The various exercises of the soul in these chapters, as we see in Esther and Mordecai, are a matter of great interest. The hand and the Spirit of God work together so wondrously in the story of Israel, as we get it in the Psalms and in the Prophets: His Hand forming their circumstances; the Spirit, their mind. And these two things occupy a very large portion of the prophetic word. And we get living personal illustrations of this here, in the exercise of heart through which these two distinguished saints of God are seen to pass, and the marvellous circumstances through which they are brought.
On the issue of the fatal decree Mordecai fasts and mourns in sackcloth. But all the while he counts upon deliverance. Such a combination is full of moral glory. Elijah gave a sample of it in his day, for he knew the rain was at hand; but he casts himself down on the earth, and puts his face between his knees, as one in "effectual fervent prayer" (1 Kings 18, James 5: 16-18). The Lord Himself gives another sample of this. He knows and testifies that He is about to raise Lazarus from sleep, the sleep of death; but He weeps as He approaches the grave. So here with Mordecai. He will not put off his mourning. He refuses to be comforted, while the decree is out against his people, though he reckons, surely reckons, upon their deliverance one way or another. This is another of those combinations which are necessary to character or moral glory; a sample of which I have already noticed in this true Israelite, this "Israelite indeed."
And Esther is as beautiful in her generation, as a weaker vessel. She may have to be strengthened by Mordecai, but she is tenderly, deeply, in sympathy with the burdens of her nation. She sees difficulty, and feels dangers; and she speaks, for a time, from her circumstances. Nothing wrong in this. She tells Mordecai of the hazard she would run if she went into the royal presence unbidden. Nothing wrong, again I say, in thus speaking as from her circumstances, though there may be weakness. But Mordecai counsels her, as a stronger vessel; and he appears as one above both circumstances and affections, in the cause of God and His people. He sends a peremptory message to Esther, though he so loved her; and he is calm and of a firm heart in the midst of these dangers. He sits above water-floods in this way, in the dear might of Him who has trod all waves for us. There is neither leaven nor honey, as I may say, in the offering he is making: he confers not with flesh and blood, nor does he look at the waters swelling. His faith is in victory; and the weaker vessel is strengthened through him. Esther decides on going in unto the king. If she perish, she perishes; but she is edified to hazard all for her people. And yet, while she thus does not "faint" under the trial, neither will she "despise" it: for she will have Mordecai and her brethren wait in a humbled dependent spirit, so that she may receive mercy, and her way to the king's presence be prospered.
Accordingly, at the end of the fast, which they agreed on for three days, she takes her life in her hand, and stands in the inner court of the king's house, while the king was sitting on his royal throne. But kings' hearts are in the hand of the Lord; and so it proves to be here. Esther obtains favour in the sight of Ahasuerus, and he holds out the golden sceptre to her.
This was everything. This told of the issue of the whole matter. All hung upon the motion of the golden sceptre. It was the Spirit of God, the counsel and good-pleasure, the sovereignty and grace of God, that ordered all this. The nation was already saved. The sceptre had decided everything in favour of the Jews and to the confusion of their adversaries, be they as high and mighty, as many and as subtle, as they may. God had taken the matter into His own hand; and if He be for us, who shall be against us? "Thou shalt be far from oppression," the Lord was now saying to His Israel, "for thou shalt not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come nigh thee. Behold, they shall surely gather together, but not by me; whosoever shall gather together against thee shall fall for thy sake. Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the water to destroy. No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn" (Isa. 54: 14-17).
Esther drew near and touched the sceptre. She used the grace that had visited her; but used it reverently and the sceptre was true to itself. It awakened no hope that it was not now ready to realize. It had already spoken peace to her; and peace, and far more than peace, shall be made good to her. "What wilt thou, queen Esther?" says Ahasuerus to her, "and what is thy request? It shall be given to thee, even to the half of the kingdom."
Very blessed this is. The sceptre, again let us say, was true to itself. What a truth is conveyed in this! The promise of God, the work of the Lord Jesus, is as this sceptre. These have gone before--pledges under the hand and from the mouth of our God,--and eternity shall be true to them; and endless ages of glory, witnessing salvation, shall make them good. Nothing is too great for the redeeming of such pledges: as here, the half of the king's dominions are laid at the feet and disposal of Esther.
But her dealing with the opportunity, thus put into her possession, is one of the most excellent and wondrous fruits of the light and energy of the Spirit that we see in the midst of the many wonders of this book in all the workmanship of God's great hand.
Instead of asking for the half of the kingdom, instead of desiring at once the head of the great Amalekite, she requests that the king and Haman may come to a banquet of wine which she had prepared for them. Strange, indeed! Who could have counted on such an acceptance of such an unlimited pledge and promise? It brings to mind the answer of the divine Master, of Him who is "the wisdom of God," to the Samaritan woman. She asked for the living water, and He told her to go call her husband! Strange, it would appear, beyond all explanation. But, as we know, it was a ray of the purest light breaking forth from the Fountain of light. And so here. This answer of Esther was strange, indeed. But it will be found to have been nothing less than the witness of the perfect wisdom of the Spirit that was now illuminating and leading her. It was the way of conducting the great adversary onward to the full ripening of his apostacy, to his attaining that mighty elevation in pride and self-satisfaction, from the which the hand of God had prepared from the beginning to cast him down. Esther, under the Spirit, was dealing with Haman, as the hand of God had once dealt with Pharaoh in Egypt. The vessel of wrath had again fitted itself for judgment; and he must fall from a pinnacle up to which his own lusts and the god of this world are urging his steps. Esther is the instrument in God's hands for giving him occasion thus to fill out the full form of his apostacy. Esther shows herself wonderfully in the secret of all this. She bids Haman and the king, the second day, as well as the first,--only these two together; and when this was done, the giddy height was reached from which the apostate is destined to fall.
He cannot stand all this. It is too much for him. His heart is overcharged; gratified pride has satiated it. He cannot contain himself; but corruption drives him in the way of nature--a sad verdict against nature. But so it is. It was natural, that he should expose all his glories to his wife and his friends. Flesh and blood can appreciate it; and pride must have as many courtiers and votaries as it can. And it must have its victims likewise. Mordecai still refuses to bow; and a gallows, fifty cubits high, is raised that he may be hanged thereon.