Esther 3:5
Mordecai's conduct was indeed striking. All the circumstances added to its impressiveness. The influences that ruled him must have been powerful. Why did he refuse to give homage to Haman? Why was he willing to disobey the king's command?

I. WAS HIS DISOBEDIENCE TO THE ROYAL WILL THE RESULT OF A DISLOYAL SPIRIT? That could not be; for he had recently given a most signal proof of his loyalty in discovering the plot of the conspirators against the king's life. He was true to the king even when he disobeyed him.

II. WAS HIS DISOBEDIENCE THE RESULT OF A VIRTUOUS DISLIKE OF THE WICKED FAVOURITE? Any amount of aversion for so worthless a creature would have been justified. But such an antipathy would hardly account for his disregard of the king's command. Here duty would have stepped in and saved at once his conscience and his self-respect. It must be remembered that he braved the king as well as Haman.

III. WAS HIS DISOBEDIENCE TO THE KING A RESULT AND EXPRESSION OF HIS OBEDIENCE TO THE KING OF KINGS? We now get near to the springs of his singular conduct. Nothing but this loyalty to the God of Israel will account for his calm and persistent daring. The unworthy character and the false eminence of Haman would no doubt have their effect on his mind. But it is only by considering the religious faith and principle of Mordecai that we can reach the true motive that actuated him. And here let us learn some things from the example of the heroic Jew.

1. A wise concession. So long as we can work honourably with those who differ from us in faith and opinion we should gladly co-operate with them. Religious differences should not interfere with civil duties ornational obligations. It is laid on both Jews and Gentiles to be loyal to the throne or government under which they live. A wise conduct is especially required in the followers of God whose lot is cast in heathen lands. While true to their faith in all things, they should avoid an inconsiderate and irritating obtrusiveness. Their aim should be to win by a holy guile, i.e. by "the meekness of wisdom" (James 3:13), rather than to repel by a crude and unsympathetic assumption of superior light. There are such things as casting pearls before swine, and swine turning and rending the foolish spendthrift.

2. A good confession. Whenever a time comes when silence as to our faith would be a sin, we should speak, and speak plainly. There should be no hesitation in naming God, or in witnessing for Christ, when occasion demands a clear testimony. When Mordecai saw that his silence was misinterpreted he declared his Jewish origin and faith. He was an Israelite and a worshipper of the Jehovah of Israel, and as such he could not give worship to any creature of God, even though it should be a Haman. There is a time to be silent, and there is a time to speak.

3. An enduring steadfastness. It is often easier to begin than to continue a faithful witnessing for God. Some who readily acknowledge the truth begin to waver and lose steadfastness in presence of difficulty or danger. They cannot endure. But Mordecai, having once taken his stand on religious principle, remained firm against all temptations. He reminds us of the words of Luther in presence of Charles V.: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise; God help me. Amen" (Matthew 24:13; James 1:12).

4. A noble courage. It was not without sober calculation that Mordecai refused homage to Haman. He knew how much he risked. He had "the courage of his convictions." He was

(1) willing to stand alone amongst his companions in service. He could bear their sneers and threats. A hard thing in any position! He

(2) faced the probable anger of the king, to whom he had proved himself loyal. He

(3) braved the malignant wrath of the favourite, from whom he could expect no mercy. He

(4) put in peril the happiness and future guidance of his beloved Esther. He

(5) laid his own life on the altar of righteousness. He

(6) sacrificed every earthly interest to his allegiance to God. We think of Paul's heroism of faith (Philippians 3:8). Then we think of the words of Paul's Master (Matthew 19:29). - D.







And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not ... then was Haman full of wrath.
Haman manifests by his behaviour the intimate connection there is between vanity and cruelty.

1. Vanity is a form of magnified egotism. When a vain man looks out on the world it is always through the medium of his own vastly magnified shadow. Like the Brocken Ghost, this shadow becomes a haunting presence standing out before him in huge proportions. He has no other standard of measurement. The good is what gives him pleasure; evil is what is noxious to him.(1) Egoism utilises the sufferings of others for its own ends. No doubt cruelty is often the result of sheer callousness. It is not so in Haman's case; he is irritated, and vents his annoyance in a vast explosion of malignity that must take account of the agony it produces, for in that agony its own thirst for vengeance is to be slaked.(2) Egoism promotes cruelty by destroying the sense of proportion. Self is not only regarded as the centre of the universe; like the sun surrounded by the planets, it is taken to be the greatest object, and everything else is insignificant when compared to it. What is the slaughter of a few thousand Jews to so great a man as Haman? It is no more than the destruction of as many flies in a forest fire that the settler has kindled to clear his ground. The same self-magnification is visibly presented by the Egyptian bas reliefs, on which the victorious Pharaohs appear as tremendous giants driving back hordes of enemies or dragging pigmy kings by their heads. It is but a step from this condition to insanity, which is the apotheosis of vanity. The chief characteristic of insanity is a diseased enlargement of self.

2. Vanity leads to cruelty through the entire dependence of the vain person on the good opinion of others. In this vanity differs from pride. A proud man is satisfied with himself, but the vain man is always looking outside himself with feverish eagerness to secure all the honours that the world can bestow upon him. While a proud man in an exalted position scarcely deigns to notice the "dim, common people," the vain man betrays his vulgarity by caring supremely for popular adulation. Therefore, while the haughty person can afford to pass over a slight with contempt, the vain creature who lives on the breath of applause is mortally offended by it and roused to avenge the insult with corresponding rage.

(W. F. Adeney, M. A.)

: — A man of principle would have respected the conscientiousness of the act, even though he might have laughed at what he regarded the smallness of the scruple. A man of ordinary common sense would have treated the whole affair with indifference; but Haman valued his office just because it carried with it the right to such homage, and therefore what would have been a mole-hill, or hardly so much, to others, was a mountain to him. The proud man thus increases his own misery; and little slights, which other people would not so much as notice, are felt by him with great keenness. He whose arm has been recently vaccinated is very sensitive where the pustule is, so that a push which you would think nothing of is agony to him. Now, in precisely the same way the proud man is "touchy," as we say; the slightest infringement on his dignity wounds him to the quick, and when other people are laughing he is vowing revenge; for, as this story illustrates, the passions are all near of kin, and one prepares the way for another. Brooding over the refusal of Mordecai to do him reverence, it became so magnified in his estimation that he determined to punish it; there was revenge. That he might gratify that revenge, it became necessary to bring the peculiarities of the Jewish nation before the king, and he requested their destruction on the ground that they were not profitable to the monarch, whereas the sole reason why he suggested their extirpa tion was that Mordecai had slighted him; there was falsehood. Then, in planning their massacre, there was murder. Here, therefore, were four sins all in a line, each rising above the other in enormity — pride, revenge, falsehood, murder. People think, sometimes, that pride is no great sin; some almost speak of it as if it were half a virtue; but, as this and other histories make plain, it is the germ of other evils that are worse than itself, and therefore we ought to be on our guard against allowing ourselves to become its victims. And how shall we best counteract it? I reply, by cultivating a sense of responsibility. That which we have, whether it be ability, or wealth, or exalted position, we have received as a trust, and we are to use it, as stewards for God, in the service of our fellow-men. Let us keep pressing the questions, Who hath made me to differ from others? What have I that I have not received? For what purpose have I been entrusted with these things? And the more we ponder these, the less we shall be inclined to plume ourselves on our possessions, and the more we shall be stirred up to the service of our generation by the will of God.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

"A man will forgive you anything," Professor Huxley said, "if you do not injure his vanity. Once do that, and he will never forgive you."

Now, it may be thought by some that the case of Haman allowing himself to be so chafed and perturbed by a trifle as to be made miserable in the midst of so many advantages, is to be regarded as altogether extreme and without parallel; but we believe that on examination it will be found that the wicked always receive part of their punishment in the violence of some unhallowed passion which blinds them to all the real benefits of their lot. Is there not a gnaw ing disease in the heart of the covetous man, for example, which prevents him from enjoying the good things which are placed within his reach, just because he has not yet acquired all that he wishes to possess? And still, as he gets more and more, is he not as far as ever from being satisfied, since he has not yet reached the point at which he aims? Or again, look to the man who is the slave of envy, and mark how miserable this base passion makes him. He has ample means of enjoyment, which he can call his own; but his neighbour has something which pleases him better, and just because that one thing is awanting to himself, he can find no satis faction in the varied blessings which a kind providence has showered upon him. His neighbour's good is to him what Mordecai at the king's gate was to Haman. In like manner, I might advert to the working of the more violent passions of anger and revenge as a cause of intense torment to those who cherish them, and as altogether preventing them from taking advantage of many sources of happiness which lie open to them on every side. I might also allude to the misery which wounded vanity and affronted pride often bring to those who have high notions of their own importance, as when a trifling word or action will discompose them for many days together, and deprive them of their relish for the things that formerly pleased them, and made them happy. But enough has been said to show how by a just retribution the ungodly, following their natural tendencies and passions, work out their own passion. How different is the picture presented to us, where grace reigns in the heart. Although corruption is not altogether eradicated from the spiritual man, yet its power is subdued; the fierce passions are tamed, love takes the place of envy, malignity, and wrath; and the believer, seeking and finding his chief enjoyment in God, remains comparatively unruffled by those incidents which breed so much vexation and disquietude in the breast of the ungodly.

(A. B. Davidson, D. D.)

Wounded pride excites revenge, and this always burns hottest in the weakest minds. How insatiable is revenge, especially when it is associated with national and religious rancour! Haman learned that Mordecai was a Jew, a name that called up the bitterest recollections in the breast of an Amalekite, and he resolves at once on the total extermination of that people.

(T. McCrie, D. D.)

And it has always been one of the devices of the enemy to drive men into criminal excesses to their own ruin, through the instrumentality of some favourite lust or appetite. It was the covetous spirit of Judas that opened a way to the tempter to hurry him on to betray the Saviour.

(A. B. Davidson, D. D.)

Then was Haman full of wrath
How dreadfully this wrath flamed in his bosom we learn from the method which he took to express it. We may observe, at present, what misery pride, by its own nature and inseparable consequences, brings upon men. No proud man ever received all that respect, or was treated with all that delicacy of regard, which he thought his due. Now pride mortified by neglect or contempt, kindles a fire in the soul which burns, and torments, and destroys.

(G. Lawson.)

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