In the Days of Queen Esther
Under the favor shown them by Cyrus, nearly fifty thousand of the
children of the captivity had taken advantage of the decree permitting
their return. These, however, in comparison with the hundreds of
thousands scattered throughout the provinces of Medo-Persia, were but a
mere remnant. The great majority of the Israelites had chosen to remain
in the land of their exile rather than undergo the hardships of the
return journey and the re-establishment of their desolated cities and
A score or more of years passed by, when a second decree, quite as
favorable as the first, was issued by Darius Hystaspes, the monarch then
ruling. Thus did God in mercy provide another opportunity for the Jews
in the Medo-Persian realm to return to the land of their fathers. The
Lord foresaw the troublous times that were to follow during the reign of
Xerxes,--the Ahasuerus of the book of Esther,--and He not only wrought a
change of feeling in the hearts of men in authority, but also inspired
Zechariah to plead with the exiles to return.
"Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the land of the north,"
was the message given the scattered tribes of Israel who had become
settled in many lands far from their former home. "I have spread
you abroad as the four winds of the heaven, saith the Lord. Deliver
thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon. For thus
saith the Lord of hosts; After the glory hath He sent me unto the
nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple
of His eye. For, behold, I will shake mine hand upon them, and they
shall be a spoil to their servants: and ye shall know that the Lord of
hosts hath sent me." Zechariah 2:6-9.
It was still the Lord's purpose, as it have been from the beginning,
that His people should be a praise in the earth, to the glory of His
name. During the long years of their exile He had given them many
opportunities to return to their allegiance to Him. Some had chosen to
listen and to learn; some had found salvation in the midst of
affliction. Many of these were to be numbered among the remnant that
should return. They were likened by Inspiration to "the highest
branch of the high cedar," which was to be planted "upon an
high mountain and eminent: in the mountain of the height of
Israel." Ezekiel 17:22, 23.
It was those "whose spirit God had raised" (Ezra 1:5) who
had returned under the decree of Cyrus. But God ceased not to plead with
those who voluntarily remained in the land of their exile, and through
manifold agencies He made it possible for them also to return. The large
number, however, of those who failed to respond to the decree of Cyrus,
remained unimpressible to later influences; and even when Zechariah
warned them to flee from Babylon without further delay, they did not
heed the invitation.
Meanwhile conditions in the Medo-Persian realm were rapidly changing.
Darius Hystaspes, under whose reign the Jews had been shown marked
favor, was succeeded by Xerxes the Great. It was during his reign that
those of the Jews who had failed of heeding the message to flee were
called upon to face a terrible crisis. Having refused to take advantage
of the way of escape God had provided, now they were brought face to
face with death.
Through Haman the Agagite, an unscrupulous man high in authority in
Medo-Persia, Satan worked at this time to counterwork the purposes of
God. Haman cherished bitter malice against Mordecai, a Jew. Mordecai had
done Haman no harm, but had simply refused to show him worshipful
reverence. Scorning to "lay hands on Mordecai alone," Haman
plotted "to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole
kingdom of Ahasuerus, even the people of Mordecai." Esther 3:6.
Misled by the false statements of Haman, Xerxes was induced to issue
a decree providing for the massacre of all the Jews "scattered
abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces" of the
Medo-Persian kingdom. Verse 8. A certain day was appointed on which the
Jews were to be destroyed and their property confiscated. Little did the
king realize the far-reaching results that would have accompanied the
complete carrying out of this decree. Satan himself, the hidden
instigator of the scheme, was trying to rid the earth of those who
preserved the knowledge of the true God.
"In every province, whithersoever the king's commandment and his
decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and
weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes." Esther
4:3. The decree of the Medes and Persians could not be revoked;
apparently there was no hope; all the Israelites were doomed to
But the plots of the enemy were defeated by a Power that reigns among
the children of men. In the providence of God, Esther, a Jewess who
feared the Most High, had been made queen of the Medo-Persian kingdom.
Mordecai was a near relative of hers. In their extremity they decided to
appeal to Xerxes in behalf of their people. Esther was to venture into
his presence as an intercessor. "Who knoweth," said Mordecai,
"whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as
this?" Verse 14.
The crisis that Esther faced demanded quick, earnest action; but both
she and Mordecai realized that unless God should work mightily in their
behalf, their own efforts would be unavailing. So Esther took time for
communion with God, the source of her strength. "Go," she
directed Mordecai, "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." Verse 16.
The events that followed in rapid succession,--the appearance of
Esther before the king, the marked favor shown her, the banquets of the
king and queen with Haman as the only guest, the troubled sleep of the
king, the public honor shown Mordecai, and the humiliation and fall of
Haman upon the discovery of his wicked plot,--all these are parts of a
familiar story. God wrought marvelously for His penitent people; and a
counter decree issued by the king, allowing them to fight for their
lives, was rapidly communicated to every part of the realm by mounted
couriers, who were "hastened and pressed on by the king's
commandment." "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." Esther
On the day appointed for their destruction, "the Jews gathered
themselves together in their cities throughout all the provinces of the
king Ahasuerus, to lay hand on such as sought their hurt: and no man
could withstand them; for the fear of them fell upon all people."
Angels that excel in strength had been commissioned by God to protect
His people while they "stood for their lives." Esther 9:2, 16.
Mordecai was given the position of honor formerly occupied by Haman.
He "was next unto King Ahasuerus, and great among the Jews, and
accepted of the multitude of his brethren" (Esther 10:3); and he
sought to promote the welfare of Israel. Thus did God bring His chosen
people once more into favor at the Medo-Persian court, making possible
the carrying out of His purpose to restore them to their own land. But
it was not until several years later, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes
I, the successor of Xerxes the Great, that any considerable number
returned to Jerusalem, under Ezra.
The trying experiences that came to God's people in the days of
Esther were not peculiar to that age alone. The revelator, looking down
the ages to the close of time, has declared, "The dragon was wroth
with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which
keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus
Christ." Revelation 12:17. Some who today are living on the earth
will see these words fulfilled. The same spirit that in ages past led
men to persecute the true church, will in the future lead to the
pursuance of a similar course toward those who maintain their loyalty to
God. Even now preparations are being made for this last great conflict.
The decree that will finally go forth against the remnant people of
God will be very similar to that issued by Ahasuerus against the Jews.
Today the enemies of the true church see in the little company keeping
the Sabbath commandment, a Mordecai at the gate. The reverence of God's
people for His law is a constant rebuke to those who have cast off the
fear of the Lord and are trampling on His Sabbath.
Satan will arouse indignation against the minority who refuse to
accept popular customs and traditions. Men of position and reputation
will join with the lawless and the vile to take counsel against the
people of God. Wealth, genius, education, will combine to cover them
Persecuting rulers, ministers, and church members will conspire
against them. With voice and pen, by boasts, threats, and ridicule, they
will seek to overthrow their faith. By false representations and angry
appeals, men will stir up the passions of the people. Not having a
"Thus saith the Scriptures" to bring against the advocates of
the Bible Sabbath, they will resort to oppressive enactments to supply
the lack. To secure popularity and patronage, legislators will yield to
the demand for Sunday laws. But those who fear God, cannot accept an
institution that violates a precept of the Decalogue. On this
battlefield will be fought the last great conflict in the controversy
between truth and error. And we are not left in doubt as to the issue.
Today, as in the days of Esther and Mordecai, the Lord will vindicate
His truth and His people.
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