On the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, the king's command and edict were to be executed. On this day the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, but the tables were turned and the Jews overpowered those who hated them.
mutual relations of those two peoples. In the first instance the people who had been exalted are cast down; and the people who had been cast down, lifted up. But this was a little matter compared with the consequence immediately resulting, and which showed so prominently to view; namely, a most significant and determined alteration of the attitude of the one to the other. The lessons suggested by this passage, whatever they may be, offer themselves on the scale of national magnitude. We are reminded -
I. OF THE ANTAGONISMS TO WHICH NATIONAL LIFE OFFERS OPPORTUNITY - an opportunity which the world's history shows to have been ever lamentably improved. The antagonism of the individual is reproduced on a more terrible scale, and with consequences inconceivably disastrous. It must he noted that this spirit of national antagonism bears not only the reproach of the direct sin and miseries, of which war is the declared manifestation; it is an enemy, the indirect ravages of which add up to a fearful amount. This may be seen from observing in the place of what it is, that it so often stands.
1. It is antagonism usurping the place of natural and sympathetic love.
2. It is antagonism turning out healthy emulation, and stimulating rivalry.
3. It is antagonism hindering to an amazing degree that plenty, and wealth, and cheapness which come of mutual sustentation, of inter-trading, of each nationality, according to its physical advantages and its genius, pursuing its own bent, to share the abundance of its consequent production with other nations.
II. OF THE INSUFFICIENT CAUSES OF THE ANTAGONISMS TO WHICH NATIONAL LIFE IS EXPOSED.
1. They emphatically do not lie in any international necessity of nature. They mean always fault and sin at some door. They cannot be justified by any supposed likeness to the natural storms of our earth and skies, though these may frame into an unhappy analogy with them.
2. They do not reside in any international necessity of trade or other interest.
3. They are rarely enough owing to the determined will or fitful passion of the great body of the people. These will adopt them, it is true, and will soon be heated by false sense of national glory; but they do not originate them.
4. They are rarely enough due to fault on one side alone.
5. Even when mingled with some just occasion, they are rarely enough what could not be averted by the wise treatment of those in high authority.
6. They strongly resemble the antagonisms and antipathies of private individuals in these two respects - that they arise from the smallest matters, and take occasion from temper and pride.
III. OF THE MULTIPLIED RESPONSIBILITY AND IMPORTANCE WHICH NATIONAL LIFE THROWS UPON INDIVIDUALS. It is easy to see that nations the largest, the mightiest, the most complex are but made up of individuals. But it is not so easy to believe, it is not so welcome to the mind to remember at all times, how the greatest events, for good or for ill, depend very largely on the character and conduct of individuals. Thus national life immensely increases the importance of the individual. It is the highest in an ascending series of terms. For instance -
1. There is the intrinsic importance of individual life to each man.
2. There is the importance that inevitably attaches to the head-of-family life.
3. There is the importance that belongs to all public life, in all the varying and numerous places of Church and of State.
4. There is he importance which is inseparable from the place of the governing, the highest places in the state. This, though strictly comprehended in the foregoing head, demands to be classified separately, because of its highest significance, its superlatively critical issues. Haman had done a world of mischief. To human eye it can scarcely be said that Mordecai had recovered the balance. The one caused the intensest hatred of "the enemies of the Jews" to blaze up, to the unmeasured misery of the Jews. And when things were reversed, and "it was turned to the contrary," though a lesson of terrible retribution was displayed, and though justice should seem to have another sacrifice offered at her shrine, yet love is left as far in the rear as ever. The whole family of envy, jealousy, malice, cruelty have it too much their own way - so far as our human point of view can see or calculate.
IV. OF THE WONDERFUL ROOM FOR DISPLAY OF THE OVERRULING PROVIDENCE OF GOD WHICH NATIONAL LIFE PRESENTS. Two centuries before the history contained in this narrative, the prophet had said, "When thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness." There are given to us all the quiet, urgent, infinitely numerous lessons of providence in our individual lives. How are they unobserved, lost, smothered in the thoughtless course, the hurried rate of our lives! They look in vain into our very eyes; they whisper in vain in our very ears; they knock in vain at our very doors; they plead in vain with our reason, our self-interest, our conscience. But with overwhelming effect come at times national providences. These speak sometimes as with the voice of thunder, and they are seen sometimes with the vividness of the lightning's flash by hundreds of thousands at one and the same moment. The great subject suggested by our present history, then, demands the attention of statesmen, of legislators, of all public men in their degree, and may obtain many a valuable cross light from the subject already considered of patriotism. - B.
1. Although, then, as has been already said, the grand design of this whole Book of Esther is an illustration of a retributive providence in working out the deliverance of the chosen people, still it is better for us to note the proofs of such a providence, as they occur, in detail.
Now in the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar.I. HOPE BLIGHTED. In the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped to have power over them. The human reasonableness of this hope may be shown —
1. From their own numbers.
2. From the insignificance of the Jews.
3. From the known unchangeableness of Persian law.
II. FOREBODING REPROVED. How often we look forward to a month Adar, and see it shrouded with ominous darkness. But the month Adar may, after all, be the month of rejoicing.
III. TRUE HOPE REWARDED.
(W. Burrows, B. A.)
2. We see here, as well, indeed, as also in other portions of sacred history, and as the lessons of all history and of every-day life also demonstrate, that God, in the exercise of His sovereignty, uses men of very different characters as instruments for fulfilling His supreme purpose. Both Esther and Ahasuerus, both Mordecai and Haman, were Divine agents for bringing about the Hebrew deliverance.
3. These pictures show us that we are to construct men's reputation for character out of their whole life and principles, and not from any one moment, nor from any word or act.
4. We are here taught to feel the deepest interest in the welfare of our fellow-men, especially of those who may be associated with us, or be bound to us by social ties, or by blood and nationality.
5. I am perfectly sure that in the lives of the men and women as illustrated in the sacred writings we are taught the mind of God Himself, as to the precepts and principles which are agreeable to Him; and that it is in the teachings of the Word of God, and in it alone, that we can find the true principles of all proper reforms. It is in the Bible, and in the Bible alone, we have the principles of happiness — the only true principles of reformation.
6. We see here how great a blessing we enjoy in having mild, equitable, salutary laws, and in having a written constitution, that provides for its amendment, and points out the way for the repeal or alteration of any laws that may be made in haste, or in ignorance, or through party zeal, that are found to be unconstitutional and not for the good of the people.
7. The difficulties of the Persian monarch, growing out of his rash decree, even after the author of it has been punished, are a warning to us to beware of the consequences of our words and actions.
8. This history teaches us to trust in God for the vindication of His own ways and the justification of His judgments against the wicked; as well as in His faithfulness to His people, in remembering to keep and fulfil, at the right time, all His promises to them.
9. The delay of judgment against evil-doers, instead, therefore, of encouraging them to boldness in sin, should melt them to penitential sorrow.(1) For the delay of providence to punish the wicked does not change the nature of sin. It remains intrinsically the abominable thing that God hates. It is impossible, in the nature of things, that sin should ever meet with His approbation. The patience of God, therefore, produces no mitigation of the enormity of wrong.doing. It is no proof of Divine indifference to sin, or of its being a trifling offence in the sight of God, that He does not instantly express His abhorrence of it, and pour out His wrath upon the guilty. Men kindle immediately into a transport of passion when provoked. But God is not a man. He punishes sin not from passion, but from principle — not to revenge Himself for any injury He sustains from sin, but in order to maintain a righteous government for the happiness of His creatures. And the punishment of sin will only be the more severe because of the aggravations of abused mercy.(2) But an evil work is itself a judgment. It was so with Haman. His whole history shows that pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall — that God can easily so direct human affairs as to thwart the best laid schemes of wicked men.
(W. A. Scott, D. D.)
I. THAT GOD PLACES HIS AGENTS IN FITTING PLACES FOR DOING HIS WORK.
II. THAT THE LORD NOT ONLY ARRANGES HIS SERVANTS, BUT HE RESTRAINS HIS ENEMIES.
III. THAT GOD IN HIS PROVIDENCE TRIES HIS PEOPLE.
IV. THAT THE LORD'S WISDOM IS SEEN IN ARRANGING THE SMALLEST EVENTS SO AS TO PRODUCE GREAT RESULTS.
V. THAT THE LORD IN HIS PROVIDENCE CALLS HIS OWN SERVANTS TO BE ACTIVE.
VI. THAT IN THE END THE LORD ACHIEVES THE TOTAL DEFEAT OF HIS FOES AND THE SAFETY OF HIS PEOPLE. Lessons —
1. It is clear that the Divine will is accomplished, and yet men are perfectly free agents.
2. What wonders can be wrought without miracles! In the miracles of Pharaoh we see the finger of God, but in the wonders of providence, without miracle, we see the hand of God.
3. How safe the Church of God is!
4. The wicked will surely come to an ill end.
5. Let each child of God rejoice that we have a Guardian so near the throne. Every Jew in Shushan must have felt hope when he remembered that the queen weal a Jewess. To-day, let us be glad that Jesus is exalted.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
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