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What is thy petition, queen Esther?
1. When called to speak for God and His people, we must summon up our courage, and act with becoming confidence and decision. Had Esther held her peace, under the influence of timidity or false prudence, or spoken with reserve as to the designs against the Jews and their author, she would have been rejected as an instrument of Jacob’s deliverance, and her name would not have stood at the head of one of the inspired books.
2. When persons resolve singly and conscientiously to discharge their duty in critical circumstances, they are often wonderfully helped. The manner in which Esther managed her cause was admirable, and showed that her heart and tongue were under a superior influence and management. How becoming her manner and the spirit with which she spoke!
3. It is possible to plead the most interesting of all causes, that of innocence and truth, with moderation and all due respect. The address of Esther was respectful to Ahasuerus as a king and a husband: “If I have found favour in thy sight, O king, and if it please the king.” Esther was calm as well as courageous, respectful as well as resolute.
4. It argues no want of respect to those in authority to describe evil counsellors in their true colours in bringing an accusation against them, or in petitioning against their unjust and destructive measures. “The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman.”
5. It is horrible to think and hard to believe that there is such wickedness as is perpetrated in the world. “Who is he, and where is he, that durst presume in his heart to do so?” We might well ask, Who was he that betrayed his master, and where did they live who crucified the Lord of glory? Who or where is he that dares presume to say, even in his heart, “There is no God”--that denies a providence, profanes the name and day of God, turns the Bible into a jest-book, mocks at prayer and fasting, and scoffs at judgment to come? And yet such persons are to be found in our own time.
6. We sometimes startle at the mention of vices to which we ourselves have been accessory. “who is he, and where is he, that durst presume in his heart to do so?” He is not unknown to thee, neither is he far from thee, O king. “Thou art the man!” And how seldom do we reflect on the degree in which we have been accessory to and participant in the sins of Others by our bad example, our criminal silence, and the neglect of those means which were in our power, and which we had a right to employ for checking them.
7. Persecution is not more unjust than it is impolitic. (T. McCrie, D. D.)
The prudent management of things
I. We see the great importance of capable and prudent management of things. Esther’s management of these great affairs is evidently consummate. There is an overruling providence, but there is also a teaching wisdom of God, and if we wish to be fully under the protection of the one, we must open all our faculties to receive the other.
II. We have in Esther’s behaviour a very notable and noble instance of calm and courageous action in strict conformity with the predetermined plan. How few women are born into the world who could go through these scenes as Esther does I How many would faint through fear I How many would be carried by excitement into a premature disclosure of the secret! How many would be under continual temptation to change the plan! Only a select few can be calm and strong in critical circumstances, patient and yet intense, prudent and yet resolved.
III. Her boldness takes here a form which it has not before assuaged; it is shown in the denunciation of a particular person: “The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman.” Strong language; but, at any rate, it is open and honest and above-board--no whispering into the king’s private ear; no secret plotting to supplant the Prime Minister. Every word is uttered in the man’s hearing, and to his face. Let him deny, if he can; let him explain, if he can. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)
Let my life be given me at my petition.
A plea for life
We have the very same cause for urgency of suit as she had. It behoveth us to say in the presence of another King, “Oh, let my life be given me at my petition.” There is a royal law, and under that law our lives are forfeited. Life, in the narrative before us, was about to be taken away unjustly--by force of a most cruel mandate; but it is a holy law that dooms us to death. (J. Hughes.)
For we are sold.--
A plea for liberty
We also ought to sue both for our fives and our liberties. By nature we are the bondmen and bondwomen of sin and Satan. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)
Who is he, and where is he, that durst presume in his heart to do so?--
The doings of a wicked heart
I. A wicked heart induces foolhardiness. “Who is he, and where is he, that durst presume in his heart to do so?” Haman’s daring presumption. A wicked heart is both deceitful and deceiving.
II. A wicked heart sooner or later meets with open condemnation.
III. A wicked heart leads to fearfulness. (W. Burrows, B. A.)
being commonly sudden and intense in uttering itself, furnishes strong testimony in favour of the universal principles of God’s moral law; but we have need to be careful how we indulge in expression of virtuous wrath. It is safe and wholesome for us to pause and ask whether there is no risk that in judging others we may be condemning ourselves. Ahasuerus will feel ere long that he has uttered his own condemnation. (A. M. Symington, B. A.)
The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman.--
The index finger
“The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman.” This is the best way of dealing with every enemy. Definite statements are manageable, but vague charges are never to be entertained. No man makes progress who deals in generalities. The sermon is in the application. The prayer is in the amen. Let us apply this teaching.
I. In the matter of our own personal character.
1. Put your finger upon the weak point of your character, and say, “Thy name is Self-indulgence.” Tell yourself that you are allowing your life to ooze away through self-gratification. You never say no to an appetite, you never smite a desire in the face.
2. Take it another direction. “The adversary and enemy is this infernal jealousy.” Your disease, say to yourself, is jealousy. Speak in this fashion when you have entered your closet and shut your door; say, “I am a jealous man, and therefore I am an unjust man; I cannot bear that that man should be advancing; I hate him; the recollection of his name interferes with my prayers; would God I could lay hold of something I could publish against him, I would run him to death.” Yes, this is the reality of the case, God never casts out this devil, this all-devil; only thou canst exorcise this legion.
3. Or take it in some other aspect and say, “The adversary and enemy is this eternal worldliness, that will not let me get near my God.”
II. With regard to public accusations.
1. Take it in the matter of public decay.
(1) Who in looking abroad upon the country will say, “The adversary and enemy is this wicked liquor traffic”?
(2) Or, “The adversary and enemy is this wicked official self-seeking”?
2. Apply the same law to the decline of spiritual power. It is an easy thing to read a paper on this subject, but who names the Haman? What keeps us back?
(1) Fear of offending the world. The world ought to be offended. No worldling should ever have one moment’s comfort in the house of God. He should feel that unless he is prepared to change his disposition, he is altogether in the wrong place.
(2) Sometimes the enemy is doubt in the heart of the preacher himself. The man is divided. His axe is split across the very edge. There is no power in his right arm. When he speaks he keeps back the emphasis.
III. We might apply the same doctrine to hindrances in the church. The adversary and enemy is this wicked, cold-hearted man. Whenever he comes into the church the preacher cannot preach; he cannot do many mighty works because that man is there, cold, icy, critical. We are afraid to name the adversary in church; we confine ourselves to “proper” words, to “decent” expressions, to euphemisms that have neither beginning nor ending as to practical vitality and force. We are the victims of circumlocution, we go round and round the object of our attack, and never strike it in the face. What we want is a definite, tremendous, final stroke. Esther succeeded. Her spirit can never fail. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Then Haman was afraid before the king and the queen.--
Haman was now left alone with his righteous accuser. Innocence is courageous, but guilt is cowardly. Men, with the consciousness of having truth and justice on their side, have risen superior to the fear of death, and stood undaunted before wrathful kings. But this man, haughty and hardened in view of the sufferings of others, no sooner sees that evil is determined against himself than he becomes a poor, unnerved trembling suppliant at the feet of her whom he had most grievously wronged. (T. McEwan.)
Cruel people often cowardly
Very cruel people are sometimes very cowardly. Judge Jeffreys could go through his black assize in the West of England, the terror of the land, manifesting the fury of a wild beast; but when the tide turned, and he saw nothing before him but ignominy and disgrace, he sank into a state of abject fear which was pitiable to see. “Haman was afraid before the king and the queen.” As he well may be. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)
And the king, arising from the banquet.
Man’s calculation is always upon the result of his own forethought and skill. There is to be a sure success from the wisdom of his plans. The race is for the swift and the battle is for the strong. Napoleon said, “Heaven is always on the side of the heaviest artillery.” The history of human contests would give innumerable illustrations of the contrary. God vindicates His own right to rule by employing the weak things of the world to confound the mighty, and taking the wise in their own craftiness. Haman has illustrated this in a very clear and remarkable manner But Haman’s course is not yet complete. “The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman.” Now Haman sees and feels the folly of his malice, however well contrived. He illustrates the ever-remarkable fact, that the boldest oppressor of others is the most cowardly suppliant in a returning danger upon himself. Then said the king, “‘ Hang him thereon. So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then was the king’s wrath pacified.” This closed his career of wickedness. Thus its folly and madness, as well as its guilt and certain ruin, were displayed. “Who hath hardened himself against the Lord, and hath prospered?” “I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree; yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not. Yea, I sought him, but he could not be found.” The prosperity of the wicked is short; the triumph of the ungodly is but for a moment. We see it thus displayed. Why shall we ever be tempted to test it for ourselves? Survey the whole course of this providence as it has passed.
1. It was a train of very trifling circumstances in each particular. There has been no event in the whole succession in itself of a remarkable or unusual character.
2. It was a very circuitous and remote process. The first step we have seen was very far off from the final result, and could not have been imagined to have any connection with it. Every succeeding step seemed equally independent and unlikely to produce the end designed. A wonderful plan was lately proposed for connecting New York and Brooklyn by a bridge, the foundation of which should be in the park. Who that saw men digging and laying stone in the middle of the park, with no knowledge of the plan proposed, could have imagined that it was the starting of a bridge over water so far distant, and to a shore so entirely out of sight? Yet such has been the course of this providence which we have considered. Stop at any point, and the connection is just as hidden, and the calculation of the future remains just as difficult. “Known only unto God are all His works from the beginning.” We may stand and ask, Why should the king have selected Esther at the very time of Haman’s elevation? Yet every step is sure and leading forward to the result designed. Nothing is lost, and no error is committed upon the road. This is the wonderful skill of Divine providence. The wheels are full of eyes on every side.
3. It was a perfectly unexpected result. Haman had gone through his whole preliminary course with entire success. But how suddenly and wonderfully was he disappointed.
4. God overturns this whole scheme of wickedness without appearing directly to interfere with it in any step of the proceeding. The whole plan wrought out its own result as naturally as the seed of spring brings forth the summer’s plant and the autumn’s fruit. The sinner was entrapped in his own devices. The sinner was deluded, by his prosperity, to suppose the race was for the swift and the battle to the strong. And yet the whole scheme was overturned in a moment, without one violent interruption occurring in its process. This is a most important lesson to us. It must teach us never to doubt the constant presence of God in all our concerns, and His directing power over all events involved in them. A change of wind may turn the dreaded flame from our habitation, a sudden lull may break the force of the tempest, the very means of apparent death may be made the real instrument of security and protection. And all this may be with no remarkable interference of special Divine power. Thus remarkable in the simplicity of its arrangement, as well as in the perfection of its result, was this whole process of the Divine overthrow of the crafty wickedness of Haman. He was caught in the very pride of his power. Haman was made the instrument of exalting the very adversary he so much hated. The very sorrow which he had prepared for his victim he was himself required to endure. Dr. Mason of New York, describes a remarkable scene of which he was an unexpected witness. A butcher in this city, in his rage with his aged father who had offended him, knocked him down upon the floor, and was dragging him by his hair to throw him into the street. He had pulled him to the outer door, when the old man cried out, “There, stop now, I did not drag him any further,” and then confessed that he had abused his own father in the same manner, and dragged him to that very spot, with the same design. Such instances, in some shape, are constantly occurring, so that it is a familiar expectation that the wicked shall fall into the pit they have digged for others, and they who take the sword perish by the sword. The result of this whole providence was complete deliverance and exaltation to the oppressed, and complete destruction to the oppressor. This was the final result, and an illustration of that which will always be, and at last surely be, the final result. God will exalt those whom man oppresses. (S. H. Tyng, D. D.)
An indestructible connection exists between the violation of Divine law and consequent suffering. A disregard to the conditions of health entails sickness. Poison destroys human life. He who thrusts his hand into the flame invites suffering. A like measure of changelessness marks the operations of moral law. Transgression is followed by suffering. Remorse is entailed by doing what one knows to be wrong. A sense of humiliation succeeds an unreasonable outbreak of anger. Loss of happiness and of self-restraint, and of the esteem of friends, is a portion of the legacy of self-indulgence. A knowledge of this law of retribution is not dependent on revelation. The conviction of its existence is inwoven with human nature. Graven on the conscience, it cannot be effaced. Of the examples of retribution few are more worthy of consideration than that of Haman. This illustrates--
I. The channel through which retribution comes. The harvest is garnered: how shall the grain reach the seaboard? Along iron rails laid down by man. The rice-fields are gleaned: how shall the product be conveyed to its destination? Through canals cut by man’s agency. The fruits of malice, of cruelty, of ambition, and of tyranny are perfected: how shall they be delivered to him for whom they are designed? Through agencies he himself has prepared--by some human hand to which a higher power has consigned them. Retribution though prepared in heaven, in coming to earth traverses the road which man has made ready for it. The lightning-bolt, though forged in the clouds, may make as it comes to earth a pathway of the tree planted by human hands. Haman’s wickedness is so conspicuous that the shafts of retributive justice are certain to strike him, miss whom else they may. Oppression and heartlessness, cherished hatred and the spirit of revenge, are towering upward to such heights that their summits are hidden in clouds already black with fury. The particular person commissioned of Heaven to mete out retributive justice to Haman was Ahasuerus. This is in accordance with God’s usual method of dealing. Though bearing the seal of the invisible kingdom, retribution comes through some agency with which we are familiar. The king showed good judgment in the earlier stages of his anger. “In his wrath he went into the palace garden.” Anger which speedily vents itself in harsh words is less harmful to its object than that which is repressed till a settled purpose is formed. Fear the man who can so far control his resentment as to be able to exercise good judgment in deciding upon measures which noiselessly bring the results of deeds home to their author. The steam which is generated so speedily as to cause a violent explosion might have proved sufficient, if properly controlled, to convey a long train, freighted with the enginery of death, to some advantageous position whence every missile would have told with deadly effect upon the enemy.
II. A fruitless plea for deliverance. Haman stood up to make request for his life. Verily no man can tell what awaits him! A few days, a few hours, may suffice to cloud the most brilliant prospects. The question, What new requisition is possible? may be suddenly converted into the anxious inquiry, Can I save anything from the common wreck, even life itself? Haman’s prayer, though importunate, was fruitier. The arrival of retribution chronicles the departure of mercy. In the presence of the king even the queen is powerless to rescue the culprit. He is now before the judge whose will is Esther’s law. At the day of final adjudication it will no doubt be evident that mercy is powerless to rescue those who have incurred “the wrath of the Lamb.” When mercy is driven to assume an attitude of vengeance, hope is for ever extinguished.
III. The signs of coming doom. Haman’s sinful career must be checked, or the queen must perish. Wickedness unchecked would ultimately extinguish goodness. Thistles and grass cannot continuously occupy the same soil, nor is it doubtful which would gain the mastery. “As the word went out of the king’s mouth they covered Haman’s face.” Guilt is left to bear the penalty alone. Alas, the heartlessness of those who are comrades in iniquity! No ingratitude surpasses that of those who have been associated in wickedness. To be deserted in the critical hour is the fate of those who have violated Divine commands. “So they hanged Haman on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai.” He is snared in his own devices. The arrow he directed at another has rebounded, causing his own death. The cannon which, loaded to the muzzle, was to annihilate his enemy, has recoiled, crushing him beneath its ponderous wheels. “As Haman brewed, so he drank.” “He made his bed, and he lay in it.” Cruelty displayed can have but one issue--cruelty endured. “With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” (J. S. Van Dyke, D. D.)
The fear, the folly, and the doom of the evil-doer
I. The evil-doer receives warning. “Haman saw that there was evil determined against him by the king.” He clearly heard the sound of the avenging deity though his feet might be shod with wool. Evil-doers receive warning. Nature gives warning. Revelation gives warning. History gives warning.
II. The foolish evil-doer works his own destruction. The very means Haman took to save his life was the means of bringing about his speedy execution.
III. The evil-doer raises striking evidence of his own guilt. “Behold the gallows fifty feet high,” etc.
IV. The evil-doer is practically his own executioner. “So they hanged Haman on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai.” (W. Burrows, B. A.)
The wicked overthrown
This great fact of Divine government we constantly forget. The person of the Deity is invisible. His ways and plans are not governed by the principles or the expectations of men. But the government is still on His shoulders, and He upholdeth all things by the word of His power. The history of Haman shows us how completely God controls the wicked and makes their crafty and malicious plans result in their own overthrow and ruin. But we come now to consider the peculiar method which God adopted for his overthrow. It is a wonderful illustration of the Divine providence in its minuteness of application. The successive steps in this scheme of counteraction are very minute. It is a regular arrangement of mining and countermining, as in military assaults and sieges. Each successive step is taken in direct reference to the previous motion of the antagonist, and as secretly as possible from him.
1. God lays up in store for His future use Esther’s unexpected relation to the king. It was a fearful trial of Mordecai’s faith and Esther’s piety. It seemed an unaccountable and dark proceeding. Their broken hearts both grieved in bitterness over the dispensation. But God was mercifully preparing for the evil to come. The hold which was allowed upon the affections, and the influence which was thus exercised upon the character of Ahasuerus, were very important in the train of results which was to be brought out.
2. God prepared a special obligation from the king to Mordecai. “Two of the king’s chamberlains, of those which kept the door, were wroth, and sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus,” etc.
3. God interposed in the settling of Haman’s lot. “They cast the lot from day to day, and from month to month to the twelfth month.” This was a very peculiar interposition. It gave nearly a year’s delay to the executing of the plan.
4. God gave great ease and apparent prosperity to Haman’s plan. The king granted his request at once, and gave him unlimited power to fulfil his purpose. Thus Haman was enticed forward to Perfect security. His success was so flattering to his own power that it led him to an immediate publication of his whole scheme. “There was written according to all that Haman commanded, to the governors that were over every province,” etc.
5. God endowed Esther with singular wisdom in arranging her scheme of argument and defence.
6. God awakens the slumbers of the king. “On that night the king could not sleep.” What trifling incidents does God employ to accomplish His great results! You will sometimes hear of His providence as if it were only concerned in what men call great events; but there are no distinctions of great and little in human events before God. Never be deluded by any false schemes of men. Not a sparrow falleth to the ground without the notice of your heavenly Father, and the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
7. God remarkably employs the waking king. “The king could not sleep, and he commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king., This was a singular step. He might as readily have called for any other book.
8. God furnished the very agent desired for the accomplishment of His plan. “And the king’s servants said unto him, Behold Haman standeth in the court. And the king said, Let him come in.” Every step appears to be propitious to Haman. He enters instantly, perfectly secure of the triumphant attainment of his purpose. But God had now perfectly prepared the way for Mordecai’s exaltation, and Haman, who had planned his death, must be the instrument of his honour. “God shall judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.” There is providence, and this was its course thus far. Every step is natural, voluntary, trifling in itself. No single step had any apparent earthly connection with the others, in the mind of the one who took it. The threads all seemed perfectly separate and unconnected. But it was a single hand which wove them all. How perfect is the scheme! How indispensable is every part! How clear the wisdom which has ordered the whole! With what confidence we may rely on such a Protector. The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good. His eyes are over the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers. (S. H. Tyng, D. D.)
The precarious position of princes’ favourites
Thus empty vessels swim aloft; rotten posts are gilt with adulterate gold; the worst weeds spring up bravest; and when the twins strive in Rebekah’s womb Esau comes forth first, and hath the primogeniture. But while they seek the greatest dignities they most meet with the greatest shame; like apes, while they be climbing they the more show their deformities. They are lifted up also that they may come down again with the greater poise. It was, therefore, well and wisely spoken by Alvarer de Luna, when he told them that admired his fortune and favour with the King of Castile, “You do wrong to commend the building before it is finished, and until you see how it will stand.” Princes’ favourites should consider with themselves that honour is but a blast, a glorious fancy, a rattle to still men’s ambition; and that as the passenger looketh no longer upon the dial than the sun shineth upon it, so it is here. (J. Trapp.)
For he saw that there was evil determined against him by the king.
Esteem changed to hatred
How easily does he appear to have taken off his regards from his favourite! There was nothing lasting in the bond which united them. The esteem of yesterday was changed into hatred to-day. All their convivial meetings and merry-making, when the city of Shushan was perplexed, were forgotten, and the man’s destruction was determined upon with as much zest and zeal as his elevation had been promoted. Such is largely the characteristic of the friendship of worldly men. Close and ardent for a time, but liable at any moment to be turned into enmity. How different from the tie which ought to bind together Christian hearts in the common love of the same Saviour. (T. McEwan.)
The wicked know not the moment that the mine is to be sprung under their feet. (T. McEwan.)
Will he force the queen also before me in the house.--
It is the misery of those who have been detected in the commission of great crimes, and it is a just part of their punishment, to be suspected or accused of that of which they were guiltless. But yesterday, all that Haman said or did was viewed with a favourable aye; now, the most innocent actions are construed to his disadvantage. (T. McCrie, D. D.)
And Harbonah, one of the king’s chamber-laths, said before the king, Behold also, the gallows fifty cubits high.--
The falling man
When a great man is going down, the meanest will give him a push. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
s:--Courtiers are very clever persons, and turn with wonderful agility. (A. M. Symington, B. A.)
But how terrible are the reverses of princes, and how sudden the fall of statesmen. Wolsey, Raleigh, Essex and Louis Phillippe, are only a few out of many that illustrate how slippery are the steps of thrones and the standings around them. (W. A. Scott, D. D.)
So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai.--
We all remember the ballad of Southey which tells how Sir Ralph the Rover, who cut away Inch Cape Bell, perished with all his crew upon the Inch Cape Rock; and even secular historians have been constrained to remark on illustrations of the fulfilment of this law of providence. Thus Macaulay reminds us that no man ever made a more unscrupulous use of the legislative power for the destruction of his enemies than Thomas Cromwell, and that it was by the unscrupulous use of the legislative power that he was himself destroyed. And Alison recognises in the death of Murat a memorable instance of the “moral retribution which often attends upon great deeds of iniquity, and by the instrumentality of the very acts that appeared to place them beyond its reach.” He underwent, in 1815, the very fate to which, seven years before, he had consigned a hundred Spaniards of Madrid, guilty of no other crime than of defending their country, and this, as the historian adds, “by the application of a law to his own case which he himself had introduced to check the attempts of the Bourbons to regain a throne which he had usurped.” Thus, often, in the words of the great dramatist, the engineer is “hoist with his own petard”; and we see that even in this life there is retribution. But it may be said that, though this is observable in great matters and with great people, it is not found in small. And to that I reply that there is nothing small in the providence of God. But others may say that this law is not absolutely universal, and that there have been cases in which it has not been fulfilled. To that I reply that there are such anomalies in God’s providence on earth, but the existence of these is only a reason for our believing that the retribution which has not overtaken the sinner here will surely come upon him hereafter; for then God “shall render to every man according to his works.” (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
1. Oh, how great are the vicissitudes of life! When Haman thought himself secure, then he was nearest to his ruin.
2. How sudden and astonishing the change that takes place in the feelings of those about the court. Yesterday, everybody envied Haman for his prosperity, but hated him for his insolence. Yesterday, they bowed the knee, and did him homage, but now that they see he has fallen, they are just as hearty in their rejoicings at his downfall. If Haman be going down, they all cry, “Down with him!” And as Mordecai is now the favourite, all are ready to exalt him. The old Louis, dead in Versailles, may rot or bury himself, while the courtier and countesses are making fair weather with the rising sun.
3. Haman pleading at Esther’s feet is a proof that “the heathen are sent down in the pit that they made: in the net which they hid is their own foot taken.” The Jews’ enemy, and the adversary of the Hebrew orphan, a suppliant at the queen’s feet, illustrates how God regarded the low estate of his handmaiden, and scattered the proud in their imagination.
4. Another lesson learned from Haman’s gallows, perhaps, better than from any other standpoint of this history, is to beware of the first risings of evil passions.
5. We see again that human prosperity is wholly unavailing in the hour of calamity. The glory of Haman yesterday only enhances his disgrace to-day.
6. It is then an unfair, limited, and partial view of providence to say that God’s favours are not wisely and equitably distributed among men. The purposes of God are not to be judged of by the events of a moment, nor by the occurrences that are near together. The chain of providence has many links; some are so high, and some are so far away, that at present we cannot see them, nor can we judge correctly of it till we see the whole chain together.
7. You must learn to discriminate between real and apparent happiness. (W. A. Scott, D. D.)
A warning to ambitious men
Let all ambitious men read the story of Haman and take warning. Hie story may not be repeated in all its Oriental details; yet there remains enough in the tale to remind us that we too are ambitious, that we too may have ignoble thoughts towards our fellow-men, and that even we are not above resorting to the foulest practices to get rid of the Mordecai who stands in our way as a stumbling-block. (J. Parker, D. D.)
The law of retribution
A proverb says, “Harm watch, harm catch,” and it is a true saying. Haman:--In the character of Haman there is a singular exhibition of ambition and envy. He was a man without benevolence, justice, or mercy. From the one external act in respect to Mordecai, we infer the fearful depth of depravity within. It does not appear but that his character might have been without reproach previous to his promotion. Exemplary conduct, however, previous to an open act of sin, must not be taken as a proof of purity of character at any time, for the external sots of sin may be compared to the eruptions of a volcano, which sometimes occur only after intervals embracing centuries, while the internal depravity is like those pent fires which lie couched beneath the base of the mountain, where in secret the lava wave is in perpetual motion. From the life and death of Haman learn--
1. That the wicked man cannot go unpunished.
2. That the wicked man will be punished when he least expects it.
3. That the wicked man will be punished by means of his own devising. (O. T. Lanphear, D. D.)
Gallows for Haman
Here is an Oriental courtier, about the most offensive man in Hebrew history.
I. That when the heart is wrong things very insignificant will destroy our comfort. Who would have thought that a great prime minister, admired and applauded by millions of Persians, would have been so nettled and harassed by anything trivial? The silence of Mordecai at the gate was louder than the braying of trumpets in the palace. Thus shall it always be if the heart is not right. Circumstances the most trivial will disturb the spirit. It is not the great calamities of life that create the most worriment. I have seen men, felled by repeated blows of misfortune, arising from the dust, never desponding. But the most of the disquiet which men suffer is from insignificant causes; as a lion attacked by some beast of prey turns easily around and slays him, yet runs roaring through the forests at the alighting on his brawny neck of a few insects. You meet some great loss in business with comparative composure; but you can think of petty trickeries inflicted upon you, which arouse all your capacity for wrath, and remain in your heart an unbearable annoyance. If you look back upon your life you will find that the most of the vexations and disturbances of spirit which you felt were produced by circumstances that were not worthy of notice. If you want to be happy you must not care for trifles. Do not be too minute in your inspection of the treatment you receive from others. Who cares whether Mordecai bows when you pass or stands erect and stiff as a cedar? That woodman would not make much clearing in the forest who should stop to bind up every little bruise and scratch he received in the thicket; nor will that man accomplish much for the world or the Church who is too watchful and appreciative of petty annoyances.
II. Again, I learn from the life of this man that worldly vanity and sin are very anxious to have piety bow before them. Haman was a fair emblem of entire worldliness, and Mordecai the representative of unflinching godliness. When, therefore, proud Haman attempted to compel a homage which was not felt, he only did what the world ever since has tried to do, when it would force our holy religion in any way to yield to its dictates. Paul might have retained the favour of his rulers and escaped martyrdom if he had only been willing to mix up his Christian faith with a few errors. His unbending Christian character was taken as an insult. Faggot and rack and halter in all ages have been only the different ways in which the world has demanded obeisance. Why was it that the Platonic philosophers of early times, as well as Toland, Spinoza, and Bolingbroke of later days, were so madly opposed to Christianity? Certainly not because it favoured immoralities, or arrested civilisation, or dwarfed the intellect. The genuine reason, whether admitted or not, was because the religion of Christ paid no respect to their intellectual vanities. Blount, and Boyle, and the host of infidels hatched out during the reign of Charles II., could not keep their patience, because, as they passed along, there were sitting in the gate of the church Christian men who would not bend an inch in respect to their philosophies. Reason, scornful of God’s Word, may foam and strut with the proud wrath of a Haman, and attempt to compel the homage of the good, but in the presence of men and angels it shall be confounded. When science began to make its brilliant discoveries there were great facts brought to light that seemed to overthrow the truth of the Bible. The archaeologist with his crowbar, and the geologist with his hammer, and the chemist with his batteries, charged upon the Bible. Thus it was that the discoveries of science seemed to give temporary victory against God and the Bible, and for awhile the Church acted as if she were on a retreat; but when all the opposers of God and truth had joined in the pursuit, and were sure of the field, Christ gave the signal to His Church, and, turning, they drove back their foes in shame. There was found to be no antagonism between nature and revelation. The universe and the Bible were found to be the work of the same hand, strokes of the same pen, their authorship the same God.
III. Again, learn that pride goeth before a fall. Was any man ever so far up as Haman, who tumbled so far down? Yes, on a smaller scale every day the world sees the same thing. Against their very advantages men trip into destruction. When God humbles proud men, it is usually at the moment of their greatest arrogancy. If there be a man in your community greatly puffed up with worldly success, you have but to stand a little while and you will see him come down. You say, “I wonder that God allows that man to go on riding over others’ heads and making great assumptions of power.” There is no wonder about it. Haman has not yet got to the top. The arrows from the Almighty’s quiver are apt to strike a man when on the wing.
IV. Again, this Oriental tale reminds us that wrongs we prepare for others return upon ourselves. The gallows that Haman built for Mordecai became the prime minister’s strangulation. Robespierre, who sent so many to the guillotine, had his own head chopped off by the horrid instrument. The evil you practise on others will recoil upon your own pate. Slanders come home. Oppressions and cruelties come home. When Charles I., who had destroyed Stratford, was about to be beheaded, he said, “I basely ratified an unjust sentence, and the similar injustice I am now to undergo is a sensible retribution for the punishment I inflicted on an innocent man.” Haman’s gallows came a little late, but it came. Opportunities fly in a straight line, and just touch us as they pass from eternity to eternity; but the wrongs we do others fly in a circle, and however the circle may widen out, they are sure to come back to the point from which they started. They are guns that kick! Furthermore, let the story of Haman teach us how quickly turns the wheel of fortune. So we go up, and so we come down. You seldom find any man twenty years in the same circumstances. Of those who, in political life, twenty years ago were the most prominent, how few remain in conspicuity! Of those who were long ago successful in the accumulation of property, how few have not met with reverses! while many of those who then were straitened in circumstances now hold the bonds and the bank-keys of the nation. Of all fickle things in the world, Fortune is the most fickle. Every day she changes her mind, and woe to the man who puts any confidence in what she promises or proposes! She cheers when you go up, and she laughs when you come down.
V. Again, this Haman’s history shows us that outward possessions and circumstances cannot make a man happy. There are to-day more aching sorrows under crowns of royalty than under the ragged caps of the houseless. Much of the world’s affluence and gaiety is only misery in colours. Many a woman seated in the street at her apple-stand is happier than the great bankers. The mountains of worldly honour are covered with perpetual snow. Tamerlanc conquered half the world, but could not subdue his own fears. Ahab goes to bed sick because Naboth will not sell him his vineyard. The soul’s happiness is too large a craft to sail up the stream of worldly pleasure. As ship-carpenters say, it draws too much water. This earth is a bubble, and it will burst. This life is a vision, and it will soon pass away. Time! It is only a ripple, and it breaketh against the throne of judgment. Mordecai will only have to wait for his day of triumph. It took all the preceding trials to make a proper background for his after successes. The scaffold built for him makes all the more imposing and picturesque the horse into whose long white mane he twisted his fingers at the mounting. You want at least two misfortunes, hard as flint, to strike fire. Heavy and long-continued snows in winter are signs of good crops next summer. So many have yielded wonderful harvests of benevolence and energy because they were for a long while snowed under. We must have a good many hard falls before we learn to walk straight. It is on the black anvil of trouble that men hammer out their fortunes. Sorrows take up men on their shoulders and enthrone them. Tonics are nearly always bitter. Men, like fruit-trees, are barren unless trimmed with sharp knives. They are like wheat--all the better for the flailing. It required the prison darkness and chill to make John Bunyan dream. Mordecai despised at the gate is only predecessor of Mordecai exalted. (T. De Witt Talmage.)
A bishop said to Louis XI. of France, “Make an iron cage for all those who do not think as we do--an iron cage in which the captive can neither lie down nor stand straight up.” It was fashioned--the awful instrument of punishment. After a while the bishop offended Louis XI., and for fourteen years he was in that same cage, and could neither lie down nor stand up. It is a poor rule that will not work both ways. “With that measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” (T. De Witt Talmage.)
The purpose of God
The wheels in a watch or a clock move contrary one to another, some one way, some another, yet all serve the intent of the workman, to show the time, or to make the clock to strike. So in the world the providence of God may seem to run cross to His promises. One man takes this way, another runs that way. Good men go one way, wicked men another. Yet all in conclusion accomplish the will, and centre in the purpose of God, the great creator of all things. (R. Sibbes.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Esther 7". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12