I love reading the book of Esther, because it’s a great story. It’s short, it’s intriguing, and there is no mention of God, even though He is active throughout. You have admirable characters like Esther and Mordecai — and more despicable characters like Haman.
Recently, as I was studying this story, I was intrigued by the character quality of King Ahasuerus, Esther’s husband. If you’ve read the story, you know he’s not a good guy; unfortunately, what stood out about him was something I could see in myself. Read the following verses which detail Mordecai’s reaction, when he found out that he and all the Jews throughout the king’s 127 provinces were to be victims of a mass genocide:
When Mordecai learned all that had happened, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city. He cried out with a loud and bitter cry. He went as far as the front of the king’s gate, for no one might enter the king’s gate clothed with sackcloth. Esther 4:1-2
Scripture says Mordecai declared his grief as far as the king’s gate, but stopped right there. Wearing sackcloth at the time was a sign of extreme grief. Though it was a Jewish custom, it was clearly understood beyond the Jewish people, because the law specifically said that those dressed in sackcloth could not enter.
Though it was a Jewish custom, it was clearly understood beyond the Jewish people, because the law specifically said that those dressed in sackcloth could not enter the palace
Poor Mordecai. He was actually an important member in society and had even saved the king’s life on a previous occasion — but now, as he and his people were on the brink of extermination, the one person who could change the law was basically saying, “I only want to hear about happy problems. Keep your negative feelings to yourself.”
Transparency is a word that I hear quite often, especially within the context of the church. It’s generally agreed upon that people inside the church should be transparent with their issues, so it seems natural to be critical of those who aren’t forthcoming about their struggles. But do we really want transparency? I’m not sure… Maybe we are a little more like Esther’s heathen king hubby than we realise.
Have you ever found out something bad about a person and wished you didn’t know? I have. It’s not that I don’t care about their problems, but I can’t do anything to resolve them. Not only that, but when I hear about the difficulties others are experiencing, it puts a damper on my own spirits. I feel the weight of their dilemma and I don’t want that. I like to pretend that when I’m happy, so is everyone else in the world.
But that’s not reality. I think I know what you are thinking. Clearly there is some major selfishness in my heart. Forgive me, I’m just being transparent (see what I did there?). Having said that, just because that’s the way I feel at times, it’s not how I live my life. In practice, I want others who are experiencing pain or struggles to come to me, rather than suffer on their own. It’s not because I can do something about their situation, but because I can go to the one Person who can. Even when my flesh wants to act like my five-year-old and cover my ears, the Spirit of God gives me a heart that grieves with my friend.
When I stopped to think about the king’s law against sackcloth, I also thought about the King of kings. Jesus not only asks us to come to Him with our problems, He tells us to come as we are. Ugly crying is allowed when we approach the True King. Esther and Mordecai knew this. They fasted and prayed for the next three days and God worked the whole thing out like only He can.
Do you know this King? Have you trusted in His Son? If yes, then do not forget the benefits of being under His authority.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Look at how comfort is repeated five times in these two short verses. Take your trouble to the Lord. He wants to comfort you. Meanwhile, have you been comforted? Be available to comfort others — even when it threatens to move you out of your happy place.
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