Devotional: Esther Chapter 4 – Another Impossible Situation

Mordecai Persuades Esther to Help

 1) When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly.

In the US, we don’t express our emotions outwardly like this or put on a show with our grief, but many cultures do. Many cultures, even today, will have standard ways of acting out emotions in a dramatic way that gives people a culturally acceptable way to express themselves. It was not seen as “just trying to get attention,” as Americans often accuse each other, but as an art form to tell the world what you are dealing with on the inside. It is like a drama that was both accepted and expected in Middle Eastern cultures. It is very much like putting on black clothes for a funeral, or fancy clothes for a wedding, but with actions as well. 

2) But he went only as far as the king’s gate, because no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter it.

 3) In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes.

 4) When Esther’s eunuchs and female attendants came and told her about Mordecai, she was in great distress. She sent clothes for him to put on instead of his sackcloth, but he would not accept them.

Apparently, Esther was in a bubble in the palace life and had not heard what was going on. This is not surprising since she would not have been allowed to leave the palace much. Since no one in the court knew she was a Jew, no one would have told her about the command. This does show, though, that she and Mordecai continued to stay in contact and care for each other over the years. This secret relationship would have taken much effort from both people. She may have sent Mordecai clothes so that he could come into the palace grounds to speak with her, but he would rather talk to a messenger than pretend he was not mourning. This shows that Mordecai was not a person to wear a mask, hide his emotions, or play politics. 

 5) Then Esther summoned Hathak, one of the king’s eunuchs assigned to attend her, and ordered him to find out what was troubling Mordecai and why.

6) So Hathak went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate.

 7) Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him, including the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay into the royal treasury for the destruction of the Jews.

 8) He also gave him a copy of the text of the edict for their annihilation, which had been published in Susa, to show to Esther and explain it to her, and he told him to instruct her to go into the king’s presence to beg for mercy and plead with him for her people.

It is noticeable that Mordecai is not remorseful over his refusal to bow to Haman. A balanced person would have kept the conflict between just the two men. Instead, Haman decides to kill men, women, and children over his hatred of Mordecai. Mordecai’s grief is over the innocent people whose lives and just been sentenced to death. It is just pure genocide. 

9) Hathak went back and reported to Esther what Mordecai had said.

10) Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai,

 11) “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.”

Esther’s freedom to talk to the King has diminished since she revealed the plot against the King’s life earlier in the book. The King not seeing his wife for a month seems to show that he was enjoying other company at the moment, and she had to be careful with the deadly nature of palace politics. She is also having to have a cautious conversation with Mordecai through a servant. This must have been a very trusted person to convey these messages.

12) When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai,

 13) he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape.

 14) For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

“Such a time as this…” These words in the book or Esther often come to mind for me. God is a master weaver of events. I am continually amazed at how separate strands of experience will come together at a specific time and occasion for a purpose. This is the first time in this book that either Esther or Mordecai reflect on why so much good has happened to them. God often doesn’t just bless us just for ourselves, but for us to pour out blessings on everyone around us. Have you experienced this in your own life?

15) Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai:

 16) “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

17) So Mordecai went away and carried out all of Esther’s instructions.

We are often told in the church that everything we do with prayer will succeed, but the Bible characters are not always so certain. Other characters, such as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, express the same uncertainty about God’s saving them from the fiery furnace. God does not need perfect faith; He needs obedience. It isn’t the lack of fear that makes courage, but action in the face of fear that signifies courage. In my own experience, God does not always heal; He doesn’t always save; He doesn’t always delivers, BUT God always answers. He is always with us; He always has a plan; He is always doing what is best for us; He always brings peace, joy, and grace in the trials. As I have been working through the Bible, I see over and over again that God’s ways are not our ways. He wants us to trust him even we see no way out. Abraham had to trust God with the life of Issac, Jacob trusted God even when he thought Joseph was dead, Joseph trusted God while spending years in prison, the 3 Hebrew children trusted as they were being thrown in the fiery furnace, the prophets and disciples trusted God as they were being beaten and abused, the faith Jews trusted God while their city was burned to the ground and take to exile as slaves. Esther knows that God’s faithfulness would shine through, but the path may not be easy. Have you had to trust God through a trial in which you weren’t sure if God’s answer would be a life-altering yes or no?