We have arrived at chapter six where the famous phrase of Esther “for such a time as this” occurs. What leads to that statement and what is meant by it ? More importantly what is the end result of it? The last question we will not be able to answer until we get more toward the end of the book. However, the other two we will deal with today.
We already know that Haman had sent out an edict declaring a day of destruction for the Jews and that to this point both Haman and Xerxes are comfortable in that decision. This is where we pick things up in chapter 4.
In this chapter we find Mordecai responding to the news. Remember this edict would have gone out to the city of Susa at the time of Passover, The Feast of Unleavened Bread and The Feast of Firstfruits. these are Times of sacrifice, but also times of rejoicing as the people of Israel remember how God brought them out of the land of slavery in Egypt. However, this year they were not celebrations of feasting and rejoicing in a past deliverance. For Mordecai it would become a time of mourning. I want to take a specific look at what Mordecai was doing because it is hard to completely convey it in our English translations.
For starters, his mourning was not a closet experience. Mordecai did not find a quiet spot to be alone with his wailing and mourning. No, he actually went to the middle of the city (remember this was Passover time) in sackcloth and ashes and publicly announced his mourning. It was a mighty cry of proclamation. He was letting everyone know of his bitter heart and its cause. He was also in the place where proclamations are given, the city gate (remember he works at the city gate). This was not done in secret. There was something terribly wrong and he was letting everyone know about it and was also letting everyone see how he cried out to God for help.
This makes me wonder about our situation in this country and in our churches today. how does our day compare to his? Is something terribly wrong? Would we be willing to go into the middle of the city and make a mighty proclamation of bitter mourning and plea to the only One who can truly help us? Makes one think!
It was not only Mordecai, but wherever the edict went there was great weeping and wailing among the Jews. This was coupled with fasting. In a book that does not directly mention God or prayer, these acts of contrition and fasting are as close as the writer comes to speaking of a direct appeal to God for deliverance.
Word does come to Esther about how Mordecai was behaving at such a time of celebration. Perhaps others in the city came to join him after his public display of mourning. Esther would have wanted to, of course, know the reason, but in the meantime she sent him some appropriate clothes for the festivals. Can you imagine her surprise when they are rejected and were brought back with a message of tribulation?
It is interesting to note here that Mordecai knew the exact amount of money that Haman promised to put into the treasury for the destruction of the Jews. Obviously his position would have given him access to that information, which makes what we mentioned in an earlier post about the extra Biblical evidence of a Mordecai being mentioned as a high level accountant during the reign of Xerxes so significant.
Mordecai also instructs the attendant to explain the edict to Esther. I do not believe that this was because she could not read, in fact I believe the exact opposite. However, the explanation probably came in the form of him telling her about the events that led up to the edict, not the edict itself, that would have been plain. Esther needed to know Mordecai’s role in the chain of events. She also needed to realize that she would not be exempt from such a decree.
It was time for her to do what he had done. Announce that she was from the family of Israel. Mordecai specifically asks her to go to the court of the king to beg for the lives of her people. What a thing to ask of her! He was not asking her to have a private conversation with her husband, but to go before him at court. Remember, she may have very well have had a court of the women to operate herself, we do know that Xerxes’ mother did.
It was dangerous, even for the queen, to go into the court of the king without being summoned. That’s right, when Esther speaks of not being summoned before Xerxes for thirty days she is talking about not being called to the king’s courtroom for thirty days to perform her duties beside him as queen. She knew that she too would need for him to hold out his golden scepter to avoid potential punishment like Vashti had received.
Yes, this concerns her, for she like most women, knows her husband. He had proven he could be easily angered and she needed the help of God to make sure this was not one of those times. Only God could make sure that when she entered the court that he was not right in the middle of a most pressing matter and therefore more annoyed at her presence than joyful. Only He could make sure the mood of her husband was more than ready and willing to see her.
Mordecai had also made it clear that if she chose not to obey him at this point that she would not escape the destruction decreed by her husband. In fact her entire family would not. This may have meant only her and Mordecai. However, it could also be referring to possible children that Esther may have had with Xerxes up to this point or possible brothers and sisters. Either way, she would pay the price of remaining silent. Remember, Mordecai made two very public proclamations at this point.
Again, this causes me to think about the price of remaining silent in our culture and in our churches about unbiblical behavior and practices, even edicts and laws from our government. We, like Esther, think we are safe in our silence. If we don’t say anything then no one will know how I feel about this matter. But like Esther if we do remain silent and do not understand that God has us where we are, each of us, for such a time as this, and that He expects us to speak when he says speak, then we too will pay a high price or even worse see our children pay that price.
That’s right, Esther was in that place and time for such a time as was before her. And as Mordecai says, “Who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” God has His ways and we are only to follow and obey.
These words above remind me of Joel 2:12-14 where the prophet says, “Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing— grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God.” Yes, who knows!
And yes, there is a time to remain silent and a time to speak as Ecclesiastes 3:7 reminds us. This, however, was definitely a time to speak. In fact, the word in these verses in Esther 4 that we translate silent actually means “to conceal” and carries with it the idea of secrecy. Here Mordecai is telling Esther that the time for concealing and keeping the secret is over.
Mordecai also tells her that if she does remain silent that relief and deliverance will come from another source. This is her opportunity to follow God herself and do the thing He is asking her to do and not to leave it to someone else who is not of her position and honor.
What I find so amazing about this section is the word for “relief”. This word in the Hebrew means “room, enlargement or space”. Yes, this is a relief that comes with the blessing of enlargement, not just a return to the status quo. As we continue to study the book we will see how God brings this enlargement about.
In fact, it is my belief that this enlargement is at least one of the main reasons God allowed this all to take place. God always has His reasons, His plans that even come out of what we would call catastrophes or tribulations.
It is at this point that Esther, for the first time, gives instructions for Mordecai to follow. Up until now it has been the other way around. Here Esther tells Mordecai to gather all the Jews of Susa to fast for three days, day and night, for her. She would need God’s help of strength and courage if she was going to do this. She also promises him that she and her servants would do the same. Only an appeal to God Himself would get her and her people through this. Only God could deliver His people once again. Remember we are right around the feast of Passover and here they are again needing His deliverance. She ends it by taking on herself the full responsibility of action, but leaving the responsibility of success with God. If she perishes, she perishes. It was in God’s hands not hers.