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The Sceptre Of Grace, The Banquet, And The Gallows
The days of fasting past, the queen ventures into the forbidden presence. “Now it came to pass on the third day, that Esther put on her royal apparel, and stood in the inner court of the king’s house, over against the king’s house: and the king sat upon his royal throne in the royal house, over against the gate of the house” (ver. 1). The die is cast. The queen has practically forfeited her life in order to save her people. If the king give it back to her it shall be well. She and all hers -will see in it the evidence of his grace. If not, she can but die, and for that she is prepared.
Her youth and beauty, as well as her confiding trust, draw out her lord’s admiration. “And it was so, when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, that she obtained favor in his sight: and the king held out to Esther the golden sceptre that was in his hand. So Esther drew near, and touched the top of the sceptre” (ver. 2).
Grace is reigning! Of this the sceptre of gold speaks. “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever He will” (Proverbs 21:1). He it is who has inclined the proud ruler of the Medes and Persians to extend the token of his favor to his trembling queen. “The most high God ruleth in the kingdom of men” (Daniel 4:25), whether they recognize Him or not, and all power is in His hand. He has heard the mute prayer of Esther and her people, and from henceforth we are to see how He worketh all things according to the counsel of His own will, despite every effort of the enemy to thwart His purpose.
“His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.”
Knowing that nought but some special guerdon desired could have brought his favorite wife thus unannounced and unsent for into the throne room, the king said unto her, “What wilt thou queen Esther? and what is thy request? It shall be even given thee to the half of the kingdom” (ver. 3). It is as if a blank check signed were handed her, reminding us of the many precious assurances of the New Testament: “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory through Christ Jesus,” for “He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.” He, who is neither enriched by withholding nor impoverished by giving, says to each trusting soul, “What is thy request?” And Omnipotence waits upon the petitions of His feeble people; and to faith He says: “Be it unto thee even as thou wilt.” May we have faith to thus enter into and enjoy His wondrous bounty.
Esther is not slow to proffer her request, though at first sight it seems a little thing indeed. “And Esther answered, If it seem good unto the king, let the king and Haman come this day unto the banquet that I have prepared for him” (ver. 4).
There is nothing that so emboldens a soul, burdened with anxiety, and desirous of obtaining help from another, like a season of communion and fellowship. Such a season Esther desires as a prelude to making known her real burden. As though to cover all suspicion, Haman, whose presence must have jarred terribly at such a time, is invited with the king. “So the king and Haman came to the banquet that Esther had prepared” (ver. 5).
In the house of wine the king affirms again his promise to his beloved queen: “And the king said unto Esther at the banquet of wine, What is thy petition? and it shall be granted thee: and what is thy request? even to the half of the kingdom it shall be performed.” It is, in its measure, like the word of the Lord to “His own” at the “banquet of wine” in John 14:13, John 14:14, after the traitor had gone out: “And whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in My name I will do it.” The king puts a limit: “even to the half of the kingdom.” Our blessed Lord puts a limit too: “in My name”-whatever His holy name may rightly be attached to. This is the only bound He will put to our asking. This, doubtless, is the secret of many unanswered prayers. “Ye ask and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (James 4:3). Such prayer cannot have the name of the Lord Jesus attached to it. The expression really means, by His authority. One says to another, “Do so and so in my name.” All understand he means as representing, or having the authority of the speaker behind him. And so it is in approaching the God of all grace in prayer. There is holy confidence when the will has been so truly subdued that the heart’s only desire is that the Lord may be glorified. Then one can ask “in His name,” and He has pledged His Word to do it. We do not profess to say that queen Esther’s case is any parallel to this. It but gives us the hint; and we turn aside from the narrative to press it upon the reader’s attention, because of the great importance of the subject.
True prayer is perhaps much rarer than many have any idea of. It can only spring from fellowship with God in a practical sense. “If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7). It is for lack of this that the prayer-meeting, and the daily season of reading and prayer in the home-not to speak of the sacred moments which should be spent in the closet with closed doors-often degenerate into a mere lifeless form. Souls are conscious of some secret sin indulged; some unscriptural thing in business or family life being persisted in; and of course there cannot be real prayer as long as this is the case. One has no title to expect an answer from God if walking in any forbidden path. May this be deeply impressed upon our souls!
It has been sometimes said that “the prayer-meeting is the pulse of the assembly” and we believe the expression to be a correct one. A sluggish, lifeless prayer-meeting is the indication that, whatever the activity otherwise, things are in a very low state indeed. It is quite possible to carry on gospel and teaching meetings, and to preserve a certain amount of order and decorum at the table of the Lord, which deceives many into the belief that the Holy Spirit is leading; but it is not possible truly to pray out of fellowship with God. This is especially true of the secret place. Even in the meeting set apart for waiting on God, a loquacious, self-confident man, may be able to deceive himself and others into the impression that his is really the prayer of faith; but a few moments spent in the presence of God, alone, will show how things really stand. There is no liberty, no power; all is a weariness to the flesh if the will is not truly subject, and the supreme desire of the soul not expressed in the words, “Thy will be done.”
But we return to our narrative. It would appear that Esther has not yet that liberty that would lead her to plead her case with assurance; so to the king’s question she replies, “My petition and my request is, if I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it please the king to grant my petition, and to perform my request, let the king and Haman come to the banquet that I shall prepare for them, and I will do tomorrow as the king hath said” (vers. 7, 8). To this he evidently agrees; but what momentous consequences would hang upon that twenty-four hours delay! Satan, knowing that his time is short, and realizing that if his unholy purpose is to be carried out something must at once be done, contrives to bring about if possible the death of Mordecai at least, ere Esther has the appointed opportunity to ask his life, with the rest.
“Then went Haman forth that day joyful and with a glad heart: but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate that he stood not up, nor moved for him, he was full of indignation against Mordecai” (ver. 9). The apparently triumphant Amalekite emerges in greater hauteur than ever from the banqueting house. His cup of earthly glory seems filled to the brim. Who so honored as he? He, alone of all the king’s favorites, had been admitted to the queen’s presence. But there is one bitter ingredient in that so full goblet. Mordecai, the sackcloth covered Jew, pays him no attention whatever, as he passes by. The flesh cannot brook being thus despised. He is deeply grieved and filled with wrath against the only man who failed to do him honor. “Nevertheless Haman refrained himself: and when he came home, he sent and called for his friends, and Zeresh his wife, and Haman told them of the glory of his riches, and the multitude of his children, and all the things wherein the king had promoted him, and how he had advanced him above the princes and servants of the king”(vers. 10, 11). What a disgusting exhibition of vanity and pride! Surely Haman is now “set in slippery places.” Even the heathen, noting how soon, in the moral government of the universe, disaster followed on unbounded self-sufficiency and inordinate self-esteem, had coined the proverb “whom the gods would destroy they first make mad.” And the one true God had, long ere Haman’s day, inspired a man to write, “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall;” and “when pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom” (Proverbs 16:18 and 11:2).
With characteristic conceit the vain-glorious premier keeps what he considers the choicest morsel to the last. “Haman said moreover, Yea, Esther the queen did let no man come in with the king unto the banquet that she had prepared, but myself; and to-morrow am I invited unto her also with the king.” But he cannot conceal his wounded vanity in connection with the incident at the gate, for he adds bitterly, “Yet all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate” (vers. 12, 13).
In the eyes of his satellites and his equally proud and vindictive wife, this is a matter that can readily be disposed of. Why should he wait the appointed time for the destruction of Mordecai with the rest of the Jews? Has he not just shown that none have such influence with the king as he? Why not, on some trumped-up pretext, despatch the insolent Hebrew at once? “Then said Zeresh his wife, and all his friends unto him, Let a gallows be made fifty cubits high, and to-morrow speak thou unto the king that Mordecai may be hanged thereon: then go thou in merrily with the king unto the banquet. And the thing pleased Haman; and he caused the gallows to be made” (ver. 14).
Fifty cubits would be about eighty feet: rather unduly high, one would think, for one insignificant, undersized Jew to swing from; but Haman will publish his revenge abroad and thus give an object-lesson to any other who would dare defy the man of the hour.
And so our chapter closes, with the last nails being driven in the gallows in Haman’s court, while Mordecai is all unaware of the fate which it is purposed to be meted out to him on the morrow; and a score of hours have yet to run ere the queen will prefer her request before the king.
“Hath God forgotten to be gracious?”
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Esther 5". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29