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Commentary On The Book Of Esther--Part 2 PDF Print E-mail
Written by John R. Respess   



King Ahasuerus made a great feast. It was a feast unto all his princes and his servants; the power of Persia and Medi; the nobles and princes of the provinces being before him. There was at least one Jew in this feast. But it was not a spiritual feast; else there would have been none present but Jews, as when the church rejoices in spirit. But this was a feast in which all rejoiced; Jews as well as others and others as well as Jews. It is well enough to say now that a Jew then represented a spiritual man, or a believer. It was a feast of which both believers and unbelievers could partake; like the common blessings of life, as fruitful seasons, good government, peace, plenty and prosperity. We would rejoice in wise rulers and in great and patriotic statesmen; we would rejoice if the burdens of the people were even now lightened by our rulers. In this country Christians have great cause of thankfulness for liberty of conscience; for wisdom given men of the world in the arts and sciences in the utilization of steam, electricity and the printing press, and for thousands of other blessings accruing to them from the wisdom given men of the world. The believer partakes of these blessings as well as the unbeliever. It is true it may be with a very different spirit, as the multitude and disciples partook of the loaves and the fishes; the disciples with a spirit of poverty, humility and thankfulness, and the others as of something to which they were entitled by their zeal.

This feast was according to the state of the king, and designed to “show the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honor of his excellent majesty,” and was therefore a great feast. To his chief men, his princes, nobles and servants he gave a feast of 180 days, but to others that were present in Shusan the palace, both great and small, a feast of seven days. Much more therefore was given his princes, nobles and servants than to the common people, and much more therefore was required of them. This is true in worldly gifts as well as in spiritual. God has given to some men great minds and great advantages in moral, mental and physical culture; great advantages in worldly position and wealth for the benefit of society at large, and even for the benefit of the church. These gifts should not exalt, but humble the recipients of them; but it is often the case that men are puffed up by that which should humble them, being destitute of the right spirit. True wisdom is always accompanied with humility; the wiser one is the humbler he is; the more he knows the more he feels his insufficiency. Only the wise know that they knew nothing only as God has given to them; and therefore they feast to the honor of his excellent majesty in showing in themselves the riches of the glorious kingdom of grace. They eat to the king’s honor. This feast was according to the state of the king, not only in the repast, but in the dignity and number of the feasters. Should we give a feast it would be according to our state our social, worldly and spiritual position. It would not become us to give a feast that a poor man could give, for we should in it dishonor ourselves and our guests. Nor would it become us to give one that a worldly man in our social position might give; For he could give a ball and have fiddling, dancing and frolic; but should we do so, we would reproach our God, dishonor ourselves and our brethren. Nor would it become us to give a feast that a rich man could give. A feast given by us would be that of a private citizen, but one given by the Governor would be according to his public state or official position, as the head of the government, and would therefore show the glory of the State, as well as the honor of its head. A feast given by the President would be greater than that of the Governor, because as the Governor feasted judges and legislators, the President would feast governors, senators and national judges. The appointees under a governor would not be as great men as those under the President. His guests therefore would be greater, and great as they might be, they would be but as satellites revolving around him as the central sun and reflecting his glory. A spiritual feast, or a feast in the church, shows the riches of our glorious King, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the honor of his excellent majesty, and not our own glory. The humbler one is the more he reflects the glory of God.

Ministers, or princes in Israel, should feast the church, or preach as God has given them to preach, and thus they will show the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honor of his excellent majesty; that is, they will comfort others with the same comfort wherewith God or the King has feasted, taught and comforted them. The higher one’s position in the world or church the more is required of him; not that he is required to be more faithful, but to be faithful under greater temptations. A simple laborer in the field would not have the temptations to worldly pride and vanity that he would if he were rich and in high position in church or State; and to put him in a high place without any previous preparation for it would be to place him from whence he would surely fall. But if he were prepared by 180 days of teaching, suffering, learning and temptation he would be able to stand. More wisdom is therefore given to those placed or called of God to high places, the princes and nobles so to speak, amongst men and saints because it is essential to the position. But even they have none to spare, and what they have is to glorify the King in showing the riches of the King and kingdom who has called them from ignorance and darkness into the light of his glorious kingdom.

It is our duty to render honor to whom honor is due both in church and State. Paul had worldly qualifications as well as spiritual and knew how to demean himself before kings and great men of the world; other ministers had equal spiritual gifts, but not equal natural and acquired ability, and were not therefore qualified to do the work assigned Paul. That much more was required of him than others of less qualifications, and this Paul testifies to, saying, “I preached more than they all, and yet not I but the grace of God that was with me;” that is to say, he was made able to do it and was therefore required to do it. The same was required of others; they were required to do what they were able to do, neither more nor less. Paul when before Agrippa, rendered him honor as to a great man, though he was the apostle of the King of kings and Lord of lords; he did not feel it his duty or privilege to be wanting in respect to a great man of the world, even if he were a stranger to God’s grace. And whilst he did not present himself cringingly before him, he did come before him with due respect and humility, and was glad of the opportunity of speaking of Christ to a man versed in affairs as Agrippa was. When King Agrippa said to him, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian,” Paul did not mock him for his ignorance of spiritual truth, but meekly answered him, “I would to God that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day were both almost and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.”

These princes and nobles who were feasted, fed or prepared and qualified for the high places to which they were called were not all of equal ability; that is they were not all trained for the same work. They were great in their several lines or departments; one was versed in finance, another in diplomacy, in law, in statesmanship, in oratory, in military tactics, in agriculture, in science and art. One may have been strong in one special thing and very weak in things in which another was strong.  Haman was a great statesman, for he was the kings prime minister, but he was weak in moral principle and a corrupt man. So it is in the church of Christ. One may be an able minister, but very weak out of that special calling; and we think this is generally the case. But the main think is that he should be fit for the position he is in, and not that he should be fit for every other or any other position. We should think that even a very able minister would make but a poor politician. The church may call a member to the ministry, but she can’t qualify him for it; he may be a successful farmer, lawyer, doctor or teacher, zealous, well educated and eloquent, but he will not be useful in the ministry, unless he has been called and prepared by the great King of saints for that work.

But though there is a difference in the gifts of men in the world, and of ministers in the church, they are all the King’s servants. King David had thirty chief captains, three of whom were chief over them, and Joab chief of all. Joab had an armor bearer and ten attendants, who carried his artillery and baggage. It was his charge to signal by trumpet an advance or a retreat. To have despised his authority would have been to despise the king’s authority. If the other captains had combined against him from envy, it would have been treason to David. Not one of them was qualified to fill his position. Ambitious Absalom stole for a moment, through feigned love and humility, the hearts of David’s subjects, but he was slain by Joab, when perhaps not another one of all the king’s captains was strong enough to have done it. The church may he, and has been beguiled from David or Christ by theological schools, and things of that sort, and entangled, but she has always returned to him when Absalom was slain, and there has always been a Joab to do it. It is nothing that his sun went down under a cloud; he served David well, even if there was much of self-service in it. It required just such a man as he was to do the work he did.

True and devoted ministers are entitled to honor from the church, and it is and should be faithfully rendered them; but if men are thrust into the position unqualified for it, it has a tendency to lower its dignity and bring it into contempt. Because it is reversing God’s order, which cannot be safely done, either in church or State. To put a man into a position for which he is not qualified, is to require more of him than he is able to perform. It would be wrong to entrust a man with a school, store or farm, destitute of capacity to manage it; and certainly it would he a greater harm to entrust a man with the ministry destitute of qualifications for it. The farm would involve both parties, the owner and manager in loss, and beget hard feelings, if not strife. And the owner would be more to blame than the incapable manager, because more had been committed to him. The church has her duty to her pastor laid down in the law of Christ; but if she fails in duty to him, he must not fail in duty to the King; because that would be doing like her, and there would be less excuse for him than for her. He must approve himself as the minister of the King or Christ, “in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in watchings, in fastings; by pureness, by knowledge, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned,” &c—2 Cor. vi.

We had a man once managing a little farm of ours, and one day he told us that Tom, Dick and Harry, all wanted to plow, and there were but three plows to run, and he wished to plow too, and how about it? We told him that he must do what they were unwilling to do; that he was chief and must be the least; that their interest in the crop was in their wages only, but his was in the success of the crop, and he was therefore under greater responsibilities than they were, and that he must labor in that spirit. Wisdom is profitable to direct; and if there were none to direct, there would be no necessity that more wisdom should be given to one than to another. But for one destitute of wisdom to direct another wiser than he, would be to reverse God’s order; would be folly and setting folly in dignity. There is too much in this day. No man likes to be required to pay out more money than he is able to pay, because he is made poorer by it; but it is hard to find a man who feels incapable of filling any office to which he may be called; but if he is incapable, he will be as one paying out more money than he is able to; he will become poorer by it; “it will not be for his honor.” If God has committed a dove or pigeon only to one, then that is all that is required of him to offer, and all that will be accepted of him. If he offers more, it is not offered to God, but to his own pride and vanity…not to the honor of the King’s excellent majesty. But if a kid is given, he must offer the kid; nothing less will be accepted. Should a dove be offered by one who is able to offer a kid, it will be an offering to his covetousness or indolence, and unacceptable to God. But if a bullock be given then nothing less than a bullock will be accepted. Whatever is offered must be the best God has given us, or of the ability God has given. There is often hesitancy about joining the church for lack of more evidence, or a greater experience; but he who has a dove can offer it in humility, and with a deep sense of poverty, when probably a kid would exalt him and render his offering unacceptable. But when one really has a bullock to offer, he would prefer it to be a dove. For example, if he has been guilty of adultery or drunkenness, he has a bullock to offer in confession and would then be glad if it was some smaller thing, as but a dove. But the general tendency is to make offerings less than they ought to be. It is often the ease in contributions that doves are given when bullocks ought to be offered.


This was also a special feast, and embraced all, both great and small, that were present in Shushan the palace. It was given in the court of the garden of the king’s palace, which was magnificently festooned with white, green and blue hangings, with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble. There were also beds, probably couches for reclining, and they were of gold and silver upon a pavement of variegated marble. It must have been bewildering in its magnificence even to the king’s servants accustomed to some extent to the riches of his glorious kingdom. A total stranger in that presence would no doubt have been like the man at the feast without a wedding garment, he would have been speechless. There could have been no toleration of folly in any guest at such a feast as that.

“And they gave them drink in vessels of gold (the vessels being diverse one from another), and royal wine in abundance according to the state of the king; and the drinking was according to the law; none did compel; for so the king had appointed to all the officers of his house, that they should do according to every man’s pleasure.”

The vessels were different in shape and size, but they were all of gold and were the king’s, as there are different gifts, but all of God. If the vessel was small and held but little, he to whom it was offered could bear but little; but if larger, it was because more was needed. That which, as to quantity, would but cheer one, might inebriate another. Some have more grace than others because they need more; their trials and temptations are greater. As thy day thy strength shall be. Those who drank, drank all as unto the king’s honor and glory, and their hearts were cheered. He who gives but a cup of water to a disciple for love of God praises God and gets comfort to his own soul. He who in his weakness is but able to speak a word of common comfort to a troubled fellow-servant, both scattereth and increaseth, dispenses good and receives good.


The drinking was according to law; there was no compulsion. It was not the duty of any man to drink the king’s wine, but the privilege of all to drink it. Had the king commanded it, it would then have been the duty of all to drink it, and the privilege of none to refuse it. It is the privilege of an unmarried man to marry a wife, but not his duty; that is to say, he is not compelled by law to marry; he may or may not, as he chooses; he violates no law if he does, and none if he does not; it is his privilege. But if he does marry it is his duty to support his wife and children. He may use any lawful means in their support; he may be a lawyer, doctor, farmer, mechanic or merchant, or may engage in any other lawful pursuit for their support; but if he is a Christian there are lawful pursuits in which he may not engage; he may not keep a tippling shop and be the means of crazing his fellow-creatures, inciting brawls, demoralizing young men and sending old ones home infuriated with whisky to maltreat their families and squander their living. This is no Christian’s privilege, because it violates his duty to God and his fellow creatures. No privilege may violate a duty; if privilege and duty conflict, privilege yields to duty. No privilege absolves us from duty, but every privilege enjoyed entails additional obligations. It is not our duty to go in debt, it is our privilege; there is no compulsion of law; we may or may not as we choose. There may be a compulsion of necessity, as there was in drinking the wine; but if we do go in debt it is our duty to pay our debt; it is not our privilege to evade its payment even if the law of the country affords the means of evasion. If iniquitous laws prevail the righteous mourn. Ammon, when he violated his sister Tamar, despised her; so men despise law when they outrage justice. Mercy is lovely, but mercy at the expense of justice is a harlot by the wayside luring the simple and vicious to destruction. There must be no compulsion in mercy, it must be voluntary and uniforced, otherwise it is robbery and extortion. It is not our privilege to extend mercy at the expense of justice. Our mercy must be at our own expense, and not at the expense of others nor to the injury of society. If we are charitable and give alms to the poor it must be of our own and not the goods of another. Our fleshly sympathy should not influence us so as to cause us to set the law aside. Joshua stoned Achan to death, not because he hated him, for be probably deeply sympathized with him, but because the safety of Israel and the glory of God required the faithful execution of the law, and it was not therefore his privilege to pardon him. But it is our privilege to dispose of our own as we please, and not even then to the injury of others. The householder who gave a penny apiece to those who wrought but an hour, did those who bore the heat and burden of the day no injury, because he paid them according to contract, and it was his privilege to give the others that much or more if he pleased, but it would not have been his privilege, if doing so had rendered him unable to pay the others the penny agreed upon. Let their needs have been ever so deep and his compassion ever so great, it would not have been his privilege to have afforded them relief at the expense and to the injury of those whom he agreed to pay. It would have been unjust, and would have been mercy at the expense of justice, which is robbery. Nor would it have accorded with the king’s honor, or “shown the riches of his glorious kingdom,” to have provided wine at this feast at the expense and to the injury of others; let those needing the wine been ever so infirm and feeble, he could not have relieved them. It is our privilege to publish the GOSPEL MESSENGER, but not a duty—that is, there is no special command for it; nor is it a church institution, else there would have been a command for it. But it is not our privilege to publish heresy in it; if we do, we are amenable to the church for violating the king’s law. Nor does the publication of this magazine relieve us in any degree of our duty to the church, either as ministers or members, no more than our farm does. It is your privilege to subscribe for it, but not by reading it to keep away from church, or be freed any church duty, or Christian duty to the poor, ministers or others, or reading the scriptures. But privileges simply impose greater obligations, as drinking the king’s wine did upon those drinking it.


The mercy in the gospel of Christ provided for the poor, needy, helpless and infirm, is not at the expense of justice or in violation of the holy law of God. It would not have been to the glory and honor of God for it to have been so; if so, it would not have shown the riches of grace or of the glorious kingdom of Christ, but its poverty and destitution. But so rich is this kingdom in grace, in justice and mercy, that the feast costs the sinner nothing, absolutely nothing! not even so much as a contrite tear; for if it had cost him even that much, he could never have paid it. But it cost the holy Saviour a life of bitter sorrow and inexpressible humiliation and a shameful death, all that justice should not be violated in extending mercy. Therefore mercy, as the wine at the feast, is provided at the King’s cost; and though many feel no need of it, many do, and to them it is an unspeakable blessing and no injury to others. The drinking was according to law, and none therefore were forced by the king’s officers to drink, and none were forbidden. Those who drank, drank from necessity, as the publican prayed from necessity, saying “God be merciful to me a sinner.” But this necessity did

not arise from the king’s command; his mercy in providing it did not create the necessity for it; it was provided to meet and supply their needs. It shows the riches of his glorious kingdom. So grace is forced by law upon none; to force it is to violate the King’s command. The publican could say, and did say in spirit, feeling humiliation, shame and penitence for his sins, “God be merciful to me a sinner,” but to have forced one to have said the same thing, who felt no penitence, should have been to make him confess what he did not feel, and to have violated God’s law in bearing false witness. The gospel is forced upon none and forbid to none, but is free to any and all who may feel the need of it. It costs the sinner nothing.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 27 September 2006 )
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