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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
Esther 4

 

 

Verse 1

Esther 4:1

When Mordecai perceived all that was done, Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes.

Mordecai’s grief

In the case of Mordecai, the first effect of the proclamation was bitter anguish, for his conduct had been the flint out of which the spark leaped to kindle this portentous conflagration. But Mordecai’s grief did not upset his judgment. The genuine sorrow of an honest soul very seldom has that effect; and this man’s greatness comes out in his deliberateness. Faith, too, as well as sound judgment, may be discerned under this good man’s grief. (A. M. Symington, B. A.)

Mordecai in sackcloth

I. Mordecai was exceedingly affected at what the king had commanded (Esther 4:1). See the stirring benevolence of this man, the sweet philanthropy which dwelt in his soul, and how deeply he felt the common calamity, which resulted from his own conscientious doings. There is nothing new in the Lord’s people meeting with adversities and troubles in this life. “Let them that suffer according to the will of God, commit the keeping of their souls to Him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator.” “As the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.”

II. In the depth of his grief, Mordecai “came even before the king’s gate, clothed with sack cloth” for none might enter into the king’s gate clothed with sackcloth (Esther 4:2). Amusements or diversions are one class of spiritual idols to which many of the sons of men render homage. The wise man informs us that a scene of unbroken enjoyment is not the best for the interest of the soul. “It is better to go to the house of mourning,” etc. “for that is the end of all men, and the living will lay it to heart.” Do as the saints of old did; we never hear them saying, “I will rejoice in the world”; but “I will rejoice in the Lord,” “I will rejoice in Thy salvation.” “In the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice.” “My soul shall be joyful in my God: for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness.”

III. Mordecai, though he could not enter within the king’s gate with his signals of distress, went as near it as he dared to go, with the view of acquainting Esther, by means of her attendants, with the impending danger. As soon as she heard of his mournful habit, she sympathised with him, and sent him raiment instead of his sackcloth, that he might resume his place. We cannot but admire two things which the grace of God had wrought in this woman--her condescension and gratitude. She was now a queen. Providence had placed her on the summit of worldly greatness, yet did she not disregard one of her subjects in distress. She kindly inquired into the cause of his sorrow. Her gratitude also was lovely. Mordecai had acted the part of a tender father towards her, when she was cast a parentless child on the wide world. She does not now forget that tenderness.

IV. Mordecai sent back to Esther tidings of the situation in which he, and she, and their people were placed (verses 7, 8). Esther was now in a station, high and influential, and she is here charged to use her influence on the side of right and justice, and against oppression and tyranny. It is delightful to behold power thus employed! Power is a mighty weapon, and effects great things either to the injury or benefit of the community.

V. Esther sent again to Mordecai, to tell him that she had not for a considerable period been invited to the royal presence, and that to go uninvited was certain death.

VI. Notwithstanding what Esther said, Mordecai would by no means have her neglect the work which he had assigned her (verses 13, 14). We learn a few particulars from these words.

1. That Mordecai had a strong belief that God would interfere for His people in this case.

2. That we are not to flinch from our duty by reason of the danger which we incur by its performance. It is easy to walk in the way while it is smooth and easy, but it must be walked in also when it is rough and thorny.

3. That the work of the Lord shall prosper, whether we endeavour to promote it or otherwise. “Deliverance shall arise to the Jews from another place: but thou,” etc. God is never at a loss for instruments to accomplish His will. If we neglect the honour, He will make others willing to spend and to be spent in His service.

VII. We come now to Esther’s answer (verses 15, 16). Fasting and prayer were resorted to on this occasion. Spiritually performed, they never fail of success. United prayer, as in these cases, and in that of Peter, who was about to be killed by Herod, is omnipotent. Like Esther, let us work and pray. These duties must ever be associated. To work without praying is Pharisaism and presumption. To pray without working is insincerity and hypocrisy. Like Mordecai, let us counsel others to do their duty, heedless of all temporal consequences, and pray that they may have power from on high for its due accomplishment. (J. Hughes.)

Anguish keenly felt

At first it would appear that he was so stunned, and almost stupefied, by the news, that he knew not what to do. He was cast into the uttermost distress. He was like a vessel struck by a cyclone. He would get to the use of efforts to meet the crisis by and by; but, for the moment, when the hurricane first burst upon him, he could do nothing but give way to the violence of the storm. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Great sorrow

I. Sorrow cannot be prevented. Sibbes says, “None ever hath been so good or so great as could raise themselves so high as to be above the reach of troubles.” Thomas Watson observes, “The present state of life is subject to afflictions, as a seaman’s life is subject to storms. Man is born to trouble; he is heir-apparent to it; he comes into the world with a cry and goes out with a groan.”

II. Sorrow cannot be explained. In its general aspect sin is the cause of sorrow. When we come to particularise we find ourselves at fault. Eternity is the only true and complete interpreter of time. Heavenly joys only can make plain the meaning of earthly sorrows.

III. Sorrow cannot be hidden. Emotion is as much part of our God-given nature as intellect. The man who does not feel is a man with the better part of manhood destroyed. Feeling must sooner or later find an expression. It is better not to hide our sorrows. Trouble concealed is trouble increased.

IV. Sorrow cannot be confined. It passes from nature to nature; from home to home. This community of feeling, this susceptibility to sorrow, speaks to us of our brotherhood. We are members one of another.

V. But sorrow can be mitigated.

1. By believing that the threatened trouble may never come.

2. By believing that God knows how to effect a deliverance.

3. By believing that sorrow may be made productive.

As the waters of the Nile overflow the surrounding country, and open up the soil, end prepare it for the reception of the rice seed, so the waters of sorrow should overflow and open up the otherwise barren soil of our nature, and prepare it for the reception of the seed of all truth in its manifold bearings. “Tribulation worketh patience,” etc. (W. Burrows, B. A.)

Mordecai’s grief

There is perhaps but little doubt that Mordecai passed hours--they come to nearly all--when gloom lay heavy upon the soul, when the shock he had felt seemed to render existence a blank, leaving little of hope before him save that which glittered around the gateway of death and seemed to whisper, “Abandon effort; accept the inevitable”--seasons when the fruitlessness of labour, the unreasonableness of man, the malignancy of human enmity, the worthlessness of human sacrifice, the emptiness of the most ardent aspirations, and the ineffciency of goodness, leave the soul drifting upon the open sea of despondency with a torturing sense of loneliness--moments when faith in man, even faith in the Church, is shaken, inducing the spirit to cast itself upon the Fatherhood of God, as the storm drives the wearied bird to its home in the rocks. But since faith still lives, and can only live, in the performance of present duty--which alone has the power of maintaining piety in the soul--he soon discovers that continued reliance upon God is urging him to labour for the realisation of the results he covets. (J. S. Van Dyke, D. D.)


Verse 1

Esther 4:1

When Mordecai perceived all that was done, Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes.

Mordecai’s grief

In the case of Mordecai, the first effect of the proclamation was bitter anguish, for his conduct had been the flint out of which the spark leaped to kindle this portentous conflagration. But Mordecai’s grief did not upset his judgment. The genuine sorrow of an honest soul very seldom has that effect; and this man’s greatness comes out in his deliberateness. Faith, too, as well as sound judgment, may be discerned under this good man’s grief. (A. M. Symington, B. A.)

Mordecai in sackcloth

I. Mordecai was exceedingly affected at what the king had commanded (Esther 4:1). See the stirring benevolence of this man, the sweet philanthropy which dwelt in his soul, and how deeply he felt the common calamity, which resulted from his own conscientious doings. There is nothing new in the Lord’s people meeting with adversities and troubles in this life. “Let them that suffer according to the will of God, commit the keeping of their souls to Him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator.” “As the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.”

II. In the depth of his grief, Mordecai “came even before the king’s gate, clothed with sack cloth” for none might enter into the king’s gate clothed with sackcloth (Esther 4:2). Amusements or diversions are one class of spiritual idols to which many of the sons of men render homage. The wise man informs us that a scene of unbroken enjoyment is not the best for the interest of the soul. “It is better to go to the house of mourning,” etc. “for that is the end of all men, and the living will lay it to heart.” Do as the saints of old did; we never hear them saying, “I will rejoice in the world”; but “I will rejoice in the Lord,” “I will rejoice in Thy salvation.” “In the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice.” “My soul shall be joyful in my God: for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness.”

III. Mordecai, though he could not enter within the king’s gate with his signals of distress, went as near it as he dared to go, with the view of acquainting Esther, by means of her attendants, with the impending danger. As soon as she heard of his mournful habit, she sympathised with him, and sent him raiment instead of his sackcloth, that he might resume his place. We cannot but admire two things which the grace of God had wrought in this woman--her condescension and gratitude. She was now a queen. Providence had placed her on the summit of worldly greatness, yet did she not disregard one of her subjects in distress. She kindly inquired into the cause of his sorrow. Her gratitude also was lovely. Mordecai had acted the part of a tender father towards her, when she was cast a parentless child on the wide world. She does not now forget that tenderness.

IV. Mordecai sent back to Esther tidings of the situation in which he, and she, and their people were placed (verses 7, 8). Esther was now in a station, high and influential, and she is here charged to use her influence on the side of right and justice, and against oppression and tyranny. It is delightful to behold power thus employed! Power is a mighty weapon, and effects great things either to the injury or benefit of the community.

V. Esther sent again to Mordecai, to tell him that she had not for a considerable period been invited to the royal presence, and that to go uninvited was certain death.

VI. Notwithstanding what Esther said, Mordecai would by no means have her neglect the work which he had assigned her (verses 13, 14). We learn a few particulars from these words.

1. That Mordecai had a strong belief that God would interfere for His people in this case.

2. That we are not to flinch from our duty by reason of the danger which we incur by its performance. It is easy to walk in the way while it is smooth and easy, but it must be walked in also when it is rough and thorny.

3. That the work of the Lord shall prosper, whether we endeavour to promote it or otherwise. “Deliverance shall arise to the Jews from another place: but thou,” etc. God is never at a loss for instruments to accomplish His will. If we neglect the honour, He will make others willing to spend and to be spent in His service.

VII. We come now to Esther’s answer (verses 15, 16). Fasting and prayer were resorted to on this occasion. Spiritually performed, they never fail of success. United prayer, as in these cases, and in that of Peter, who was about to be killed by Herod, is omnipotent. Like Esther, let us work and pray. These duties must ever be associated. To work without praying is Pharisaism and presumption. To pray without working is insincerity and hypocrisy. Like Mordecai, let us counsel others to do their duty, heedless of all temporal consequences, and pray that they may have power from on high for its due accomplishment. (J. Hughes.)

Anguish keenly felt

At first it would appear that he was so stunned, and almost stupefied, by the news, that he knew not what to do. He was cast into the uttermost distress. He was like a vessel struck by a cyclone. He would get to the use of efforts to meet the crisis by and by; but, for the moment, when the hurricane first burst upon him, he could do nothing but give way to the violence of the storm. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Great sorrow

I. Sorrow cannot be prevented. Sibbes says, “None ever hath been so good or so great as could raise themselves so high as to be above the reach of troubles.” Thomas Watson observes, “The present state of life is subject to afflictions, as a seaman’s life is subject to storms. Man is born to trouble; he is heir-apparent to it; he comes into the world with a cry and goes out with a groan.”

II. Sorrow cannot be explained. In its general aspect sin is the cause of sorrow. When we come to particularise we find ourselves at fault. Eternity is the only true and complete interpreter of time. Heavenly joys only can make plain the meaning of earthly sorrows.

III. Sorrow cannot be hidden. Emotion is as much part of our God-given nature as intellect. The man who does not feel is a man with the better part of manhood destroyed. Feeling must sooner or later find an expression. It is better not to hide our sorrows. Trouble concealed is trouble increased.

IV. Sorrow cannot be confined. It passes from nature to nature; from home to home. This community of feeling, this susceptibility to sorrow, speaks to us of our brotherhood. We are members one of another.

V. But sorrow can be mitigated.

1. By believing that the threatened trouble may never come.

2. By believing that God knows how to effect a deliverance.

3. By believing that sorrow may be made productive.

As the waters of the Nile overflow the surrounding country, and open up the soil, end prepare it for the reception of the rice seed, so the waters of sorrow should overflow and open up the otherwise barren soil of our nature, and prepare it for the reception of the seed of all truth in its manifold bearings. “Tribulation worketh patience,” etc. (W. Burrows, B. A.)

Mordecai’s grief

There is perhaps but little doubt that Mordecai passed hours--they come to nearly all--when gloom lay heavy upon the soul, when the shock he had felt seemed to render existence a blank, leaving little of hope before him save that which glittered around the gateway of death and seemed to whisper, “Abandon effort; accept the inevitable”--seasons when the fruitlessness of labour, the unreasonableness of man, the malignancy of human enmity, the worthlessness of human sacrifice, the emptiness of the most ardent aspirations, and the ineffciency of goodness, leave the soul drifting upon the open sea of despondency with a torturing sense of loneliness--moments when faith in man, even faith in the Church, is shaken, inducing the spirit to cast itself upon the Fatherhood of God, as the storm drives the wearied bird to its home in the rocks. But since faith still lives, and can only live, in the performance of present duty--which alone has the power of maintaining piety in the soul--he soon discovers that continued reliance upon God is urging him to labour for the realisation of the results he covets. (J. S. Van Dyke, D. D.)


Verses 1-5

Verse 2

Esther 4:2

For none might enter into the king’s gate clothed with sackcloth.

Death must be encountered

Since the last enemy must be encountered by the greatest as well as the least of our race, is it not far better to be prepared for meeting him, than to banish him from our thoughts? (G. Lawson.)

Death a visitor that cannot be stopped at the gate

And is Death included in this prohibition? Have you given orders to your porters and guards to stop this visitor at the gate, and to say to him, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further”? Or will they be able to persuade him, and his train of ghastly attendants, gout, fever, consumption, and other diseases, to lay aside their sable dress, together with their darts and spears and scorpions? (T. McCrie.)

We cannot keep trouble from our hearts by banishing the signs of mourning from our dwellings

It is the height of folly, therefore, for us to try to surround ourselves with the appearance of security, and make believe that no change can come upon us. That is to do like the ostrich, which buries its head in the sand, and thinks itself safe from its pursuers because it can no longer see them. Trouble, sorrow, trial, death are inevitable, and the wise course is to prepare to meet them. We cannot shut our homes against these things; but we can open them to Christ, and when He enters He says, “My grace is sufficient for thee; My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)


Verse 3

Esther 4:3

And in every province . . . there was great mourning among the Jews.

A sentence of death

If a sentence of death pronounced by an earthly sovereign produced such grief, such anxiety, such cries of deliverance, what impression ought to be made on the minds of sinners by that sentence which is passed against them in the court of heaven?--“Judgment is come upon all men to condemnation.” We are still under that sentence of condemnation if we are not in Christ Jesus. Surely we believe neither law nor gospel, if we can enjoy peace in our own minds, without the humble hope of mercy through our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. (G. Lawson.)


Verse 4

Esther 4:4

Then was the queen exceedingly grieved; and she sent raiment.

Sorrow net superficially removed

Esther, in her elevation, and in her separation from her friends, was far from forgetting them. She was deeply afflicted when she heard of the mourning habit and sore affliction of Mordecai. She was vexed that he should appear at the king’s gate in a dress in which he could not enter it, and therefore sent to him change of raiment. But she knew not the sources of his distress. Grief so firmly rooted, and so well founded, could not be removed without a removal of its cause. (G. Lawson.)


Verse 5

Esther 4:5

Then called Esther for Hatach, one Of the king’s chamberlains.

Hatach, the chamberlain

Gives us a good subject for reflection; and not a hackneyed one. Pause we a moment then on this undistinguished name. Let the greater actors stand aside--king and queen--Haman and Mordecai--mourning Jews and raging Amalekites--and let a servant (in high office no doubt, but still a servant), rendering true fealty in the spirit of reverence and faithfulness, stand before us in his undistinguished honesty and simplicity. The queen begins to be in sore trouble. The darkness is deepening. Some unknown but dire calamity is near--“Send me Hatach--I need my truest and my best--‘that I may know what it is, and why it is,’ and what may be done to prepare for, or avert the evil day.” Imagine, if you can, what this world would be if all the Hstachs were taken out of it, or taken out of its offices. Let Abraham have no Eliezer; Sarah no Deborah; Naaman’s wife no little maid of Israel; Saul no armour-bearer; Esther no Hatach. Let that process go on through a particular section of society, and what helpless creatures kings and queens would be, and all the men of great name, and all who live in state, and luxury, and grandeur! It would be like a landslip in society. The upper stratum would come sliding down, in some cases perhaps toppling down in many things to a level with the lowest. There are men in government offices never heard of in public life, who have more merit in particular measures which pass than some of those whose names are connected with them. There are managers and confidential clerks who mainly conduct great businesses in the city, and in whom their masters proudly and safely trust. Or, to enter the private scene, many a house is kept quiet, and orderly, and sweet, and homelike, mainly by the assiduities of one confidential servant. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)


Verse 8

Esther 4:8

And to charge her that she should go in unto the king, to make supplication unto him.

A resolute will

In the meantime, this lesson may be drawn from his conduct--that a resolute will, when it is exerted for the accomplishment of any purpose, is usually successful in the end. The triumphs of the Reformation, for example, in our own country and in other lands, where it did triumph, while they are really to be ascribed to the overruling providence of God, are instrumentally to be attributed to this, that God raised up and qualified for the work certain men of determined will and unflagging energy, who kept before them the great purpose which they sought to effect, and would be turned aside by no danger or difficulty from working it out. And I would remark, that in things spiritual--in things affecting the eternal salvation of man--resoluteness of will and indomitable energy are as indispensable as in the pursuit of temporal good. (A. B. Davidson, D. D.)

Human sympathy

How ardently Mordecai is coveting the sympathy of one whom his self-sacrifice elevated to a position above his own! Human sympathy, exhibited in practical ways, proves wondrous in power, multiplying joys and dividing sorrows. It is like sunshine upon rosebuds, unfolding hidden beauty and evoking new fragrance. Like May breezes upon consumptive cheeks, it brings back the glow of health where pallor of death has been, and paints cheerfulness where despondency has been brooding too long already. It is a contribution of the heart more priceless than the wealth of the Indies. It may be incapable of explaining the mysteries of providence; it may be disqualified for recommending resignation to the Divine will; possibly it may be powerless in affecting deliverance; but when genuine it possesses inestimable value, though it may not open avenues from Marah to the land of Beulah. (J. S. Van Dyke, D. D.)


Verse 11

Esther 4:11

But I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days.

Providence tries faith

Thus it is that Providence sometimes frowns on the cause of His Church and people, by not only exposing them to imminent danger, but by shutting up all the ordinary avenues of escape, so that there appears no evasion for them. This proves a severe trial to their faith, but affords an opportunity for displaying His own wisdom and mercy in their ultimate deliverance. (T. McCrie.)

The darker aspect, of providence

We have here an illustration of what is not unfrequently observable in the arrangements of the Divine providence--that the affairs of God’s people assume a darker and darker aspect, just before a favourable interposition comes--in order, no doubt, to make the truth more palpable, that it is by His hand that their deliverance, is wrought out, and that therefore they should never distrust Him, nor think that He has forgotten to be gracious. (A. B. Davidson, D. D.)

Access to God without fear

It is indeed with the Great King you have to deal, and life and death are at His disposal; but you may go to Him without fear, if you go with a true heart. There was all the formality of priestly services under the law, between the worshippers and Jehovah, to make them feel that they could not come nigh personally; just as there were functionaries to prevent Esther from coming into the presence of the king, when she merely felt the wish to do so. Now, however, God invites us to come to Him at all times, and what prevents us from having full communion with Him is not our personal unworthiness, but our unbelief. (A. B. Davidson, D. D.)


Verse 13

Esther 4:13

Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther.

Repeated admonition necessary

It is necessary for those who desire to be useful to the souls of their neighbours not only to tell them, as occasion requires, what it is their duty to do, but to repeat their admonitions, to enforce them by reasons, and to obviate those objections which rise up in their minds against the performance of it. (G. Lawson.)

High motives necessary

Mordecai’s answer is tragical and grand. Esther’s womanly caution brought out his courage and his faith. In his consuming zeal for God and God’s people, he left the domestic affections far below him. Though loving Esther more than he loved any one else on earth, he never scrupled about risking her life. For the same reason he made no allusion to the obligations under which she lay to his kindness, He had nursed her on his knees, he had taught her to walk and speak, he had fed and clothed her, he had surrounded the perilous steps of her maidenhood with the shield of his watchful and wise affection; but he neither remembered these things now nor wished her to remember them. As none of them moved him to spare her the risk, so neither will he urge them as reasons why she should undertake it. This great thing must be gone through under the influence of higher motives than these, and in obedience to a higher will than his. (A. M. Symington, B. A.)

Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews--

False hopes of safety are one fruitful source of delusion

By making persons careless or averse to use means for their own escape, or the deliverance of others, from danger, temporal or eternal. They must, therefore, be disabused and undeceived; the veil of covering which is spread over their minds must be torn off, and they must be shown their real state, and their impending danger in all its nakedness and nearness. We never will persuade sinners to flee to the refuge opened for them if we do not convince them that wrath is coming upon them. “Save yourselves from this untoward generation.” Think not with yourselves that you shall escape their doom, however sober, and decent, and moral you may be, compared with some of them. While profligacy destroys its thousands, false peace and lying confidences destroy their ten thousands. (T. McCrie.)

Reluctant self-denial

Alas! how often it happens that the Christian needs to be plied with arguments rooted in selfishness ere he can be induced to perform an unpleasant duty, especially if it involves the possibility of self-sacrifice! John Sterling well said, “The worst education which teaches self-denial is better than the best which teaches everything else but that.” Strange that, although we announce ourselves followers of the Saviour, we should be so reluctant to endure hardship as good soldiers, while yet fulsome in the declaration, “No sweat, no sweet; no cross, no crown; no pains, no gains.” (J. S. Van Dyke, D. D.)

No refuge in the king’s house

In many ways do men cherish false hopes, from the simple circumstance of dwelling in what may be called “the king’s house.” For example: The Word of God includes all under condemnation who have not a personal faith in the Divine Redeemer; but in the neglect of that urgent duty there are some who hope for salvation simply because descended of pious parentage, or possessed of an outwardly good moral character, or connected with the Christian Church. When they are charged with their duty in relation to the gospel these are the king’s houses in which they vainly flee for refuge. (T. McEwan.)


Verse 14

Esther 4:14

Then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place.

Female deliverers in Israel

In former ages women, as Deborah and Jael, had been made the instruments of saving Israel. Esther might have a place among those whose memories, after so many generations, were still fragrant among their countrymen. (A. B. Davidson, D. D.)

Enlargement and deliverance

Enlargement and deliverance will arise to the Jews, to the Israel of God, under the gospel as well as under the law. Amidst all the distresses of the Church, we may rest assured that she cannot perish. All, therefore, who perform eminent services to the Church ought humbly to thank the Lord for choosing to employ them rather than others; for He is never at a loss for servants to do His work. (G. Lawson.)

And who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?--

The use of talents to be accounted for

A man who knows a particular remedy for a certain disease, of which others are ignorant, would be chargeable with the fatal consequences that may arise from the general ignorance if he locks up his knowledge within his own breast. If Providence furnish us with talents which are not granted to others, we must account for our use of them. If we have opportunities of doing much good which others have not, and make no use of them, we make ourselves guilty of a crime which can be charged upon none but ourselves. (G. Lawson.)

Services suitable to our situation required by God

If God has done remarkable things for us, we have reason to believe that He expects some services from us suited to the situation in which He has placed us, and to the means of service with which He has furnished us. We ought, therefore, when we consider what God hath done for us, to consider at the same time what He requires from us. If our circumstances are peculiar it is likely that some peculiar services are required. (G. Lawson.)

The time for usefulness

Our times are in the Lord’s hands. He fixes the bounds of our habitations and arranges our conditions according to His own will. His servants have a special earthly calling wherein they are called, the duties of which they are individually to fulfil. He has particular relative objects to secure in the exaltation of those whom He loves. And when any of His servants are raised to influence, or wealth, or power, it is that He may make them effective instruments of His power for blessing to others. There is, therefore, a special propriety of time at which His gifts of power and influence are bestowed upon particular men. If one is made rich, it is because there are many poor waiting to be enriched by him, and he is to have the greater blessing of imparting, giving to his fellow-men. There is a particular reason, could we know it, for which we are “come to the kingdom for such a time.” We should study our duty in the circumstances of its time. Every virtue and trait of holiness in her character shines with increasing brightness and beauty as Esther goes forward in her appointed dispensation. Let us consider the circumstances of the time,

1. It was a time of great trial for the people of Israel.

2. The time tested the sincerity of Esther’s affection for Mordecai, and brought that into immediate demonstration.

3. The time also tried the sincerity of Esther’s affection for her nation. The truly pious heart will cherish an universal love. The wants and sorrows of all mankind are the subjects of its sympathy and its concern. But true religion especially exalts and enlarges domestic love, and love for our country and nation. The more truly the heart is engaged for God the more earnestly will it feel the sorrows and needs of those who are near to us. Have we wealth? We have those connected with us who are poor and suffering. Have we station or knowledge? It is no Christian heart which has no fellowship in suffering and no tenderness for woe. Yet we sadly see a hardness of heart often attendant on exalted conditions. Men seem to feel that they have been elevated by their own efforts, and that inability to do the same in others is in some degree a crime which ought to be punished by suffering. They invent every possible excuse for withholding their demanded aid.

4. The time displayed her entire disinterestedness of spirit, and her trust in God. She resolved to put the request of Mordecai into immediate operation. Mere self-indulgence would have delighted in her own state of luxury and enjoyment, and have shut her ears and her heart against the cries and woes of her people. To preserve this people she must hazard her own life. Beautiful is this illustration of a disinterested and devoted spirit. I am content to perish to gain the great end of blessing to others which I have before me. Such was the love of our Divine Redeemer for us. “For the joy that was set before Him He endured the Cross and despised the shame.” (S. H. Tyng, D. D.)

A human voice speaks Divine lessons for human lives

What are the Divine lessons which this human voice speaks, not only to Esther, but to every true soul.

I. That great advantages are conferred for a divine purpose. Talents, position, influence, wealth.

II. That God requires that such advantages should be faithfully used for the promotion of his purposes.

III. That such divine purposes cannot be frustrated.

IV. Those who frustrate divine purposes shall be injured.

V. Learn that a faithful discharge of duty must bring rich Results. (W. Burrows, B. A.)

Esther’s exaltation; or who knoweth

I shall lay out my sermon under four words.

I. Hearken!

1. To a question. Brother, will you separate your interests from those of your people and your God? Do you mean to say, “I shall look to my own salvation, but I cannot be supposed to take an interest in saving others”? In such a spirit as that I do not say you will be lost, but I say you are lost already. It is as needful that you be saved from selfishness as from any other vice.

2. To a second question: If you could separate your interests from those of the cause of God, would you thereby secure them?

3. Remember, for your humiliation, that God can do without you.

4. As God can do without us, it may be He will do without us.

5. How will you bear the disgrace, if ever it come upon you, of having suffered your golden opportunities to be despised?

II. Consider--

1. To what some of you have been advanced.

2. Why the Lord has brought you where you are.

3. At what a time it is that you have been thus advanced.

4. Under what special circumstances you have come where you are.

5. With what singular personal adaptations you are endowed for the work to which God has called you.

III. Aspire. “Who knoweth,” etc. When Louis Napoleon was shut up in the fortress of Ham, and everybody ridiculed his foolish attempts upon France, yet he said to himself, “Who knows? I am the nephew of my uncle, and may yet sit upon the imperial throne,” and he did so before many years had passed. I have no desire to make any man ambitious after the poor thrones, etc., of earth, but I would fain make you all ardently ambitious to honour God and bless men.

IV. Confide.

1. If thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this, be con fident that thou art safe.

2. If God has a purpose to serve by a man, that man will live out his day and accomplish the Divine design. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The duty of the hour

(to an agricultural college):--This exemplifies a truth of universal application and of particular pertinency. The idea is that the general welfare is best promoted by the advancement of the individual, while the advancement of the individual can be maintained only by his loyal devotion to the public weal. We have discovered in these latter days that relations are of more moment than things. Charcoal, sulphur, nitre are things of some potency, in themselves considered; but they must be brought into the proper relations, the one to the other, before the might of gunpowder shakes the earth. I observe--

1. That the college graduate of to-day, who has completed a four years’ course of liberal training in a well-equipped and thoroughly-manned institution of learning comes into a kingdom.

2. The college graduate of to-day comes into his kingdom at a time of marvellous and portentous significance.

3. Our time, with its sudden transitions, is fraught with danger to all classes of society, but to none more than to those who till the soil. (C. S. Walker, Ph. D.)

The principles of Divine providence

I. That the providence of God is concerned about the highest good of man. This is shown--

1. In the advent of Christ for the world’s salvation.

2. The spread of the gospel and the conversion of the Gentiles.

3. The restoration of peace between nations and the final destruction of slavery.

II. The highest good of man is secured independently of man’s individual conduct. The stream of human agency is like a river, ever flowing and ever changing. One drop in the stream cannot say, “When I am gone the channel will be dry.” No sooner is room made than another follows, and the channel is ever full. So it is in the history of man. God’s providence will secure workers.

III. That men are placed by God in such positions that they may secure for themselves the honour of helping god in his providential work.

IV. In not making use of our providential position we expose ourselves to fearful evils.

V. That in making use of our providential positions, we shall require special qualifications, and shall have the sympathy and co-operation of a holy universe, as well as the commendation and blessing of god. Notice--

1. That in doing our duty we show the possession of the highest and noblest moral qualities.

2. That in doing our duty we have the help of a holy universe (Esther 6:1). (Evan Lewis.)

The preservation of the Jews an illustration of the Divine government

The text presents for our consideration--

I. A firm conviction of an overruling providence.

II. The recognition of human instrumentalities in the divine government.

III. The principle of self-sacrifice which enables men to re acceptable instruments in the divine government. (Prof. E. J. Wolf, D. D.)

Position and responsibility

Our Lord’s great principle, “Unto whom much is given of him shall much be required,” is clear as a mathematical axiom when we look at it in the abstract; but nothing is harder than for people to apply it to their own cases. If it were freely admitted, the ambition that grasps at the first places would be shamed into silence. If it were generally acted on, the wide social cleft between the fortunate and the miserable would be speedily bridged over. The total ignoring of this tremendous principle by the great majority of those who enjoy the privileged positions in society is doubtless one of the chief causes of the ominous unrest that is growing more and more disturbing in the less favoured ranks of life. If this supercilious contempt for an imperative duty continues, what can be the end but an awful retribution? Was it not the wilful blindness of the dancers in the Tuileries to the misery of the serfs in the fields that caused revolutionary France to run red with blood? (W. F. Adeney, M. A.)

God’s purpose and man’s opportunity

I draw from the text the following general truths:

I. That running through the providence of this world there is a gracious divine purpose for its ultimate salvation.

1. Mordecai believed in the indestructibility of the Jews. This was with him evidently a religious faith. This faith must have been founded on one or more of the promises of God.

2. This purpose of the preservation of the Jews is but a branch and a sign of another and grander purpose--a purpose to gather and save the whole world. This types itself in the kingly history; gleams in the prophet’s vision; breathes in the holy psalm; speaks out in the Acts of the Apostles; runs through all the epistles, and sighs up to heaven in that last apocalyptic cry, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

II. That rich and rare opportunities occur in the progress of things, by which believing men are allowed to come effectually “to the help of the lord against the mighty.” We must spread the gospel or lose it. Our moral opportunities, our seasonable times for action, are very precious, are very brief, and when they are gone they cannot be renewed. So it is at times with Churches, with societies, and with nations.

III. That the neglect of such providential calls has a tendency to bring destruction. Mordecai probably had in view a general principle of retribution, acting at all times, but sure to act swiftly and terribly in a case like this. This principle has its fullest application to the ungodly. The way, the hope, the expectation, the works, the memory, and saddest of all, the soul of the wicked shall perish. Let a Christian man neglect opportunities and hold truth in unrighteousness, and what will happen to him? He perishes as to the real power of his life. It is the same with Churches, etc. No Church, etc., can live except as they continue to be in harmony with the purpose and the providence of God. Where are the seven Churches in Asia?

IV. That obedience will bring elevation and blessing. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)

Inactivity in the cause of Christ condemned

Reflect--

I. That the man who used these words was evidently well aware that the cause of God was not dependent on the aids of men. This is evident if we consider--

1. The meanness of the instruments and the greatness of the work to be done.

2. How absolute are the promises of God, which show His determination to bless His people.

3. The power of God. These considerations ought to teach the instruments to be humble, and they ought also to confirm the faith of the people of God.

II. That his providence does raise up suitable instruments to carry forward his work.

III. That it is the duty of those instruments to give themselves up to the work. We are not only to study the book of God to know what is our duty in general, but also the book of providence to know what is the particular duty He designs us to do. We ought to study--

1. Our particular talent.

2. Our sphere.

3. Our circumstances.

4. The times.

IV. That an awful doom rests on those who listen not to the call of providence.

1. We shall lose the satisfaction of doing good.

2. We shall not prosper.

Those who are not actively employed in the service of Christ feel most of the bitterness arising from doubts as to their actual condition and fears as to their spiritual state. Listlessness in the cause of Christ will be a cause of gloom on a dying bed.

3. There is an intimate connection between the degrees of glory in heaven and the exercises of activity here. (W. H. Cooper.)

Providence and opportunity

God’s providential purpose; man’s present opportunity; that is how I read the lesson of this marvellous history. A purpose clearly written on the face of events and to be readily deciphered from their grouping. Moses at the Red Sea heard a voice telling him to stretch his rod over the sea, that a way might be made for the ransomed to pass over. Now we have no voice; but circumstances gather about us, the rod is thrust into our hand, and we miss our deliverance if we do not see that we must wave the rod. We are not in intellectual and religious infancy. We ought to be able to discover without any warning voice what God’s purpose is, and what our opportunity is worth.

I. As to life itself, human existence; entry upon it is a coming to a kingdom. Living now, we are conditioned by the time and circumstances of to-day. Our days have fallen on a time different from all that have gone before, unique in this particular, if in nothing else--the power of public opinion. In former days but one man here and there seemed to have a kingdom to enter upon, a few men swayed the nations, a few men seemed to be inspired to deeds which raised them into leaders of the people. But now the rulers in name are the ruled in fact. The government is governed and the people control everything. It is a great thing to live now. Literature and science pour their wealth out before us. By these things we have the chance of being better men in some directions of thought and of exerting a mightier influence in the world than our fathers could exert. Some men might just as well have lived hundreds of years ago, for any appreciation they seem to have of the privileges and demands of the time. No time is like another in all its details. We have to make it what it shall be. By the impulse of an earnest life, by the influence of holy character, by brief words spoken and little deeds done according to our opportunity, must we do something to mould that public opinion which is omnipotent.

II. As Christians we have come to a kingdom. Christianity has always presented two aspects, the offensive and the defensive. In the old days of national warfare, when ships were made of wood, rough-wrought cannon and shot were sufficient means of attack. But with the iron-plating has necessarily come improvement in the means of destruction. As the ship becomes more exposed to the danger of improved appliances she must be more scientifically defended. We sometimes smile as we see the way in which truth used to be asserted and defended. We now see that truth is its own best defence. (J. Jones.)

The day we live in

Esther had her God-appointed work. You and I have ours.

I. In order to meet the special demand of this age you need to be an unmistakable, aggressive christian. Of half-and-half Christians we do not want any more. A great deal of the piety of the day is too exclusive. It hides itself. It needs more fresh air, more outdoor exercise. There are many Christians who are giving their entire life to self-examination. They are feeling their pulses to see what is the condition of their spiritual health. How long would a man have robust physical health if he kept all the day feeling his pulse instead of going out into active, earnest, every-day work? I was once amid the wonderful, bewitching cactus growths of North Carolina. I never was more bewildered with the beauty of flowers, and yet when I would take up one of these cactuses and pull the leaves apart the beauty was all gone. You could hardly tell that it had ever been a flower. And there are a great many Christian people in this day just pulling apart their Christian experiences to see what there is in them, and there is nothing left in them. This style of self-examination is a damage instead of an advantage to their Christian character. I remember when I was a boy I used to have a small piece in the garden that I called my own, and I planted corn there, and every few days I would pull it up to see how fast it was growing. Now, there are a great many Christian people in this day whose self-examination merely amounts to the pulling up of that which they only yesterday or the day before planted. If you want to have a stalwart Christian character, plant it right out of doors in the great field of Christian usefulness. The century plant is wonderfully suggestive and wonderfully beautiful, but I never look at it without thinking of its parsimony. It lets whole generations go by before it puts forth one blossom; so I have really more admiration when I see the dewy tears in the blue eyes of the violets, for they come every spring. Time is going by so rapidly that we cannot afford to be idle. A recent statistician says that human life now has an average of only thirty-two years. From these thirty-two years you must subtract all the time you take for sleep, and the taking of food, and recreation; that will leave you about sixteen years. From those sixteen years you must subtract all the time that you are necessarily engaged in the earning of a livelihood; that will leave you about eight years. From those eight years you must take all the days, and weeks, and months--all the length of time that is passed in sickness; leaving you about one year in which to work for God.

II. To meet the duties this age demands of you, you must, on the one hand, avoid reckless iconoclasm, and on the other hand, not stick too much to things because they are old. Do not take hold of a thing merely because it is new. Do not adhere to anything merely because it is old. There is not a single enterprise of the Church or the world but has sometime been scoffed at. There was a time when men derided even Bible societies, and when a few young men met in Massachusetts and organised the first missionary society ever organised in this country there went laughter and ridicule all around the Christian Church. They said the undertaking was preposterous. And so also the work of Jesus Christ was assailed. People cried out, “Who ever heard of such theories of ethics and government? Who ever noticed such a style of preaching as Jesus had?” Many have thought that the chariot of God’s truth would fall to pieces if it once got out of the old rut. And so there are those who have no patience with anything like improvement in church architecture, or with anything like good, hearty, earnest church singing, and they deride any form of religious discussion which goes down walking among every-day men rather than that which makes an excursion on rhetorical stilts. Oh, that the Church of God would wake up to an adaptability of work! There is work for you to do, and for me to do, in order to this grand accomplishment. Here is my pulpit, and I preach in it. Your pulpit is the bank. Your pulpit is the store. Your pulpit is the editorial chair. Your pulpit is the anvil. Your pulpit is the house scaffolding. Your pulpit is the mechanic’s shop.

III. In order to be qualified to meet your duty in this particular age, you want unbounded faith in the triumph of the truth and the overthrow of wickedness, (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)

Women’s duty to the age

(a woman’s sermon to women):--What is women’s duty? It is to be gentle, true, devoted. It is to be as strong as it is in her to be and as beautiful as possible. It is to be a discreet keeper at home, a willing performer of out-of-sight duties, a helpmeet to man, a mother in Israel, a handmaid of the Lord. It is a fact past denial that women do exert an immense influence in the world. An English bishop has said, “A nation is what its women make it.” No man is so strong, or so wise, or so good, that he can afford to do without the gentle remonstrance, the inspiriting plaudits, the pure and bright life-example of the women of his family. There is great need now for “women who understand the times and know what the people ought to do.” Reforms are necessary, and in making them we shall certainly have to begin with ourselves. Better women will make better homes, better homes will make better society, better society will raise the tone of public opinion, and influence those who frame and execute our laws. Let us learn from the example of Queen Esther how to become better.

I. Let us recognise the fact that as she had her opportunity, so have we ours. If we look around us we must see how God brings certain persons into certain circumstances because they are most fit to be there. One in a family converted. One in a family to whom has been given the seeing eyes and the understanding heart. One in a family more clever, more strong, more amiable than the rest. Why? That that one may fulfil the duties, and meet, not shirk, the responsibilities of that position.

II. Let us learn that the fact of a duty being difficult and dangerous is no excuse for our failing to perform it honestly.

III. We may learn the source of true strength and confidence.

IV. We may learn that having seen our duty, and asked god’s guidance and blessing, we should fearlessly go through with our task. Fearlessly, but wisely, according to the light that is given to us. Esther fortified her soul with trust in God, and then used her own common sense. Esther’s judgment was equal to her courage. She knew how to “bide her time. (Marianne Farningham.)

Public duty

This message sets before us three weighty principles.

I. That God’s cause is independent of our efforts. Mordecai believed that the record of God’s faithfulness in the past gave the assurance that in some way of His own He would prevent the extinction of His people. This is an attitude of mind we should seek to cultivate in reference to the cause of Christ. This cause has the omnipotence of God behind it. He has promised Christ the heathen for His inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession, and, whoever helps and whoever hinders, His word shall not be broken. One man with truth and the promise of God at his back is stronger than an opposing world. The cause of Christ has come through crises when persecution has tried to exterminate it. It has passed through periods of scepticism when learning and cleverness have fancied that they have blown it away as an exploded superstition. Men have had to stand up for it single-handed against principalities and powers, but with it at their backs they have been stronger than all that were against them.

II. That we are not independent of it. We cannot hold back from Christ’s cause with impunity. It can do without us, but we cannot do without it. If religion is a reality, to live without it is to suppress and ultimately destroy the most noble part of our being. To live without God is to renounce the profoundest and most influential experience which life contains. If Christ is the central figure in history, and if the movement He has set ageing is the central current of history, then to be dissociated with His aims is to be a cipher or perhaps even a minus quantity in the sum of good.

III. Christ’s cause offers the noblest employment foe our gifts. It is a transfiguring moment when the thought first penetrates a man that the purpose for which he has received his gifts is to help humanity and the cause of Christ in the world. A man enters upon his spiritual majority when he ceases to be the most important object in the world to himself, and sees outside an object which makes him forget himself and irresistibly draws him on. The problem of the degraded and disinherited is pressing on the attention of intelligent minds with an urgency which cannot be disregarded. The heathen world is opening everywhere to the influences of the gospel If you would run in response to this call, do not neglect the preparation. Knowledge is the armour of light in which the battles of progress have to be fought. Life for God in public must be balanced by life with God in secret. (James Stalker, D. D.)

Woman’s opportunities-

It has been observed that with every great emergency God has raised up a man equal to the emergency. As God called Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Elijah, David, and Daniel for a special work, so He called Alfred the Great, William the Conqueror, Washington and Lincoln. As God inspired Bezaleel to invent cunning works, so to-day He raises up such men as an Edison to solve and use mysterious forces of nature. Every age and every emergency has had the men needed for the age and the emergency. The apostles met the demand of their age. The Church Fathers did a peculiar work for which they were fitted. Luther came upon the scene just when needed. This is also true of all great men who have become the world’s leaders and saviours. I have spoken of man, but what has been said of him is equally as true of woman. She may not have been so conspicuous a figure, but she was none the less important. When Samuel’s mother consecrated her boy to the service of Jehovah; had she no part in determining the destiny of Israel? When the mother and grandmother instructed young Timothy in the Scriptures, did they have no part in the establishment of the Apostolic Church? When Martha and Mary made a home for the Saviour, a place where He could lay His head, did they not perform an important part? When the mother of Augustine taught and conversed with him about Scriptures, did she not do much toward making Augustinian confessions possible? The mother of Alfred the Great was his first teacher and always his most trusted counsellor. The mother of Henry VII. of England did more than her royal son for the dissemination of learning and the establishment of colleges. The rise of Methodism goes back beyond John or Charles Wesley to their noble mother. Who familiar with the life of Herschel and his sister can doubt that much of his greatness rests upon her co-operation and untiring labour? The name of Joan of Arc suggests what woman can do on the field of war. Of every woman mentioned it might be said, “Thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this.” The breadth of woman’s influence is widening. She is the strongest social force of to-day. Life is her key-board which she may sweep with a master’s touch if she will. To woman all doors are open. She may enter and win her bread without being touched by snobbishness and caste. The entrance of woman into the various occupations has had the tendency to stop the growing boorishness which was manifesting itself in business circles. It is slowly but surely leading men to recognise the one great work of life not to be money getting, but character building. She is giving a shading to the values of life; hence we are beginning to place things more nearly where they belong. In temperance reform woman has been, and is still, the leader. Time and again she has undergone the scoffs of rowdies and the ridicule of pot-house politicians, but feeling that God called her to the kingdom for such an hour as this, she has risked popularity and society influence in defence of home and children. The most important work in all this widening field of woman’s activity is the evangelisation of the world. It is of God. It touches man’s deepest need. It brings him the blessings of a Christian civilisation and the assurance of life eternal. It is therefore the highest service woman can enter into. There is nothing that will yield greater joy or larger returns. (W. C. Burns, D. D.)

The Church and the present crisis

I ask you to observe--

I. That a crisis has come of overwhelming importance in the religious history of the world. It is a crisis of magnificent opportunity and also of infinite responsibility. It is a crisis in which unparalleled success may be achieved for the glory of God, or where Churches may be utterly broken and destroyed by their unfaithfulness and disobedience. It is, indeed, the crisis of history; for never have such opportunities for the evangelisation of our own country, or of the heathen abroad, been presented; never have difficulties been so remarkably removed, and never were calls for help so loud and piercing as just now. That I may help you to realise this truth, let me recall a few facts to your remembrance. Within the lifetime of some now here the world was practically closed against the extension of Protestant Christianity. Mohammedanism sealed itself against the truth of Jesus; and the heathen nations of the earth were walled around by prejudice or by prohibitory laws. China and Japan were hermetically sealed against the entrance of Christianity. And now, with our scientific discoveries, our mechanical inventions, our great social movements and combinations, we are sweeping along with a rapidity which it is almost bewildering to contemplate. All this is wonderful beyond realisation. Never did the human race move so quickly. Time after time have the maps of the world been altered and reformed in our day. Now with a startling swiftness the moral map of the world is changing, and no one can presage what will be the next great movement that will command the wonder of mankind. In all these revolutions and developments of the hour, what institution ought to be more concerned than the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ? The Church of to-day is the arbiter of the world’s future. It is called on to save idolatrous nations awakening from the sleep of ages from relapsing into the abyss of scepticism. It is summoned to sanctify and beautify the growing intelligence and wealth of barbarous peoples, by suffusing them with the glory of Christian holiness and truth. It is destined to become the harbinger and bestower of liberty, of enfranchisement, of spiritual expansion to classes and masses of the race who have hitherto groaned in bondage and shame.

II. What is required from the church to meet the pressing crisis. We have a Church of the times; we need a Church for the times. The Church of the times is far too much formal, aiming at gentility and fashion; the Church for the times must be spiritual and powerful, aiming at evangelistic aggression and the conversion of the world. If the Church will seek a new baptism and enter on a new career of aggressiveness, how soon the most glorious prophecies of time shall be fulfilled it is impossible to realise. “A short work will God make upon the earth.” A very brief period sufficed for the destruction of Sennacherib’s host and for the downfall of Babylon. It was a short time only that was required for the humbling of Napoleon’s pride. And if the Church of God, with her splendour of learning, her ripeness of intellect, her boundless wealth, and her unparalleled vantage-ground, be only faithful and obedient, and ready for the avalanche of opportunities which now present themselves, the progress of the gospel must be far more rapid and glorious than ever before. (W. J. Townsend.)

Man born for an end

While we continue on earth we are obliged to a sort of spiritual speculation; to judge as well as we can, but to remain uncertain; to take the most important steps in the dark; to pursue our course like vessels in a mist, cautiously and fearfully, having no clear view of the coast by which we sail, but only catching here and there a dubious Sign of where we are, and whither we are tending. This acting on venture is emphatically taught in the text. Observe--

I. That all generations and individuals are created for their own end. We cannot doubt that it was with a definite design that God set up the pillars of the universe. And so with its continued existence. The mighty river of human life which gushed forth in Adam, flows, we are sure, to some goal and makes to some issue. God beholds the vast tide of being sweeping on to a glorious consummation, which He perceives now, and we shall see hereafter, to have been the point to which the current tended from the beginning. This will appear from the continual changes which take place. Why do not men’s habits remain always the same? Why does one generation abandon the principles and tastes of its predecessor? How is it that the nineteenth century is not like the sixteenth? Continual change intimates that we are travelling on to an appointed destination. To suppose otherwise would be to suppose God to be a God, not of order, but of confusion. We see traces of this in the several dispensations of religion which God has revealed. The law prepared the way for the gospel; all the wars and conquests of Rome brought the human family into a condition the most favourable for the preaching of the apostles. The Patriarchal, the Levitical, and the Christian dispensations, appear to follow in manifest order, each working up and fading into that which came next. What the world is now is a necessary step to what the world is to be. And what is true of periods of a thousand years is true also of each period of fourscore years. Every generation of human kind is born for an end. We are apt to consider overmuch individual life, not the life of the universe. We see unnumbered ripples on the stream of time, coming and going apparently without cause or effect: God beholds in each ripple an onward flow; that not one could be withdrawn without injury to the symmetry of the great whole. There arises out of all this a very solemn character attaching to our tenure of life. We have our part in a stupendous work, whose limits we cannot discern. We have been launched into being just at the moment when we were wanted. Not to do our own pleasure, but to fulfil a part in working out God’s counsels. This is the solemn vocation of each generation.

II. Very commonly a man’s life works up to, or hangs upon a certain critical moment. “Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Oh I they are words which may well sound in the ears of the soul, at many a sick-bed, at many an event of inferior importance in our earthly career. How did Abraham live seventy years in his father’s house an ordinary man, till the mysterious moment when the voice said to him, “Come out from thy kindred”? and on what he did at that strange bidding hung not only his, but the world’s history! How did all David’s life turn upon the incident, that at the moment when he chanced to visit his brethren in the camp, at that moment Goliath came out with his defiance of the living God! And so with ourselves: there are in almost every man’s life turning-points upon which all hangs. Who cannot look back and discern times and seasons when, if he had acted otherwise, his whole after-life would have been altered? And thus in religion--whether a man be lost or saved will frequently depend upon a step taken at a particular crisis; all subsequent steps grow out of that step. True that every hour of our lives is an hour when good and evil are set before us. There are strong temptations occurring at intervals, which, well got over, leave a man’s heart for a long time at liberty; which, if not resisted, lead from deceit to deceit-from sin to sin--until there is no getting the feet out of the net. “Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Sometimes a man’s whole life may be traced afterwards to have led up to one such moment. His education, his tastes, his companionships may all be discerned to have been the instrumentality of drawing him into the wilderness for his one great conflict with the adversary. (J. B. Woodford, M. A.)

Every one has his peculiar work

The thought to a devout man is always supreme--thou art come here for such a time--for such a purpose. Thy steps are ordered of the Lord. Thy talents, thy character, thy place in society have all been shaped and settled, with a special adaptation to the Divine purpose. “Nothing walks with aimless feet.” As in the human body every function, so in the Divine government every Christian is placed to do a work which none else can do, and his Lord’s eye is ever on him. While this is his victory over every base fear, and discouraging thought, his faith, his confidence that God has called him to his proper work, will sustain him in it. (Homilist.)

Emergency

Let us learn from the appeal of Mordecai to Esther that opportunity is the test of character. “Who knoweth,” he said, “whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” It was the tidal time of her life, the great opportunity of her existence, and the question was whether she would rise to the occasion and make it subservient to her greatness or whether it would sweep her away with it as weak, irresolute, and unequal to the emergency. Happily she stood the test, and by her courageous self-devotion proved that she was worthy of the affection with which her foster-father regarded her. Character is revealed only by being tested, and that test often comes in the shape of sudden elevation. The common idea, I know, is that character is tested only by affliction; but I am not sure if prosperity be not a more searching acid than adversity. Now, this is a truth which ought never to be lost sight of by any one among us. What we shall do in a crisis depends upon what we have been doing all along in the ordinary routine of our lives, when no such emergency was’ on us. We cannot cut ourselves off from the past. There is a continuity in our lives, such that the habits which we have formed in the days that are gone do largely condition for us our resources in the present. Every day we live we are either adding to that constant element in us which constitutes our truest selves, and so increasing that reserve force on which in times of emergency we can draw with advantage, or we are expending with imprudent prodigality our spiritual capital, and living morally beyond our means, so that when a crisis comes we cannot stand it, and must inevitably go down. The careful man who husbands his earnings and stores them in some safe bank is able, when a time of adversity comes upon him, to tide over the difficulty by breaking in upon the surplus which he has accumulated. We all see and admit that in the case of deposits that are made outside of ourselves, and which are not us so much as they are ours. But we too frequently fail to take note of it in respect to the character deposits or drafts which we are constantly making on or from ourselves--meaning, thereby, our souls. If, as each morning dawns, we meet every duty as it calls us, or face every temptation as it attacks us, as a duty to be performed, or a temptation to be resisted out of regard to the Lord Jesus Christ, we shall thereby add to our store of strength for the confronting of what may yet be before us; but if we go through our lives seeking only our own ease or the gratification of our appetites, or the indulgence of some evil ambition, we are, in all that, only weakening ourselves, and making ourselves so much the less to be relied upon when we come into our kingdom, and have to face a time like that which Esther was here required to meet. Travellers tell us of a tree in tropical countries, the inner parts of which are sometimes eaten out by ants, while the bark and leaves remain apparently as fresh as ever, and it is not till the tornado comes and sweeps it down that its weakness is discovered. But the storm did not make the tree weak: it only revealed how weak it really was; and its feebleness was the result of the gnawings of innumerable insects through a long course of years. In like manner, if we let our characters be honeycombed by neglect of common duty, or by daily indulgence in secret sin, or by habitual yielding to some temptation, we cannot expect anything else than failure when the testing hour shall come. What an importance thus attaches to what I may call the commonplace of life I We are apt, when we read such a history as that before us, to exclaim, “How tremendously important these grand outstanding opportunities of doing some great service are!” And no doubt they are all that we can say they are, But then we forget that the bearing in these of the individuals to whom they have been given will depend on the characters which they have been forming and strengthening in the ordinary routine life of every day before they came into their kingdom. It is out of the commonplace, well and faithfully done, that the heroic is born; and the splendid devotion of Esther to the welfare of her people would never have been heard of had she not meekly learned and diligently practised the lessons of her girlhood which Mordecai taught her in his pious home. The prize-taker at the end of the year is the daily plodder all through it. The gaining of his diploma by a student depends, no doubt, on the manner in which he passes his final examination. That is for him the equivalent of this occasion in the life of Esther; but then the proficiency which at that time he manifests does itself depend on the steady, constant perseverance which he has maintained in his class work from hour to hour throughout his course. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Junctures

Nor does this prophetic utterance of Mordecai apply simply to our position and responsibility as a nation, but also to our circumstances and obligations as individuals. When a ship is moving in a certain course, and there is descried a wrecked crew and passengers tossed in their little boat, or imprisoned on some lonely island, the captain might well consider whether he has not been brought into the course which he has taken for “such a time”--such an occasion of humanity and benevolent action as that--and would be censured if he did not avail himself of it for the rescue of the perishing. In every life there are junctures when the same reflection should have a place in our minds. It may be an orphan family cast in the way of a wealthy relative whom he has the opportunity of taking under his protection and guardianship, or an infidel assault on the vital doctrines of Christianity, when just such talents and faith as we may possess may be what is needful to repel it, or an injury being done to a neighbour when, from our position and influence, interference on our part may be all that is called for to prevent it. In a thousand different ways may we have to consider whether God has not so placed us in providence as to be specially qualified and circumstanced for the accomplishment of particular works of faith and labours of love. (T. McEwan.)

Our opportunity

As I read Captain Mahan’s masterly and noble “Life of Nelson” the other day with Esther in my mind, I could not but mark with my pencil such things as these in that great sea-captain who had such a hand in setting England up on her high opportunity. “Opportunity,” says the excellent biographer, “flitted by, but Nelson was always ready and grasped it.” Again, and again, and again the same thing is said of Nelson, till it shines out above all his other great gifts, and becomes the best description of his great genius. But we are not great queens like Esther, with the deliverance of Israel in our hands; nor are we great sea captains like Lord Nelson, with the making of modern England in our hands. No. But we are what we are, and what God has made us to be and to do. We all have our own circle set round us of God, and out of our own circle our own opportunities continually arise. Our opportunities may not be so far-reaching or so high sounding as some other men’s are; but they are our opportunities, and they are far-reaching enough for us. Our opportunities are life or death to us and to others; they are salvation or condemnation to our immortal souls; and is that not circle, and opportunity enough? We are all tempted every day to say, “If I only were Esther! It I only had a great opportunity, would I not rise to it! Would I not speak out at any risk! Would I not do a work, and win a name, and deliver Israel, and glorify God!” Did you ever read of Clemens, and Fervidus, and Eugenia, and their imaginary piety? Clemens had his head full of all manner of hypothetical liberalities. He kept proposing to himself continually what he would o if he only had a great estate. Come to thy senses, Clemens. Do not talk what thou wouldst be sure to do if thou wast an angel, but think what thou canst do as a man. Remember what the poor widow did with her one mite, and go and do likewise. Fervidus, again, is only sorry he is not a minister. What a reformation he would have worked in his own life by this time, and in his whole parish, if only God had made him a minister! He would have saved his own soul, and the souls of his people, in season and out of season. Do you believe yourself, Fervidus? You are deceiving yourself. You hire a cabman to drive you to church, and he sits in the wet street waiting for you, and you never ask him how he manages to live with no Sabbath. It is not asked of you, Fervidus, to live and die a martyr; but just to visit your cabman’s wife and children, and have family worship with them on a Sabbath night like you would have done if you had been a minister. Eugenia, again, is a young lady full of the most devout dispositions. If she ever has a family she will let you see family religion. She is more scandalised than she can tell you at the way that some of her schoolfellows have married heathens, and at the life they lead without God’s worship in their newly-married houses. But, Eugenia, you may never be married so as to show married people how to live. At the same time, you have a maid already, all to yourself. She dresses you for church, and then you leave her to have as little religion as a Hottentot. You turn her away when she displeases you, and you hire another, and so on, till you will die unmarried, and without a godly household, and your circle will be dissolved and your opportunity for ever lost. Your maid, and her sister, and her widowed mother, and her ill-doing brother, and her sweetheart, they all are your circle at present, and your opportunity is fast flitting by; and, because it is so near you every day, you do not discover it. Oh, Eugenia, full to the eyes of so many vain imaginations! You never heard of Eugenia, and Fervidus, and Clemens before, and do not know where to find them. But no matter. You and I are Fervidus and Eugenia ourselves. You and I are Mordecai and Esther ourselves. We are in that circle, and amid those opportunities, the very best that all the power, and all the wisdom, and all the love of God can provide for us. (A. Whyte, D. D.)


Verses 15-17

Esther 4:15-17

Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan.

The crisis in the life of Esther

The spectacle presented reminds us--

I. That in neither place nor fortune has any one security against trial and danger. The palace may be a prison to its inmate, the hut cannot exclude the approaches of a grief.

II. That one reason not only for gifts of place and fortune, but foe experiences of trouble also, must be that we may help others in their perils. Power and opportunity measure obligation. Even sorrow and peril as they enrich and mellow the nature, enhance the power to help and bless.

III. That risk and difficulty do not exempt from duty or release from obligation. It is told of the Duke of Wellington that, in one of his campaigns, an officer awoke him to say to him that a certain enterprise to be carried into effect that night was impossible. As the officer was going on to give reasons for this opinion, the Duke replied, “Bring me my order-book.” Turning over its leaves, he said, “It is not at all impossible; see, it is down in the order-book.” Whereupon he lay down to sleep again. Risks are not to be unprovided for. Difficulties are not to be despised; but had there been none to run great risks, to undertake in the face of great hardships, prophets and apostles had been few. There had been no Elijah or Daniel, no John the Baptist or Paul the apostle, no Luther or Knox.

IV. That helping to save others is often the best way to insure our own salvation. The teaching of experience and history is that mere self-seeking is self-ruin. There is such a thing as the solidarity of human interests. The capitalist thrives best when he promotes the weal of the labourer, the labourer when he regards the interests of his employer. To save my children I must help to save my neighbour’s. To one who inquired if the heathen can be saved if we do not give them the gospel, the apt reply was, “A much more practical question for us is whether we can be saved if we do not help to give it them.” An eminent statesman early professed his Christian faith, and, for some years maintained a godly walk. After a time he ceased to be religiously active, and allowed his light to be hid. While not renouncing his faith, yet his Christian character did neither himself nor Christ any honour. One evening he dropped into a little school-house gathering, and at the close he introduced himself to the preacher, and after an earnest conversation with him, he said, “Sir, I would give all the fame I now have, or expect to have, for the assurance of that hope of which you have spoken to-night.” To be ourselves saved we must help to save others.

V. Of the true source of courage and help in perplexity and ill. Although no distinct mention of prayer is made, yet it is evidently implied. It is an instinct of the human heart to resort to the Hearer of Prayer. In its distress the soul cries unto God. When a great steamship was hourly expected to sink in mid-ocean we are told that all on board gave themselves to prayer.

VI. That God’s providence is always over his people for good. (Sermons by Monday Club.)

Difficulties cleared up

1. Esther’s heart was moved not to shrink from manifest duty. “Add to your faith, virtue,” courage, a manly and determined purpose to carry out its calls to their utmost extent. Stop not to ask leave of circumstances, of personal convenience or indolent self-indulgence, but go forward in your appointed work. How prone we are to shrink from disagreeable or dangerous duty. How many excuses we are able to frame for our neglect. How easy it becomes to satisfy our sinful hearts that God will not require that which it is so difficult or so dangerous to perform. Fly from no duty when the word and providence of God call you forward. Go on, and trust yourself to God.

2. Esther’s heart was moved to sincere dependence on God. Prayer seems the natural voice of danger and sorrow. The ancient philosopher said, “If a man would learn to pray, let him go to sea.” The hour of the tempest will be to multitudes a new lesson in their relations to God. When men are in affliction and trouble they are easily led to cry unto God. Esther and her maidens prayed. What if the husband does not or will not bless his household? Cannot the mother and the wife collect her children and her maidens for prayer?

3. The king’s heart was moved to listen and to accept her. The clouds have passed, and the Lord whom she loved has given her a token for good. This is the power of prayer, the work of providence, the influence of grace. The king’s heart is in the hands of the Lord, and as the rivers of water, He has turned it according to His will. What a lesson in providence is this! The same power which leads to prayer, and supports us in prayer, at the same time works over other minds and other things to make an answer completely ready for our enjoyment. How easily can God remove all the stumbling-blocks out of the way of His children! “What art thou, O, great mountain? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain.” Anticipated difficulties suddenly vanish; enemies whom we had expected are not found; the things which apparently threatened our hurt turn out to our advantage; and blessings which we had not dared to hope for crowd around our path. Thus Paul found it at Rome.

4. God moved Esther’s heart to great wisdom and prudence in her management of the undertaking she had assumed. Peculiar wisdom anal skill often are imparted to us in answer to prayers for the accomplishment of the work of the Lord. Our dependence and prayer have no tendency to make us headlong or rash. We are still to employ all the proper means and agencies which our utmost wisdom will suggest to attain the end we have in view. True piety in the exercise of its faith and love and hope towards God, is the highest wisdom. It unites all the wisest calculation and effort of man with all the goodness and power of God. It is a fellowship, a partnership with God in which He furnishes all the capital, and employs our sanctified labours alone; in which we strive to be faithful, and He promises to bless. (S. H. Tyng, D. D.)

Esther’s petition

I. We note the fact that every one has some special mission. Esther’s special mission was to avert the destruction which threatened her people. Is it true that all have some such peculiar charge? We read of the decisive battles of the world and their commanders; of the dominating philosophies and their masters; of the ruling arts and their teachers; of the controlling religions and their high-priests; of the great reforms and their leaders. Yet these elect ones are but as a handful of sands to the grains which make the shore, For the rest, mere existence seems to be its own end and object. But it is not so. A persistent pressure is in and on every heart to enter into secret communication with God, and linking its weakness with His strength, exerts a blessed influence which, like the sound-waves, goes on endlessly. That hour of audience with its Maker is its greatest possibility. For that, at least, it has a special mission. From Him it receives what almost might be called “sealed orders.” Saul of Tarsus was given his at Damascus, and so he went to Jerusalem, not knowing how they would read as he opened them there. So every Christian goes his way, till we find Henry Martyn preaching Christ to the Hindus, Isaac Newton solving the problem of the apple’s fall, Leigh Richmond writing “The Dairyman’s Daughter,” George Muller erecting his orphanage, Mary Lyon opening collegiate doors to her sisters, and Abraham Lincoln issuing the emancipation proclamation. And though not yet widely observed, the prayers, counsels, and inspirations by which gifted souls have roused, led, and saved society originated in the closet, and kitchen, and field, where the godly parent or teacher has fulfilled a holy and particular mission. The successful general is feted and praised. Every soldier in the ranks is just as essential to the victory. Every individual, however insignificant, has his momentous obligation. The child’s hand in the lighthouse tower may turn the helm of a whole navy, that it is not strewn along the reefs.

II. Note the fact that love for others is worthy love of self. To lose one’s love of life, comfort, and honour in the greater love of the life, comfort, and honour of his kin is counted the highest of human virtues. Mettus Curtius, in spurring his horse into the yawning chasm to save Rome, was not the first nor the last to hold the welfare of the many above that of the individual. “We have no religion to export,” meanly argued a legislator against the Act of incorporation of the American Board. “Religion,” was the profound reply, “is a commodity which the more we export the more we have.”

III. Note the need of timely preparation for our work. Then--always--the idea has prevailed that united petitions, like the volume of the sea, would be mighty, while the solitary plea, like the single drop, would be null. Jesus promised answer when two or three were agreed in their request. Spiritual momentum, like physical, seems to be proportioned to the quantity of soul multiplied by its eagerness. The Church has upborne its ministers, and made them speak with authority when it has been praying with them. Individual preparation must also be made. Esther must fast no less than her people. She does all she can to pave the way for a favourable reception of her cause. Jacob’s present of flocks and herds, sent forward to placate Esau, with the greeting “and behold he is behind us,” fitly represents the forethought and tact which oftenest gains its end. We may call it “policy”; but what harm, if it be not bribery?

IV. Note the reward of venturing in a good cause. The supreme hazard gains the supreme desire. The fearless champion of a full and free religious life oftenest triumphs. St. Patrick before the Druid chieftain; Wickliffe before the angry bishops, and Luther before the Diet, succeed, when others of as noble wish, but of less courage, must have failed. Into the densest heathenism the soldier of the Cross penetrates, and a redeemed people build their monument of thanksgiving, not for his piety simply, but for his bravery. Holy causes seem often to clothe their advocates in such shining dress, that assaulting powers are abashed at the sight. (Moray Club Sermon.)

A suggestion and its operation

We have here illustrated--

I. Human obligation to suggestion. By far the majority of the imports into the soul and life of the world are marked “via suggestion.” As the present holds in it the past, so suggestion is the essential of progress, the root of accomplishment, the spur of duty. Compute, if you can, the poet’s debt to suggestion; Burns and the mouse, etc. The prime factor of invention is suggestion. Men see something, hear something, touch something, and in a flash an idea springs full-armed and captures the mind. The eye suggests the telescope, the heart the engine. Is naval architecture to be completely revolutionised? Is the new leviathan to be the future type of ocean steamers? Subtract the suggestion of a whale’s back, and what then? Human experience is largely the outcome of suggestion. Mordecai could not command Queen Esther, but he could pace in sackcloth before the palace gate. He could send a message to the queen making an entreating, pitiful suggestion.

II. The struggle which ensues in carrying a suggestion over into practice. Carlyle has said, “Transitions are ever full of pain.” Thus the eagle when it moults is sickly, and to attain his new beak must harshly dash off the old one upon the rocks. There is no more critical experience for a human soul than when a suggestion lodges in it; especially When it means the readjustment of all our spiritual furniture, burying of cherished plans, crucifying selfish ambition, stripping off desire, defying danger, releasing power, and making us risk the sarcasm, the scorn which are ever the pall-bearers of failure. This gives scope for the true heroism of life, a heroism which finds its choicest exhibit, not in those who have the leverage of a great enthusiasm and who are consciously beneath the eyes of a great multitude, but in those duels between souls and suggestions fought out in the solitude of the human breast. Thus John Knox, when summoned in public assembly to the ministry, rushes from the congregation in tears to enter, in his solitary chamber, upon a struggle which should last for days, but the outcome of which should be a face set like a flint. Thus Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel shrink and wrestle but obey. Thus Esther hesitates and excuses herself on the ground of personal danger, till at last the suggestion rides over her soul roughshod, and in the heroism of a great surrender she declares, “So will I go in unto the king . . . and if I perish, I perish.”

III. The availing of one’s self of allies in the execution of a determined purpose. Esther made three allies.

1. With herself. She knew her royal spouse was impulsive; she knew he was susceptible. And so, bent on subduing him, she bedecks herself with jewels, and right royally attired stands in the court. Impulse leaps, susceptibility flames: “She obtained favour in his sight: and the king held out to Esther the golden sceptre.”

2. With her husband. In the execution of a worthy purpose one may find and may avail himself of the ally which resides in that which is to be overcome. It makes a deal of difference how you take hold of a thing. The handle of a pail is the water-carrier’s ally; he may despise it and fare worse! Said one of the keenest logicians in this country, “In entering upon a debate, find, to begin with, common ground with your antagonist, something you can both accept--a definition, a proposition, or if nothing else, the state of the weather.” Here is a deep truth. There are natural allies in the enemy’s country; it is strategy, it is generalship, to get into communication with them. Esther recognised her ally, and so she approached her husband, not with entreaty or rebuke, but with invitation. The suggestion of a feast prepared under her direction in honour of his majesty was the warder within the castle of the fickle king’s soul, who would not fail to raise the portcullis of his will to admit the entrance of a queen’s desire.

3. With time. There is a ministry in wise delay; haste is not of necessity success. Is procrastination the thief of time? Then precipitation is the assassin of it. To work and wait--to wait for the order, the chance, the moment to strike, was a lesson Esther had learned by heart, and so she refused to unbosom her petition till the hour struck. When Leyden was besieged by the Spaniards the inhabitants sent word to the enemy that they would eat their left arms and fight with their right before they would surrender. At last, in their extremity, they told the governor they must surrender. “Eat me, but don’t surrender,” was the heroic reply. Then some one thought of cutting the dykes and flooding the enemy’s camp; they did it, rushed upon the enemy in the confusion, and out of apparent disaster snatched a glorious victory. (Nehemiah Boynton.)

Esther’s petition

Learn--

I. That in the exigencies of religion and of God’s kingdom, the church may demand of us the disregard of personal safety.

II. That when God gives us a mission which we are wise enough to see and to fulfil, then we may humbly expect that he will accomplish blessed results by the feeblest instruments. (W. E. Boggt, D. D.)

I also and my maidens will fast likewise.

Mistress and maid

Some, it is probable, of Esther’s maids were heathens when they came into her service. Yet we find her promising that they would fast. She can answer for them, as Joshua for his household, that they would serve the Lord. If mistresses were as zealous as Queen Esther for the honour of God and the conversion of sinners, they would bestow pains upon the instruction and religious improvement of their female servants. If women may gain to Christ their own husbands by their good conversation, may they not also gain the souls of their servants? and if they are gained to Christ, they are gained to themselves also. (G. Lawson.)

Fasting is in itself a prayer

It is remarkable that nothing is here said about prayer, but fasting was in itself a prayer; for it was not a form put on from without, but the natural expression of the inner emotion, and as an application to God, it is to be explained much as we do the touching of the Saviour by the woman, who in that way sought her cure. Words are signs, just as fasting is a sign. That which is essential in either is genuineness. God does not look to the words themselves, any more than He does to the fasting in itself. He has regard only to that which the soul expresses, either by the one or through the other. The touch of the soul of the woman went to the Master’s heart through her touching of His garment with her fingers; and the yearning of the soul of Esther, through her fasting, made its appeal to Jehovah, even though she did not breathe His name. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

And so will I go in unto the king.--

Prayer accompanied by appropriate use of means

She will not think that her duty is done when she has prayed and fasted. She will seek, by the use of proper means, to obtain that blessing which she has been asking. The insincerity of our prayers is too often discovered by our sloth and cowardice. We ask blessings from God, and, as if He were bound to confer them, not according to His own will, but according to ours, we take no care to use those means which He hath appointed for obtaining them, or we do not use them with requisite diligence. (G. Lawson.)

Courage to face difficulties

There are two kinds of courage--the mere animal courage, which results from well-strung nerves, and is exerted by impulse rather than by reflection; and the moral courage, which, on a calm calculation of difficulties, and of the path of duty, will face the difficulties and prosecute the path of duty at any hazard, even at the risk of life itself. It will often be found that men are deficient in the latter of these qualities, while they are remarkable for the former. (A. B. Davidson, D. D.)

Esther’s resolve

I. The Preparation: fasting and prayer.

1. Fasting is abused by the Church of Rome, therefore disused by many who belong to the Church of Christ. Deep feeling will make fasting natural. Moses (Exodus 34:28), Elijah (1 Kings 19:7-8), Christ (Matthew 4:2), fasted forty days each. See Ezra’s fast (Ezra 8:21; Ezra 8:23). Directions how to fast (Matthew 6:16-18). Paul was given to fasting (2 Corinthians 6:4; 2 Corinthians 6:6; 2 Corinthians 11:27). Fasting is useless without faith. The Pharisee (Luke 18:12).

2. Prayer. Three days’ special prayer. The Jews in their synagogues. Esther in the palace. With what humility, sorrowful confession, and earnestness did they pray!

II. The resolution: “So will I go in unto the king,” etc. There are some points of resemblance and of contrast between the case of Esther and that of the poor sinner.

1. Points of resemblance.

2. Points of contrast.

Lessons--

1. Warning. Danger threatens.

2. Instruction. Prepare.

3. Encouragement. (The Study and the Pulpit.)

And if I perish, I perish.--

Love to God stronger than death

“If I perish, I perish.” Our lives are not our own; they cannot be long preserved by us. They will be of little value to us without a good conscience. The life which is purchased by neglect of duty is shameful, bitter, worse than death. Whoever shall save his life in this manner shall lose it in this world as well as in the next. But to lose life for the sake of Christ and a good conscience is truly to live. A day of life employed in the most hazardous duties, by which we show that our love to God is stronger than death, excels a thousand days of a life spent in the service and enjoyment of the world. (G. Lawson.)

Esther’s resolve

I. The impending danger.

1. A wicked, crafty, designing foe.

2. An irrevocable decree of destruction.

3. No visible way of escape,

II. The bold resolution.

III. The solemn preliminary: fasting and prayer.

IV. The successful issue.

1. Life spared.

2. Enemy is destroyed.

3. Honour is given. (The Study and the Pulpit.)

The crisis met

I. Observe the queen’s modesty--her extraordinary prudence at the very moment that she is most successful. Her request was a simple invitation to have the king come to a banquet of wine the next day, and as a mark of regard for his preferences, she wishes him to bring Haman.

II. In Esther’s fasting and prayer and pious courage we see that faith and piety are not always shorn of their fruits under unfavourable influences; they may flourish in a palace. In a chaotic state of society a pious man may have greater difficulties to overcome in maintaining a godly walk, but then, in overcoming these difficulties, he will gain a greater degree of spiritual strength.

III. Queen Esther was a true representative woman. Every one is raised up as she was, not to be a Sultana, and do just the work she did, but to do his or her own work. Every one has a duty to perform--a post to maintain--a lot to fulfil.

IV. It may sometimes be our duty to ourselves, our country, our fellow-men and our God to put our lives in jeopardy for the truth, or for the church, and for the sake of Jesus. True piety ought to make men brave.

V. We should never fear to do our duty. The God whom we serve is able either to sustain us under our trials or to deliver us out of them. Why should we yield to the fear of man that bringeth a snare, seeing that we are in the hands of Him who holdeth the hearts of all men and of devils in His hand?

VI. The privilege and efficacy of prayer.

1. As Henry remarks, here is an example of a mistress praying with her maids that is worthy of being followed by all housekeepers and heads of families.

2. And we are here encouraged to ask the sympathy and prayers of others when we undertake any great or perilous enterprise. The king’s favourite was her greatest enemy. But if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, even His own Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

VII. One of the gracious designs of affliction is to make us feel our dependence upon God. A gracious result of trials to the people of God is that it drives them to prayer. But the court of heaven is not like that of Persia, into which there was no entrance for those that were in mourning or clothed with sackcloth. Such could not come near the palace of Ahasuerus. But it is the weary, the heavy-laden, and the sorrowing that are especially invited to the throne of grace, and invited to come boldly. “Is any among you afflicted,” saith the apostle James, “let him pray.” (W. A. Scott, D. D.)

Courage ought to be cultivated

The exigencies of human existence call loudly for the cultivation of courage. Victory is frequently suspended upon boldness. Cromwell’s Ironsides were accustomed to enter the battle shouting, “The Lord is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” They were always victorious. The Christian’s heroism should be like that of the Prince of Conde, who, when offered by his monarch the choice between three things--“To go to Mass, to die, or to be imprisoned”--heroically replied, “I am perfectly resolved never to go to Mass, so between the other two I leave the choice to your majesty.” If Luther dared to enter the Diet of Worms relying on the justice of his cause and the protection of God, assuredly the Christian in this age may confidently face the dangers which confront him. Genuine piety has a powerful tendency to develop heroism. Moses, Elijah, Nathan, Daniel, John the Baptist, etc. (J. S. Van Dyke, D. D.)

Moral heroism

1. The Christian should make no concealment of his piety. If Esther dared to reveal her religion, asking her maidens to unite in imploring the interposition of Jehovah, surely the Christian ought not to cloak his.

2. Sympathy shown to the suffering is advantageous to the giver as well as to the receiver.

3. Those who resist the evidence that the Church is not infrequently in a condition calling for immediate deliverance are enemies of true religion, not friends.

4. Christians should possess moral heroism.

5. If desirous of securing deliverance for the Church, we should endeavour to impress upon each a keen sense of personal responsibility.

6. We should endeavour to sustain those who are passing through trials for us. Mordecai and the Jewish people engaged in prayer while Esther exposed herself to death on their behalf.

7. Assurance of deliverance should impel to the performance of present duty. (J. S. Van Dyke, D. D.)

Esther’s peril and its attendant success

Notice--

I. The situation in which esther was placed.

II. Her conduct in the emergency.

III. The success which attended her application. (R. P. Buddicom.)

Esther’s resolve

This was not--

I. The resolution of a fatalist who acts upon the principle that what is destined to be must be.

II. The resolution of desperation, which feels “matters cannot be worse, and to have done the utmost may bring relief, while it cannot possibly aggravate the evil.”

III. The resolution of a person prostrated under difficulties, and yet, with a vague hope of deliverance, saying, “I will make one effort more, and if that fail, and all is lost, I can but die.” Esther’s purpose was framed in a spirit altogether different. It was the heroism of true piety, which in providence shut up to one course, and that, full of danger, counts the cost, seeks help of God, and calmly braves the danger, saying, “He will deliver me if He have pleasure in me; if not, I perish in the path of duty.” (A. B. Davidson, D. D.)

Access to the throne

I remember at the time of that marvellous “blizzard,” as it was called, in America, there was an astounding instance of roundabout communication. There were parties in Philadelphia who wanted to communicate with Boston, but all the telegraph lines were down, and they actually cabled the message across the sea to London, and from London by cable to Boston, in order to get the message through which it was desired to communicate to parties in that city. This may illustrate what I mean, that sometimes, when interruption of communication exists on earth, or there are closed doors or insurmountable obstacles which hinder our effective labour, and when in vain we knock and ring at the closed doors, or attempt to overcome the hindrances that exist between us and the ends that we desire to attain--if we can get access to the King of kings, and if we can send our message up to the throne, from the throne the answer will come. We shall find that the surest way to get to the upper storey of the house, or to reach across the intervening obstacles that have accumulated in our path, is to approach the desired end by way of God’s throne. (A. T. Pierson.)

Gospel-consecration

does not go farther than this. Everything dear and valued was left behind in order that she might serve God. “All things were counted but loss” that she might maintain “a conscience void of offence towards God and towards man.” Ah! how this believer, in old times, when as yet the Saviour was only had in promise, puts to shame many in these latter days who are in possession of the finished salvation! Even the pleasures of sense, and the wealth and rewards of the world, keep them in a state of indecision and vacillation, if not of absolute indifference, to the call and claims of the gospel. (T. McEwan.)
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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Esther 4:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/esther-4.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, June 4th, 2020
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
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