The Book of Esther
The Principles of the Prevailing Providence of God
Two books in the Old Testament bear the names of women, those of Ruth and Esther. Ruth, the Gen- tile, married a Jewish Prince; Esther, the Jewess, mar- ried a Gentile King.
Both books set forth a descriptive portrayal of the Providence of God at work, preparing years be- forehand, for events that are sure to eventuate. Because of His foresight and foreknowledge, God is able to forestall His foes, and in His providence to place persons in key positions to frustrate their diaboli- cal designs.
More than this, God is able to cause His enemies to be taken in the very snare which they have purposely laid or made to destroy His people or His truth.
"Harbonah, one of the Chamberlains, said before the King; "Behold, also the gallows fifty cubits high which Haman had made for Mordecai ..." Then the King said, "Hang him thereon." Esther 7:9 Today, Christ arranges the task and place for each Soldier, for each Steward, for each servant, and for each Sentinal. Serve Him sincerely, with care: He placed you there.
Haman sought to destroy all the Jews. (Ch. 3:6.)
The people is given to thee to do with them as seemeth good to thee. (Ch. 3:11.)
Letters by posts to destroy, to kill. and to cause to perish. all Jews. (Ch. 3:13.)
Mordecai . . . put on sack- cloth with ashes. and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and bitter cry. (Ch. 4:1.)
Great mourning among the Jews, and weeping and wail- ing. (Ch. 4:3.)
Then went Haman forth joyful and with a glad heart. (Ch. 5:9.)
Let a gallows be made 50 cubits high . . . that Mordecai may be hanged thereon. (Ch. 5:14.)
The city Shushan was par- plexed. (Ch. 3:15.)
A certain people scattered abroad and dispersed. (Ch. 3:8)
Then was Haman full of wrath and he thought scorn to lay hands on Modercai alone wherefore Ha man sought to destroy all the Jews through. out the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus. (Ch. 3:6.)
The Jews smote all their enemies with the stroke of the sword. (Ch. 9:5.)
The king gave the house of Haman. the Jews' enemy. to Esther the queen. (Ch. 8:1.)
Letters by posts wherein the king granted the Jews to stand for their life. to destroy all that would assail them. (Ch. 8:10. 11.)
Mordecai . . . in royal apparel of blue and white. and with a crown of gold. and with a garment of tine linen and purple: and the city Shushan rejoiced. (Ch. 8:15.)
The Jews made it a day of gladness and feasting, and a good day. (Ch. 9:19.)
Then Haman was afraid ... they covered Haman's face. (Ch. 7:6. 8.)
Hang him thereon . . . so they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. (Ch. 7:8. 10.)
The city Shushan rejoiced and was glad. (Ch. 8:15.)
The Jews gathered them- selves together. (Ch. 9:2.)
Mordecai the Jew was next unto king Ahasuerus. and great among the Jews. and accepted of the multitude of his breth- ren. seeking the wealth of his people. and speaking peace to all his seed. (Ch. 10:3.)
The Book of ESTHER
THE PRINCIPLES OF THE PREVAILING
PROVIDENCE OF GOD,
THIS brief book passes under review, in rapid survey, a rare mingling of history, prophecy and destiny.
The message is a revelation of God's conscious- ness of actual conditions, and opens to us a win- dow which provides a worldwide outlook. There- fore a perpetual application of the principles of Divine activity contained therein may be made to all the centuries.
God is forever watching and working in spite of the schemes of human strategy and is never nonplussed by party policies or parochial pro- grammes.
Providence is foresight, which makes possible beforehand the making of arrangements for the directing of activities that are necessary in God's constant care of His people.
The preparation and provision which God pro- motes for protection against future emergencies are all based upon His foreknowledge. Such know- ledge enabled Him to throw a shielding canopy of defence over the Jewish citizens of Persia and thus guard them from the death fraught decree of Haman.
This overseeing, over-ruling superintendence of world events subordinates the volitional acts of the creature to the superior will of God. Ahasuerus acted in a voluntary manner when he decided to stage a prolonged festival and in- vite the potentates and magnates of his far-flung dominion to participate.
Of her own free will, Vashti refused to obey the King's command, choosing rather to comply with social decorum.
Haman planned his intrigues without compul- sion and determined an impolitic and inhuman decree.
Mordecai arranged his personal scheme to pro- mote his niece into the place of honour in the royal court.
Through all these activities the very atmosphere in which each person acted was impregnated with the presiding presence of the Almighty, Who, while respecting the free will of each actor, reso- lutely adhered to the principles of righteousness and justice.
Herein the providence of God may be traced, drawing the attention of authoritative might and administrative majesty to the side of mercy. Dur- ing a restless hour the King requested the reading of a portion of the national annals, and by this simple, commonplace happening the portion of the scroll which recorded a sensational plot against the King's life was rehearsed to him. The report of the intrigue had been made by a gatekeeper of the palace named Mordecai. The King was re- minded that a worthy act had been allowed to go uncompensated.
The most dramatic turn in the story took place in the throne-room of the King. There it was that an intercessor found acceptance and secured assent to her plea, and there also the adversary attempted to frustrate a beneficent deliverance, but was too late.
By an overruling hand the tactics of time thwarted the intentions of tyranny and turned the tide in favour of truth, securing its ultimate triumph. Time is ever the friend of truth and of trust.
There are very definite evidences of Divine purpose in the preservation of this remarkable book. The renowned Mamonides said, "The Pen- tateuch and book of Esther will always be pro- tected by a special providence.,' Of course 'we believe that to be true of all Scripture, for truth can never perish.
This fascinating message contains the account of a daring faith that made a venture in the face of glaring difficulties. The broadest contrast is drawn in the narrative between the virtue that dignified and honoured one life and the vice that degraded and humiliated another. The whole environment is decidedly Persian in character and the history is written in an atmosphere in which the titles of the Hebrew Deity found no place. Behind all the activity, the providence of God is clearly discerned preparing deliverance for a doomed people, and by the arrest of the destroyer at a crucial moment changing the whole aspect of things just when the case seemed most hope- less. In view of this, there is no need for the name of the Lord to be placarded in the book.
The deliverance is of such a nature, and the method of its achievement so wondrously wrought, that there can be no mistaking the Author of so pro- pitious a plan.
Although the regal figure of the King and the dignatories of his court have long since passed away, the magnificence of the royal city perished from the earth, and the mansions of marble crum- bled in decay, nevertheless the palace of the soul survives, the spirit of Esther lives, and the struc- tures of thought which her heroic deeds have erected in the minds of millions abide to this pres- ent hour. Thought-structures survive the mas- onry of material edifices, and the Feast of Purim is annually celebrated, the Hadasseh hospitals are continually being built in commemoration of this great champion of minority peoples.
We drew attention, when dealing with the Book of Ruth, that two books in the Bible bear women's names-the one a Gentile who married a Jew, and the other a Jew who married a Gentile-suggestive illustrations that the society of the city of God it a unifying factor and a uniting feature for eternal fellowship.
The Plan of the Book.
We shall first note the outline of the whole in summary.
Ch. 1. The Abounding Wealth.
The King's glory took six months to display under circumstances of perfect freedom, vers. 4-8. The festivities were arranged on a pavement of red, blue, white and black colourings, ver. 6, with additional tints in the curtains and tapestries. Six eternities will not suffice for the display of the unsearchable riches of Christ or of His love which surpasseth knowledge.
Ch. 2. The Acceptance Secured.
Esther was brought also unto the King's house and the soul's acceptance was assured, vers. '7-8. Then followed her purification with oil and myrrh, by virtue of which she obtained grace and favour, vers. 12-17. On the basis of our purification from sin by the myrrh of Christ's suffering and our repentance, acceptance in the beloved is secured.
Ch, 3. The Aggressive Enemy.
Satan, the soul's enemy, always initiates some foul design and foreign purpose to prevent the work of grace and mar our acceptability from being furthered and perfected.
Blessed be God, Christ has power over all the power of the enemy, therefore the gates of hell cannot prevail.
Ch. 4. The Abiding Friend,
The Friend of the soul is always grieved over the affliction of God's people, so Mordecai went out as a mourner into the midst of the city, ver. 1. Jesus is the Lover of our soul, the Friend of sinners, Who came to seek and to save that which was lost. Though we are unfaithful, He abideth faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.
Ch. 5. The Available Access.
Interceding at the King's feet, true refuge and resource are found in prayer. As the King held out his golden sceptre Esther drew near, ver. 2. The King said, "What wilt thou? What is thy request?" ver. 3. Our Lord and Master has bid- den us draw near in full assurance of faith and has told us to ask and we shall receive, to seek and we shall find.
Ch. 6. The Approved Servant.
The friend of the soul has triumphed. The service he has rendered in the King's interest is placed on record. Note the seven-fold use of the word "honour" in the chapter. "What shall be done unto the man whom the King delighteth to honour?" ver. 6. Jesus said, "If any man serve Me, him will My Father honour." John, Ch. 12, ver. 26. He received honour and glory and is by the right hand of God exalted.
Ch. 7. The Accuser's Defeat,
The foe is foiled and frustrated. He falls in the presence of the intercessor and succumbs by the very instrument of destruction he has devised for others. Christ has taken away the armour wherein the enemy trusted and has defeated the Devil by dying. For this cause was the Son of God manifested that He might undo the works of the Devil.
Ch. 8. The Averted Disaster.
The reversal of the diabolical plot quickly en' sued. The opposite of the device written by Haman was now circulated, ver. 5, and the Jews had light, gladness, joy and honour, ver. 15. "Ye meant it for evil, God has turned it to good." "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper." Death has now become our means of justification. Rom. ch. 4, ver. 23.
Ch. 9. The Achieved Purpose.
"A good day," "a day of rest," "feasting and gladness," vers. 17-19. A day of sending gifts to be celebrated annually, vers. 21-22. "There remaineth therefore a rest unto the people of God." Heb. ch. 4, ver. 9. "Yea," saith the Spirit, "they shall rest from their labours." Rev. ch. 14, ver. 13. We celebrate our Victor's triumph on the Lord's Day, 52 times a year.
Ch. 10, The Acclaimed Deliverer.
The great prince was accepted by the multitude, also of his brethren, and sought the welfare of his seed, speaking peace to all his people. So our Prince and Saviour is the One by Whom God is speaking peace. This is a perfect description of the Saviour's work and worthiness.
We shall now direct our attention to each of the five leading characters of the book who are expressed as acting within the sphere of the Divine operations, and so become accessories to the accomplishment of God's providential pur- pose. To some it would appear as though God is indifferent to the great movements that are tak- ing place in the earth, but a more careful observa- tion will convince that this is not so. On one over the prevailing conditions in Britain, that occasion when feeling depressed and despondent rugged Philosopher of England, Carlyle, said: "We need someone to step in and put things right." A friend remarked, "Is God powerless?" "No," he said, "but He is not doing anything." Maybe it appeared to be so at the time, but God is ever alert and always active.
(1) AHASUERUS THE DIGNIFIED.
Ahasuerus is believed by many to have been the fifth King of Persia. This was first stated by Scaliger, but in the light of Esther, ch. 2, vers. 5-6, Mordecai would then be at least 123 years old and Esther "an aged beauty." - M. B. Anstey. The strongest evidence goes to prove that Ahasuerus was Darius Hystaspes, the king who issued the decree for the rebuilding of the temple of Ezra, ch. 6, vers. 6,12.* Some expositors declare an earlier ruler and claim that the union between
*The Apocrypha also identifies him in the books of Esdras, ch. 3, vers. 1-2.
Ahasuerus and Esther resulted in the birth of Cyrus.
His title means, "Excellence of majesty," and there were features associated with his kingdom that savour of great magnificence. However, the greatness of the monarch was external and not eternal. The palaces of the capital city at this time had developed into stately structures, gor- geous in material splendour, and were unrivalled in their majestic grandeur. When visiting some of the old sites a few years ago one was com- pelled to stand amazed in the presence of such gaunt, mutilated magnificence, towering in skele- ton-like stillness, mutely silent.
(a) His Amazing Extravagance. - The reign of Ahasuerus may best be described as one of extra vagance, a word which means to wander beyond the limits of propriety and duty to indulge in un- bounded excesses, unreasonable imaginings while plunging into unbridled and prodigal expenditure The graphic description in the opening chapter tells of a festival which lasted 180 days, or six lunar months, with its gaiety, frivolity and sen- suality. These things supply an example of enormous wealth and excessive wantonness of the king's reign.
The pavements, tapestries, pavilions, luxurious couches and mingled colourings combined in add- ing to the material grandeur of the palaces. Amid the revelry and superabundance of the court with its glamour and glitter, the aroma of scents and cosmetics, caused many a sigh to be concealed in desponding hearts. Vitiated discontent led to all manner of disaffection and intrigue, instances of which are given in this brief record.
(b) The Arrogant Insistence. - Immediately these prolonged festivities had expired, a seven days' festival was arranged for all the people at the Palace. While the men were holding high carnival, the intoxicated monarch issued an order to his seven chamberlains to call Queen Vashti from the court of the women and bring her before this dissolute company to display her beauty. This was one of the most improper and impolite injunc- tions that could possibly be issued in oriental society. Vashti refused to respond to the mean, capricious charge and brooked the insolent mon- arch's hot displeasure. She certainly possessed a real quality of soul that was more ready to sacrifice position than principle. There is an unwithering garland about her name to this day because of the noble stand she took which furnished a real vantage ground for the providence of God.
(c) His Apparent Reticence. - There is real evi- dence in the opening of ch. 2 that the King re- lented the rashness of what he had done during his periods of insobriety. He well knew that it was impossible to revoke the Imperial decree. His treatment, in an hour of drunkenness, of one of whom he was so proud doubtless led to a good deal of remorse, and it was in order to mitigate this condition that his younger valets made the suggestion recorded in ch. 2, vers. 2-4.
We cannot charge this voluptuous carousal to God's account nor consider Him in any wise res- ponsible for the unrighteous demand made by Ahasuerus who, at the time, acted in untram- melled freedom.
But God can make the wrath of man to praise Him and at this stage He definitely interposed, operating silently but surely, unheard, unnamed, unseen. The same providence that permitted Joseph to be sold to Potiphar, that placed Moses in the Court of Pharaoh, that sent David to that valley of Elah, that overruled Caesar's decree to register the citizens of his world empire, that brought cloud and calm to Dunkirk, also placed Esther in high esteem in Persia at the opportune moment.
(d) His Accredited Prudence. - The newly-pro- moted Prime Minister who was set over the princes possessed a keen sense of human nature. He knew that the Imperial Exchequer had been heavily drained by the enormous expenditure de- voted to entertainment. Here was his chance to ingratiate himself with Ahasuerus; if he could but add a few millions extra to the annual returns to meet the budget, all would be well. As he entered the palace gates a Jewish gatekeeper re- fused to do him homage and showed an attitude which sorely wounded his vain-glorious pride. He felt assured he could make this minority of the realm a means to an end and thus further ingrati- ate himself in the King's favour. He therefore offered to increase the income of the Treasury by five million pounds, if permission were granted him to issue a decree in the King's name against a people whom he described as unprofitable to the Crown and unworthy of toleration. The project would naturally appear judicious to a ruler who had sufficient sagacity to look favourably upon any matter that would cater for his own enrich- ment. The King immediately granted his con- sent for this insidious scheme to be carried out.
The prudence of the King was later expressed when Queen Esther ventured to enter his pres- ence uninvited. The former regrettable attitude which he had shown towards Queen Vashti, together with its irrevocable results, had definitely changed his arbitrary and haughty temperament. He therefore graciously received the queen and acceded to her request.
We should also commend him for his sense of justice when, at a later date, the brutal schemes of the prime minister were exposed, for he cer- tainly expedited matters to rectify the wrongs that had been perpetrated against his guest-citizenry that remained in the land after liberty had been granted through the edict of King Cyrus.
The long-drawn-out conflict between the mys- tery of iniquity and the mystery of piety is un- abated. Decisive battles such as this one have been fought and are still being waged from time to time. Antagonistic antipathy ahounds, on- slaught is still severe, only attack is more subtle. To-day the Haman of Germany, Julius Striecher, who acts under the dictatorship of Hitler, has turned the vengeance of a disaffected nation against the unfortunate Jews, and added millions from the plunder of confiscated property to advance the juggernaut of war. These modern adversaries have denounced Moses as a thief, and allow no honour to Heine the poet and Disraeli the states- man, Sir William Herschel the astronomer, Cohn the botanist, Dr. Lombroso the psychiatrist, Dr. Mandelshanam the oculist, Dr. Schechter the arch- aelogist, Dr. Silvester the mathematician, Neander the discoverer, Lord Reading the Governor, and Lord Rothschild the financier, and others, yet His Majesty's Government is still prepared to say, "What shall be done to the man whom the King delighteth to honour?" (Esther, ch. 6, ver. 6). Therefore Dr. Chaim Weizmann has been sig- nally honoured for his distinctive service to the country in a critical hour.
(22) THE DEPOSED QUEEN VASHTI.
(a) Her Real Modesty.
Queen Vashti has not been given the attention her nobility of nature deserves. She exalted the qualities of true woman- hood by refusing to do for an intoxicated mon- arch the thing for which he would have condemned her in his sober moments. The world is not in the habit of admiring such moral qualities as the queen displayed in her dignified resistance of an unreasonable demand. She refused to be sub- jected to a display of her feminine beauty for the mere gratification of sensual amusement, when the etiquette of society insisted that she should not enter into any male company unveiled.
The findings of the seven chamberlains of the realm are puerile, for in the very framing of their laws they had legislated against any woman ever Is doing the thing they were now condemning the Queen for not doing. But such fine susceptibil- ities of refinement as Vashti displayed are incipient both to the indulgent and intemperate, and are therefore underrated, ignored and scorned. In most cases in history leaders of moral reform have been caricatured and condemned by their own generation.
(b) Her Regal Majesty.
Distinct honour is attached to majesty in an empire of such widespread dominion. The exquisite attire of the royal robes, the glint of the costly gems, the array of attend- ants, combined with the splendours of stately functions, all contribute to the excellencies of court life. The exclusive riband of blue over a slightly wider band of white was worn round the forehead of the Queen as the distinctive mark of royalty, but position and prerogative were not as precious to Vashti as the moral principles of national soci- ety. Therefore, when unwarrantable demands were made, she forfeited her queenly station to retain her loyalty to a national law. We should remember that even queens have human hearts that beat with the same impulses of love and hope, joy and sorrow as all others do.
Vashti became a pioneer in the social life of her day by objecting to being made a plaything of the hour for amusement at a drinking carnival. She preferred the displeasure of an extravagant monarch in the assemblage of princes and rulers when he called her from a feast held for the women of the realm at which she was presiding. Queen Vashti refused to agree with that peevish sentiment of inferiority complex. Her stand at the time seemed to bring contraction rather than expansion of influence, but we should remember that had there been no conscientious Vashti in the court there would never have been a con- spicuous Esther among commemorated celebrities, any more than there would have been a renowned Jacob but for a resigned Isaac.
(c) Her Revered Memory.
This Queen's majesty stands in sharp con- trast to the brazen vulgarity of Herod- ius, and is like a beautiful forest flower that blooms and dies unadmired by vulgar eyes. Vashti's beauty is still reflected, not from the looking-glasses of the glamorous, but from the ladylike royalty of dignified womanhood to the glory of the Creator. Real honour if it is to prove lasting, must be founded upon unblemished char- acter and unblamable conduct. Modesty and purity are two of the queenly qualities of immortality. Vashti was deposed and dethroned by a cap- ricious king and was subjected to a temporary disgrace, nevertheless she transcended her royal predecessors as a princess of purity and duchess of decency. By her courageous stand this first lady of the realm bequeathed the legacy of libera- tion from subservience to the womanhood of the world, which was realised by later generations.
HAMAN THE DICTATOR,
(a) His Unusual Ability.
Dictators assume positions they are incapable of filling, for, irrespective of their qualifications, no one man has all the abilities, capacities and qualities to enable him to determine the standards for all others in a dominion.
Two personalities in the book confront each other and stand in sharp contrast, the one an Agagite and the other a Benjamite. The differ- ence between these diverse spirits is greater than any degree of distance that can be imagined. Haman was a worthy descendant of the Amale- kite kings, one of whom, Agag, was spared by Saul, on an occasion when he had been expressly enjoined to destroy him. This dictator was de' void of all that is humane. He was maliciously hateful and brutally cruel.* He appears on the pages of history as one of the most contemptible minions that ever exercised administrative power. Having obtained sanction to receive the homage of the populace which was tantamount to worship, his pride was grievously wounded because a Jew- ish gatekeeper at the palace refused to bow down to him.
Upon entering this greatest of world wars, the Japanese authorities ordered the missionaries that were working in Manchuco to bow down at the idolatrous shrines. The whole body of Protestant workers refused to submit to the order and were forthwith arrested and sent to concentration camps. Some were even tortured.
The Roman Catholic representatives received word from Rome to comply with the demand, which they did and were allowed to remain unmolested.
Provoked by personal animosity, Haman issued the most iniquitous decree that was ever devised against a helpless minority. He determined a wholesale massacre in cold blood under pretence of loyalty to the Crown, but cleverly disguised his real motive. The nefarious project was launched in a cowardly manner. The privileges that the King had bestowed upon him were sorely abused. By misrepresentation of a section of the populace he had persuaded the King to give his sanction to an iniquitous decree. No witnesses were called and no convincing evidence produced to verify his statements.
This inveterate enemy of the Jews had a false estimate of the character of the people he was out to destroy, reminding us of Sanballat the Hor- onite, who enviously eyed the progressiveness of the remnant who had returned to Jerusalem from exile and thought to ridicule their work by saying, "What do these feeble Jews?" However, he, too.
*His mind was ravaged by alternating tides surg- ing between the interaction of intelligent duty and insolent device.
soon found them to be a formidable folk. Neh. ch. 2, ver. 19, ch. 4, vers. 1-2.
(b) His Unbridled Avarice.
Haman was incensed by the arrogance of pride and impulsed by the animosity of hate and deter- mined to plunge headlong into his diabolical task. He had not only pledged millions to the King's treasury, but had assured prospects of substantial material gain for himself. The postal service of the day was made full use of and written docu- ments sent to the farthest bound of the dominion with its 127 provinces. When the declaration of doom was given its widespread publicity, dismay swept over the whole realm while the palace itself was strangely moved.
Mordecai was grief-stricken and made himself a spectacle of misery by appearing at his post draped in sackcloth and ashes, the proverbial garment of mourning. His attire as well as his attitude greatly aggravated the grandiose Prince.
The whole record throws light on the experi- ences encountered by the Jews who had failed to return to Jerusalem after the edict of release had been issued by Cyrus. As a people, Lo-ammi had been written over them and they were not publicly owned of God, although His Divine care had not been withdrawn.
A period of about 60 years elapsed between the early and late companies returning from exile, during which period Zechariah was one of the prophets who prophesied to the nation. in his first vision he describes a Man among the myrtle trees who is spoken of as the Lord, whose mission was that of taking stock of world-conditions, at the same time keeping a watchful eye on the Jews. In his findings he states that "All the world sitteth still and is at rest," which implies an attitude of utter indifference towards the claims of God and the rights of the Jewish people. This vision is a key of interpretation to the happenings of the book. More significant still is the mention of the myrtle trees, for Esther's Hebrew name was Hadassah which means myrtle. The tree was a flowering one of graceful beauty. its white star- like flower is expressed in the Persian name given to the queen, Esther, meaning star. Therefore the vision Zechariah describes is one of great re- assurance for those who are threatened with im- pending disaster.
(c) His Unscrupulous Ambition.
Haman not only possessed unique abilities but unscrupulous ambition. He allowed malice to master his exceptional powers and prostituted talent to the baser use of personal revenge.
When the renowned Charles Peace, the prince of English burglars, received his sentence to be hanged, the judge in summing up his remarks said, "What a great pity that the prisoner's unique talents were not devoted to a nobler use.
So with Haman he was strong but unscrupulous, ready to fling away a people he had shabbily dis- credited to gratify an inordinate lust for praise.
He connived to gain a low-bred conquest over a high-born people and jeopardise their very exis- tence. The providence of God, however, over- ruled and overturned the nefarious plot so that the minimum of mischief and maximum of mirth resulted.
God well knew the indifference of world-powers to the terrible plight of His people as the result of being placed under a decree of social extermina- tion, but the treachery was foreknown and was designed to be forestalled, because a superior mind with perfect knowledge was in the field before Haman devised his plan of attack. The forces of Divine faithfulness were fully prepared for the emergency. The government of the ages can never be outflanked or out maneuvered by any surprise attack. Moving swiftly and silently, yet surely, this unseen Overseer was directing events for the full exposure of evil and the final overthrow of the enemy's designs.
ESTHER THE DEVOTED.
(a) Her Charming Attractiveness.
The Lord's lilies are cultivated in the same soil as that in which thorns and thistles grow. Isola- tionism may be prompted by splendid intentions, but all too frequently these methods are promoted by faulty motives. The ideal of national isolation may appear excellent with certain conditions ruling, but when a nation shuns national responsibilities to conserve its own interests it cuts the nerve of true patriotism, lowers the standard of social jus- tice and cramps the spirit of chivalry in both vision and venture.
Personal seclusion is even more injurious. When a Christian withdraws from friction which helps to fashion moral character, evades the measures which mould the vessel to honour, and escapes the problems that perfect for service, the nerve of prayer is severed and the powers of life palpably paralysed. If a person cannot be a saint at sea, in the store, or in society, it is impossible to be such in the sanctuary.
Esther was a woman exceptionally beautiful and a Jewess, but she used her personal charm not so much as a factor for gaining public admiration, but as a feature in the securing of her people's preservation. She was the first woman to establish a court of arbitration for investigating the rights of minority peoples in a vast kingdom. In child' hood she had been tenderly cared for, in her girl- hood rightly guided and in her womanhood wisely instructed. Esther was destined to fill a distinctive role, not as an intellectual guide but as an in- spirational genius. Her aim was not so much to become a national beauty as a national blessing. She sought and wrought for the welfare of others.
(b) Her Clear Acumen.
To deplore the decree that had been issued would have been totally inadequate to meet the critical situation; to desire a reversal of it could but prove impotent in effecting a favourable change; to demand an investigation was wholly inopportune; to despair and give way to fear would have been inconsistent; to have denounced the instigator of the sinister decree would only have injured the cause; to defer action in the matter would have been glaring impropriety. Despite the defectiveness of all such attitudes and the demand to act, so imperative, Esther resolved to devote her very life if need be to effect deliverance. With consummate skill she marshalled her pris- tine powers and fortified her mind to take the crucial risk and approach a monarch, subject to morbid moods, into whose presence she had not been granted audience for a whole month. The magnetic charm of her delightful personality secured the desired end.
The first victory was won wholly within the sphere of her own life, and with this strategic gain in her favour there was immediately kindled in her heart a flaming passion to save her people. The master-foe must first be foiled ere the victims of his cruel revenge can be reassured and their doom revoked. The opportunity of an audience with the king resulted in an invitation to a banquet at which the royal, political and social represen- tatives of the realm were present.
Esther's method of address to the king is match- less. She greatly ingratiated herself by inciting the king's curiosity and in the next master-stroke of diplomacy invited his majesty's favourite minis- ter to be present also. By this means Haman was thrown entirely off his guard and divested of all alarm. With additional skill she repeated the invitation for the following day, making the matter more impressive and causing it to appear doubly important. The very delay enhanced the whole case in her favour and was a further mark of extraordinary wisdom.
(c) Her Confidence Assured
Ere they met on the morrow momentous things transpired. Haman's friends had been immediately acquainted with the privileges bestowed and of the additional honours he had had conferred upon him, but he could not refrain from telling them of the one "fly in the ointment." The figure of a haughty Jew haunted his mind and made him appear sulkily embittered and shockingly exas- perated. His friends soon suggested a remedy and told him to get busy on a gallows right away. The proposal appealed to him strongly and in all probability a few carpenters received overtime that same night. His eagerness to unleash his ven- geance on Mordecai prompted him to pay an earlier visit than usual to the palace personally to request permission to hang Mordecai without further delay. He was still blissfully oblivious of the king's disturbed rest on the previous night, nor did he know that the records had been called for and the portion read concerning a conspiracy against the king's life which had been discovered and averted by the prompt action of Mordecai. When the king was reminded of this important matter he asked if anything had been done to the one who had rendered this important service, and when he heard to the contrary he resolved, out of gratitude, that suitable honour would be given. Mordecai's reputation was already assured, who would dare to suggest hanging the man who had saved the king's life? Had it not been for this Divine intervention the banquet that had been arranged for midday would have been too late an occasion to have saved the life of Mordecai.
We should magnify the providence of God that observes so closely every movement and orders so minutely and opportunely the details that contri- bute to deliverance. 'When Mrs. Bell, a mission- ary returning from Africa with four children, was torpedoed in mid-Atlantic, the whole area sur- rounding their raft was covered with oil. 'When the sunbeams shone down and smote them like shafts of fire, the very oil that besmirched their bodies proved a protection from the Hazing heat.
The king held the prerogative to speak first when Haman appeared before him, and in the music of those memorable words asked his chief adviser, 'What shall be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honour?" Haman, self- opinionated as he was, naturally concluded that the king could not possibly have anyone else in mind but himself, and his reply was a glaring tribute to his own vainglorious ambition. When he intimated the honour that should be paid to such a person he was told to carry out the same for Mordecai. His radiant prospects were rudely shattered with a suddenness that startled him. Chagrined and confused he had to obey the com- mand, and Mordecai was paraded through the main streets of the city as the man whom the king delighted to honour.
Repairing to his house in deep remorse, sober and subdued, he scarce had time to tell of the tragic turn in events ere the chamberlains were there to escort him to the queen's banquet, but not before Zeresh, his wife, had interpreted the happenings as ominous of the fatal issues ahead.
He did not go merrily to the feast as the members of his household had indicated he should, and little knew of the dangerous ravine he was so rapidly approaching.
(d) Her Celebrated Appeal.
When the function commenced, Esther held her imposing advantage with a composed air, and her underanged temperament permitted her con- versational powers to function most becomingly. She never wavered and showed no signs of nervous timidity. When asked to make her request, her wise selection of words in expressing herself was amazing. There is an entire absence of all clamor- ous demand or impatient insistence. Her appeal was free from both superficial and superfluous statement. Complacently calm in so grave a crisis, she approached a very difficult subject with a delicate prudence. On receiving her option from the king she answered with fine taste and splendid simplicity, although the true significance of the crucial hour had as yet not dawned upon the others present. Haman was wholly oblivious of Esther's national identity, albeit he was still smart- ing under the rude reverse of morning. In asking for her life and that of her people, she said that if it had been a matter of being sold as slaves for the enrichment of the king's treasury, she would have refrained from asking for aught that would have injured the revenues of the crown. The signal qualities of her eloquence exemplify the passionate love she had for her people.
The amazed king, well-nigh overwhelmed at the nature of her request, demanded at once who it was that was responsible for threatening her life and that of her people. He exclaimed, 'Who is he and where is he that durst presume in his heart to do so?" and Esther said, "The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman."
(The fact has been pointed out more than once that in the Hebrew expression, "Who is he and where is he?" the great "I Am" title of Jehovah appears twice in acrostic form as it does also in three other utterances in the book.)
The king, who was immensely stirred, grew exceedingly grave and withdrew to the garden. His whole being was moved and convulsed at the thought of so terrible an outrage. 'With his plan of action decided he immediately re-entered and beheld what appeared at first sight an attempt at criminal assault on his queen, for Haman, in plead- ing for his life had fallen upon the couch where the queen was reclining, whereupon Hambonah, one of the king's chamberlains, drew the king's attention to the gallows Haman had erected for the hanging of Mordecai, and received the abrupt retort, "Hang him thereon!"
Thus was terminated the last of the royal family of Amalek against whose house God said He would wage war for ever, and it is remarkable that the issue was eventually brought about by a descendant of the Benjamite royal house.
The action of the Jews in ch. 9 has greatly perplexed the critics for it appears to have been retaliation whereas, according to the tenor of the Old Testament Scriptures, it was Divine retribu- tion against the house of Amalek.
On the fly leaf of my Bible, opposite the first page of this remarkable book, there is a note of comment written while in India thirty-five years ago.
"Esther is displayed as the heroine wielding prowess more persuasive than Pharaoh's daughter; securing a salvation of the downtrodden more conspicuous than that achieved by Elizabeth Fry, who won her sisterhood from the incarceration of prison life; attaining a fame more far-reaching than Grace Darling, who rescued the storm-tossed, shipwrecked mariners from a watery grave; secur- ing a conquest more complete than the Maid of Domremey, who delivered her country from an aggressor and freed her townsfolk from unbear- able taxation; more sympathy for the suffering than Florence Nightingale, who bound up the war- wounds of the world."
As a Queen of highly qualified ability and quickened alertness, she quietly awaited the cru- cial moment with hand nerved for action and heart stirred for appeal, and ventured unbidden into the presence of a capricious monarch. The distant vision of possible deliverance mingled with the vicarious element, drew out her soul to prompt decision and total dedication.
The Consummate Application.
'We shall miss the beauty and beneficence of this dramatic story if we fail to weigh its depth of meaning and far-reaching significance. Haman's supreme mistake was made through lack of fore- sight. 'When formulating his decree of doom he was wholly unaware that he was indicting one who was higher in authority than himself, He even continued the prosecution of his scheme totally oblivious of his gross miscalculation. Had he, foreseen that his action would affect the throne of the kingdom he would never have signed the document ordering the death of all Jews through' out the realm. When Esther, the queen, revealed her identity, the doom of Haman was sealed and the sentence executed.
Looking out on the vast universal field of action, the greatest drama of history is open to view. The adversary, the Devil, in his enmity as Des- troyer, directed his envy and hatred against man and by gaining the mastery of the human mind turned the heart of the creature against the Creator. By so doing he brought man under his own sceptre for he instituted and exercised the power of death, and the whole succession of the entire race met the same fate. Death has been passed upon all men for all have sinned.
Please note that God did not pass this decree of death, but the Devil did. In the providence of God, that is, by virtue of His foreknowledge and foresight, He fore-ordained the manifestation of His Son in human form for the purpose of des- troying him who had the power of death, that is, the Devil. This was done in order "to deliver those who through fear of death were all their life- time subject to bondage." Heb. ch. 2, ver. 9.
A military metaphor is used in the passage quoted, which accounts for Christ being spoken of in the context as the Captain of our salvation. This 'Warrior willed to become the Champion of our cause. Although His abiding state was in the form of God, indicating His Deity, and forasmuch as He came of the royal house of David, denoting His majesty, He took on Him the form of a servant and was found in fashion as a man. Prior to His manifestation, no man from Adam down- ward was able to deal with the hand-writing against the race, dislodge the enemy and destroy death.
'When Christ came He found that society, authority and liberty were all under the dominion of the destroyer.
At the scene of the temptation in the wilderness the Devil realised that in passing the decree of death upon all men he had legislated against One higher in authority than himself. The very fact that Christ had descended from the throne of the universe to become man precipitated the greatest crisis in history. The adversary strove to the utmost to avert his own overthrow by attempting to nullify the ability and validity of the Son of Man to act on behalf of mankind.
He sought first to disqualify Him by suggesting that Christ exercise a prerogative of Deity in commanding stones to be made bread, but received the faultless reply, "MAN shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." Failing in this attempt he next directed his attack to dislodge Christ from the strength of His position by a subtle ambush- ment. The lure of the spectacular had, concealed beneath it, a booby-trap to fracture his faith and rupture the relationship of His trust in God. Christ's attitude assures us that society can be maintained without self-assertion, and authority can be exercised apart from expedience.
In his third attempt, the Devil sought to deflect Christ from His purpose by making a sensational offer,-' 'All the kingdoms of the earth will I give thee." These, by the way, were under the decree of death, and if accepted would mean that Christ would gain the whole world and lose 'His own soul, but the enemy failed to disqualify, dislodge or deflect our Mediator from His great mission. For the first time in world history the Devil met One Who refused to take orders from him, even as in a lesser sphere Mordecai had refused to take orders from Haman.
At this juncture the greatest case in world [ *note
Esther's untarnished halo of honour adorns the abiding annals of heroic service, throwing its glim- mer of light into the future to presage the coming glory of a cloudless dawn. One woman faced unmeasured difficulties with God and triumphed. ]
history was decided, the Devil defeated, and by virtue of the victory, death itself is doomed, for "the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." We should be gratefully sensible of what Christ has gained for us.
MORDECAI THE DELIVERER.
(a) His Helpful Strategy.
Mordecai was a Benjamite, a man of lowly voca- tion and lonely vigil who rose from his humble station to high honour by virtue of his dependable nature and reliable qualities. He had a mind with a big conception and the calibre to devise, com- bined with the resoluteness to execute his plan.
MORDECAl THE DELIVERER.
(a) His Helpful Strategy.
Mordecai was a Benjamite, a man of lowly voca- tion and lonely vigil who rose from his humble station to high honour by virtue of his dependable nature and reliable qualities. He had a mind with a big conception and the calibre to devise, com- bined with the resoluteness to execute his plan. When the bridge of hope seemed firmly estab- lished he approached to within a well-nigh full realisation of his project, only to see a ruthless hand placing a fatal charge in position which, if ignited, was destined to destroy his whole struc- ture. Mordecai threw himself against this mount- ing wave of hostility and insensate hate with such tenacity that instead of being driven to resign he was constrained to develop greater resolve. This man had a personal acquaintance with the God of Jacob.
Although it is possible for the impregnability of the Rock of Gibraltar to cease, the indestruc- tibility of the Rock of Ages is assured for ever as a foundation for faith. David once asked, "If the foundations be destroyed what shall the righteous do?"
"But God's foundations standeth sure,
By Him in Zion laid;
Which none can shake, much less remove,
Why should we be afraid?
Afraid of man's philosophy,
His science, or his doubt?
If we have such disloyal fears,
May God soon cast them out."
Mordecai had not trodden a rosy path in his earlier career. From the records it appears that he was born after the first captivity, and was carried away as an infant when Jeconiah was taken captive, ch. 2, vers. 5-6. A considerable time after arrival in Persia, where he lived in an unenviable plight as a captive, the ravages of death robbed him of both uncle and aunt.
(h) His Humane Sympathy.
The care he bestowed on his little orphan niece, whom he considerately brought up from her child- hood, is a sidelight on his tender sympathy and
stirling character. Those who are kindly disposed towards children are most truly in harmony with Heaven. Character does not wholly consist of any one single feature, but is decided by the sum and substance of all the characteristics of a life. Never- theless, from the account given we may safely say that Mordecai was deeply sensitive and un- falteringly scrupulous in seeking to fulfil the law of his God although serving in a foreign court. His integrity and veracity in matters of conscience caused him to scorn all fear of exposure, for crooked policy and wily sinuousities were out of harmony with his make-up. He was keenly alert and splendidly loyal in fulfilling his duties, and a real example in rectitude of conduct.
There suddenly arose in the midst of court life that bleak and blasting enemy we call prejudice. Deplorable prejudice! How successful it seems to be in setting person against person, cause against cause, people against people, race against race! The populace of the country had been instructed to bow before the newly-elected premier, a relic of that worthless method of receiving praise which is as fickle as it is fleeting.
Mordecai, in refusing to do obeisance or pros- trate himself before Haman the Amalekite was displaying a resoluteness of principle and robust courage. He stood true to his convictions which he sought to keep inviolate. Haman, who was governed by grim hate and ghastly jealousy, be- came flushed with indignant pride and determined to sacrifice a people to ambition's shrine.
The Jews had been malrepresented and made to appear objectionable, and this led to the king sanctioning vengeance against them throughout his realm.
When Mordecai faced the option of shunning or shouldering the heavy burden, he not only sensed the magnitude of the disaster threatening his people but also saw the possibility of a mighty deliverance.
The toughness of fibre and tenacity of faith necessary for such tasks cannot be cultured in hot houses. His former experiences had begotten a terseness of spirit and tempered nerve that stood him in good stead for meeting the tenseness of the hour.
Mordecai's heart was torn with anguish when he heard the verdict, and immediately sought to communicate with the queen and acquaint her of the seriousness of the situation. Esther was horri- fied when she heard of the frightful malevolence that had been determined. Cold revenge, flinty and frigid, had been unmasked. Who would not be shaken with tremulous fear in a kingdom where no one rose up to question the unrighteous deeds which unscrupulous men determined to inflict upon those they disdained? Did not even John the Baptist, a man of the open air, the fields, the woods, waver when no message or visit was paid to him in his lonely cell by the Christ Whom he had so loyally loved and served? The reply which the queen sent to her uncle laid stress upon the insuperable barrier that stood in the way of her attempting to approach the king, yet it was obvi- ous that no one else in the kingdom had any power to relieve or retrieve in the light of what had been done.
(c) His Homely Sagacity.
Upon receiving reply, the eloquence of Mordecai reached its meridian of splendour, ch. 4, vers. 13- 14. "Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, 'Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king's house more than all the Jews. For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who know- eth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?' "
Notice how deftly he dignifies disadvantage and honours handicap, and uses these as valid reasons for inciting Esther's mind to aspire to the merits of being used at a time of such providential oppor- tunity.
"Milton the blind looked on Paradise,
Byron the lame climbed to Alpine heights;
Beethoven the deaf heard vast harmonies,-
Who pleads a handicap, remembering these?"
The deep significance of his words constituted a revelation which shows that the providence of God has a variety of ways in fulfilling a Divine intention. His utterance was spacious, radiant, mystic; even an element of the prophetic was not lacking. Her uncle was not speaking in the tones of one oppressed and broken by despair but in terms full of hopeful confidence and expectation. Mordecai's belief was not centred in the senti- mental or sensational but solely in the supernatural. He had at least caught the sense comprehensively of pervading providence, not because of any vir- tuous pedigree, but by the perception of a spiritual intuition. His consciousness of the invisible had buoyed him up under the gathering storm. He had been listening to the still small voice, and peering through the dense mists had visualised the abrogation of existing oppression.
Mordecai's words throw light upon the whole story flashing backwards and forwards. There is consolation in knowing that as difficulties developed and darkness deepened God gave fresh expressions of His working for the encouragement of faith. He always has an antidote for that crooked com- plaint called animosity, and commands for our protection that we be clothed with humility. Humility is like a coat of mail and breastplate of steel that guards our affections from the poisonous darts of the wicked one.
The gate-keeper appeared at his post clad in sackcloth and refused the entreaty of the queen to discard his mournful attire. Esther accepted the stirring challenge and resolved to succeed or suc- cumb. Her inimitable message is immortal.
"Then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer: Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.' So Mordecai went his way, and did according to all that Esther had commanded him." Ch. 4, vers. 15-17.
Esther's reply expresses a tremendous conviction and reverberates down the centuries, re-echoing her heroism which cannot be explained merely on the ground of human standards. She realised that in her hands lay the great issues to be determined, issues of such magnitude which could not, and would not, eventuate unless she availed herself of the Divine power to operate on her behalf.
To use the words of King George VI. when ap- pealing to the nation to pray as the crucial hour struck for the opening of the Second Front on June 6th, 1944. 'The Queen understands the anxieties and cares of our womenfolk at this time, and she knows that many will find, as she does, fresh strength and comfort in such waiting upon God." Who dare intrude personal disadvantages as an excuse for inaction when matters of national des- tiny are at stake? The seclusion that selfishness seeks to secure for its own ease and leisure always leads to disaffection and displeasure. If we hold back the help we are in a position to render, dis- honour and disgrace are sure to result.
When occasion demanded and duty was obvious, King Saul, who was ordered of the Lord to slay Agag, withheld his hand and succumbed to a sword-thrust from his own weapon.
Had Esther sat still in slothful silence or pur- sued the prudential policy of self-preservation in so doing, she would have succumbed by the hand of the very enemy she sought to elude. By enter- ing the stern combat with effective effort she was emancipated and ennobled and the enemy executed.
Let us not undervalue Esther's right of preroga- tive, as Queen of the realm, to intercede. Her exquisite manner, combined with unmingled maj- esty and unrivalled merit, are rarely found in combination. These she employed in making her memorable and monumental appeal. The method of request in addressing the Regent in so gracious a manner, and her thoughtful courtesy, led to the disarming of the dictator and drew forth his most cordial assent to attend the banquet. Esther ven- tured to avail of the spirit of composure and con- siderateness in diplomacy, herein she is a heroine. On the "D" Day, the great decisive day of deliv- erance, she was gallant in the presence of one most repellant. The Queen approached the ordeal sin- gle-handed, but was also single-hearted. Her soul was gripped with one supreme purpose for which she held the master key.
"Oh to save these, to perish for their saving, Die for their life, be offered for them all."
The motive of her mission was unstained by gel- fish ambition and untainted by churlish avarice. A rainbow of beauty and blessing will ever en- shrine the memory of her self-abnegating service. Heaven is sweeter and earth is richer by reason of her life and love.
We need to recall that it was Jochebed who nursed and trained her child through those desper- ate months and years of cruel bondage in Egypt, and, later, her son, the renowned law-giver, Moses, became the first national emancipator.
Nor can we forget our debt to Monica, the mother of Augustine, for her sobs and supplica- tions which resulted in her giving to the Church its greatest theologian since the days of Paul.
Let us remember that it was Mrs. Maria Millis who had the care of a wee lad during his tender years and led his life into paths of righteousness. The same afterwards became Lord Shaftesbury, one of the most benign Prime Ministers Great Bri- tain ever had, so much so that at his funeral even the costermongers of London mourned his loss and draped their barrows in evidence of their grief.
We cannot afford to pass by Mrs. Everest, who had committed to her care Winston Churchill, upon whose youthful, impressionable mind she imprinted true faith, and in so doing played a part in the training of our present Prime Minister, who, in the Providence of God, has steered the ship of the British Empire through the greatest storm ever encountered.
Likewise the cautious sympathy of Mordecai, prudently watching the interests of his niece with a judicious and loving care, was the instrument in the hand of God in training Esther to become the guardian of her people's rights.
If we live our lives in the conception of things local and immediate, we shall automatically shut ourselves out from the vision of the lasting and infinite, fall short of the power of the Unseen and fail of the grace by which alone men conquer. Where fear exists in the facing of pressing de- mands to deny self, it becomes obvious that self is enthroned and that our attention is set on the pain of the process rather than on the ultimate goal of prevailing conquest.
(d) His Honoured Supremacy.
A crisis often opens the way for the expression of true character and paves the way for a distin- guished career. Mordecai perceived the providen- tial purpose of God in placing Esther on the Throne, he seemed to sense that the honour of Queenly status already attained was about to be surpassed by the higher honour of heroic service.
God's seasonable visitations are not under our control, but discernment and responsive co-opera- tion are essential from our side when they do come. Migratory birds have a distinctive knowledge of approaching seasons, and God has given to his people a much more delicate spiritual intuition. See Jeremiah viii, vers. 7, 20. If we disregard His signals we shall be disqualified and disinherited. ver. ii.
"Let no man take thy crown. Rev., ch. 3, ver. 11. Mordecai did not dissipate the hour of oppor tunity by demurring to do the duty that demanded prompt action. Radiant prospects of deliverance were indelibly imprinted on his mind, and with firm resolve he pursued his aim unwaveringly. Having discovered his duty he devoted his all to discharge it with fervent diligence. This one stout heart, by his sensitive sympathy and quick decision, turned an outlook of tortuous foreboding into a rapturous expectation, and changed the anticipated day of doom into one of glad rejoicing. We are told of the declaration of this man's great- ness, that he was next to the King . . . . great among the Jews . . . . accepted of the multitude of his brethren . . . . and that he spake peace to all his seed." Ch. 10.
"Darkest night will always come before the dawning,
Silver linings shine on God's side of the cloud;
All your journey He has promised to be with you,
Naught has come to you but what His love allowed.
God is mighty! He is able to deliver;
Faith can victor be in every trying hour;
Fear and care and sin and sorrow be defeated
By our faith in God's almighty conquering power.
To this man's outlook there appeared upon the dark waters a shining path of hope, more radiant than the moonbeams' silvery light across the sullen sea.
In their trying circumstances, the Providence of God opened for His people a way of escape which, when the storm had passed, scintillated like a jewel with heartening memories.
As a man, Mordecai was a tender guardian, as a subject he was a trusty citizen, and as an official of the court he was a true statesman. He received his call amid the confused circumstances of a grave national crisis. We might have designated him "alertness," a plain-clothes constable, or a sentry at the palace gates, but, like Lincoln, who rose from Log Cabin to White House, Mordecai also rose to the presidency of a great people. He became a courtier in the very precincts where he had been treated with contempt; from a life devoid of dis- play he was promoted to the highest distinction in the realm, but pursued his purpose unspoiled by prejudice and unmarred by malice.
The Providence of God is still wielding the contradictory events of history and personalities of various callings, and training them to contribute to one essential design. God's overruling hand is everywhere apparent and operative. Even the murder of Caesar by Brutus led eventually to Mark Antony bestowing free-born Roman citizenship on the city of Tarsus because of the help its populace had rendered in overcoming the army of Brutus at Philippi. As the result of this the Apostle Paul, who was a citizen of Tarsus, obtained this freedom of the empire, which freedom served as a permit of number one priority to travel throughout the Roman dominions for the preaching of Christ. A later Caesar decreed that all the world should be registered in preparation for the manifesting of Christ. The present cataclysmic war has re- sulted again in the issuing of regulations that have led to a universal registration which presages the return of our Lord. How true are the words of J. R. Lowell:-
"Careless seems the great Avenger; history's
pages but record
One death-grapple in the darkness 'twixt old
systems and the Word
Truth forever on the scaffold', Wrong forever on
Yet that scaffold sways the future and, behind
the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch
above His own.
"We see dimly in the present what is small and
what is great,
Slow of faith how weak an arm may turn the
iron helm of fate-
But the soul is still oracular; amid the market's
List the ominous stern whisper from the Delphic
'They enslave their children's children who make
compromise with sin.'"
The imminence of God pervades the whole story. He is never missing amid the stormy altercation and swift alteration of ever-changing events. ing of the defenceless, awaits the opportune mo- ment ere He intervenes, is never before His time Poised in calm serenity He works for the shield and never behind.
"Say not, my soul, from whence shall God
relieve thy care,
Remember that Omnipotence hath servants
His methods are sublime, His thoughts pro-
God never is before His time and never is
The passion of God is to protect and deliver while waging a ceaseless war against the passions of men that plunder and destroy. These matters constitute the permanent values of the book and are applicable to all the centuries.
God can exercise the minds of the impious and imperious to inflict His judgments, without violat- ing or staining His perfect purity.
There is a complete absence of all pity towards the arrogance of pride, insolence of hate and violence of enmity personified in Haman. The cruelty and tyranny that violate minority rights with impunity and plunder the property of the defenceless deserve no quarter.
God is forever conscious of the conditions of His people. He apprehends and arranges accord- ingly and advances towards the goal of an assured purpose. We are encompassed and encircled by His presiding presence and can never go beyond the boundary of His activity. He pledges to teach us in the way that we should go. God's superintendence of current events, all of which He oversees and overrules, enables Him to make pro- vision for the oncoming crisis. His constant care for His creatures supplies a sufficient reason for our confidence in, consultation with and co-opera- tion for the prompting of the plans. He is worthy of our confidence, for His power and wisdom are witnessed in the stars and seasons, in the tracery of His work and in the truth of His word.
He has crowned the heavens with glory and the earth with beauty and knows all about the falling of the sparrow, fading hair and failing strength. Confidence reposed in Him will never be betrayed, although at times He does not appear to be interested. We should remember that His way is in the sea, yea, and in the sanctuary, Ps. 77, verses 13, 19. These are figures of His invisible working, "the secret of the Lord is in the sanc- tuary, His imperceptible footprints are in the sea. We can trust when we cannot trace and con- fide when we cannot comprehend.
"God moves in a mysterious way His wonders
He plants His footsteps in the sea and rides
upon the storm.
Blind unbelief is sure to err and scan His works
God is His own interpreter and He will make