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Commentary On The Book Of Esther--Part 6 PDF Print E-mail
Written by John R. Respess   


And Mordecai walked every day before the court of the women’s house to know how Esther did and what should become of her.

Mordecai was not an unconcerned spectator of her trials, but was indeed afflicted in all her afflictions. He was anxious for her and for his people. It is a matter of wonder sometimes to the world that the people of God can pray, and have trouble, sorrow, and anxiety; and it has been said, if I believed what you do, that I would never have any trouble at all. Well, it does seem a little strange sometimes that we have trouble; but only the people of God who have real soul trouble. Satan thought the doctrine of Christ was a doctrine of licentiousness and presumption, and told Christ to cast himself down from the pinnacle Of the temple, because it could not hurt him; for if what is written is true, it can’t hurt you, for it is written “He shall give his angels charge over you to bear you up lest at any time you dash your foot against a stone, &c. That is, as Satan understood, it will not hurt you to cast yourself from the pinnacle, for he will bear you up; or do as you may do and you will you saved any how. That is the way Satan believed it, and the way he yet believes it. And, whilst it is true that “what is to be will be,” it is also true that the doctrine of grace is a salvation from sin, and the Spirit works a hatred of sin in the heart and a fear of God, and never works presumption in it. That is the work of Satan as he attempted it with Christ. Satan did not understand the use of the doctrine of grace, but thought that all the use there could be for it was to allow a man to sin, and would doubtless have loved it in that sense. If he had have experienced David’s troubles, his narrow escapes, the power of his great enemy Saul, and his own weakness, when he was made to cry out that he would one day fall by his hand, and that there was but a step between life and death, he could have understood the worth of the doctrine of God’s grace, when spoken to David, “I have given my angels charge over thee, and they shall bear thee up” I am keeping you. That is why God’s people love the doctrine of immutable love and infinite power, because it is necessary to bear them up in the conflicts of sin. So that to be a child of God is to have solicitude and concern; Christ had it, and his people will have it when they have his Spirit. But it is of Him and not of their own spirit.

Mordecai loved Esther; she was his adopted child and kinsman and she was in trouble, and he could not love her and be unconcerned and she troubled. Naomi was concerned for Ruth, and sought her rest; and so identified was she with Ruth in her troubles, that Ruth’s rest would be her rest.  She couldn’t be easy and Ruth in trouble; but when Ruth had rest Naomi had rest in her rest; and Ruth’s child became Naomi’s child. She had joy in Ruth’s joys. And old Christians now have joys in the joys of penitent sinners; they, when they have passed that age of bearing, bring forth in those for whom God has wrought a concern in their hearts. They can neither bring this concern on nor put it off; it is in them a work of the Spirit, as it is in the penitent sinner. The Church of Christ cannot bring on a revival; her travail, like Sarah’s, is a work of the Spirit and not of the flesh. Hagar’s was fleshly, but Sarah’s was of God. But when Zion travails she will bring forth; her concern is of God, as Mordecai’s was for Esther; and it will prompt prayers to God, anxiety for the upbuilding of the church, and will be a travail of soul in Christ’ Spirit as Christ did for the church himself. We cannot have this concern for our own children only as the Lord begets it in us; and then it will be a trouble for others as a trouble for ourselves. We may have it for a stranger and not for our own children even. It is the work of God in us, and it was in Mordecai a work of God to be concerned for Esther as it was a work of God in Esther to be concerned for herself. So God gives ministers concern for the church, and they are troubled and are made to feel “Woe is me if I preach not the gospel.” They get comfort in the church’s comfort, are comforted together by their mutual faith. So they are made to walk every day before the court to see what will become of those, for whom God has concerned them. O, that Zion might travail, and that. God would turn our captivity! And then Jacob would rejoice and Israel be glad.


Now when Esther’s turn came to go in unto the king, she required nothing but what Hegai, the King’s chamberlain, appointed.

Esther’s turn to go in unto the King like David’s to go in before Samuel the prophet, came last. Whilst all the sons of Jesse were called before the prophet, only one of them was called by the spirit, and prepared for the high position to which he was called. David was sent for as the last and the least, and was anointed fresh from the sheepfold to be chief or first in Israel. Samuel, the servant and prophet of the Lord, did not know himself which of Jesse’s sons God had chosen and called to the high position only as the Lord revealed it to him When the first and elder son Eliab came in before him Samuel said: “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before me;” but the Lord said to him, “Look not on his countenance or the height of his stature, because I have refused him; for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” Samuel could give to David only the things God had appointed for him; nor as a faithful servant could he withhold them from him or bestow them upon another. To have anointed either of the other sons would have been disobedience to God, and brought the word and spirit in conflict, as if to say that he was chosen whom the spirit had not called and prepared. The word and spirit always agree, and will always accept him whom God has prepared. To have anointed another would have been withholding from David what God had given him, and from Israel that which God had given her in David, which would have been a crime both against David and Israel. For the blessings God had treasured in David for Israel could come through no other channel; Israel had already experienced a failure in seeking them in Saul. To have anointed Eliab, the elder, would have been to seek in him that which God had put in David only; as if to seek in the law that which God has put in the gospel; and been as taking one Saul from the throne and putting another in his stead. People may now substitute, for salvation, the works in the gospel for the works of the law; they would not now expect men to be saved by sacrificing sheep and oxen, but substitute joining the church and baptism for such sacrifices, and whilst the name of the work is changed the spirit is the same. And whilst it is true that God appointed works he never appointed any work of man as a means of his eternal salvation, neither under the law nor gospel; that gift was given the church in Christ before the world began, and Christ was the -anointed of the Father as the depositary of that grace for his people; as David was anointed by the prophet as the bead of Israel, because God had prepared him and called him to that special work whilst in the wilderness, and his anointing, therefore, was a manifestation of the work for which God had prepared him. And having this work committed to him, it was required of him as it was required of no other, and could be fulfilled by no other. He, of all the son’s of Jesse, could only feel the responsibility of the work; and to have anointed another would have been to require something of him that he could not do.

Esther, as David, was the last to go in unto the King, and was made first or chief, because in spirit she was chief; chief in humility and loveliness of spirit, and in her own esteem the least of all, and thus prepared to serve all, or be queen. She who serves all must be least of all, and thus the least is the greatest and the last the first or chief.

Esther’s concern was not so much as to her outward appearance as it was to her heart; with her the paramount desire was to be right in heart. She had no desire to attain the high place and not be right in heart; that to attain it thus would not bring rest to her soul, and that was the thing she desired and without which she could not do. It was not that she might attain it, and then keep it by better works and efforts than already made by her; for she had done her best; but the irresistible desire of her heart was to get it, whilst in her soul she felt that without grace she could not keep it. Here was a desire she could not get rid of, and a fear and trembling with it that almost appalled her. She had learned by experience that she had no strength or goodness, and if kept in righteousness it must be of grace; of God and not of herself; and, therefore, the question with her was, am I in spirit in union with the king? is my desire of the Lord or of the flesh? Is it for worldly good or spiritual good? and, if of the Lord, then my diligence and service will be of him, and he will retain me in the place to which he exalts me. As if you had involved yourself .in obligations to live a certain life against which there are the strongest natural inclinations and temptations; and time and again you have been ready to fly your obligations, when by some seemingly fortuitous circumstance you have been prevented and saved from destruction, and have been made to thank God that he kept you from sin. So at last you are made to distrust self and lose confidence in the flesh, and are made to look, of necessity, to God to keep you faithful instead of to yourself, and are made to say in heart instead of as once you said, “I will do right and live right and keep God’s favor,” you say, “O Lord, keep me in thy favor aid then I shall live right, and my living right shall be of thee, and thee only.” Then, instead of praying, “O Lord forgive me and I will do better,” we pray “O Lord forgive me and keep mc from sinning against thee.” “Except,” said one of experience in days of old, “the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.”

Esther was prepared to see that her starting, it right, must be of the Lord; her continued seeking of him, else she would turn back; and that at last, when brought into union with him it must be of his spirit, as the drop of rain returning to the ocean from whence it sprang. “That it was grace that taught her heart to fear,” and that it all depended upon him from first to last. Iii this spirit she could not require or desire anything not appointed her by the king’s chamberlain who as the king’s servant and minister, would appoint her nothing for which she was unprepared in spirit, and which would not minister to the king’s honor. Her acceptance and the king’s honor Were linked together; that is, his word would bestow upon her that for which she was prepared in spirit, and that there would be unity of word and spirit, and unity of king and Esther. She knew in the honesty of her heart, that nothing could be appointed her by the chamberlain that would minister to her own honor, and that anything appointed her for good, must be of grace, and minister to the king’s honor; that the very little hope and desire she had was not of herself, but was of a spirit contrary to her pride and self-righteousness. Thus she could not go in with exalted notions of self, but in self-abasement, feeling the holiness of the law that condemned her, and if accepted that it must be an act of absolute grace to her, and if refused an act of absolute justice. In this spirit she could not be Arminian. The chamberlain as her friend, (for she had his favor) would withhold nothing from her that he could lawfully and in faith bestow upon her; but. to appoint anything for her for which she was not prepared in spirit, would be vain for her and dishonoring to the king. A young woman suffering intensely under conviction for sin, once sent for us in the hope that we could relieve her; but we could only give her the things appointed, by the King for the troubled penitent; we could not give her the peace appointed for the believer; and this she realized before she received the peace. In a few days God relieved her, and when she came to the church with such things as God had appointed for her, she was received by the church and baptized, and thus the church gave her the things she desired and that were committed to the church for believers. But the church could have bestowed upon her nothing for which God had not prepared her; nor would she have been content with acceptance with the church and rejection of God. The church cannot bestow baptism and other gospel blessings upon infants and unbelievers, for God has not appointed such things for them. It is true that sometimes men creep into the church unawares—wolves in sheep’s clothing—with evil intent, and obtain privileges of which they know they are unworthy; but they are right in appearance; they have a sheep’s clothing but a wolf’s heart, and deceive the church, but God is not deceived. Such men, no doubt, always tell a big experience, for they would not counterfeit a little one. A big experience, we have thought, is more apt to be false than a little one. Some of the children of God have such little ones that, like Samuel, they have to be told, as he was by Eli, that it was the call of God to them. Unity with God is the most exalted state into which a child of God is brought in this life. Paul had learned to be content in whatever condition he was in. He had learned how to be up and to be down, how to be abased, to suffer want and to abound; because however his frames and feelings might change, he knew that God did not change, and that he cared as much for him in want as in abundance; and that his times and changes were in his hands, and that all things were made to work together for his good. If there be ill in state, church or family, he knew it could not be and God not regard it; and that he ruled over all kingdoms, both material and spiritual, and that none is able to withstand him. If a child of God be in sorrow and want, it is not unknown to Him; that he is of more value than many sparrows, and not one of them falls in death without his notice. And whilst this spirit rules in the church and amongst ministers, there will be no envying and evil; for none will require anything not appointed them, and none withhold from any that which is appointed them of Go& Thus there will be humility, love and equality. No brother will seek the place appointed of God for another, but will prefer his brother in honor and in lowliness of mind esteem his brother better than himself. Here, then, is a preparation for a spiritual or gospel feast, even ESTHER’S FEAST.


And the king made a great feast unto all his princes and his servants, even Esther’s feast; and he made a release to the provinces and gave gifts according to the state of the king.

Esther’s feast was a Jewish or spiritual feast, and was, therefore different from Vashti’s which was fleshly. Vashti’s was provided by herself to her own honor and the dishonor of the king. Esther’s was provided by the king, glorified him and gave release or rest to the provinces of his empire. Vashti could not have feasted with Esther, nor could Esther have feasted with Vashti, any more than the self-righteous pharisee praying in the temple could have rejoiced with the penitent publican. The penitent woman who so humbly and affectionately washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed them, had a feast that angered and disgusted the hard-hearted pharisee who beheld her. Some of the same sort of Jews in prophetical days made feasts of swine’s flesh—unclean meat or false doctrine. Feasting upon that sort of meat increases self-righteousness, so that they said then as now, “Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou.”—Isa., lxv., 5. Even the mere letter of the truth, if feasted upon without the spirit, is a. fleshly feast, and increases self-importance and hardens the heart. If one rejoices in the doctrine of grace because he thinks it licenses him to the least sin, it is a feast to the flesh, and will harden the heart and blind the eyes. It will tend to substitute the letter for the spirit, and gender a worship that is mere formalism or ritualism: it will tithe mint, anise and cumin and kill out love, mercy and judgment. It will boast of its strict conformity to the letter, and glory in that in stead of God, and he a feast in honor of the flesh instead of Christ. Love will die out. In Esther’s feast there was a release or rest to the provinces of the king’s empire. The poor and oppressed rested from their burdens. So Jesus taught in person, saving, Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavily laden, and I will give you rest. The Jews were time poor in the king’s provinces as penitent sinners are the poor now. They had been rich, but it was when they were in a very different condition or country. But they had been led away as captives from their olive yards and vineyards to find the rest or release they could not find in their own land, surrounded by their own wealth. They never dreamed of finding it in that way, or that they were giving up all for it when they were led weeping as captives to a strange land. Nor did we, when we were allured and brought into the wilderness—the place of destitution and poverty—to receive all we sought in the valley of Achor (sorrow).  To the poor, burdened Jews, it was a feast, a day of joy and rest. To the poor naturally, it was probably a day of natural release, but to the Jews it had a twofold significance.

Our worldly trials are closely allied with our spiritual trials; because it is natural for us to think that worldly adversity is a sign that God does not care for us, and thus we are double burdened. Some months ago, as vile as we are, we were burdened in this way for a length of time. We grew very miserable, until one morning before day on our bed, we had been wondering what would become of us and our children, if things went on as they had been going on for the last few years. We were frail in body, getting old, and our property, which was once valuable, like the property -generally in the South was daily depreciating; that we had never been trained to any pursuit or profession to make a living, and were now too old and feeble to learn one. So we were tossed in a tempest in the midst of the sea. We felt at times ready to murmur and say our lot was hard; and then to say, we cannot be a Christian else it would not be thus with us; or if thus, we would -take it joyfully; and though we had been devoted, at least outwardly, to the church and the cause of Christ, yet we were coming to nothing even there; for our love -seemed to have died, though our diligence was ever so much; we were hard hearted and distrustful, and filled with evil surmisings; that we loved none and no one loved us; and that everything we put our hand to withered at our touch; that our mind was doubly burdened; that we were sawn asunder with conflicting desires and given up to vain and filthy thoughts until our misery was great upon us. And what will become of us in the future? For we have done our best, and have grown worse and failed, and what will the end be? It suddenly occurred to us, what does Christ say about it? Do we believe in him at all? And we were, after a pause, ready to say, yes, we believe in him, and if so, believe his word; and he teaches us that sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof; tomorrow will provide for flue things of tomorrow. Is that true? And if so, why do you trouble yourself about to-morrow, seeing that by taking such thoughts you can’t alter it? We had rest; we were released from the burden and had -a feast for several days. Thus we looked up; we dread death and it is a monster—but the dread will be made less by fiery trials. As the things of the world are less loved by us, so the loss of them will be less cared for and as they grow less to us, so the things of God will grow greater to us, and thus our spiritual desires will swallow up, in a great measure, our worldly cares. As little by little we learn that our treasure is not here, but in that country to which we are journeying, so we will more and more look up and lay up treasures there; for our heart will be there; and as it is there, so much is it dead to the world; and as it is deadened (mortified) to the world, so we rest from our burdens. -And if Christ is made our ALL—and he must be all or nothing—we have all things in Him, though we have little or nothing in the world but afflictions, trials and sorrows, yet in them we have Christ and can sometimes rejoice in tribulations. Then we have rest, even in the midst of the furnace. It is a Sabbath day, a rest to our souls. But if our hearts are filled with surfeiting and banqueting, with love of the world, and pride and vanity, with much store laid up for many days then the summons to death will be to death indeed, but to him who is poor and needy, tried, tempted and weary, a captive wandering to and fro, and desolate. We hope the summons will be to lay down the burden of sin to eternal rest. There will be nothing to leave but sin and sorrow.

When God gives us such thoughts, he gives us a feast; but we cannot provide it ourselves. They feast him who has nothing but his hope ahead. But to him who has his good things, who has built new barns in which to store his goodness and riches, it is anything but a feast. Thus the poor feast upon what is laid up in and by Christ; upon the doctrine of grace, whilst the rich are sent empty away. That which feasts the poor, famishes the rich; that which the poor love, the rich hate. Thus the prodigal son feasted whilst the self-righteous home son raged. The hungry penitent had a joy that the self-righteous and thrifty home son despised. And thus it ever is.

Christ teaches us how to make a feast. And he, of course, teaches us the way he did. He says when you make a dinner or supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen nor thy rich neighbors, lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. He came to save his enemies. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, for they cannot recompense thee. No works in that feast; no meeting on the half-way ground; no pay for what they eat, nor expectation to pay. Then he said unto them, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many, saying, come, for all things are ready; and they all, with one consent, made excuse. They were all well-to-do people—they had property. One had bought -a piece of ground, and that kept him away; another five yoke of oxen, and that him, and another was well off enough to marry, and that kept him. They weren’t poor enough for the feast. How is that teaching compared with the doctrine is now taught the world? The fact is that those who feast upon Christ must be poor and helpless; and that none would ever be of his own natural will. -Many things we might say here, but space forbids. That was the pharisees. Then the servant was sent out into the lanes and streets, where the poor and the outcast live, and carried in the poor, the maimed, the halt and the blind of the Jews, we suppose, and yet there was room. But the house must be filled; and the servant was sent out into the highways and hedges to compel them to come. There is where we were found, if we have ever been brought in. It was by compulsion. Now this was a poor, helpless set at that feast. Not one man there who could have got there himself, and not -one able to pay a cent for what he got. If these well-to-do people had have gone, it would have been in their own esteem a great condescension, and the feast would have been to their own great goodness and humility in eating with such a crowd of poor, despised beings. Christ teaches us that such men will not go—that they cannot, that only such go to Him as have nothing; neither righteousness, wisdom or ability. To such as these the gospel is made a feast by the grace of God. The lame take the prey.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 27 September 2006 )
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