Now there was at the citadel of Susa a Jewish man from the tribe of Benjamin named Mordecai son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish.
a good choice. We need not assume that Esther was a willing- candidate for royal honours. The account we have favours the belief that she passively yielded to a power which she could not resist. Among the attractive qualities she possessed, we may notice -
I. BEAUTY. She had a fair form and a good countenance. Physical beauty is not to be despised. It is one of God's gifts, and has much power in the world. Yet it exposes the soul to special danger. When not sanctified and guarded by the grace of God, it becomes a ready minister to vanity and varied sin. Moreover, it is frail and precarious. A temporary illness will destroy the brightest beauty. A few years will wrinkle the face of youth, and give a tottering gait to the most graceful form.
II. MODESTY. Esther's beauty did not make her vain and foolish. She avoided all arts to adorn it and increase its effects on others. Modesty is a lovely grace which adds a new charm to the highest physical beauty. It conciliates and wins by its own gentle force. An immodest assertion of one's self in any circumstances indicates either a want of moral sensitiveness, or a want of intellectual sight. A pure heart, a true self-knowledge, and the fear of God, are all and always modest.
III. DISCRETION. In her new and trying position Esther never failed in prudence. This was the result not of skilful planning, but of a good training, and of a modesty which quickly saw what was becoming. She made no effort to please (ver. 15). The very simplicity and artlessness of her conduct won her the favour of the king's servants, and finally drew to her the preference of the king himself. Truth and wisdom are one. There is no brighter jewel in womanly character than the discretion which reflects a simple and true heart (Proverbs 11:22).
IV. DUTIFULNESS. One of the most attractive qualities of Esther was her daughter-like fidelity to her foster-father Mordecai, both before and after her election to the throne. She admired, loved, and trusted him. and submitted as a child to his guidance. Young people dislike restraint, and long for the freedom of independence before they are ready to bear the responsibility of it. They often fret under the wise and affectionate safeguards which their parents impose. Yet in after life most men and women are willing to confess that they were very ignorant in youth, and that it would have been well for them if they had understood better, and followed more fully, the parental admonitions which seemed so irksome.
V. INTEGRITY. Esther bore well the sudden flush of prosperity which came upon her. This is first and best seen in her unchanging regard for the man who had been the guardian of her orphaned childhood and youth. Her elevation to Vashti's place made no change in her reverent affection for Mordecai. We read that she "did the commandments of Mordecai like as when she was brought up with him" (ver. 20). A very beautiful and instructive example! Changes in condition often work sad changes in heart and conduct. Many grow false to themselves and their past, and to those who formed the chief good of their past, when some tide of prosperity raises them into a higher social circle, and creates new ties which can have no sympathy or connection with the old ones. Nothing is more despicable than that pride of worldly advancement which forgets or looks coldly on early friends whose humble fidelities of affection may have laid the foundation of future success. The character and conduct of the Jewish maiden teach us -
1. A higher beauty than the physical. In all precious qualities beauty of mind and heart far transcends the most brilliant beauty of face or form. The "beauties of holiness" are the best adornments of man or woman. "Strength and beauty are in his sanctuary" (Psalm 96:6). "Zion is the perfection of beauty" (Psalm 50:2). The prayer of the Church is, "Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us" (Psalm 90:17).
2. A better possession than worldly rank. The treasure of a good understanding in the fear of the Lord is of more value than any grandeur of outward circumstance. A soul that is humble, patient, trustful, loving, holy, Christlike, has riches that all the gold of Ophir or the diamonds of Golconda could not buy, and is elevated higher than if it were to occupy the greatest earthly throne (Ecclesiastes 7:12; Matthew 6:19-21; John 6:27).
3. The importance of early training. Youth is the seed-time. Seeds are then sown which, in the after life, will surely bring forth fruit either good or evil. Well-meaning parents may be sometimes unwise, and well-trained children may sometimes go astray; but the rule is - "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." Esther may be taken as an illustration of the powerlessness of worldly influences to change the feelings of the heart, or the judgments of the mind, or the government of the life, in the ease of one who in early youth has been trained, under loving care, in the principles and practices of a holy religious life.
4. The truth of the saying, "Man proposes, but God disposes." In all the incidents connected with Esther's election to be queen we see the guidance of an invisible hand. The narrative is brief, simple, and artless; but on that very account it impresses us all the more with the conviction of a Divine purpose and leading. - D.
Whose name was Mordecai.
I. MORDECAI WAS KIND TO HIS ORPHAN COUSIN. He brought her up, adopting her as his own daughter. He was intensely solicitous for her welfare. He was her counsellor, guardian, friend. He seems to have possessed respect for womanhood — what Charles Lamb in one of his Essays of Ella designates, "reverence for the sex." Are we not justified in affirming that this is indicative of nobility? Love of woman, as woman, produces beneficent results, which few can afford to dispense with. It aids in developing perfection of character.
II. He possessed GOOD JUDGMENT. He advised Esther not to reveal her kindred. He did not enjoin her to deny her nationality, much less to become alienated from her suffering countrymen; but he exhorted her to maintain silence in reference to her descent. He will await deliverance from Israel's God, carefully watching the indications of providence, and endeavouring, meanwhile, to induce Esther to strengthen her influence with the king. "The prudent man looketh well to his going."
III. HE WAS HUMBLE. He sat as porter at the royal gate of the palace and was contented.
IV. HE WAS LOYAL TO JUSTICE. When two of the chamberlains sought to lay hands on the king he disclosed the plot to the queen, who, by reporting it to the monarch, delivered the culprits over to the vengeance of law, and "they were both hanged on a tree."
V. HE WAS CONSCIENTIOUS, and to a right-minded person the approval of conscience is the richest reward, one which depends upon himself and of which no other can rob him. Mordecai refused to bow before Haman. "If the monkey reigns, dance before him," is a proverb which evidently had little force with Mordecai. If Haman does not deserve respect, he shall not receive reverence from him. Kind, prudent, humble, just and conscientious, need we marvel that Mordecai rose from lowly station to become chief minister of State? Though he has saved the life of the king, he is not promoted. He returns to his humble duties. By the simple fact that a record is made of the services of a porter, preparation is made for the stirring events of the future.
(J. S. Van Dyke, D. D.)
1. In this fidelity in duty we first see this path of duty beginning in the very lowest circumstances of life. Enrich and exalt the indulgence of the world by every imagination of its wealth and pleasure, and yet He shows its end to be vanity and vexation of spirit. He will show the reward of fidelity in duty. He will display the history of its certain triumph, and perfect security and success. Begin as low as you will in human condition; make the sphere as limited as you can; multiply difficulties around its strait and narrow path as you choose, and He will show you how easily and how certainly He can exalt and honour it, and that by the very instruments which have been collected to oppose it. Thus Mordecai begins a poor captive Jew, perhaps a beggar, certainly a menial at the king's gate. Men often think it of little consequence what one does who is so concealed and so little known. But, ah, never forget that there is no such distinction before God between duties great and little, or sins venial or mortal. Whatever God requires or forbids is great. Every station which His providence has assigned and ordered is necessary and important. Virtue must always be tried by little things. The beginnings of all temptations are small, and the question of resistance or compliance with them is always settled in very narrow contingencies of trial. It is far easier to perform higher duties, and to resist greater temptations. The real trial of human principles is in unknown and secret dangers. When everybody is watching, it is easy to walk uprightly. The soldier on parade will be sure to keep time and step. But when our walk is unobserved, our conduct unnoticed, our position in life of no consequence in human sight, then are our difficulties and our temptations always the greater and the more dangerous. "No one will know; no one sees; example is nothing; it is of no consequence what I do; it is impossible for me to do much good in any way." All, not thus did. Mordecai argue, though in these very circumstances of narrow influence Mordecai begins.
2. We see this poor and faithful man perfectly contented with his low estate. He is unmurmuring though poor. If you would have larger and higher responsibility, gain it and be prepared for it, by earnestly and contentedly fulfilling the obligations which are laid upon you now.
3. We see him affectionate and liberal in his social relations. Though poor, yet making others rich. Though poor himself, he cheerfully adopts his orphan cousin, and divides his comforts, whatever they might be, with her. "He brought up Hadassah, his uncle's daughter." The largest generosity is often among the most straitened in earthly condition. But it is an indispensable characteristic of true virtue. Obedience to God is imitation of God, who giveth liberally and upbraideth not. A covetous, harsh, narrow, selfish temper can never have tasted that God is gracious, or have known anything of the Saviour's transforming love. He was delicate and refined in his liberality. There is much in the way in which kindness is bestowed to make it either acceptable or a burden. The little orphan Mordecai "took and brought up for his own daughter." There is nothing in the religion of the New Testament to encourage bluntness, coarseness, or assumption of superiority. But Mordecai's tenderness was watchful as well as delicate. "To know how Esther did, and what should become of her," was the dearest interest he had on earth. And for this "he walked every day before the court of the women's house."
4. We see him faithful in every claim as a subject. In his solitude he overheard the counsel of two conspirators against the life of the king. He sought the opportunity, therefore, to preserve the life of the king, and he succeeded. This also is an eminent example. The virtuous, religious man is always an orderly and peaceful man.
5. We see in Mordecai especial fidelity to God.
(S. H. Tyng, D. D.)
For she had neither father nor mother
(A. B. Davidson, D. D.)
(A. B. Davidson, D. D.): — We Christians have not always been ready to give the Jew credit for such tenderness, such ready pity, such gentle helpfulness. Let us ask ourselves if we are willing to come up to the standard of this Jew? What is the good of any religion unless it do make us pitiful, loving, eager to help the poor world about us? I heard a very beautiful story some time since. A friend was telling me that one Sunday he was preaching at some little country chapel, and went to dinner at the house of a labourer, where he found eight children. He was struck with the fact that they seemed to run in pairs, as if they were all twins. After dinner the good woman said, "I saw you looking at the children, sir, as if you could not quite make them out." "Well, yes," said he, "I could not help wondering if they were all twins!" The good wife laughed. "No," said she, "they are not twins. You see they are all ours, so to speak, and yet four of them are not. When we came into this house the man and woman who lived here before us had just died and left four little children just the age of our four. They had to go to the workhouse, and the van was at the door to take them just as we came in. Three of them were in the van; but the fourth little fellow would not go. He had got hold of the door, and was screaming with all his might. The man was trying not to hurt him, and yet of course he wanted to make him let go. I felt very, very sorry for them all, and said, 'You can't take him screaming like that. People will think that you are murdering him. Put the three back again and come again to-morrow. We will look after them for the night.' The man was very glad to do it, so they all came in again. Well, then you see our children began to play with them, and we all sat down together at supper, and managed to get them off to bed. Well, that night I could not sleep for thinking about them. I could not get it out of my mind what I should like anybody to do for mine if they were left like that. As I lay tossing, John said to me, 'I can't help thinking about those children.' 'Well, John,' I said, 'what do you think about them.' 'Well, Mary, do you think if we pinched a bit that we could manage to keep them?' 'I am sure we could,' I said, and then we went to sleep. The guardians gave us six shillings a week towards their keep, and it went on all right until John began to think that we ought to have a Sunday-school for the children about here. 'We have eight to start with,' said John. So the school was started. But there was a gentleman that set himself against the school, and tried to put it down. However, John would not have that; so this gentleman went to the guardians and got them to stop the six shillings a week. We could not let the children go, for to us it was just as if they were our own. But it was hard work, for John fell ill and was in bed for six weeks. And when he got about again he had to try and find a new place, for his had been filled up. At last he got a job at hedging and ditching, and that meant a stout pair of boots and a pair of leggings and a bill-hook. I had saved a few shillings for the children's shoes, but now I had to give all that to John, and away he went to buy what he wanted. But as soon as he came back I said, 'You must go again to get the children's shoes, John,' and I put two sovereigns in his hand. He looked at me wondering. I told him how that the gentleman's daughter had called to say how sorry she was for us, and she gave us this to keep the children. And since then we have managed to get on right well, sir."
(Mark Guy Pearse.)
I. In this view we see TRUE PIETY IN WORLDLY EXALTATION This exaltation has been brought about by a remarkable train of circumstances in the good providence of God. Every probability was against it, and nothing could be more unlikely than the result which was thus produced. "The king loved Esther above all the women," etc. Remarkable as this result was in itself, the reason given for it is yet more worthy of our attention. "She obtained grace and favour in his sight." Her exaltation is ascribed to a far higher power than any that outwardly appeared. God was ruling and ordering it in His own way, You may carry out this principle in all your expectations and plans of life. Your youthful hearts desire earthly success. God may surely give it to you. But He would have you realise that it is His gift. The wise and the only sure way to make the earth a blessing to you is to seek His favour with it. But it will also, which is far more, make the earthly substance which you do gain a real and permanent blessing to you. But surely there is a higher exultation than any which is wholly confined to earth. There is a throne above all earthly thrones for those who conquer in the Saviour's host. This God reserveth for those who love Him. Seek this throne and kingdom, the kingdom of God and His righteousness. This is the more excellent way. Make your possession of it sure. The king of Persia made a royal feast at Esther's exultation. It was a feast of far different character from that which preceded the downfall of Vashti. "The king made a great feast unto all his princes and his servants, even Esther's feast; and he made a release to the provinces, and gave gifts according to the state of the king." The former feast was distinguished by abounding selfish, sensual indulgence. This was marked by releases, gifts and acts of favour to the destitute and the suffering. The people of God are always made a blessing to men in the influence which they exercise, and in their final exaltation among men, when the kingdoms of the earth shall be given to the saints of the Most High, the most abounding gifts and mercies shall be showered upon the world around. If God shall give you the high places of the earth, so improve and employ your influence here that others may have reason to bless God in your behalf.
II. We see here THE EMPTINESS OF EARTHLY CONTRASTS. No earthly contrast could be greater than between a poor Jewish captive orphan, amidst the oppressions of a heathen land, and the queen of all the provinces of the kingdom of Persia. Yet all this is nothing when viewed in relation to the power and greatness of God. Man looks upon the outward appearance. God looketh upon the heart. Let us seek to gain His mind, and learn to value others, and to think of ourselves according to the reality of character, and not according to the mere appendages and aspects of the outward condition. The vain mind of youth delights in worldly elevation and grandeur. But Esther's trials of character will be far greater in her new condition than in her former one. Few can bear great earthly prosperity with advantage. It is here that the principle of our text comes in, "He preserveth the souls of His saints." He delivers them from the destructive influence which surrounds them. He carries them safely through the hour of trial. Prosperity brings in the claims of worldly fashion, the examples of the exalted wicked, the hostility of a world which at the same time tempts to transgression and scoffs at fidelity. It introduces a multitude of new thoughts and new relations which corrupt the character and entangle the soul. The life of piety declines. The spirit of prayer grows dull. The modesty of dress and personal appearance is laid aside. The purity of the outward walk is disregarded.
III. We see in Esther's case that under the Divine guidance and grace TRUE PIETY MAY PASS UNINJURED THROUGH EVERY STATE. Esther's sudden exaltation had no effect on her fidelity to God, or on her attachment to His people. We see the same guarded self-respect, and the same love for Mordecai afterwards as before. The proportioned usefulness of individual piety in different stations in human life it would be very difficult to decide. God often selects the feeblest instruments as the most important agencies to promote His glory. We may, therefore, dismiss all anxiety about the influence of our appointed station. He will give the blessing according to His own will. But what can show more beautifully the reality of the work of God in the heart than the constant exercise and display of the same kindness, tenderness, and simplicity in a high estate as in a previous low condition? One of the most striking facts in Esther's character is this repeated assertion of her faithful remembrance of Mordecai and of her permanent regard to his instructions. Ah, what a blessing do we confer when we succeed, under the sovereign power of the Holy Spirit, in laying up in the youthful mind the principles of true religion and real love for God! This is something real; a gift that will abide.
IV. WE SEE ESTHER'S EXALTATION MARKED BY SINCERE GRATITUDE AND AFFECTIONATE CARE FOR THE APPOINTED INSTRUMENT OF IT. A low and upstart mind hates to acknowledge obligations; nay, often feels a new hostility towards those from whom benefits have been received. But a truly great and exalted mind forgets no benefits that have been conferred, and esteems it a high privilege to be able to pay them directly back to the person who has bestowed them. Esther acknowledges her twofold obligation, while she gives the information which saves the life of the king, and gives it in the name of Mordecai, that it might in some way be the instrument of promoting his advantage, and of rescuing him from the poverty of his condition. This gratitude for kindness from our fellow-men is always characteristic of true piety. A religious heart is ashamed of no obligations. Shun that sinful pride which hates the feeling and the acknowledgment of dependence. A joyful and pleasant thing it is to be thankful.
(S. H. Tyng, D. D.)
And Mordecai walked every day before the court of the women's house.
I. MORDECAI'S LOVNG SOLICITUDE.
II. THIS LOVING SOLICITUDE WAS OF DIVINE ORIGIN. God makes use of human passions for the promotion of His merciful purposes. Human reasons may be given to account for Mordecai's love for Esther, but there were also Divine reasons.
III. THIS LOVING SOLICITUDE QUICKENED MORDECAI'S DISCERNMENT.
IV. THIS LOVING SOLICITUDE TAUGHT MORDECAI A TRUE CREED. Love is light. He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in a clear apprehension of Divine truth and of Divine methods. "Although he trusted God with his niece, yet he knew that an honest care of her might well stand with faith in God's providence. God must be trusted, but not tempted by the neglect of careful means"
V. MORDECAI'S LOVE MADE HIM WATCHFUL.
VI. MORDECAI'S LOVE MADE HIM SELF-FORGETFUL.
VII. MORDECAI'S LOVE CONCERNED ITSELF ABOUT ESTHER'S HIGHEST WELFARE.
(W. Burrows, B. A.)
She required nothing
(A. B. Davidson, D. D.)
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