Esther and our times.
We have noted interesting aspects of comparison between the sequence of events following the coming of Cyrus and those following the coming of Christ around 1874. These include the fact that his coming brought about the process of downfall for Babylon and of restoration for Israel. Both, we have seen, were to prove long procedures in fact occupying well over a hundred years. Neither process could commence before the coming of Cyrus. We have thus seen underlined in pattern the fact that any indication of these two processes in progress today constitute infallible proofs that the Greater Cyrus, Jesus, has returned.
Yet there is more! The pattern of events in those days subsequent to the coming of Cyrus bear a remarkable correspondency with the sequence of events these last days since the parousia of Christ commenced. In fact, if we lay the two periods alongside it becomes apparent that there are correspondences in terms of time to some marked events where both periods concur. This will be developed further in "Arise and Build". Our present subject centres on the Lord's dealings with Israel and world Jewry in these last days.
The coming of Cyrus marked the turning point in Israel's sad history as a captive people banished from their land. Now many prophets had spoken by inspiration of Israel's restoration. In the early days of the captivity some of these visions and assurances must have seemed almost as idle dreams. Those first oppressive years in Babylon were accompanied by the expectation that the Lord would very quickly intervene, and the Lord sent a special message by Jeremiah to tell them that this would not be so. A long period of desolation would intervene It was as though the Lord intended to air thoroughly both the land and its people to give time for the noxious vapours of sin and false worship to be eradicated. Yet through their sorrows and privations, scattered and peeled, strangers in Gentile lands, the Lord's eye was upon them. Hosea 13:9-10 "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help. I will be thy king: where is any other that may save thee in all thy cities? and thy judges of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes?" Again in Hosea 14:4 "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him." Hosea 14:1 "O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God;"
But what a long drawn-out process is involved of bringing Israel to that state of heart of full return to their Lord! We watch the process today. We strain our eyes to see what is happening to the heart of this people. The outward signs we see. Israel is to us an unmistakable evidence of the presence of the Lord Whose coming was the signal for their long captivity in Gentile lands to end. When the Jews were turned out of Spain some centuries ago we might have expected them to turn their eyes towards the promised land, but they did not entertain such hope, because they knew that their Messiah had not yet come. Today, against their belief that such times of restoration must await the Messiah, we find them back in their land. This is still a mystery to many religious Jews aware of their Scriptures (eg Isaiah 49:6.). How can the works of Messiah be taking place apparently without Him? Only AFTER the coming of Cyrus could the cry go forth, Isa 52:11, "Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the LORD." Then would they ask their way to Zion, their faces turned thitherward. It could not happen before the event. All Jews who had any faith in their Scriptures knew that. Peter knew it, as did the other disciples. The restoration of Israel was the work of Messiah. As the Master prepared to leave them the question was uppermost in their minds.. Acts 1:6 "When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?"
So what is happening to Israel now? Just as in the days after the coming of Cyrus with that proclamation so stirring to the heart of faithful Jews, a long process is involved with developing stages, hurdles to be overcome, apparent set-backs, and various trials of faith. Isaiah 52:6 -12, and many other passages of the Word would be in the mind of the Jews as they began to return to their land. The Lord had turned again their captivity and they were like them that dreamed. The opening verses of Isaiah 52 called for a great awakening in Zion, and a loosening of the captive bands from around her neck. Isa 52:1-2 "Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean. Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion." Then in verse 7, the joy of the occasion is expressed in memorable words. "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!" Verse 8 continues, "Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye ("they will see it with their own eyes."NIV), when the LORD shall bring again Zion." In the mind of the returning Jews of that day they were living in the time of fulfilment of those promises of restoration of Israel, and they would be full of expectation.
Yet not all Jews were ready to return to the land. Some had become settled and comfortable on foreign soil and wished only to stay put and not to be disturbed. The parallells to our days are obvious. Those returning to the land were in for a hard time. Much of the enthusiasm of the first band of pilgrims must have somewhat dampened at the first glimpse of the desolate land before them. They were soon to learn that there were also enemies, both without and within. The attitude of the people all around that land were hostile, and things seemed not to go according to the rosy concept of restoration they may once have entertained. There were to be periods when the work seemed to go backwards rather than forwards, and the Lord sent them three prophets, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, with messages relevant to their needs during that long-drawn period of restoration process. The lessons of flagging zeal, of wrong direction of their activities, of apathy over what was happening, the feeling that this was not the time after all.. these are well known object lessons to us all in the Truth movement today which somewhat parallells some of these experiences of the natural seed both then and now.
What of those Jews who wished not to return to their land? We have mentioned this reluctance in a previous chapter (Shout of a King). The story of Esther comes to mind set here in a different sequence of typical background yet teaching afresh similar lessons and warnings of a covenant people losing their identity in the world.
The period covered by the account of Esther was, we are told, from BC 478 to 464. If we take the time of the proclamation of Cyrus in his first sole-king year, 536 BC, to correspond with 1874, time of the Lord's return, then the period of Esther would parallel the period from 1932/3 to 1946/7 AD. This period, as we know, covered a most distressing time for the Jews in Europe, from the rise of Adolph Hitler. After years of struggle for power, in 1932 Hitler's Nazi party gained the largest party vote in Germany. By 1933 he was Chancellor. His first act was to demand an election. The Nazi party gained 42% of the votes. However, their allies, the Nationalists polled 8%. Added together this gave them half share they needed to rule Germany. This new Reichstag decided to abolish parliamentary government. From that moment until 1945 Germany was ruled by the Enabling Law which gave Hitler law-making powers independent of the Reichstag. Before long other parties were banned and opposition became unknown. Arrest, imprisonment, torture and death without trial became commonplace.
Jews were particularly ill-treated. From 1935 the Nuremburg laws deprived them of all rights as citizens. They could not marry non-Jews, could not leave their jobs, in some cases could not even but food. Soon thousands were leaving Germany, some for the U.S.A., some for Israel. Meanwhile in Italy Mussolini was becoming increasingly impressed by the Nazi party. After a visit to Germany in 1937 he came away so intoxicated with the regime that he introduced goose-stepping to his troops and started a campaign against the Jews. In Russia also persecutions were underway, and likewise in Hungary and other European countries. The stage was set for the attempt to wipe out the Jews of Europe. (Compare the attempt of Laban in "Jacob at Jabbok.)
In the days of Esther a similar situation was developing. We find Esther first mentioned in chapter 2 verse 7, where we find her name is given as Hadassah, which means "myrtle." There is often an aptness in Old Testament names, and the name Myrtle reminds us at once of the opening vision granted to Zechariah some years before. There he saw a vision of the invisibly present Lord riding upon a red horse, Zech 1:8 "I saw by night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom; (the shady valley).." a place of lowness and disesteem. This well represented the position of the Jews at that time. They were a chastised people, slow to recover from their self-brought captive state, and lowly regarded in the eyes of the world. Yet there, invisible to natural sight, in their midst stands the Lord, "the messenger or angel of Jehovah," of verse 11 being undoubtedly the Lord Jesus Himself. This vision of an invisible Lord in the midst applies in parallel to this day in which we live. He sits upon a red horse, symbol of blood, of vengeance, of judgment, and of war. The eyes of the Lord run to and fro continuously assessing the situation throughout the earth, and they note with displeasure the nations at ease, or indifferent to the plight of His people. The vision is given to encourage, and they certainly needed encouragement at that time.
Daniel had been afforded a glimpse ( recorded in Daniel 10:13 ,) of wicked spirits in high places endeavouring to turn the heart of the Persian rulers against the Jews. This began early in the restoration period, as evidenced in Daniel 6, where we find much envy and rivalry becoming evident among the presidents and princes of Persia against Daniel. As a result of their conniving Daniel found himself in the midst of a den of lions, and how significant that was of the antagonism of Satanic source against the Jews. But the mouths of the lions were stopped by an invisible hand. Michael their Prince was watching over His people. This same watch-care we discern today as Israel passes through a similar time of trial, and Jews throughout the world share the brunt of the anti-semitic spirit now evident. It was not inappropriate that this Jewess was called Myrtle, representative of a lowly disesteemed race.
A remarkable sequence of events brought about the situation of the days from 1932, the rise of Hitler. Quite a strange chain of history also led to the situation under Haman. The story opens with a sumptuous banquet given by the Persian king Xerxes in the palace at Shushan. This grand building, or what remains, has been excavated, and its marble pillar and pavements restored to view. We are not in Israel in this account but among Jews outside the land, still dwelling amongst the Gentiles. Background history is enlightening as to the probable cause of the banquet. The king is planning to extend his domain by an expedition into Greece. He now has in view the idea of taking Europe! However a similar attempt by his predecessor one generation before had resulted in total defeat and disaster. That had been called the battle of marathon, and its magnitude in terms of arms and men make it one of the outstanding wars of all time, like the Great War in our times which preceded Hitler's later designs on Europe.
Hitler was caught up in the backwash of just such a similar great war, that of 1914, which resulted in the disastrous Versailles peace treaty which paved the way for so much unrest in Germany. Xerxes gathered together all his generals and military advisors in what turned out to be a six months convocation, and to boost morale a most sumptuous feast was laid on the conclude the preparations. Here is was, however, that something happened which was to alter history for the Jews of that time. At first it appeared to be just a domestic upset. Everyone was enjoying the feast and the king's heart was merry with wine. In this drunken condition he rashly sent his chamberlain to bring Vashti, the queen, his wife, with instructions to wear her royal apparel, crown and tiara, and to unveil her beauty before this half-drunken all-male party. Sensing the situation, Vashti's dignity was offended and she declined the invitation. This put the king on the spot, for he was a despotic ruler and no one could disobey any whim of his without the gravest consequences. Furthermore, this was a very public occasion and the slight was quickly seen by some present as an open invitation to other wives to assert their preferences over their husbands, thus leading to a very unhappy state of affairs throughout the empire. Counsel was therefore given to the king that he should dismiss his wife and forbid her ever again entering the king's presence. This the king did, and the decree was made.
Of course, when the hang-over had passed after this event the king began to think twice about what he had done and began missing his queen, but there was nothing he could do about getting her back for the decree was made and remained inviolate according to Persian law. It was therefore decided that a beauty contest should be organised with a view to finding a suitable replacement for the very beautiful queen Vashti. The winner would take her place at the side of the king with the royal estate of his queen. The rest of the story we know, how one of the men who had a post about the palace decided to put his cousin in for the contest. This man was Mordecai, and the young woman was his charge, for he had looked after her since the death of her parents. The beauty of Esther was such that she won the heart of the king and was made queen in place of Vashti. A great Persian king to marry a Jewess? Well, somehow Esther failed to mention that she was a Jewess! Thus the stage was set for a situation that, while it had not yet arisen, was clearly known beforehand by the Lord. What a lesson of providence!
We might well ask, could not the Lord equally simply have overruled what was to follow and avoided the whole ugly situation developing? Equally we may ask today, could He not have prevented Hitler ever rising to power, or Saddam Hussain, or any other evil man? Certainly if the Lord so wished He could have prevented Haman ever gaining the king's confidence in the way that he did, rising to a position where he could cause a decree to go forth to exterminate the whole Jewish race. Yet the story continues and this unthinkable eventuality was the very thing that did in fact take place, yes, even so long after the coming of their promised "Messiah", marking the time of deliverance. Why does God permit evil? Never because He cannot help it! Always because He has a wise and loving purpose in mind.
Not long after Esther became queen Haman became appointed as prime minister. Now it is important to note that Haman was not an ordinary man. He was, in fact, an Amalekite, and descended from a former king of that nation, Agag. King Saul had encounter with an Agag. In 1 Samuel 15 Saul was commanded to slay utterly all the Amalekites. Why? Because Amalek was a ruthless tribe which came up against the Israelites in the wilderness. 1 Sam 15:2-3 "Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass." In Exodus 17:1-7, we are told of a particular trial which came upon the Israelites. They were in the desert, and they could find no water. Israel today is also desperately in need of water, both the natural substance of life and the spiritual counterpart! The situation at that time seemed quite hopeless, faith collapsed, and they were found murmuring against Moses saying, "Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?" And they began to pick up stones to stone Moses. The Lord provided the water. He was going to anyway, but He does it now not as a response to faith but in spite of unbelief and lack of trust. Yet in His mercy He saved them. The people had failed in the fight with the enemy within, the enemy of doubt. Now they find themselves confronted with the enemy without, for there Amalek lies in wait. Thus is established a link between anti-semitism and lack of faith by the natural people of God. The great object lesson was then taught, for in the battle with Amalek that ensued it was clearly demonstrated that the Israelites prevailed not by force of arms, but by the maintenance of the outstretched arms of Moses reaching towards heaven. When Moses held up his hand Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand Amalek prevailed. With the help of Aaron and Hur victory was thus achieved for Israel (as indeed it will be shortly with the help of the church and ancient worthies.) and Moses built there an altar, and called it Jehovah-nissi, "the Lord my Banner." "For he said, Because the LORD hath sworn that the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation." (Exod 17:16) So did the antagonism between Israel and Amalek become as a running sore.
In 1 Samuel 15, Israel's first king, Saul, a Benjamite, son of Kish, is directed by the Lord to go and smite Amalek, for, said the Lord, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. For Amalek read "doubt"! This was the beginning of a new stage of Israel's history, the kingdom with a visible king! How important to get things straight so far as Amalek was concerned, for Amalek represents one of the greatest enemies of the Lord's people, the close-girding sin of Israel. He must be wiped out from the start. Not one scrap of this enemy nor anything pertaining to him must be allowed to cohabit. All to do with Amalek must be destroyed in the most deliberate and final manner! Victory over doubt must be conclusive.
We all know what happened, and Saul's hesitancy in obeying this command was to cost him the kingdom. Saul failed to slay Agag, king of the Amalekites, and he failed also to dispose of all the things of Agag, the sheep, cattle, and all he considered worth keeping. In dismay and disgust Samuel turned away from Saul and refused to accompany him any further. Saul had forfeited the help and ministry of the Lord's priest and prophet, and this was their last meeting until Samuel's death. Doubt and disobedience, how ruthlessly must the Lord's anointed deal with these enemies of the soul to maintain a walk with the Lord. As Samuel turned to leave, Saul, in great consternation, seized his robe to stop him, and the robe tore in his hands. "So" said Samuel "hath the Lord rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and has given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou." That neighbour turned out to be David.
Was David any better than Saul? Has the David class of this age learned well the things written in men's lives for their admonition? The end of the book of Samuel describes how David went after Amalek who had made great spoil of the city of Ziklag and carried away the wives and children captive before burning down the houses. We read in 1 Sam 30:17-19 "And David smote them from the twilight even unto the evening of the next day: and there escaped not a man of them, save four hundred young men, which rode upon camels, and fled. And David recovered all that the Amalekites had carried away: and David rescued his two wives. And there was nothing lacking to them, neither small nor great, neither sons nor daughters, neither spoil, nor any thing that they had taken to them: David recovered all." Oh brethren, the victory of faith, for David went in the Name of the God of Israel.
This gives us a glimpse of the implication in the book of Esther when it states that Haman was an Amalekite of the line of a king Agag, and that Mordecai was a Benjamite of the line of Kish, the name reminding us of the lineage of Saul, although this "Kish" was probably a more recent ancestor. There is much that is suggestive in the recording of these details in the account. "Light is sown for the righteous..."
The beauty of Esther was to be proved to be more than skin deep. It would lie in her readiness, when put to test, to lay down her own life in the interests of her people. [The eventual Judah to Benjamin attitude of the 'Story of Joseph' chapter comes here to mind.] It was not an easy task that lay before her. When the plot was laid to wipe out the entire race of Jews throughout the Persian world Esther was urged by Mordecai that she use her influence upon the king. This involved three great elements of genuine risk. First she had to gain the king's attention by entering his presence without his prior invitation, something unheard of and which might rouse his great anger at such affront to his dignity. This alone could cost Esther's life. On top of this affront she would have to reveal that she, the queen, was a Jewess, a matter thus far concealed from her husband. What would be his shocked reaction at this news? Finally, her requirement would seem to flout the unalterable nature of Persian Law. How could the king be asked to go back on his word? Oh what great faith was required of Esther!
Because of the hatred he had developed for Mordecai, Haman, by his mischievous influence on the king, had caused the slaughter of Jews throughout the realm to be set for a certain day. The lord, Who overruled the whole matter, was now to demonstrate His "way of escape." [This expression in 1 Cor 10:13, is literally "a way through.."] But why was the whole situation allowed to arise? The old enemy, Amalek, had reared his head again in Israel. With the coming of Cyrus the decree went forth and the signal was given to the people of God to leave Babylon, leave the world, and set their faces towards Zion, go back to the land of promise. They were to depart from all that Babylon meant, and in cleanness of heart were to bear the vessels of the Lord, the instruments of divine service and worship, back to their rightful place. The failure of so many Jews to return revealed that same old pull of flesh for tangible comforts, the demand for visible blessing, something immediate being preferred to the hope, a mess of pottage meeting desire more than birthright.
Their faith was lacking. It was not up to the challenge of a desolate land surrounded by enemies, nor ready to make the effort and sacrifice involved in its recovery. Much to be preferred were their present comforts, and they stayed where they were, as do many Jews in this day. Their very life as a covenant people of God was here at stake. Would they now merge into their surroundings adopting more and more of the ways of those around them? Already they were talking like the people of Babylon. So did the grim spectre arise of the old enemy, Amalek. The days of Moses were also typical of these days of Christ, and the parallel of this test is clearly before us in this day of antitype. The visible and physical threat now brought home the deeper spiritual crisis. Amalek had to be defeated, all that this enemy represented, lack of faith, mistrust of the Lord and His ability to achieve His purpose in His people. His miraculous power lies latent for those who fully believe. The "measure" is "according to your faith..."
Esther, by throwing herself completely on the Lord in full submission, total resignation to whatever the consequences might be, demonstrated the attitude of faith essential to salvation. Natural reasoning would say to her, "Why should I? I am comfortable. I am alright. Why risk so much? It should be noted that getting the message through to her was no easy task for Mordecai. It is your life that is at stake! The lesson remains for this day. It applies to all covenant people of God. This is the victory that overcometh the world.
When the signal was given at this end of the age for the Jews to return to the land of promise there was very little stirring throughout the world. Only the most zealous were ready to be uprooted from their homes and businesses and life in Gentile lands. The majority were comfortable where they were and felt no compulsion to leave all those comforts for an arduous existence in a desolate land. May we not be first to cast a scornful stone! The Lord sent hunters to hunt them out. The real enemy was depicted by Amalek, that lack of reverential fear of the Lord, and indifference towards that covenant relationship with Him. We read in Deut 25:17-19 "Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt; How he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God. Therefore it shall be, when the LORD thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget it." Amalek feared not God, had no belief, no respect, for His great might. Such an attitude we find in world Jewry today.
There are noble exceptions, but in large the conscience is satisfied by donation, or general good-will towards those that have returned, rather than personal involvement, personal return to the land marked out for them by the Lord. As in the days of Esther, so it is now. There is meaning behind the ugly threat of anti-semitism throughout so many lands today. It is not just an accident, but, as with the rise of Amalek in the past, it is a reminder to a covenant people of God of the blessed privileges of this hour in Israel's history, privileges designed to demand a true and living faith in the Lord. The enemy within must be fought of which that enemy without is but a symbol. [Compare 'Jacob at Jabbok.']
The Lord rewarded Esther's faith. he overruled the matter so that the king responded favourably to her request. The attack on the Jews could not be cancelled, but the Jews would be allowed to fight back against their enemies. And so it was. And so it is today! The rise of anti-semitism headed by the Amalekite Haman of this end of the age, Adolph Hitler, is but an outward tangible witness to the enemy within, the Amalek spirit of lack of reverential fear of the Lord, lack of trust in the God of Jacob, Who said, Gen 28:15, "And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of." This enemy of doubt each Jew must fight. That is the battle. It is a most personal battle for each one, and on its conquest will depend the fulfilment of the great promises and privileges belonging to the natural people of God. The Lord brings about the circumstances that will achieve this result.
Some have wondered about the lack of reference in the account of Esther to the Name of the Lord. It has been noted in the Companion Bible, however, that the Name is secretly hidden in the book in no less than five places, each of which contains the Name in acrostic form, that is spelled out by the first letter of sequences of words in the Hebrew text. There is, indeed, a special pattern in the sequence, indicating that this is by no means accidental. The Lord is there, but secretly present, working with unseen hand in the affairs of His natural people.
Upon receiving the new decree of the king that the Jews might defend themselves against their enemy it was arranged for riders to go forth throughout the whole realm proclaiming that the Jews everywhere "stand for their life" and make complete destruction of every vestige of enemy power and goods, that is, of all influenced by this spirit of Haman, or of the Amalekite against them. The thoroughness of the victory is a message both of stimulation and cheer to the Jews of our day. Seventy five thousand of the enemy fell that day. To make sure of full extermination a further day was granted at Esther's request. This may seem to have been rather vindictive on her part, but the fact that three hundred thousand more of the enemy were then slain shows her fears were well-grounded that the Amalek spirit may have survived the first battle. The conquest is most significant. Here lay the root of the downfall of Saul's reign and the whole kingdom of Israel, as predicted by Jesus in Matthew 24. The root of unbelief has to be eradicated from the hearts of all His people.
We have not mentioned yet what happened to Haman, and the story is not unfamiliar to Bible students, the end being that the very gallows he had prepared for the hated Mordecai were used for his own execution. Psalm 9:16 "The LORD is known by the judgment which he executeth: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands." Furthermore, his ten sons were also slain, thus eradicating further threat. This is an important aspect, indicating the finality of the battle. In the process Mordecia was made prime minister in Haman's place. By a wonderful turn round of events, before his death Haman was made to take the king's apparel that he thought he was going to wear and put it upon Mordecai, setting the royal crown upon his head, and bringing him in triumphal procession on the king's horse through the city, proclaiming before him.. "Thus shall be done to the man the king delights to honour." How beautifully significant! This is a theme worthy of your private meditation. So far as the Jew is concerned, there will be a complete reversal of his position in the world when he fulfils the Lord's requirements of him. No longer will he be the tail but the head. It all hangs upon this battle with the enemy within. This grand reversal will be when the battle with Amalek is decisive and he is shamed forever beneath the feet of the people of God.
In Esther 9:16, we read "But the other Jews that were in the king's provinces gathered themselves together, and stood for their lives, and had rest from their enemies, and slew of their foes seventy and five thousand, but they laid not their hands on the prey.( ie., the spoil they did not touch.)" Nothing was to be preserved of Amalek in their lives, not even one little keepsake. All to do with that ancient enemy was to be forever detested and forbidden. Only deep true faith in God will make the present-day Jew victorious and clean vessels for the Lord's use in the kingdom age before us. The enemy is not without but within, nevertheless the outer enemy, anti-semitism, is permitted to bring home the true nature of the problem and to define the battle. What witness this will be to all mankind! The book of Esther is most relevant to this very day in which we have a part. Like the first Purim, this day will be memorialised forever in the new heart of His chosen people. Through the ages to come will men talk of the this our day and the Lord's victory in a weak-willed and irresolute people.
In Esther 4:16, we read her proclamation before her ordeal, "Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish." A period of denial of self and its interests and earnest prayer to the Lord, how important this was to the whole issue.. the upwards-reaching of both arms towards the Lord. It was there, in communion with the Lord, that the battle was won. The result could not be more wonderful for the Jew. Esth 8:15-17 "And Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, and with a great crown of gold, and with a garment of fine linen and purple: and the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad. The Jews had light, and gladness, and joy, and honour. And in every province, and in every city, whithersoever the king's commandment and his decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a good day. And many of the people of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews fell upon them."
This, we note, was even before the battle was fought, for indeed, in fasting and prayer was the battle already won. In a collection of tablets from this period and subsequent days more than a hundred Jewish names occur in connection with important positions in the realm, including the position of governors of administrative districts. The ancient people of God, once endowed with the faith of the people of God thus become part of the divine arrangement of world government in association with those worthy ones of old whose faith was so attested. The material is there for the princes of this earth. Thus we find here depicted the further stages of more tangible kingdom blessings of all families of earth, through the Jew.
We are watching with deepest interest all that is happening to the Jew at this remarkable hour of their history of which the past speaks today in such graphic terms. If this is wonderful to us, and it is, what shall we now say should we go back to the beginning of this same lesson and recognise the corresponding message to the spiritual seed too. As the people of God we need, like the Jew, to stand and be counted. Nor would we cling thus trembling to the things of time in face of realisation of such hope sublime. The test upon the Jew is parallelled by similar tests of the Lord's spiritual people that will result in demonstrating their complete separation in heart from the things of this earth. Are we a people that the Lord delights to honour? Then do we with fervency of zeal and love endeavour to honour Him with our whole being..
In closing, how the sad story of Isaiah 5, the vineyard disaster, finds a wonderful counterpart and outcome in Isaiah 27:2-6 when the same song is sung, but this time the Husbandman rewarded for His great patience. "In that day sing ye unto her, A vineyard of red wine. I the LORD do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day. Fury is not in me: who would set the briers and thorns against me in battle? I would go through them, I would burn them together. Or let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with me. He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit."