so good for what it says that it tempts the thoughtful reader to pause, to ask whether he cannot learn a lesson of value from it. Haman dares a description of the nominal people of God; is he not in truth unconsciously throwing off a telling description of the real people of God, of God's real Church in the world? For this plain, brief description of the people to whom Mordecai belonged, which Haman now offers to the credulity of Ahasuerus, happens to seize three leading facts distinctive of the Church of God. Nor is it altogether to be assigned to the realm of chance. The fact was that, shaded though their race was now, dimmed though their glorious history, the people of Mordecai were the separate people of God, and that Haman had noticed and scrutinised their essential peculiarities. These peculiarities, false as is the gloss he puts upon them, he has in some degree correctly caught. These are the shadows of answering realities in the economy of the Church, the kingdom of God. They remind us of -
I. THE FOOTHOLD THE KINGDOM OF GOD HAS IN THE WORLD. For whatever may be its exact position at any given hour of the world's clock -
1. Its genius is towards ubiquity. "There is a certain, people... in all, the provinces of thy kingdom."
2. Its genius is towards being "scattered abroad," "dispersed," intermingled "among the people." Once for a short time, and for the special need of preparatory education, it is true that God's elect people were locally as well as morally separate from others, i.e. when they sojourned in the wilderness. But this was only a phase, and a transient one, of their national existence. Again, for a longer time, and with fender prospect, they dwelt in comparative seclusion in their own land. But this also was quite as transient a phase of their national life, taking into consideration the settlement there. What a business it was! And the true place of the people of God is not merely to find a settlement and found a colony everywhere, but to mix among men, and to seek health of every sort in work and fidelity, rather than in retirement and the infolding of self. And this actual contact with all the varieties of human character, position, life, is in order to two ends: .first, for the proof and the growth of individual goodness; secondly, for the gradual leavening with a little leaven of the whole lump.
3. Its genius is towards working its way among men, day and night, and growing into their affection and confidence, rather than summoning them to capitulate either to fear or to admiration.
II. THE OUTSIDE APPEAL WHICH THE SUBJECTS OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD EVER CLAIM AND EVER HOLD IN RESERVE. Their special laws are, and are to be, "diverse from all people" who are not of themselves. And when these clash with any other, they are not to "keep the king's laws," but to keep their own distinguishing and esoteric laws (Acts 4:19; Acts 5:29). To know well, to do well, these "diverse laws" is the sustained aspiration of the Church of God. There is such a thing as unity in variety, and there is, and is to be, on the part of the Church of God, the close union of all its own members, by one common fellowship, by obedience to one common code of laws, by acknowledgment of one standard Bible authority, amid all their intermixture, in every conceivable relationship, with all the rest of the world and "the kingdoms of the world." The genuine, hearty, living obedience of a thousand, of a hundred persons to "laws diverse from all people" is an enormously strong link of connection among themselves, and an enormously significant testimony to the outside world of something special at work. If we as Christian people rose to this conception, to the eager veneration of it, to the hearty practice of it, what a witness ours would be! Meantime Haman's allegation against the certain people scattered abroad that while their own laws were diverse from all people, they did not keep the king's laws" - was untrue. Mordecai had indeed withheld obedience to the law which "the king had commanded" (ver. 2), that "all the king's servants in the king's gate should bow and reverence Haman," and his non-obedience was no doubt covered, by his fealty to the "diverse laws;" but this was by no means enough to cover a charge against all the Jews, or even against Mordecai in his general conduct and life. The kingdom of God then does glory to follow the lead and command of "laws diverse from all people," to claim the ultimate appeal as lying always to these; and in any conceivable case of option to decide in one moment for obedience to God rather than to men.
III. THE FORESEEN DESTINY OF THE CHURCH OF GOD, Haman's apprehension was perhaps not very genuine, and any way was premature, but his instinct in the real matter at issue was only too unerring and correct. The Church of God - "that certain people scattered abroad among the people," with their diverse laws, and their first heed given to them - beyond a doubt has its eye on all other kingdoms, is not what those other kingdoms would now think "for their profit," is destined to absorb them, gives evidence of that destiny as a very intention in those same manifestations of its genius, and in its appeal to the unseen, and in its first obedience thereto. Oh for the time when the chorus shall indeed open, "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever." - B.
1. It shows in a lurid but striking manner the diabolical character of revenge. Pride is pride, and revenge is revenge in quality, although they only show themselves in words with little stings in them, and by insinuations that have no known ground of verity. If we do not make it our business to chastise our spirits and purify them from the seeds and shadows of these vices, in the forms in which they can assail us, can we be quite sure that if we were on the wider stage, and had the ampler opportunity, we should not be as this devilish Amalekite?
I. THE INSECURITY OF EARTHLY GREATNESS. The king in this story was exposed to the plot of Bigthan and Teresh. From it he was saved by the intervention of Mordecai, though by and by to fall beneath the assassin's blow. Great are the perils of the great. Their lives often, behind all the splendour that takes the public eye, a sad story.
After these things did king Ahasuerus promote Haman.Matthew Henry says: "I wonder what the king saw in man that was commendable or meritorious? It is plain that he was not a man of honour or justice, of any true courage or steady conduct, but proud and passionate and revengeful; yet he was promoted and caressed, and there was none as great as he. Princes' darlings are not always worthies."
I. THE WICKED MAN IN PROSPERITY. Haman is typical. He is the progenitor of a long line that by skilful plotting rise above the heads of superior men. In this world rewards are not rightly administered. Push and tact get the prize.
II. THE PROSPEROUS WICKED MAN IS SURROUNDED BY FAWNING SYCOPHANTS. "The king had so commanded." A king's commandment is not required to secure outward homage towards those in high places. Clothe a man with the outward marks of royal favour, and many are at once prepared to become his blind adulators. Imperialism is glorified in political, literary, and ecclesiastical spheres. Power in arms, push in business, skill in politics, success in literature, and parade in religion are the articles of the creed in which modern society believes.
III. THE PROSPEROUS WICKED MAN IS SURROUNDED BY MEDDLING SYCOPHANTS. Even admirers may be too officious. If Haman had known and seen all, he might have prayed, "Save me from my friends." The king's servants, in their selfish zeal, frustrated their own purposes of aggrandisement. How often in trying to grasp too much we lose all.
IV. THE PROSPEROUS WICKED MAN FINDS THAT FALSE, GREATNESS BRINGS TROUBLE. That greatness is false which is not the outcome of goodness. The course of wicked prosperity cannot run smooth. Haman meets with the checking and detecting Mordecai.
V. THE PROSPEROUS WICKED MAN MAY LEARN THAT AN UNRESTRAINED NATURE BRINGS TROUBLE. Haman was intoxicated with his greatness. He was full of wrath. Wrath is cruel both to the subject and the object.
VI. THE PROSPEROUS WICKED MAN UNWITTINGLY PLOTS HIS OWN DOWNFALL. Haman's wrath led him to dangerous extremes. Poor Haman! Already we see thee treading on a volcano. Thy hands are digging the pit into which thou shalt fall. Thy minions are preparing the gallows on which thou thyself shalt be hung. Learn —
1. Prosperity has its drawbacks.
2. "Better it is to be of a humble spirit with the lowly than to divide the spoil with the proud."
3. That our greatest troubles often spring from our own depraved natures.
(W. Burrows, B. A.)
II. THE DIVINE FORESIGHT OF AND PREPARATION FOR COMING EVIL. The plotters, Bigthan and Teresh, paid the penalty with their lives. But what had that plot to do with the great story of this book — Israel's deliverance from Haman? Much, for mark, the plot was detected by Mordecai. The news was conveyed to Esther, and by her to the king. Thus God's design for Israel's deliverance precedes Haman's design for Israel's destruction Oh! the Divine preparations! How God goes before us! Does Jacob look round upon famished Canaan? Lo! by the hand of long-lost Joseph, God has prepared for him a house in Egypt. Do we come into peril? Before we reach it God has been preparing for us a way of escape. His love is older than our sin — than all sin.
III. THE DIGNITY OF CONSCIENTIOUSNESS IN LITTLE THINGS. Mordecai would not bow to Haman. Not from disloyalty. He had stood by the king and saved him from the plotted death. Because — this is the reason he gave — because he was a Jew: and Haman, he knew, was the Jews' enemy. Others bowed — he could not. A little thing, do you say, to bow to Haman? but s little thing may have much effect on others, as this had on Haman — on ourselves; and, often repeated, is not little in its influence. He had conscience in this matter, and to defile it had not been a little harm. Conscience can appear in little things, but it deems nothing little that affects it, that expresses it. The early Christians would rather die than cast a few idolatrous grains of incense into the fire. Many an English martyr went to the prison and the stake rather than bow down to the wafer-god of Romanism. In little things, as some would deem them, we can take a stand for Christ.
IV. THE WICKEDNESS OF REVENGE. Had Haman a just grudge against Mordecai? Let him have the matter out with Mordecai alone? No; that will not suit him. He would punish a whole nation. The proud became the revengeful. If a man is humble and has a lowly estimate of himself, he will bear in silence the contempt and unkindness of men. But pride is easily wounded — sees slights often where none were intended. On a great platform we see, in the case of Haman, to what sin wounded pride will hurry a man. And to what a doom! We need to beware. Are none of us ever tempted harshly to judge a whole family because of the conduct of one of its members? to say, in the spirit of Haman, he is bad — the whole lot is bad? "Hath any wronged thee?" says Quarles, "be bravely revenged; slight it, and the work is begun; forgive it, and the work is finished."
V. THE PATIENCE OF FAITH. The king's life had been saved by Mordecai. But no honour had come to him for the service — no reward. And now an edict is out against him and his nation, dooming them all to death. And does he regret the stand that he has taken? Does he loudly complain of the king's ingratitude? He keeps silence. God will think on him for good. Oh, troubled one I oh, darkened life! oh, soul tempest-tossed, "only believe." The clouds will pass — will melt into the eternal blue!
(G. T. Coster.)
2. A lesson of personal independence. What meanness there is in this country in bowing down to rank! in letting some lordly title stand in the place of an argument! in seeking high patronage for good schemes, as men seek the shadow of broad trees on hot days! in running after royal carriages! in subservience to power, and adulation of wealth! Rise up, Mordecai, in thy Jewish grandeur, and shame us into manliness, and help us to stand a little more erect!
3. Finally, a lesson of patience and quietness to all the faithful. Obey conscience, honour the right, and then fear no evil. Is the storm brewing? It may break and carry much away, but it will not hurt you. A little reputation is not you. A little property is not you. Health even is not you, nor is life itself. The wildest storm that could blow would only cast you on the shores of eternal peace and safety. But more probably the storm may melt all away in a while and leave you in wonder at your own fears.
(A. Raleigh, D. D.)
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