Esther 4:2
We have a very vivid picture, in these few touches, of a nation's exceeding sorrow. We are reminded of ?

I. THE HEARTLESSNESS AND IMPOTENCE OF TYRANNY IN REGARD TO IT. The king could cheerfully speak the word which caused the calamity, and then, when its sorrow surged up to his palace wall, shut his doors against the entrance of any sign of it; "for none might enter into the king's gate clothed with sackcloth" (ver. 2). The tyrant first becomes responsible for grievous and widespread woe, and then takes measures to prevent its utterance from disturbing his royal pleasure or repose. Such is selfishness in unchecked power. But though heartless, it will discover the limits of its sway; the hour will come when it will find itself impotent as a leaf in the flood; when the loud and bitter cry of a people's wrongs and sufferings will pass the sovereign's guards and penetrate his gates, will find entrance to his chamber and smite his soul.

II. ITS CRAVING FOR EXPRESSION. "Mordecai rent his clothes and put on sackcloth with ashes,.., and cried with a loud and bitter cry" (ver. 1). "And in every province.., there was great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and wailing, and many lay in sackcloth and ashes" (ver. 3). All strong feeling craves utterance; joy in song, grief in tears. In this case intensity of national distress found expression in the most speaking and striking forms to which Eastern misery and despair were accustomed to resort - in "sackcloth and ashes;" a "loud and bitter cry;" "fasting, and weeping, and wailing" To command ourselves when we suffer pain or stand in grave peril is manly and virtuous. Yet it is but shallow wisdom to say that crying will not make it better. There is real and valuable relief in the act of utterance. In saddest griefs the worst sign of all is a dead silence, the undimmed eye.

"Home they brought her warrior dead;
She nor swooned nor uttered cry.
All her maidens, watching, said,
She must weep, or she will die." Even the "loud and bitter cry" is not without its worth to the heart that utters it (Esau ? Genesis 27:34). Sorrow may utter itself in many ways; the best of all is in prayer - in hallowed, soothing, reassuring communion with our heavenly Father, telling all our tale of grief in the ear of our Divine Friend. Next best is human sympathy - the unburdening of our souls to our most tried and sympathising friend. We may well be thankful that he has so "fashioned our hearts alike" that we can reckon on true and intense sympathy in the time of our distress. A third channel is in sacred poetry. How many of the bereaved have had to bless God for the hymns and poems in which their own grief has found utterance, through which it has found most valuable relief.

III. ITS PITEOUSNESS.

1. We are moved by it. Our hearts are stirred to their depth by the recital of the woes which are endured by great numbers of men and women, when fire, or flood, or famine, or the sword of man comes down upon them in irresistible calamity.

2. Are not the angels of God moved by it, and do not these "ministering spirits" with unseen hands minister then to the children of need and sorrow?

3. God himself, we know, is moved by it. I have surely seen the affliction of my people" (Exodus 3:7). He "heard their groaning" (Exodus 2:24). If the woe of the world is not doubled, it is largely swollen by the sorrowful sympathy it excites. But it is well it should be so, for such sympathy is good for those who feel it, and it is the spring of remedy and removal.

IV. THE DISTRESS OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST. Looking on the afflicted Israelites at this crisis of their history, we may regard them as a type of the Church of God in its distress. Thus regarding the subject, we remark -

1. That God allows his Church to pass through very strange and trying scenes. It is wholly inexplicable to us, but it is a certain fact that he has done so, and it is probable that he will do so again. There have been, and will be, crises in its history. Persecution will assail it. Infidelity will seek to undermine it. Worldliness will endeavour to corrupt it. It may go hard with it, and its very life be threatened.

2. That in its distress and danger it must seek Divine deliverance. God only can, and he will rescue and restore. At the eleventh hour, perhaps, but then, if not earlier, he will interpose and save. But his aid must be

(1) earnestly,

(2) continuously,

(3) believingly sought by his faithful children. - C.







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

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.)

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.)

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