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Evangelist, Baptist, Husband, Father, Mid-30's.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Daughter of Mordecai

In the wonderful biblical book of Esther are many godly lessons to be learned. As a father of three boys and two girls and having a third girl stay with us temporarily, I noticed something in Esther that I had never seen before: I noticed the fatherly role of Mordecai and the things he taught Esther in her youth that blessed her and her people when she became an adult.

In Mordecai we have not only a righteous man who stands for the truth, stands against (in refusing to physically stand) evil, and who rests on the providence of God, but we also have a great example of a biblical father. We see him teaching Esther obedience, compassion, prayer, and courage, among other things.

Mordecai Stepped up to Raise Esther

"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world (James 2:27).” We see Mordecai stepping up to raise the orphaned Hadassah (later called Esther) in the death of her parents, who are Mordecai’s uncle and aunt.

He was bringing up Esther, the daughter of his uncle, for she had neither father nor mother…Mordecai took her as his own daughter. ~Esther 2:7
Mordecai Cared for Esther

Mordecai not only stepped up to take care of Hadassah, but he stepped into the biblical role of father, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).” He was much older than Hadassah, and so perhaps he might have thought that it would have been better to turn her over to a younger Hebrew family, but as we see later in the book, he trusted in the divine providence of God, and perhaps, he thought, she had come into his house for a reason.

Mordecai loved and cherished and cared for Hadassah. When the king of Persia sought out a new beautiful young queen, Hadassah was gathered into the citadel. During her time of preparation, one year, to meet the king, the Bible tells us, “Every day Mordecai walked in front of the court of the harem to learn how Esther was and what was happening to her (Esther 2:11).”

In his love for her, he looked after her safety and made sure she was being taken care of. Mordecai had raised Hadassah to walk in the way she should, and he had done a good job.

Let’s look at some things that Mordecai had taught his daughter.

A Meek and Obedient Heart

The time in which Mordecai and Hadassah lived in Persia was a very dangerous one. And to make matters worse, Haman the Agagite held onto a 550 year old family feud with the family of Kish, which just so happened to be Mordecai and Hadassah’s great-grandfather many times removed. Haman greatly desired to put an end to the Jewish people. For this reason Mordecai felt it wise for Hadassah to conceal her genealogy.

Mordecai commanded Hadassah to keep quiet in this matter (Esther 2:10), and she did. This was not the first or only time that Hadassah had obeyed Mordecai, she was obedient in this very important matter because she had been brought up in obedience.
Esther had not made known her kindred or her people, as Mordecai had commanded her, for Esther obeyed Mordecai just as when she was brought up by him.
~ Esther 2:20
Obedience in the small things will be translated to obedience in the large things. Beloved, it is not a stretch of the imagination to see that if your child listens to you in your living room when you command them to put their shoes away, that it might save their life in a busy parking lot when you command them not to step off the curb, and it certainly will save their soul when they hear the command of God to obey the gospel of grace (cf 1 Peter 4:17).

Hadassah was quite possibly the most beautiful woman in Persia, she was well liked by everyone she met, she had her own entourage; she most certainly could have chosen to disobey Mordecai seeing as her political position was higher than his, but her strength bowed to Mordecai’s will, and it saved not only her life, but the lives of countless others.

Hadassah loved, obeyed, and respected her father.

A Respectful Demeanor

When Hadassah meets the eunuch who has charge over her, she wins his favor. We see in Esther 2:15 that the would-be-queens who go to meet the king are allowed to bring something with them, but Esther, in her trust in God, chooses to bring nothing special with her, except that which her Eunuch, Hegai, instructs her to bring. She respects his wisdom and position, and though she knows she has God’s favor and needs to bring nothing to meet the king, she respects Hegai and takes what he advised.

Because of this, she not only won the respect of Hegai, but also that of everyone who saw her (Esther 2:15). This was in no small part because of her respectful heart and demeanor. And where did she learn these things? From her father, Mordecai. Esther was kind to everyone, not just those that could benefit her, this was not something that could be taught with words, undoubtedly Esther learned this through watching her father interact with others.

It ought to be every Christian’s goal to be “well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil (1 Timothy 3:7).” The Christian ought to live a life of kindness, generosity, respect, and love. Surely the message of the cross is offensive and the Christian will be hated for it, but the only offense of the Christian ought to be message of the cross, not of a failed and offensive character (cf also 1 Peter 2:11-12).

Hadassah, just as all Christians, could show grace to a lost and worldly people because of a complete trust in God to grant mercy or mete out justice according to his infinite wisdom.

Trust in God

The maidens who appeared before the king of Persia had the option of asking for accompaniment into the king’s court. Some have speculated that this may have been music to show their prowess in dancing, or an expensive wine or perfume to seek to sway the king’s heart, or an important escort such as a prince or politician to show the king their importance. But Hadassah chose none of these things, she trusted in God that he would go before her and grant her favor in the eyes of the king. While Hadassah was very beautiful, she knew the Proverb, “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised (Proverbs 31:30).” Hadassah knew that if she won the king’s favor with her beauty, then in time when the years had eroded away at her beauty and figure, the king might replace her for a younger woman. Instead, Hadassah trusted God and met the king with her true and lasting beauty, the beauty of her spirit. Peter would write five hundred years later, “Do not let your adorning be external-the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear-but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quite spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious (1 Peter 3:3-4).”

Hadassah undoubtedly won the heart of the king through her respectful and pure conduct (Esther 2:17).

Purity

As we sit in the 21st century it is easy to think that sin is easier to find than it ever has been. We have television that brings wanton immorality straight into our homes, we have the internet that with just a keystroke can open up destructive things that will scar our souls for a lifetime, we have sexualized culture in every facet. But beloved, things were no easier for Mordecai and Esther. Sin has always been treacherous and abundant, and no temptation has appeared in the 21st century that has not always been common to man.

This is abundantly clear in the twelve month waiting period before a maiden would meet the king. These girls were locked away in the citadel with no men but eunuchs to guard them. It has been accurately surmised that the yearlong wait was partly meant to filter out the girls who were pregnant when the king’s decree was made. And while the Bible does not say so, I suspect at least a few girls were disqualified from meeting the king because of the wait.

Mordecai had trained up his daughter in such a way that she was chaste, pure, and worthy to marry a king.

Graceful and Submissive

One of the reasons that the king was in search of a new wife was because his previous wife had been contentious and disobedient. It must have been a tremendous relief to him to meet Esther in her submissive and graceful demeanor. “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels (Proverbs 31:10),” and “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all (Proverbs 31:29).”

Fathers, did you know, or more importantly does your son know, that Proverbs 31 is not written to teach women how to act? It is written to a son to instruct him on the value of a virtuous wife. I pray that I will raise my daughters to be a blessing to their husbands as they exhibit grace and embrace submissiveness and that my sons will not be destroyed (Proverbs 31:3) by worldly women.

I pray that they will reach out to the poor, speak for the mute, and open their hands to lift the downcast up to see Jesus, to love mercy, seek justice, and walk humbly with their God (Proverbs 31:9,20, Micah 6:8).

How to Read People

When Haman gains the ear of the king he devises a plot to wipe out all of the Jews in the Mede-Persian Empire, which for all intents and purposes included every Jew alive at the time. When Mordecai learns of the plot, he is obviously driven to despair and tears his clothes, dresses in sackcloth, and heaps ashes upon his head. Hadassah, oblivious to the danger, sought to comfort her father by sending him new clothing to wear. When Mordecai refuses, Esther realizes that something important is happening. She did not press him to change clothes, or cheer up, but instead listens to him and hears his distress.

From her position, it would have been very easy for Hadassah to have assumed Mordecai was overreacting or being ungrateful to her husband the king or sought to press him to end his lamentations (cf Nehemiah 2:2). Mordecai had probably taught her the proverb, “Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda (Proverbs 25:20).” So instead of fighting Mordecai, she empathized with him, and accurately identified that she needed to invest more time and effort into his current situation.

Hadassah knew how to read Mordecai, and knew that his distress was important to him, so she made it important to her, and in so doing she saved many lives, including her own.

Compassion

When Hadassah learns of the plot to exterminate the Jews she acts and in so doing saves not only the lives of her people, but also her own life. A case could be made that she acted only out of self preservation and not a compassionate heart. But that does not stand up to scrutiny, for by Esther 8:3 Hadassah is safe from harm, but she once against entreats the favor of the king to save her people. She puts her own life in danger (Esther 4:11, 8:3) to intercede for her people, even when her life is quite secure.

Mordecai had taught her well to love God and love people, and to make sacrifices in order to help, protect, and even save others. May we, like the Messiah Jesus, be teaching our children that it is “More blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).” May we, like the Apostle Paul, be willing to sacrifice everything for others (Romans 9:3). May we, like Christ, do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than ourselves, looking not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 4:3-4).

Let us set the example for our children, as Mordecai did in adopting Hadassah and raising her, and then pray for them that they would be imitators of us as we are of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Prayer

The most important lesson that Mordecai taught Hadassah was how to pray and seek God. When the disciples approached Christ they did not ask him to teach them how to walk on water, or turn water into wine, or multiply fishes, or heal the sick, or even to raise the dead, they asked him to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1). Beloved, if you teach your children only one thing, teach them how to come to God (John 14:6) and know the one true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent (John 17:3).

When Hadassah was faced with impossible circumstances she did not despair for her life, but turned to God in prayer and fasting, and entreated all of the Jews in town to likewise fast and pray for her (Esther 4:16). Hadassah did not suggest a menial prayer at mealtime, she called for a three day fast of food AND water. Three days without water is nearly fatal, but without God’s favor the Jews would surely die. Hadassah took her entreaty to God very seriously, and found faith, favor, and courage in God’s providence. For after all, if God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)?

Courage

Finally, in Hadassah’s life we see a tremendous amount of courage. She takes her life in her hands when she walks uninvited into the presence of the king, not once but twice (Esther 5:1, 8:3-5). She had replaced an unsubmissive wife and so contextually she was in far more danger than most in stepping into the king’s court without being summoned, but the necessity outweighed the risk and she put on strength (Proverbs 31:25) and accepted the danger. She told her father, “If I perish, I perish (Esther 4:16).”

I imagine a five year old Hadassah sitting on her grey-haired father's lap and him telling her, “Fear not those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear God who can destroy both soul and body in Hell (Matthew 10:28)." Esther put away her fear of man and kings, she took courage in the providence of God, and knew that God does not believe in coincidences and had not put her in the palace for no reason (Esther 4:14), but that she was to, as William Carey put it 2300 years later, “Expect great things from God, and attempt great things for God.”

Courage is something that God can muster out of nothing, but more often it is a character trait trained through years of practice. Young David did not rush out to meet Goliath without a character of courage that had risked life and limb earlier in his life (1 Samuel 17:34-36). Certainly Hadassah had not decided to be courageous for the first time in the king's palace, but Mordecai had raised her up to walk in courage and know that it was God who walked before her, and who commanded angels to guard her in all her ways (Psalm 91, especially Psalm 91:11). Hadassah was trained in courage, so when great courage was required of her, she was prepared to rise and meet the challenge.

Conclusion

Mordecai was undoubtedly proud of the things his daughter accomplished through the sovereignty and working of God. But beloved, I doubt he was surprised by them. He had ingrained these things in his little girl from the time she could understand his words, and probably even before that. He had trained up his child in the way she should go, and when she was older and a queen in a hostile and strange land, she did not depart from the statutes of God.

Take Mordecai’s example, step up to be the father your children or the children in your house (church, community, etc) need. Care for their needs, see that they are safe, and bring them up to fear God and be used by him in the way in which he has prepared (Ephesians 2:10). Teach them to respect others, to show empathy and compassion, to obey your commands so they will obey God’s commands, to submit and trust to God’s will, how to pray, and how to be strong and courageous. Teach your boys, and even your girls, to laugh in the face of danger (Proverbs 31:25).

You have come into your childrens’ lives for just such a task as this. And who knows, perhaps you and God are preparing them to see nations saved and the name of Jesus lifted high as his peace is published throughout a foreign and hostile land.

In closing, Esther means “Star” and I believe it refers to God shining his righteousness and steadfast love through her. I am also apt to say that it is a partial fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel, “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever (Daniel 12:3).”

May it be, and may your name and the names of your children be forever remembered in regards to your faith in the living God who loved us and gave himself for us, and by the many that you and your family turn to righteousness, just as Mordecai and Hadassah are remembered and immortalized in the Book of Esther and in the hearts of millions of Persian Jews who were saved from the snare of the evil one. May your family be a starry cluster trained up in the way in which they should go.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for helping me to understand God's character more fully and to love Him more deeply. I'm thankful that you invested in my life, and I know Him better because I knew you. There's no doubt in my mind that you are an incredible godly leader of your family. Congratulations on everything!