Esther 6:7
Now Haman thought in, etc. It sometimes seems as though the satire of circumstance and human event could go no further. But the fact in such case is, that nothing can surpass the exactness of the Divine aim for the mark which it is intended to reach, and for the moment at which it reaches it. The present point of the history shows a conjunction of four events, which, so far as all human design went, might certainly have been the last to meet together. But they produce a brilliant effect. Four moments meet, and their work is the work of years of preparation, and of consequences never to be forgotten. A humble and good man, but one dishonoured, is in supreme danger. The very acme of the iniquitous purpose of a revengeful heart, surfeited with self and vanity, is touched. An arbitrary despot suddenly remembers an omission on his part, and resolves upon making a profuse compensation for it. And lastly arrives on the scene the form of Divine retribution. Of these four there can be no doubt which was the dominant fact. The rest were accurately timed to it. One led the way; the rest were irresistibly, if unconsciously, attracted to it. This verse gives us what purports to be a statement or description of a "thought in the heart." It may be called the natural history of a "thought in the heart;" not, indeed, of any or every such thought, but of one that once literally was, and which may have had many like it. We may notice -

I. ON WHAT AUTHORITY THIS DESCRIPTION RESTS. For the history is not of a flattering kind. In all its brevity it is of an exceedingly cutting nature. It is of the nature of a stricture, and a severe one. It is a keen incisive thrust into an individual character. In every such case it behoves us to be more than ever careful "not to judge, lest we be judged," and to scrutinise narrowly the authority on which they speak when others pronounce judgment in our heating. For if the judgment of what is in the depth of another's heart be not absolutely true, it is essentially unjust and uncharitable. Our own superficial criticisms often err. They carry on their face their condemnation, and but for this would be more reprehensible and more disastrous than they are. But what we have before us is no superficial critique, it is the pronouncement of the authoritative Spirit of all truth himself. The scalpel of the inspired anatomist cuts deep, and as trenchantly as deep. We are glad to recollect whose is the responsibility; and when we recollect we think with firmer thought and tread with surer step.

II. WHAT WAS THE NATURE OF THE THOUGHT IT REVEALED. It was a thought of self, and of what was supposed to be self's glory and advancement. There are times for all when it is tight and needful to think of self, and to act for what shall seem, on the whole, the best for self. There are other times when it is the greatest mistake to think of self. The occasion in question was one of this kind. It is an occasion in itself far from destitute of its own proper honour.

1. Haman is called in as a counsellor, and a counsellor of his king.

2. He is appealed to for something beyond advice. With him lies the determining of a certain case laid before him. To be the dispenser of dignities and rewards is to sit upon a throne very near royalty itself.

3. The occasion is not a mere formality, to be guided only by precedents, and requiring a musty search to find them.

4. The recipient of the distinction, whoever he might be, would also be ever beholden in some sort to the word that should drop from Haman's lip. The occasion, therefore, was one which especially begged for a single eye, a clear judgment, transparency of motive. But, in fact, self blocks up the whole prospect. The thought in the heart of the king's counsellor at that moment was this: "To whom would the king delight to do honour more than to myself? Among all unjust and partial judges, was there ever any more unjust?

III. WHAT WERE SOME OF THE MORE CONDEMNING OR AGGRAVATING SYMPTOMS OF THE THOUGHT ITSELF.

1. It was not only self, but self in the shape of insufferable vanity. It mounted to the pitch of morbid vanity. Some are hurried on by selfishness headlong. But it is a sleek, a smiling, a self-garlanded victim we have here. To the dignity of position already belonging to him fuller gratification (as has been seen) is offered; but it is not honour that his eye can see, that his mind can appreciate. The grace and the force of his honoured position weigh nothing with him. But the most egotistic vanity shuts out, and at a most critical moment, the very idea of the barest possibility of a worthy competitor with himself! He cannot credit the notion of a fellow-creature to compare with himself. Alas, from flattering lips and double tongue" he had neither prayed nor striven to be saved; but least of all from those flattering lips, above all measure the worst, which first belong to self and then flatter the vanity of self.

2. It was not only self, but self in the shape of an un-chastised, unmortified haughtiness of heart. How exquisitely beautiful the reverse of this. How plaintive the honest and deeply-felt disowning, of it: "Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child" (Psalm 131:1, 2). Turn from David in this psalm to Haman, and how is one revolted! The thoughts of yesterday afternoon and last night, which saw such an amazing fitness in a "gallows fifty cubits high" for the obscure and sorrowful and stung man Mordecai, who did not so much as turn round upon him like the trodden worm, but who only could not bring himself "to rise nor move to him" - these were the "imaginations and the high things" which, because he had not mortified them nor cast them down, were now going to mortify him to the quick, and to cast him down for ever. He had schooled himself to "refrain himself" - no, not to refrain himself, but only for a short while, for policy's sake (Esther 5:10), the manifestations of self.

IV. TO WHAT THIS "THOUGHT IN THE HEART" LED. It is to be remarked, and with the seriousness that belongs to a moral phenomenon and fact in our life, with what unerring certainty, with what unpitying pace, the moment travels on which shall prove the fatal, because unguarded, moment for those who knowingly and continuously "regard iniquity in their heart." It may linger, but it is on the move. It may not be seen, yet it is only just out of sight. Till that which is snatched at, as the crowning moment of choicest opportunity of all the life, proves that which peremptorily seals the man's fate. Never with surer conviction, never with more intuitive perception, never with more ill-concealed self-gratulation, never with glibber tongue, had moment come to Haman than that which sounded for him the knell of death itself, and left him to the company of stricken amazement for ever. And though as yet no one uttered a whisper of this to Haman, and he bowed his neck to the yoke and did the day's dread task to the minutest point, "letting nothing fail," Haman knew it all. Then wife and friends confirmed it. And for the first time this many a day he saw himself and his position when "he hasted to his house mourning, and having his head covered." How strange the contrast to the Haman who the morning of that day "thought in his heart," etc. - B.







What shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour?
1. In Haman honouring Mordecai we have a remarkable verification of the fable of the dog and the shadow. He gaped after the shadow and lost the substance. Folly generally rides after pride. Haman grew more and more insolent and arrogant as he advanced in wealth and power, until he reached the highest point allowed to him by providence. He did not consider that he who does not climb gets no fall, and that he that climbs too high is sure, at last, to come down with s terrible crash. His temerity is remarkable. Thinking, however, that he was ordered to cut out his own honour, it is natural he should have made the measure large.

2. How completely wretched are the envious and the proud. Pride is the canker-worm of the soul. It always renders us unhappy. It is ever so with those who have not a new heart. The most wealthy and highly honoured are not content. There is something still wanting. There is something they still complain about. They make themselves miserable when they ought to be happy. Oh, how little a thing is earthly grandeur! How little a thing may embitter all human honour and affluence! There can be no happiness on earth till there is self-denial and trust. There is no happiness till we begin to crucify selfishness, and to trust in God as the portion of our souls.

3. We see here how great a misfortune it is to have friends and counsellors who are ignorant, wicked, or evil-disposed. There is a great deal of truth in the proverb, "Save me from my friends, and I will take care of my enemies." It is sad when a man's bosom counsellor is not true and faithful. And there is always danger to be apprehended when the advice of a professed friend is pleasing to our own angry or revengeful feelings. If Haman's wife had been a meek, quiet, prudent, intelligent, God-fearing woman, her advice, at first, had been altogether of a different sort, and her bearing toward her husband, when he hastened home from court, almost heartbroken with disappointment and rage, would have been altogether different from what it was. Instead of adding fuel to his malignant passions, she should have endeavoured to moderate and restrain them. And instead of bruising a heart already broken, by adding taunt and reproach to grief, she should have sought to calm him and make him feel that, with her, in his own home, he was still with friends, respected and beloved, however much he had suffered at court. The husband's fortune is more fully in the hands of his wife than anywhere else. It is hers to make his home happy, and to gird him with strength by sympathy and counsel. When his spirits are almost overwhelmed, she alone, of all human beings, is the one to minister to him. Her nursing is as sovereign to his sick soul as it is for his ailing body. It is her gentle tones only that can steal over his morbid senses with more power than David's harp. And when his courage is almost gone, her patience and fortitude will rekindle his heart again to dare and do, and meet anew the toils and troubles of life. What a misfortune it was that Haman had not a sweet Christian home to retire to after the terrible disappointments and bitter experiences of that day! Yes, a sweet, quiet home. But you tell me I forget that he was a man of large estates, great honours, and the owner of a princely palace. True, but a palace is not always a home. What is a home? It is something for which many of earth's babbling tongues have no term. A home is not a mere residence for the body, but a place where the heart rests and the affections nestle and dwell and multiply. Just in the proportion that a good woman is a blessing, in the same proportion is a bad woman a curse. Woman's mission is a high and grand one. She is connected with everything that belongs to our race that is noble, refining, and hopeful. Great is the calamity, then, for a community to be under the influence of such opinions or sentiments as are degrading to its women. One bad woman can do more harm in society than a dozen bad men.

(W. A. Scott, D. D.)

Had he been planning for Mordecai all the time he had been thinking of himself? Yea, verily, that was the Nemesis of providence; and yet, bad as it was, that was only one-half of the matter, for before long he would find that he had also been planning for himself when he had been thinking of Mordecai. The honour which he had designed for himself went to Mordecai, and the destruction which he had devised for Mordecai fell upon him self. The royal apparel was worn by the Jew, and the Agagite was hanged upon the gallows. His head had not been turned by the brief honour, nor his heart up lifted by the short-lived glory, for he was well ballasted, and his people were not yet delivered.

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

What a marvellous change! what an unlooked-for revolution! The side of the wheel that was lately the lowest is now the highest. That which was a short time ago shrouded in dark ness is now radiant with light! "This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes."

(J. Hughes.)

We see here the working and the punishment of vanity and pride. "Whom can the king think worthy of special honour but myself?" thought Haman. The vain man is always occupied about himself. He thinks about himself; he speaks about himself; he is all in all to himself. The idea never crossed Haman's mind that there could possibly be any one besides himself whom the king could desire to distinguish by any particular mark of favour. But then how crushing was the order: "Go and do as thou hast said to Mordecai the Jew."

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

In this manner does God sometimes make the enemies of His Church and servants to honour them. He not only makes the sinners' hands to forge the snares in which they themselves are caught, but He compels them to weave the crown and impose it on the head of the righteous.

(T. McCrie, D. D.)

Haman's answer reveals the insatiableness of vanity. No sooner was honour mentioned than his heart cried, "Let me have it I Make me a king, though it be only for an hour; if without the power, yet with all the pomp and trappings." Will this man never have enough? Never; the food is so light and the appetite so strong that there must be a constant supply. Give him this, and to-morrow he will seek something more. The craving is a disease, an atrophy, a cancer. To enjoy honour and to be satisfied with it, a man must be healthy — that is, humble. Mark the strong delusion: "Now Haman thought in his heart." A man cannot have a worse guide than the thought of his heart, unless God has broken and newmade it. Twice within this single minute Haman was cheated by the thought of his heart. He thought others must esteem him as highly as he esteemed himself; but it is never the case that when a man has a lofty opinion of himself other men have an opinion equally flattering. And he thought that all was going well with him, that this sudden honour would only postpone his revenge for an hour, that by the time he returned from the queen's banquet he would be the happiest man in Persia; but he was just on the brink of perdition. The water is always smooth above a cataract.

(A. M. Symington, B. A.)

I. AN ARTLESS QUESTION ADDRESSED TO CONCEIT.

II. THE REASONING OF CONCERT.

III. THE ANSWER OF CONCEIT.

IV. THE FEARFUL BLOW TO CONCEIT.

V. THE HUMILIATING CONDITION OF CONCEIT.

(W. Burrows, B. A.)

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