CONTEXT: The Book of Esther1 tells a story of the deliverance of the Jewish people. We are shown a Persian emperor, Ahasuerus (loosely based on Xerxes, 485–464 B.C.), who makes momentous decisions for trivial reasons, and his wicked minister, Haman, who takes advantage of the king’s compliance to pursue a personal vendetta against the Jews by having a royal decree issued ordering their destruction. The threat is averted by two Jews, Esther, and Mordecai. Their influence and intervention allow the Jews to turn the tables on their enemies and rout their attackers. This deliverance is commemorated by the inauguration of the Jewish festival of Purim on the fourteenth and fifteenth of Adar (mid-February through mid-March). The book confronts the modern reader with important themes, the evils of genocide and racism.
Matthew Henry breaks down chapter 4 as follows: We left God’s Isaac bound upon the altar and ready to be sacrificed, and the enemies triumphing in the prospect of it; but things here begin to work towards a deliverance, and they begin at the right end. I. The Jews’ friends lay to heart the danger and lament it (v. 1-4). II. Matters are concerted between Mordecai and Esther for the preventing of it. 1. Esther enquires into this case, and receives a particular account of it (v. 5-7). 2. Mordecai urges her to intercede with the king for a revocation of the edict (v. 8, 9). III. Esther objects the danger of addressing the king uncalled (v. 10-12). IV. Mordecai presses her to venture (v. 13, 14). V. Esther, after a religious fast of three days, promises to do so (v. 15-17), and we shall find that she sped well.
From the story, we can conclude many themes including those mentioned (genocide and racism) plus God’s interaction with mankind, His help, and comfort in times of danger, Seeking and Wisdom from God. There are two overarching themes Sovereignty and Deliverance. Throughout the story, God is in complete control of the situation, and His plan for the deliverance of the Jewish people was always going to come true.
Our text for today is more than just a story of some young queen who was brave some 2400 (+/-) years ago. It is a reminder to every true believer, that we too will face difficult challenges in our Christian walk and we are duty-bound to do what God has placed us in that place to do: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this? It need not be saving a people group or some other grandiose thing. No matter the danger we must be ready to answer the call.
4:5-17 We are prone to shrink from services that are attended with peril or loss. But when the cause of Christ and his people demand it, we must take up our cross, and follow him. When Christians are disposed to consult their own ease or safety, rather than the public good, they should be blamed. The law was express, all knew it. It is not thus in the court of the King of kings: to the footstool of his throne of grace we may always come boldly, and may be sure of an answer of peace to the prayer of faith. We are welcome, even into the holiest, through the blood of Jesus. Providence so ordered it, that, just then, the king’s affections had cooled toward Esther; her faith and courage thereby were the more tried; and God’s goodness in the favour she now found with the king, thereby shone the brighter. Haman no doubt did what he could to set the king against her. Mordecai suggests, that it was a cause which, one way or other, would certainly be carried, and which therefore she might safely venture in. This was the language of strong faith, which staggered not at the promise when the danger was most threatening, but against hope believed in hope. He that by sinful devices will save his life, and will not trust God with it in the way of duty, shall lose it in the way of sin. Divine Providence had regard to this matter, in bringing Esther to be queen. Therefore thou art bound in gratitude to do this service for God and his church, else thou dost not answer the end of thy being raised up. There is wise counsel and design in all the providences of God, which will prove that they are all intended for the good of the church. We should, every one, consider for what end God has put us in the place where we are, and study to answer that end: and take care that we do not let it slip. Having solemnly commended our souls and our cause to God, we may venture upon his service. All dangers are trifling compared with the danger of losing our souls. But the trembling sinner is often as much afraid of casting himself, without reserve, upon the Lord’s free mercy, as Esther was of coming before the king. Let him venture, as she did, with earnest prayer and supplication, and he shall fare as well and better than she did. The cause of God must prevail: we are safe in being united to it.Matthew Henry