The name Esther means “Secret,” and the history of this famous Jewess finds its chronology between the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah, in the days when many of the Jews were still captives in Persia, which kingdom had conquered Babylon. The state of morality in these Eastern kingdoms had become terribly low, and the harem system was in its fullest force. O how grievous that the children of God through their sins should be subject to a people the standard of whose life was such!
Amongst the captives in Shushan, the palace, there was a certain Jew, whose name was Mordecai, and the history of this man was so important in the eyes of God that He mentions the affairs of the king Ahasuerus, or Artaxerxes, simply to bring out the faith and loyalty of Mordecai to God and to his people. Ahasuerus, a sensual man, held a feast, in the course of which, when probably inflamed with wine, he called for his queen, Vashti, to appear, that his lords should look upon her beauty. Whether it was womanly modesty, or whether it was self‐will, which caused the queen to disobey, we know not, but, in any case, Vashti was degraded from her position, and the king determined to elect another in her place, and for this purpose sought to replenish his harem.
It is grievous to think that a maiden of Israel should have been introduced into the king’s harem, but so it was, and the young cousin of Mordecai, the beautiful Esther, became a competitor with Persian maidens for the crown‐royal of Persia. There was a graciousness about the Jewish maiden which pleased both the king and his chamberlain, and Ahasuerus set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti.
Meanwhile, the Jewish maiden obeyed Mordecai, her elder cousin, just as when she was brought up with him. While she lived in a heathen court,
THE FEAR OF GOD
was greater to her than all the riches, and pleasures and indulgences of her royal estate; and when Mordecai discovered the delinquencies of two chamberlains, she “certified the king thereof in Mordecai’s name.”
It is not surprising that a king, the principle of whose life was self‐indulgence, should have been capricious in his likes and dislikes, and by such caprice should have exalted an unworthy favourite to a place of honour. A selfish despot is the greatest of tyrants. Haman, the Agagite, was the name of this favourite, and, probably, he was a simple flatterer with a smooth tongue who made the king his tool to obtain his own aggrandisement. It was flattering to the pride of this unworthy man that all the king’s servants in the king’s gate bowed and reverenced him. But there was one man, a servant of the King of Kings, who would not own the superiority of Haman. “Mordecai bowed not nor did him reverence.” So bitter was the enmity which this treatment inspired in Haman that he was full of wrath, and in his senseless, wicked anger, he sought not only to lay hands on Mordecai, but to destroy all the Jews throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus. Probably he had discovered that Mordecai, far from being a selfish man like himself, had his people very near his heart, and that death would be doubly bitter to him if his people also were destroyed. Haman’s influence with the king was such that he obtained a decree that all the Jews should be destroyed and the very day of execution was fixed!
Mordecai was, probably, one of those men so rare in a generation, who have the cause of God upon their hearts. It was not for his own sake that he had introduced Esther into the palace, it was not for the sake of the position which she held; he bore his people upon his heart, he thought of how he and the queen should serve the people of the Lord. And now that all the Jews were in mourning and in fear for their lives, Mordecai rent his clothes, put on sack‐cloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and bitter cry. It was not long before Esther heard of the mourning of Mordecai, and, to her surprise and horror, learnt the reason of it; and Mordecai charged her to go in to the king to make supplication to him and to make request for her people.
It was a crisis in the life of the young queen: all her life previously was but a preparation for this moment. Her people’s very existence might depend on her. To enter uncalled into the presence of the imperious despot meant death to herself, but to fail in supplicating for her race meant death to everyone of her people! What should Esther do? Mordecai sent this message:
“Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews. For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance, arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this.” God can always raise up instruments for His work; He is not dependent upon man, but there are moments when He may give us
A SPECIAL CALL
eternal issues hang upon such moments!
How should Mordecai know that enlargement and deliverance should arise to the Jews from another place? He must have been alone with his God; he must have pleaded for his people and received a distinct answer, for he spoke with authority of what God should do.
By God’s grace, Esther was made equal to the occasion. She rose to the situation, and returned Mordecai this answer,
“Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.”
Once decided to take her life in her hand, once laid down upon the altar as a living sacrifice for her people, Esther became the true helpmeet which woman should be. But in this case, it was not the helpmeet of her husband, but of her people. When the hearts of His children have learnt to trust Him, God has no difficulty in arranging circumstances in such a way that prayer can be answered.
Esther ventured into the inner court of the king’s house. The king held out the golden sceptre. She only invited him and Haman to a feast, and trusted for what should follow. Meanwhile God went on working, and took sleep from the king’s eyes. He ordered the book of the records of the Chronicles to be read before him, and discovered how Mordecai had apprised him of the treachery of his chamberlains. He called in the morning for his favourite Haman, and commanded that he should honour Mordecai by leading him on horseback through the streets of the city and proclaiming before him:
“Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honour.”
When the time of Esther’s banquet had arrived, the king asked her what was her petition. The favourable moment had come: God had let everything work up to this moment. And when the queen urged upon her royal husband the plea:
“Let my life be given me upon my petition, and my people at my request,” and the king discovered the treachery of Haman, the tables were turned, and the gallows which Haman had prepared for Mordecai were used for the man who had plotted his downfall.
Esther had not been called to her royal position in vain, and throughout the whole kingdom, deliverance came to the Jews. They had light and gladness and joy and honour, and many of the people of the land became Jews, for the fear of the Jews came upon them (Est 8:16-17).
“Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” It is
IN MOMENTS OF CRISIS.
that the faithfulness of God’s children is tried. He will ever hold out His golden sceptre to His children. But let none think that what happens is accidental. There is a purpose in every test, in every trial, that the gold may be refined and the grace which He has given to His children made manifest. Every child of God is called to be a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1), but the life of sacrifice is peculiarly a woman’s vocation. There are times when, disregarding her own feelings and desires, she may follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth (Rev 14:4) in her own home‐life; enduring hardness, selfishness, perhaps from a drunken husband, rudeness, perhaps from rebellious children, unkindness from evil‐speaking neighbours—without answering a word. Who knows how many husbands and sons have been convinced of sin by the witness of such a life? Who knows how many neighbours have seen Christ in such a woman, and have been led to seek Him for themselves. Esther took her life in her hand for the sake of her people. Every true woman of God will die to her own self‐life daily, and all day long, that the life of Jesus may be manifest in her.