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On that night could not the king sleep.
The power of a sleepless night
A trifling circumstance to record. Ah! how important are little things: the unnoticed things are the life-blood of the world. In a great palace we think of the marble and the stone, the cedar and the iron, but who thinks of the mortar and the nails? And yet, in the architecture, mortar and nails are as important as pillars and columns and beams. Thus in the architecture of the world, and in the conduct of its moral affairs, trifles are the mortar and the nails.
I. The first thing I see here is a wonderful lesson in the illimitable plan of providence. How events ripen to the close! How crime matures itself to its doom! Amazing is the work of providence. You see two distinct sets of actions progressing at the same moment. The election of Esther, the choice of a merely capricious king; the elevation to dignity: the integrity of Mordecai; the ambition of Haman: the desire to crush the Jews; the yearning desire to save them. All these things are working together. You remember “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” And “all things work together for good to them that love God.” Calmly and surely proceeds the Divine plan, and, unaware of the Divine idea, proceeds the infernal plan. See how triumphantly Haman looks at the letters of persecution signed with the signet of the king: and see how he gloats as the morning sun shines over the black gallows-tree, and never for a moment suspects it to be his own. The poor blind fool checkmated by himself! ingeniously rearing his own scaffold, and twisting the rope for his own neck. You will perhaps say to me, And the answer perhaps only pushes the inquiry farther back. “Why did He allow Haman to be near the court at all?” The answer must be, that God and providence are not the capricious and intermeddling agencies you have sometimes supposed: they prosecute their own path, and Satan and sin prosecute their path too. On they hasten, every step hastens to judgment; every movement winds the entangling coil of circumstances more irretrievably around them.
II. How, from the wide sweep of immense providences we descend to trifles! How the scheme of providence includes and encloses the small details of human affairs! I will extract three other lessons--
1. How remote, and yet how distinct and minute, are the operations of God’s providence! Here was a circumstance connected with the history of the Church, with the preservation of God’s people, and with the conservation of Divine truth, and the advent of the Messiah. How small a place is Shushan and the whole of Media and Ahasuerus!
2. See the perfect compatibility, nay, unity, of prayer with the plans of providence. The prayers of Mordecai, the mournings of the Jews, they are the operating causes round the sleepless couch. The prayer so troubled the couch, that the king could not sleep.
3. May I not apply it yet once more, and ask you the meaning of some sleepless nights, some troubled days? (E. P. Hood.)
Ahasuerus’ sleepless night-the Divine government
1. Who is the sleepless monarch on this night?
2. What was the book he read that night?
3. What was the discovery he made that night?
4. What was the result of the discovery that night?
Two things, at least, came out from the king’s sleeplessness this night.
(1) The preservation and exaltation of Mordecai.
(2) The frustration of enormous wickedness, and the salvation of the whole Jewish people.
Truly, this was a memorable night, From this subject we may learn a few lessons in connection with God’s government of the world.
I. He often works out his purpose through the free workings of depraved minds, unconscious of his influence. The brethren of Joseph, prompted by evil passions, sell him to the Ishmaelites, and he is borne a slave into Egypt. They are free in their wicked counsels and deed; but, unconsciously to themselves, all the while they are carrying out the purposes of Heaven. The same with Vespasian and Titus in their destruction of Jerusalem. Though a spirit most fiendish moved and directed these bloodthirsty and ambitious pagans, yet they wrought out almost with letter minuteness the long-threatened judgment of Heaven. As nature moves on to the magnificence of summer, as well through cloudy skies and thunderstorms as sunshine and serenity, so providence advances its purposes, as well through such a mind as that of Ahasuerus as that of Peter, or of Paul.
II. He always overrules the conduct of sinners foe the overthrow of their own plans. The very destruction which Haman and his accomplices plotted for Mordecai and the whole Jewish people came upon themselves. On the lofty gallows that Haman had raised for another, he was hanged himself. Thus it ever is. The men of Babel build a tower in order to be kept in close social combination; but that structure leads to their confusion and separation. The Egyptians rush into the Red Sea in order to wreak vengeance on the fleeing Israelites; but the channel in which they sought to bury their enemies became their own grave. It is the very nature of sin to confound itself. Its struggles for pleasure will lead to misery; for honour, will lead to degradation. Sin always conducts the sinner to a result never sought, never intended. What sinner aims, as an intelligent purpose, at the blasting of all his hopes, the loss of all his friendships, the everlasting ruin of his soul? Yet to these every sin he commits is conducting him. Like Haman, every sinner is building his own gallows. Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
III. He sometimes works out his purposes by means apparently most insignificant. (Homilist.)
The sleepless night
I. How God operates to mighty ends through inconsiderable agencies. We are apt to measure God by standards established between man and man. The Divine greatness is regarded as that of some very eminent king: what would be inconsistent with the dignity of the potentate is regarded as inconsistent with the dignity of God; and what seems to us to contribute to that dignity is carried up to the heavenly courts, or supposed exist there in the highest perfection. But we should gain a grander and juster idea of our Maker by considering in what He differs from men, than by ascribing to Him, only in an infinite degree, what is found amongst ourselves. It is not by putting unbounded resources at the disposal of God and representing Him as working through stupendous instrumentality that we frame the highest notions of Him as a sovereign and ruler. There is something sublimer and more over-whelming in those sayings of Scripture, “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast Thou ordained strength,” “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty,” than in the most magnificent and gorgeous descriptions of dominion and strength. Christianity, for example, diffused through the instrumentality of twelve legions of angels would have been immeasurably inferior, as a trophy of Omnipotence, to Christianity diffused through the instrumentality of twelve fishermen. When I survey the heavens, with their glorious troop of stars, and am told that the Almighty employs them to His own majestic ends, I seem to feel as though they were worthy of being employed by the Creator. But show me a tiny insect, just floating in the breeze, and tell me that, by and through that insect, God will carry forward the largest and most stupendous of His purposes, and I am indeed filled with amazement. And is there anything strained or incorrect in associating with an insect the redemption of the world? Nay, not so. In saving the race whence Messiah was to spring, God worked through the disturbed sleep of the Persian monarch, and the buzz of an inconsiderable insect might have sufficed to break that monarch’s repose. When God interfered on behalf of His people groaning under the bondage of Pharaoh, it was with miracle and prodigy, with a mighty hand and a stretched-out arm; but I fall before Him as yet more amazing in wisdom and power, when I find the bloody purpose of Haman defeated through such instrumentality as this: “The king could not sleep,” etc.
II. The setting under a right point of view of the utility of prayer. It is often objected against prayer that it seeks for miracles and expects God to interrupt at our call the established course of things. It may be that when the Jews betook themselves to prayer, that they looked for visible and miraculous interference, as in other emergencies when God bared His arm in defence of His people. Although I thoroughly believe that were a case to arise in which nothing short of a miracle would meet the circumstances of a servant of God, the miracle would not be withheld; yet I am satisfied that it is not required that there should be miracles in order to our prayers being granted, neither does the granting them suppose that God is variable or changes in His purposes. There was no miracle in His causing Ahasuerus to pass a sleepless night: a little heat in the atmosphere, or the buzzing of an insect, might have produced the result; and philosophy, with all its sagacity, could not have detected any interruption of the known laws of nature. Neither were God’s purposes variable, though it may have actually depended on the importunity of prayer, whether or not the people should be delivered. God’s purpose may have been that He would break the king’s sleep if prayer reached a certain intenseness; that He would not break it if it came below that intenseness; and surely this would accord equally with two propositions--
1. That the Divine purposes are fixed and immutable.
2. That notwithstanding this fixedness and immutability, they may be affected by human petitions, and therefore leave room for importunate prayer. Comparatively I should not be encouraged, were I told that what disquieted the monarch was the standing of a spectre by his bedside in an unearthly form, which in unearthly accents upbraided him for leaving Mordecai unrequited. But when I observe that the king’s rest was disturbed without anything supernatural; that all which God had to do in order to arrange a great deliverance for His people was to cause a sleepless night, but so to cause it, that no one could discern His interference, then indeed I learn that I may not be asking what the world counts miracle, though I ask what transcends all power but Divine. There is something encouraging in this to all who feel their insignificance. If the registered deliverances, vouchsafed to the Church, were all deliverances which had been effected through miracles, we might question whether they formed any precedent on which creatures like ourselves could justly rest hope. We dare not think that for us armed squadrons will be seen in the heavens, or the earth be convulsed, or the waters turned into blood. But look from Israel delivered from Pharaoh to Israel delivered from Haman, and we are encouraged to believe that God will not fail even us in our extremity, seeing that He could save the people through such a simple and unsuspected process as this: “On that night could not the king sleep, and he commanded to bring the book of the records of the chronicles.” (H. Melvill, B. D.)
The sleepless night
There may have been three or four reasons for this restlessness.
1. The care of his kingdom.
2. The revolving of ambitious schemes.
3. His raging passions. His passions often showed themselves in a ridiculous way. When he came back from his Grecian expedition he was so mad at the river Hellespont for breaking up his bridge of boats, that he ordered his servants to whip that river with three hundred lashes.
4. A troubled conscience. There is nothing like an aroused conscience to keep a man awake when he wants to sleep. There was a ruler who one morning was found with his sword cutting a nest of swallows to pieces. Somebody came up and said, “Why do you cut that nest of swallows to pieces?” “Why,” he replied, “those swallows keep saying that I murdered my father.” The fact was, that the man had committed the crime, and his conscience, by Divine ventriloquism, was speaking out of that birds’ nest. No, Ahasuerus could not sleep. The more he tried to sleep, the wider he got awake. All around about his pillow the past came. There, in the darkness, stood Vashti, wan and wasted in banishment. There stood the princes whom he had despoiled by his evil example. There were the representatives of the homes he had blasted by his infamous demand that the brightest be sent to his palace; broken-hearted parents crying, “Give me back my child, thou vulturous soul!” The outrages of the past flitting along the wall’, swinging from the tassels, crouching in the corner, groaning under the pillow, setting their heels on his consuming brain, and crying, “Get up! This is the verge of hell! No sleep! No sleep!” (T. De Witt Talmage.)
The sleepless night
How many different causes or occasions there may be of the sleepless night! Some cannot sleep in the remembrance of recent sin. Some are kept waking by great sorrow. Some by brain excitement. Some in very weariness of overwork. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)
Sleep a necessity
Without it human life would soon come to an end. It would burn rapidly away. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)
Men sleep or wake as God wills
Kings have no specific to secure healthful rest; rather they are apt to miss the best specific, hard work and a good conscience. (A. M. Symington, B. A.)
Resource in sleeplessness-
A good book is a better resource in sleeplessness than drugs. (A. M. Symington, B. A.)
I. Note the minute universality of God’s supervision and control. The notion of many is that providence is concerned only with great matters. But those who so believe forget that perfection in anything cannot be secured without attention to details, and that great issues often hinge on apparently very trifling affairs. A sleepless night is in itself no very important thing. Again, it is a matter of little moment what a man shall do to fill in the hours of sleepless ness and keep himself from ennui; but if Xerxes had adopted any other plan than that which he followed, or if the attendant had chosen to read from any other section of the chronicles of the kingdom than that which he selected, there would have been nothing to recall Mordecai’s services to the king’s remembrance. Once more: if Haman had not come to the court at the time he did, and been introduced into the presence at the precise moment when the mind of the king was pondering the question what honour should be conferred on Mordecai, then the first word might have been his, and so the fiat might have gone out for the consigning of Mordecai to the gallows, even at the moment when the monarch was thinking about doing him honour. Now, this history is not exceptional in any respect. It certainly is not exceptional in this particular. You see the same supervision of the most apparently trifling things by God in the biography of Joseph, and there are many striking illustrations of it in secular history. A change of wind from west to east is not s great matter, and yet on such a change as that, at a particular hour of a particular day, the history of Great Britain turned; for thereby the fleet of William of Orange was wafted to Torbay, while that of James II. was by the same means prevented from putting out to sea to intercept its progress.
II. But note that we have here no interference with the operation of the laws of nature, and no infringement of the liberty of moral agents. We have no record of any miracle in this case. There is nothing supernatural in a man’s having a sleepless night, or in his fixing on a certain part of his chronicles to read, or in the coming in of another person upon him at a particular juncture; and no single one of the actors in the case was working under compulsion--each one knew at the moment that he was following his own bent. But it was not less the work of God, or less glorifying to God. Now this non-miraculous providence, if I may so call it, is a greater and grander and more glorious achievement of God’s than it would have been if the same results had been accomplished through the direct forth putting of His own omnipotence. Now, if what I have advanced on this important matter be true, it may cast some light on the way in which God answers His people’s prayers. There are those who affirm that to ask God to confer on us a physical blessing is to ask Him to work a miracle in our behalf. Even if I believed that, I would still ask Him for what I need, because He has commanded me to do so, and I would trustfully leave the method of His answer in His own hands. But I do not believe that to ask a physical blessing from God is to ask Him to work a miracle in our behalf, and such a history as this of Esther confirms me in that non-belief. Then, finally, here, if what I have advanced in this connection be correct, it may tend to reconcile us to the minor inconveniences that come upon us in life. What an amount of fretting we do over little things! We go off our sleep, or we miss a train, or we have to wait for some tedious hours at a railroad station, or we approach the harbour in a fog and have to lie outside for a long while, so near our homes and yet so far from them, or a friend disappoints us and our plans are deranged. Yet why should we be impatient if it be true that even these little things are taken cognisance of by God, and woven by Him for His glory and our good into the fabric of our lives? If we could but pause a moment and say within ourselves, “This is all in the plan of God concerning us,” we should at once have self-control. Lessons--
1. Think how valuable God’s commonest gifts are. Keep your conscience clean, that nothing of guilt may put thorns into your pillow. Take no ambitious schemes with you to your couch, lest you should be constrained to lie awake in the attempt to work them out. Finish each day’s business in its own day, that there may be no nervous anxiety in your mind about the morrow. Watch over your table, and take nothing there that will make you restless. Think more of this common blessing of sleep, and see in that one of the richest tokens of the Divine goodness which is not to be trifled with, but to be valued and enjoyed.
2. And this leads me, by a very natural transition, to ask whether you have ever reviewed your obligations to God for all that He has done for you? Xerxes utilised his sleepless hours in discovering wherein he had failed to meet his obligations to his benefactors. But what a benefactor you have had in God! He gave His only Son for your salvation. Xerxes’ indebtedness to Mordecai was nothing in comparison to your obligation to Jehovah. Now let me ask, What have you done to Him for that? (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
Sleeplessness providentially used
There is no reason assigned for this. The king was not afflicted with illness, he was not suddenly seized with any disease to cause this wakefulness, nor was it occasioned by any intelligence of a distressing character, such as that formidable enemies had made their appearance before Shushan, or that grievous misfortunes had happened to any one dear to him. No; but the matter was entirely of the Lord. God has employed sleep for weighty purposes, in various ages of the world. It was while Adam was in “deep sleep” that “one of his ribs was taken,” and made a living being and an help meet for him. It was while Jacob was asleep that he was favoured with that wonderful vision, in which he beheld a ladder set upon the earth, whose top reached to heaven--a striking representation of God’s providential care for His people, and likewise of that Redeemer who is the way to the Father--a way in which whosoever walketh the angels of glory continually afford him their friendly ministrations. It was when Joseph was asleep that he was directed from heaven to take Mary for his wife, because that which had been conceived in her was of the Holy Ghost. But here God carries His purposes into execution by means of the absence of sleep. He is never at a loss to bring His designs to pass. (J. Hughes.)
Watches of the night
Had Ahasuerus been a pious man, and acquainted with the Word of God, he would have filled up She watches of the night with religious meditations, or called for the book of the law of the Lord, in which he would have found both instruction and entertainment. (T. McCrie, D. D.)
Nor was the custom wholly confined to the East. The “Chronicles of the Cid,” William of Malmesbury’s “Chronicles of the Kings of England,” the six old English Chronicles, viz., Asser’s Life of Alfred, and Chronicles of Eldred, Ethelred, Nennius, Geoffrey of Monmouth, and of Richard, and “The Chronicles of the Crusaders,” of Robert of Gloucester, and Ossian, and the famous Spanish and English ballads, are a part and parcel of the history and literature of our own day. (W. A. Scott, D. D.)
A sleepless king
In one of the dungeons of the fortress of Glatz lay a Prussian nobleman. King Frederick William III. had confined him there for treason. He had been long a prisoner, and there was no hope that he would ever be released. His only company was a Bible--the book he hated, and never read. But suffering and solitude wore upon his spirit, and he did read at last--till there rose in his soul some sense of a just God, who punishes those that forsake Him. He had forsaken Him--and now he repented of it. One night, by the dim light of his dungeon lamp, he was turning the leaves of the Bible for consolation, when his eyes fell on Psalms 50:15, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me.” Then, for the first time since childhood, the proud man knelt and prayed, and the peace of God came into his heart and dwelt there. That same night King Frederick in his palace, like King Ahasuerus, could not sleep. Worn out, he begged the Lord to give him one hour of rest from pain; and his prayer was granted. He awoke refreshed and grateful, and said to his wife, “Who in all my kingdom has wronged me most? I will forgive him.” Said Queen Louise, “It is the Count M--in the prison of Glatz.” “Send orders to release him at once,” commanded the king. And in a few days the prisoner was a free man, glorifying God for both spiritual and temporal deliverance.
All records before God’s eye continually
When Ahasuerus read in the book of the records of the chronicles, and there found how Mordecai had discovered a plot of treason against his person, he did not lay the book aside, and slightly pass by such a piece of service, but inquires what honour and what dignity had been done to Mordecai. It seems if the king had thought on, or read of him sooner, he had rewarded him sooner: but God hath ever in His eye all the records and chronicles of His people’s actions; He reads their journals every day. (J.Spencer.)
There is nothing done for him.
Modest merit is overlooked, while the aspiring, the ambitious, and the time-serving rise to honour and riches. Nor is ingratitude confined to courts. (T. McCrie, D. D.)
Ingratitude to God
But if gratitude to man for his comparatively little kindness (for man cannot do much for his fellow) animate the believer’s bosom, it glows with still more fervent gratitude to God, for the invaluable and merited blessing of salvation. (T. Hughes.)
A resurrection of good works
Things are done and forgotten, and men never suppose that they will come up again; yet after many days they are vivified, and history begins to take up the thread where it was dropped. (J. Parker, D. D.)
God’s time best
But God is never surprised, and the end of all is to make us think of Him. Nothing entered in His “book of remembrance” is ever forgotten. His time for bringing the good deeds of His people to light may seldom be the time we would judge best, but it is always the most fit. Look to this ease. Had it been a day, an hour, half an hour sooner, would the effect have been as good for Mordecai or for his people? Would humility, prayer, patience, have been called into strengthening exercise? (A. M. Symington, B. A.)
The loyalty and faithfulness of Mordecai had not been rewarded at the time. On the human side that might have been regarded as a piece of ingratitude, it not a reprehensible oversight; but on the Divine side it was a prepared cause, secreted and hidden for a long period, and yet waiting, and ready for the accomplishment, at the right time of a beneficent result. It was destined to come to the light. It was a seed-corn buried in the earth, which should bear fruit in due season. In an opposite direction there is the same particular providence often manifested in the unveiling of crime, and the bringing home of guilt to the hearts of those who have contracted it, as in the envy and malice of Joseph’s brethren and the avaricious covetousness of Achan. As shells, deep in the sea, grope their way to the shore, or as hidden springs burst their way through to the surface, and form little rivulets, so is there in providence a great law, constantly in operation, for the disclosure of all that is either good or bad in human character or conduct. If bad, it is as though the avenger was tracking the steps of the transgressor, and at some turning in his path, and by some trivial accident, the evil is unearthed, and the doer of it brought to judgment. Or if good, it is as though the rewarder was following in the way of the righteous, and at the best time, and apparently by the most fortuitous combination of circumstances, the well-doing is made known, and meets with its recompense. Even now it is so. But the lines are drawn out far beyond the present, and converge in the transactions of a distant day. (T. McEwan.)
Reward and retribution
I. It teaches us how well a good man can afford to wait for the due acknowledgment of his uprightness, and for any reward he may need for the good he has done. The conjecture is that six long years had gone by since Mordecai revealed the plot of the chamberlains and saved the king’s life, and not even a word of acknowledgment had come to him during all that time. But what we most admire is his behaviour meantime. If he had been a self-seeking man, he could easily have found means to refresh the king’s memory as to his services; but he kept silence. If he had been a malignant man, he might have sought what he would, in that case, have called a just revenge for the ungrateful neglect with which he had been treated, by hatching or falling in with some other plot. And then, how well all turns out in the end! How much better than if the reward had been given at the time! “He that believeth shall not make haste”; God’s time is always the best. Righteousness is its own reward, and we are never righteous as God would have us be until we feel this deeply and act accordingly. He who, in God’s strength, looks every day on the face of duty, and walks with her along whatever paths her sacred feet may tread, has in his own spirit, in his own character, what soon or late will blossom out into all beauty and grandeur; what will in the end become “glory, honour, and immortality.”
II. The next lesson is just the opposite of this, viz., “How certainly a bad man must be overtaken and punished!” We say “how certainly” because there is in his badness the root and element of the retribution, and often, without knowing it, he carefully develops and ripens by his own action the retribution that falls on his head.
III. For there is an increscent power in evil (as indeed there is also in good), in view of which we cannot be too watchful and anxious, lest by any means we should fall under the power of it. The power of it, remember, is very silent and gentle, generally, in its operations. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)
Pacification of conscience
The king was determined to rectify this matter, for he thought that by the pacification of conscience sleep might return. Many men are willing to purchase sleep on high terms. Could the murder but be undone; could the evil deed be but blotted out; could the stolen money be but safely returned; could the cruel word but be recalled; in short, could anything be done that sleep might once more come to the house, and fold all memories and anxieties within its healing robes! (J. Parker, D. D.)
What shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour?
Pride associated with folly
1. In Haman honouring Mordecai we have a remarkable verification of the fable of the dog and the shadow. He gaped after the shadow and lost the substance. Folly generally rides after pride. Haman grew more and more insolent and arrogant as he advanced in wealth and power, until he reached the highest point allowed to him by providence. He did not consider that he who does not climb gets no fall, and that he that climbs too high is sure, at last, to come down with s terrible crash. His temerity is remarkable. Thinking, however, that he was ordered to cut out his own honour, it is natural he should have made the measure large.
2. How completely wretched are the envious and the proud. Pride is the canker-worm of the soul. It always renders us unhappy. It is ever so with those who have not a new heart. The most wealthy and highly honoured are not content. There is something still wanting. There is something they still complain about. They make themselves miserable when they ought to be happy. Oh, how little a thing is earthly grandeur! How little a thing may embitter all human honour and affluence! There can be no happiness on earth till there is self-denial and trust. There is no happiness till we begin to crucify selfishness, and to trust in God as the portion of our souls.
3. We see here how great a misfortune it is to have friends and counsellors who are ignorant, wicked, or evil-disposed. There is a great deal of truth in the proverb, “Save me from my friends, and I will take care of my enemies.” It is sad when a man’s bosom counsellor is not true and faithful. And there is always danger to be apprehended when the advice of a professed friend is pleasing to our own angry or revengeful feelings. If Haman’s wife had been a meek, quiet, prudent, intelligent, God-fearing woman, her advice, at first, had been altogether of a different sort, and her bearing toward her husband, when he hastened home from court, almost heartbroken with disappointment and rage, would have been altogether different from what it was. Instead of adding fuel to his malignant passions, she should have endeavoured to moderate and restrain them. And instead of bruising a heart already broken, by adding taunt and reproach to grief, she should have sought to calm him and make him feel that, with her, in his own home, he was still with friends, respected and beloved, however much he had suffered at court. The husband’s fortune is more fully in the hands of his wife than anywhere else. It is hers to make his home happy, and to gird him with strength by sympathy and counsel. When his spirits are almost overwhelmed, she alone, of all human beings, is the one to minister to him. Her nursing is as sovereign to his sick soul as it is for his ailing body. It is her gentle tones only that can steal over his morbid senses with more power than David’s harp. And when his courage is almost gone, her patience and fortitude will rekindle his heart again to dare and do, and meet anew the toils and troubles of life. What a misfortune it was that Haman had not a sweet Christian home to retire to after the terrible disappointments and bitter experiences of that day! Yes, a sweet, quiet home. But you tell me I forget that he was a man of large estates, great honours, and the owner of a princely palace. True, but a palace is not always a home. What is a home? It is something for which many of earth’s babbling tongues have no term. A home is not a mere residence for the body, but a place where the heart rests and the affections nestle and dwell and multiply. Just in the proportion that a good woman is a blessing, in the same proportion is a bad woman a curse. Woman’s mission is a high and grand one. She is connected with everything that belongs to our race that is noble, refining, and hopeful. Great is the calamity, then, for a community to be under the influence of such opinions or sentiments as are degrading to its women. One bad woman can do more harm in society than a dozen bad men. (W. A. Scott, D. D.)
The Nemesis of providence
Had he been planning for Mordecai all the time he had been thinking of himself? Yea, verily, that was the Nemesis of providence; and yet, bad as it was, that was only one-half of the matter, for before long he would find that he had also been planning for himself when he had been thinking of Mordecai. The honour which he had designed for himself went to Mordecai, and the destruction which he had devised for Mordecai fell upon him self. The royal apparel was worn by the Jew, and the Agagite was hanged upon the gallows. His head had not been turned by the brief honour, nor his heart up lifted by the short-lived glory, for he was well ballasted, and his people were not yet delivered. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
What a marvellous change! what an unlooked-for revolution! The side of the wheel that was lately the lowest is now the highest. That which was a short time ago shrouded in dark ness is now radiant with light! “This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes.” (J. Hughes.)
The vain man
We see here the working and the punishment of vanity and pride. “Whom can the king think worthy of special honour but myself?” thought Haman. The vain man is always occupied about himself. He thinks about himself; he speaks about himself; he is all in all to himself. The idea never crossed Haman’s mind that there could possibly be any one besides himself whom the king could desire to distinguish by any particular mark of favour. But then how crushing was the order: “Go and do as thou hast said to Mordecai the Jew.” (A. B. Davidson, D. D.)
The Church honoured by her enemies
In this manner does God sometimes make the enemies of His Church and servants to honour them. He not only makes the sinners’ hands to forge the snares in which they themselves are caught, but He compels them to weave the crown and impose it on the head of the righteous. (T. McCrie, D. D.)
Haman’s answer reveals the insatiableness of vanity. No sooner was honour mentioned than his heart cried, “Let me have it I Make me a king, though it be only for an hour; if without the power, yet with all the pomp and trappings.” Will this man never have enough? Never; the food is so light and the appetite so strong that there must be a constant supply. Give him this, and to-morrow he will seek something more. The craving is a disease, an atrophy, a cancer. To enjoy honour and to be satisfied with it, a man must be healthy--that is, humble. Mark the strong delusion: “Now Haman thought in his heart.” A man cannot have a worse guide than the thought of his heart, unless God has broken and newmade it. Twice within this single minute Haman was cheated by the thought of his heart. He thought others must esteem him as highly as he esteemed himself; but it is never the case that when a man has a lofty opinion of himself other men have an opinion equally flattering. And he thought that all was going well with him, that this sudden honour would only postpone his revenge for an hour, that by the time he returned from the queen’s banquet he would be the happiest man in Persia; but he was just on the brink of perdition. The water is always smooth above a cataract. (A. M. Symington, B. A.)
Self-flattery leading to self-humiliation,
I. An artless question addressed to conceit.
II. The reasoning of concert.
III. The answer of conceit.
IV. The fearful blow to conceit.
V. The humiliating condition of conceit. (W. Burrows, B. A.)
And Mordecai came again to the king’s gate
A proud, ambitious man would have said to himself, “No more of the king’s gate for me! I shall direct my steps now to the king’s palace, and hold myself ready for honour, office, emolument, which surely must now be at hand.
” Mordecai seems to have said within himself, “If these things are designed for me in God’s good providence, they will find me. But they must seek me, for I shall not seek them. Those who confer them know my address. ‘Mordecai, at the king’s gate,’ will still find me.” (A. Raleigh, D. D.)
Honours modestly borne
Few can bear honours and dignities with equanimity, even when they come upon them gradually; but such sudden and high advancement was enough to make any ordinary person giddy, to cause him to forget himself, and behave unseemly. What fatal effects upon the head and heart do we often witness in persons who have all at once been raised from poverty to riches and rank. Even good men are not always proof against the intoxicating influence of such transitions. But Mordecai kept his place; like a gallant ship, firmly moored in a bay, which during a flood-tide heaves and seems for a time borne along with the lighter craft, but, obeying its anchor, comes round and resumes its former position. The pageantry of an hour could not unsettle his mind; he regarded it in its true light--a vain show. (T. McCrie, D. D.)
Before whom thou hast begun to fall.
The ascent to honour and greatness is steep, and those who aspire after them must climb it slowly, and with difficulty; but the descent is easy, and so precipitous, that when they lose their footing they fall in minutes what they rose in years. (T. McCrie, D. D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Esther 6". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29