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Home arrow 50 Yrs Among The Baptists arrow Commentary On The Book Of Esther--Part 5
Commentary On The Book Of Esther--Part 5 PDF Print E-mail
Written by John R. Respess   


It was not designed to do away with a queen for the king and empire, but an unworthy one. A wife and queen was. necessary, and therefore the king’s servants, those who ministered to him, said that which pleased the king when they prayed him that officers be appointed in every province of the empire to gather together unto the palace at Shushan all the fair young virgins that the maiden which should please the king be made queen instead of Vashti. They felt the necessity of a queen worthy the king; a king whose reverence for law was too great to spare even Vashti, with all her loveliness. They knew that a queen in her place must possess qualifications superior to those of Vashti. The outward qualifications of mind, morals and person, they could discern, but the higher and essential qualification, the regenerated spirit, and without which all others were vain, the king only could discern; and in whom he discerned it, with that one he would be pleased and would crown her queen. She would be crowned queen as the good tree is crowned with good fruit, because the tree had been made good.



All the fair young virgins were therefore called out of every province. There is more than one kind of calling. There is a holy calling, or a calling of the Spirit; and there is a fleshly calling, or one according to nature. They did not believe the simple calling would qualify any of the fair young virgins for the high position to which they aspired; but that the one to be chosen queen must be called, and whether that calling was. a spiritual impulse, the irresistible call of the Spirit, or the call of ambition in search of worldly honor or not, the king only would be able to discern. All would profess to honor the law and reverence the king; Vashti did that; but the test was whether that was from the heart and from experience, or merely from the lips. There must be no lack; the one to be chosen must be perfect, and being perfect she would please the king. We might be outwardly very humble, and. profess it with our lips, but God only would know whether we were so in heart; and he would know that we were not so in heart, if we had never felt the spirituality and holiness of his law and our own vileness.

If a thousand of us should make such professions, and one only of the thousand was in heart what he professed, that one of the thousand only would be accepted or chosen, because the only one fit for the position and qualified in soul to honor the holiness of God’s law; the law that condemned him. The king, as the law, requires perfection, and will be pleased with nothing less; but does not supply or provide it, though demanding it. Perfection is required by the law and supplied by Christ.

So, many fair young virgins were called. It was a high position to which they aspired, and doubtless every one of them felt qualified for it but the one who was qualified. She, of all of them, was called by a different spirit from them; with her, the call was a necessity; with them a gratification; she couldn’t live without it. She was like the woman who was called by necessity to cry to Jesus, saying, “Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me!” And though he answered her not a word, and the disciples besought him to send her away, yet she could not be discouraged; she couldn’t go away, but cried, “Lord, help me!” She felt her unworthiness, but her needs were so great that she couldn’t go back, (Matt. xv). But many are called by the spirit of the rich young man who went to Christ asking what good thing he must do; and like him, they can go back; they can get along without Christ. A drunkard and gambler may be called by ruined health and fortune to sobriety, and thus repent of his dissipation; but it is simply a reformation of conduct, and not a change of heart. But it is such a change as might be mistaken for regeneration by others, as well as himself. Nineveh had a call that made her reform as a city and saved her, in a temporal sense, as a city. A nation may change its policy and thus save its national life. Worldly aspirations may call men to burn the midnight lamp in toilsome study for years and years, for honor and praise of man; it may call them to the carnage and death of the battle. field; to apparent self-sacrifice in the service of their country; to giving their goods to feed the poor; and even their bodies to the stake, and to go as missionaries to heathen lands, infatuated with the idea of saving souls from hell. Love of money calls men to hard labor, struggles and sacrifices of life and health; and it may be possible that love of money has more to do with some Primitive Baptists than they are aware of. We have feared it has with us. Still, men have been called by the Spirit to toils and sacrifices for Christ and the church; to sobriety and honesty; and by love of country to the battle-field and to lives of self sacrifice.

In all this great empire then shall purity of heart be found? Shall we find it in the moral world, with all its mental culture, its advance in art and science? If we do, we shall find that it is not. native or born of it, though in it, as Esther was. Christ was in the world, but not of it. His kingdom was not of this world. Paul had outward moral perfection, but not the spirit of it until he had Christ’s spirit; and when he had that spirit, he was fit for union with God; fit to honor the law in spirit that he honored before in the letter, and in the keeping of which he exalted only himself.

There was great zeal in the king’s officers searching out the most beautiful virgins in all the provinces, each hoping to secure the prize, and thus gain honor and promotion; or if not zealous of honor, of the king’s glory and the good of the country. We reckon, therefore, there was hardly ever seen before such an array of beautiful maidens as was gathered together in Shushan, the palace. But be the number ever so large, and their beauty and excellence ever so great, there could be only one of them chosen; there was only one of them qualified in the spirit for the high position.



Now, in Shushan, the palace, there was a certain Jew whose name was Mordecai, who had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captivity by the king of Babylon. And he brought up Esther, his uncle’s daughter; for she had neither father nor mother; and she was fair and beautiful, whom Mordecai, when her father and mother were dead, took for his own daughter. So it came to pass when many maidens were gathered together into Shushan, that Esther was also brought unto the king’s house to the custody of the keeper of the women. And the maiden pleased the chamberlain and she obtained kindness of him; and he speedily gave her her things for purification, with such other things as belonged to her; and he preferred her and her maids unto the best place of the women.


Now, Esther differed from any other maiden called to the palace. She was a Jew, and the only Jew; a captive and the only captive, and an orphan. As a Jew, she was of the chosen people; and her preparation for, and exaltation to, the high position to which she aspired, were the results of’ her predestination to it, and not the cause of it. Being a Jew, she came in the spirit of a Jew, or of a spiritual man, which a Jew represents, and in which spirit not one of the other virgins came.—Rom. ii, 29. They came in their own spirit, or the spirit of nature. She was a captive, had experienced the power of sin and the holiness of the law in her captivity; and knew what it was to be brought into captivity to the law of sin; she had experienced a change from one country or condition to another condition; this none of all the other fair young virgins had experienced, but were in the country or condition in which they had been born. They were as Moab, by whom the unregenerate are represented. “Moab hath been at ease from his youth, and he hath settled on his lees, and hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel, neither hath he gone in captivity; therefore his taste remained in him, and his scent is not changed.”--Jer. xlviii, 11. She was an orphan and an adopted child of her kinsman, Mordecai, and was, therefore, a child of promise. When she was accepted or chosen by the king it was because she was qualified for the place; as when one is received into the church as a member, it is because the church deems such a one fit or qualified for the church. The church believes that such member is of the elect of God, and in consequence of that election has been redeemed, called, purified and qualified for the position. Upon these grounds the church accepts the member, and not upon the grounds of eternal and particular election. If one were to come to the church and profess to believe in election and predestination, and show no evidence of inward purification, the church would not receive such a member into her fellowship. All these maidens went through a course of PURIFICATION in the letter, whilst Esther only went through both the purification of the letter and spirit.



Purification literally means making clean. The Jews in the Saviour’s day seemed to know nothing of a necessity for any cleansing save a ceremonial cleansing of the outside. They could not comprehend Christ when he taught them that the heart must be purified; and that the man was blessed whose heart was pure or purified. Blessed are the pure in heart, or the purified in heart, for they shall see God; not those purified outside, but those purified in heart. He taught the same when he said, “Make the tree good and the fruit will be good.” The religious world to-day have ‘much the same notion that the Jews had. It is taught that you must join the church and be baptized, and you will be saved; that it will be the means of salvation. But joining the church and being baptized must be a work of the heart, and then it is a work of righteousness; then the work is the work of a man blessed of the Lord. No outside cleansing; no purity of conduct will purify the heart; the heart must first be purified by regeneration, by penitence, prayer and faith, and then the purification will be as the purification of the sons of Levi. God alone can purify the heart; it is the work of the Spirit upon and in the heirs of promise. And he (God) shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; and he shall purify the sons of Levi (the redeemed elect) and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. (Mal. iii.) The outward thrust comes from the inward purification or the inward work of the Spirit. The baptism of a believer, whilst it mainly represents his death to sin and self-dependence and self-righteousness, and his resurrection to life in Christ, also represents a washing or purification, as when Paul was told to “Arise and be baptized and wash away his sins.” It is a consecration to Christ in a literal sense, prompted by the work of the Spirit in the heart, and is a result of a purification of the heart. The indwelling of God’s spirit in the heart by penitence, prayer, and faith, sanctified it and set it apart as the temple of the Lord. Thus God purifies or prepares his people for his use or holy purposes. Outward seeking and purification will never touch the heart; or if it does, it will only lift it up in greater pride and condemnation. The crab-apple tree in its native forest will bear crab-apples; and if it be transplanted to a field and manured and cultivated it will only bear more bushels of the same fruit. Its nature is the same with all its cultivation. So it was with these fair young virgins. They were brought in their natural condition to the king’s palace, and the purification of twelve months only made them more prolific of natural fruits. But with Esther it was different. She was called there by the spirit of her kinsman. Outwardly, there was but little difference between her and the other virgins. They were all fair, all outwardly anointed with the same ointments, but Esther’s was from the heart, whilst theirs was in the letter only. Esther was conscious of something of which they knew nothing. She had a secret in her heart of which they were ignorant—a plague from which they were free. She was a Jew and felt and feared the shame of it. She could not tell it; it seemed to be in the way of her desires. As if one today should be seeking God’s favor, but the consciousness of sin seemed to be in the way. Oh, if Ii was not a sinner, then I might be saved! But I am a poor Jew, or sinner; the poorest of all the Jews; for I have nothing, nothing at all. The publican could not so much as lift up his eyes to God, but smote upon his breast, crying, God be merciful to me a sinner! This sense of her unworthiness humbled her heart and gave her a meek and lowly appearance, which gave her favor with Hegai, so that he preferred her to the best place of the house of the women. How the heart of the child of God goes out to the meek and lowly penitent. It is seen even in their faces, so that the sadness of heart even in their faces entreats favor of God’s people. It is irresistible. The penitent does not design it, but he can’t help it. There is no deceit in it, for it is a purification of the countenance from the heart. If the other virgins had .this meekness, it was of the flesh, and not of the heart; they were not ashamed of it, but proud of it. But with Esther it was different. She was a captive; she was bound; she needed and felt the need of a deliverer, and that she could not live without it, though in no sense worthy of it; and that none could deliver her but the King. To her he became, as her purification progressed, more and more necessary. It was with her a matter of life and death and she sought it not the less eagerly because of her unworthiness; but the greater her sense of unworthiness the more deeply she felt the need of it. It was with her as with the man slayer flying to the city of refuge; he must gain the city or perish. He could not turn back because the avengers pursued him; it was from them he fled at first, and it was from them he continued to fly. The cause that started him to fly continued him flying; nor could he stop until he found safety in the city of refuge. So Esther could not turn back; the necessity, the irresistible call of the Spirit that started her ever continued with her. She had nothing to go back to; if she lost now, then all was lost!

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 27 September 2006 )
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