which are given with striking and seasonable fitness to this little book which closes the historical volume in the Old Testament.
But the subject addresses itself to us. There is to be another crisis in the earth's history, fearful and far extended beyond all. Every previous crisis will have been but a rehearsal and a shadow of it. Deep and deadly security, like that in which the generation of Noah was folded, who "knew not" in the midst of their marriage feasts and buying and selling speculations, till the flood came, will be one feature of that day. Prosperity and its companion, pride, will give form to that day also.
Is not the mystery of such a day now working? Are not things taking a strong direction that way? If one may speak for another, the heart is conscious that the world is prospering. Are not the accomodations and embellishments of human life increasing to wonder? Is not this generation very loudly congratulating itself on what it has attained, silently pitying those who spent their days before present advantages were known, and boasting in expectation of refining and multiplying the resources of every future hour?
The world is prospering; and we know not how soon it may be that if anyone refuse to help forward the common self-satisfaction, he must be treated as a common enemy. And what a mistake we may judge it to be (as another has expressed it) to think "that the suavity, the tolerance, the blind indifference, and the enlightened liberality, which are now the garb of an infidel spirit, belong to it by nature, or would be retained a day after it had nothing to fear."
This is all solemn. The sentence of death has not gone out yet from the wounded pride of the Amalekite against the whole company of the godly. No; it has not worked to that. The day will not come yet, but the mystery of it is abroad. The pride itself has begun to labor in the heart; the throes and energies of that passion which is to be the parent of such a decree may even now be moving secretly, and be felt, and welcomed, and nourished.
Where is strength to be gathered? If pride and intolerance be nourished in some hearts, is faith in ours? Esther may read us a lesson upon victory in an evil day. She stood in such a day, and stood more than a conqueror. Before it came, she had kept herself, and refused to defile her garments. She had been in the school of God and learned the way of strength and victory there, in communion with Himself when circumstances were all against her.
And let me add, that this communion is to be simple and affectionate; not such as will feed itself with high thoughts and strange thoughts, but such as will find Christ in the sureness and perfection of His work for sinners the great thought, the precious thought, the animating, invigorating, though simple truth that tells upon the heart with divine and wondrous virtue.
There is danger (as another has warned us) of this ceasing to give character to an age like the present, where there is a vast and varied quantity of qualifications and arguments, rather than fervor and simplicity of spirit, where, as the natural result of intellectual and religious progress, "the glory of Christ, as Savior of man, which should be always as the sun in the heavens, shines only with an astral luster."
But times of difficulty demand simple, nutritious, strengthening truth: "A different order of things around us would presently bring into play the more powerful elements of the moral life. Events may be imagined which would mar our levity, and break up the polished surface that reflects our case, and lead us home to the first principles of the gospel, and quite sicken our taste for everything but those principles; and it is under such an impression that the gospel (the simple, plain truth of God's grace and salvation) will assume its just dimensions in our sight, and the glad tidings of mercy be listened to with a new and genuine joy."
True, and also seasonable in this day of many a busy speculation, are these meditations. And most seasonable are the words of the blessed Lord Himself to His disciples, in the day that He began to talk to them o f their coming troubles. "What is a man profited," He said to them, "if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" Matt. 16:2626For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:26).
Here is truth for t h e strengthening of the heart against the day of evil, for these words speak the excellency and the value of the glories which are to follow the day of evil. Our Lord uses the language of the merchant; He speaks of profit and loss and exchange. He contemplates a bargain; and for the comfort of the believer He decides what a bad bargain that man would make, who would take the whole world (supposing that he could get it) in exchange for a share in the glory that is to be revealed. He is not (though this is the general apprehension) in this passage so much settling the question of personal safety, as of profit and loss.
And we all know the power of bright and sure expectations, though they may be still distant. Man will toil through dangers, weariness, and mortification, to reach such. And the Lord here witnesses to us the sureness and the brightness of our expectations, affirming His word, shortly after, by unveiling for a moment, on the holy hill, the very region of these promised glories (Matt. 17). If we believe His competence to handle these weights and measures, and to try comparative values, and then if we believe that He is able to bring suited results out of each trial, our hearts will be further fortified for every trying hour.
Peter, as it were, unconsciously vindicated the Lord’s verdict on the value of the glory when he said, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.”