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Mordecai Was Great (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
March 24, 2023 4:00 am

Mordecai Was Great (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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March 24, 2023 4:00 am

The final chapter of Esther’s story doesn’t even mention her name. But listen to Truth For Life as Alistair Begg follows Mordecai’s advancement from relative obscurity to the king’s right hand. Why did he receive such honor, and how did he handle it?



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Music playing Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg looks at the incredible advancement of the Queen's cousin Mordecai from relative obscurity outside the palace gates to the King's right hand man. Why did he receive such honor and how did he handle it?

We'll find out. I invite you to turn with me to the Old Testament, to the book of Esther, and to chapter 10. King Ahazuerus imposed tax on the land and on the coastlands of the sea, and all the acts of his power and might, and the full account of the high honor of Mordecai to which the king advanced him—how are they not written?—in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia.

For Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Ahazuerus, and he was great among the Jews and popular with a multitude of his brothers, for he sought the welfare of his people and spoke peace to all his people. Amen. We bow, gracious God, before your Word, asking for the help of the Holy Spirit to teach it and to understand it, to believe it, and to live in the light of it. And so we look away from ourselves to you, humbly and confidently. In Jesus' name.

Amen. Every once in a while throughout the course of history, a single person arises without whose presence everything would be different. If you think about your knowledge of history, recent or ancient, it won't be too difficult to come up with names that fit that bill—people who made a difference for good and people who made a difference that wasn't good. And one on the good side was honored with a bust of Winston Churchill, placed in the capital, Rotunda, in our nation's capital.

I, for one, am delighted about this. After all, in Britain we have Lincoln outside the Houses of Parliament. It only seems fair that Winston Churchill should be somewhere around in Washington. For those of you whose knowledge of history is scanty and you're nudging your grandfather, saying, Who is Winston Churchill? He's a former British prime minister.

He was a statesman, a defender of freedom, and was made an honorary United States citizen by President John F. Kennedy—a significant figure. In fact, the history of the Second World War and its implications would have been radically different apart from Winston Churchill. No student of history is able, honestly, to disavow that. It is impossible to imagine what would have happened if he, in all of his witness and consistency, had not stepped forward. I mention that because in the fifth century BC we're introduced to another character along the same lines. We're not able to say whether a bust was ever put together in the name of Mordecai. We do know that the events of Mordecai's life were recorded in the Chronicles of Media and Persia.

It said that in the text. But he also was an individual who, if he had not arisen, everything would have been markedly different. Because, as we've been discovering, he played a crucial role in the deliverance of the Jews from the prospect of annihilation—a prospect that was a ticking clock for them until things were reversed. And these three verses, which comprise chapter 10, are a wonderful counterbalance to the opening nine verses of the book. In terms of literature, in terms of a short story, it is, by any standards, a masterful piece of work. And here, in these three verses, we essentially have the postscript to the book. A postscript, which you will note, also contains what is essentially Mordecai's epitaph. I like epitaphs.

I think some of you will do. And any time I mention epitaphs, it gives me a chance to tell you my favorite epitaph, so I don't want to disappoint you. The tombstone reads, In turd, beneath this churchyard stone, lies stingy Jimmy Wyatt, who died one morning just at ten and saved a dinner by it. Obviously a Scotsman, who was delighted that he died in a lunch hour, thereby not having to expend any more cash for a dinner that evening, especially if he'd been planning on inviting any of his friends. It's somewhat humorous, but they must have put that on there, because it fitted him to a T. Just in the same way that this fits Mordecai to a T, he sought the welfare of his people and spoke peace to all his people.

When people said, What about Mordecai? they said, Rest, welfare, peace, prosperity. He had a mind for those who were his own. Now, let us endeavor to work our way through these three verses.

But this is what we're told. First of all, we're told that the king was in his counting house. And I just… I'm using a nursery rhyme in order to establish that, to lock it in your mind the way it locked it in my mind, surrounded by my grandchildren.

I'm reaching for nursery rhymes all the time now. This is, of course, Sing a Song of Sixpence, A Pocketful of Rye, Four and twenty blackbirds were baked in a pie, and when the pie was open, the birds began to sing, Isn't this a dainty dish to set before the king? The king was in his counting house counting out his money, the queen was in the parlor baking bread and honey, and the maid was in the garden hanging out the clothes, when down came a blackbird—by the way, I have to clean that up for our grandchildren—and pecked off her nose.

Well, we're not worried about the maid's nose at the moment, but we are concerned with the king. Government is back to normal. It starts with a great hurrah in the opening verses of the book, and now we discover that they are right back on track. All the prospects of these edicts and the implications for the nation seem now to have settled down for the time being, and government is doing what it does best—taxing people. King Ahasuerus imposed tax on the land. In fact, on the coastlands of the sea, the extent of the empire and the ability to secure taxation from the people is now firmly in place. Now, part of this is simply to make us understand how significant was the authority of King Ahasuerus—that he has not been superseded by Mordecai or by Esther or anyone else. He still is the king. It still is his empire. And even when he dies, although later the Persian empire fell into disrepute and disrepair, at the time of his death, things were really swimming along very nicely. And you will remember, of course, that Haman had suggested to King Ahasuerus that if he was to destroy the Jews, then Haman could chip into the treasury and things would work out splendidly.

But in actual fact, the benefits that the king would have enjoyed on that basis would never have come close to what he is now discovering with Mordecai as his prime minister. If we were in a different context and had time, we might actually just stop there for a moment and think about the implications of Christian citizenship. Because it's not right for Christians always to be moaning and groaning about the government. It's not right for the believer always to be carping and complaining. And Christians ought not to be the ones who are always bemoaning the nature of taxation.

Because God doesn't want us to. And Paul, when he writes to the Christians in Rome who are under a jurisdiction that was as threatening as any that we might imagine, he reminded them that the government that had been put in place was there in order to achieve the purposes of God. And therefore, says Paul, one must be in subjection to this government not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God attending to this very thing. Here's the principle.

Pay to all what is owed, taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. The king was in his counting house. Secondly, we're told that the queen is not even mentioned. Actually, we're not told that. We realize it because she's not mentioned. It's interesting, isn't it, that a book called Esther ends with no mention of Esther? Actually, not dissimilar to the story of Ruth. Because of all the book is called Ruth, it starts with Naomi, and it ends with Naomi. And here the story of Esther ends without her getting a mention.

Well, there's a reason for this. She had stepped forward when it mattered. She had exposed Haman for his corruption. She had been responsible for the securing of the second edict, along with the help of Mordecai. She had responded when her cousin had said to her in chapter 4 and verse 14, Who knows but that you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

And that was her moment, and she stepped forward then. But her role was passing, her part has been played, and she has now been superseded. So the king was in his counting house.

The queen is not even mentioned. Thirdly, Mordecai is honored. Mordecai is honored. You see, in verse 2, it moves from the acts of the power and might of the king to providing the full account of the high honor of Mordecai to which the king had advanced him. And ultimately, of course, we've been discovering these unspoken lessons about the unseen God, because God's name is not even mentioned in the book, but God is at work everywhere in the book. And when we see that the king had advanced him, it's true that Ahazuerus had chosen him as his prime minister, but ultimately we see that there is another king that is involved in this unfolding story—namely, he who is the king of all kings.

And he has been advanced to a position of honor, second only to the king. It's a dramatic change in the circumstances of this little man, isn't it? I say little man. I don't know if he was little.

But I've got him in my mind as little. In verse 5 of chapter 2, now there was a Jew in Susa the citadel whose name was Mordecai. It's a kind of inauspicious kind of introduction, isn't it? And there was a Jew in Susa whose name was Mordecai. It doesn't seem like much.

It wasn't really very much. His family background was such that they had been snatched away and taken into captivity. That was his heritage, one generation and another generation, and here he was, an alien in a strange land, caring for his cousin Esther, who was going to provide a crucial role in the story of God's purposes. And yet he sat at the gate. He didn't have access to the palace or to the king.

Now look at him! And he was advanced, advanced to become second in rank to King Ahasuerus. This is amazing when we rehearse the story, because remember, at the beginning of chapter 3, in contrast to little Mordecai who sits at the gate, Haman had been advanced by the king.

He was put in the position of extreme usefulness, in contrast to the fact that Mordecai, who wouldn't bow to him, found himself relatively in obscurity. But now, as the story ends, where is Haman now? Oh, he has hanged in judgment. He has been buried in disgrace. He remains, for as in the story of Esther, a classic illustration of the fact that pride comes before destruction, that a haughty spirit leads to this kind of disillusion. And he is long gone, but Mordecai is now in the position that he thought was justifiably his own—second in rank to King Ahasuerus. And this fact, we're told, is recorded in the chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia.

It's an interesting little sidebar, isn't it? Because after all, we don't have the chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia. I mean, you can't go to the national library and say, I'd like to take out the chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia. Nobody has it. Maybe one day it will be discovered. Fragments of it could still be discovered.

Archaeologists are always at work. But for now, we don't have it. So why is it mentioned? Well, we know the book has been mentioned, because this is the book that they read from on the night the king couldn't sleep, which proved to be such a strategic reading from a book.

And the point is fairly straightforward. This biblical record says the narrator, says the author, may be confirmed if you read the secular record which is in the chronicles of the Medes and the Persians. So in other words, he says, if you want to go and check whether what I'm telling you is accurate, then just read the secular record. He wouldn't reference the secular record if, when they went to the secular record, it undermined what he had just told them in the story—unless he was stupid, which he isn't. In a not dissimilar way, when we read the New Testament, and the story of Jesus and his resurrection, and the events of Pentecost, and what follows from it, we are able to say to our friends and neighbors, Go read the books of Josephus. Go read the Roman and the Jewish historians. And there you will find confirmation of what is recorded for us in the New Testament. Now, we daren't ask them to go and do that unless, when they go and do that, they discover that both the Roman and the Jewish historians confirm the fact that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified at the time that Pilate was the governor, Pontius Pilate, that they confirmed the fact that his disciples gathered together on the first day of the week and sang hymns to him as God and followed him and declared him to be the Messiah. Keep that in mind when your friends are pushing you back and saying, You crazy people, you just read that Bible, and you've got that stuff in the Bible, and you make parts up, and you twist things around and so on.

You say, No, we're not doing that at all. And if you would like just to check, you can look and see whether what is affirmed in the New Testament is confirmed in secular history. Now, is it challenged?

Of course it is challenged. But nevertheless, the confirmation is there by the honest who are not substantiating a claim. They are simply recording history. If we had time as well, we might ponder what it means to write things down, why it matters to keep good minutes, why a history is a crucial piece of life. I'm not so sure that we understand the implications of what we're doing right now with all these emails and things.

You could argue, Well, we're creating an amazing history on my phone with iOS 7 or whatever else it is. Now I have a thread. It's a thread, and I follow the thread. I understand that.

It's jolly good. But I can't imagine me still with the same miserable cell phone when I'm 112 years old, you know, trying to thread my way back to 2013. And when you're in meetings, isn't it still true in the age of advanced communication? Is it not still true that you're sitting in the meeting, and as the meeting unfolds, somebody immediately says, Is anyone writing this down?

Why? Well, we'd better know what we said—why we said it, when we said it—because it has implications. History matters. History matters. There's a whole generation growing up that they don't know what happened before the Berlin Wall came down. They don't even know there was a Berlin Wall—unless someone tells them. And they'd better have written it down, because it was a pivotal event in the twentieth century, in the story of the demise of atheistic communism and the rise of freedom for countless millions of people. But they don't know—unless they're told.

It was a passing thought. But write a journal. Write things down for your children and for your grandchildren. Write down where you were born. Write down where you went to school. Write down when you got your first bicycle. Write down when you first had a kiss. Write it down so they can read it. Otherwise, they will have no record of you.

For after all, you're here for a moment, and you're gone, and so am I. The king was in his counting house. The queen wasn't mentioned. Mordecai was honored. Was honored. He said, Well, of course he was honored.

No, there's no of course in it. Why was he honored? Do you think he was honored because he was speaking out of both sides of his mouth? Do you think he was honored because he was seeking to curry favor with King Ahasuerus?

No, he clearly wasn't. The reason that he was honored is presumably because of his absolute integrity and his moral consistency. He was so clearly a Jew and lived as a Jew. He wasn't a Persian. He honored another god. He lived in a different way.

He kept different traditions. He was an absolute obvious standout from the Persian community, and yet he was the one that was eventually chosen to fulfill this position. In fact, you will see that the position that he fills as second in position to the king himself is both a dangerous position and an honorable position.

Dangerous insofar as it brings the threat of self-aggrandizement. Honorable in that fulfilling the role of second fiddle is not an easy position to fill. So his position was not one that incurred the wrath or the jealousy of his friends, but it was a position of popularity as well. You will see that's the very word that is there in the text.

He was great among the Jews and popular with a multitude of his brothers. Have you noticed that people in your office become very unpopular when they just move up two floors? It was fine when she was on the sixth floor, when she had the same kind of desk as you, but then she got moved to the ninth floor. And she's changed. Oh, she has? Do you think maybe you're just jealous that you're still on the sixth and she went to the ninth?

No. To be put in such a position of significant influence and to remain popular with your peers is a unique thing. It doesn't happen all the time. And Mordecai is both in position and popular, and thirdly, seeking the prosperity of his people. That's what he was concerned about, and they knew that's what he was concerned about.

He was concerned about them. He didn't say, Well, now that I get to ride in a Daimler with two flags on the front, now that I get to get a cavalcade, as it were, through Susa. If you've been in Washington, D.C., and every so often you see somebody coming flying by, you've got to assume it must be the president of the United States.

But no, it could be just about anybody now. But Mordecai, he'd go flying through with a two-flag chariot. Very easy for him, then, to be regarded as somebody who is isolated from the people, no longer interested in the people, but not Mordecai. His position left him popular, left him concerned for their prosperity, and left him in a position where he spoke peace to all his people. I think this means that he encouraged them to be what they needed to be, even as he was. Because, you see, Mordecai's lasting legacy, as Reid puts it, is that he combined service to the king with service to his people.

And he did so without compromising on either front. He serves both king and people, speaks up for both, desiring for both their good and their peace. So there you have it. That's his epitaph.

We're done. He sought the welfare of his people, and he spoke peace to all. While it's clear that the focus of the book of Esther is God's providence and sovereign care for his people, you're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life, and we'll hear more on Monday. Now in just a couple of weeks we will celebrate the event that changed everything when Jesus conquered the grave. We want to recommend to you a book today that will explain why Jesus' death and resurrection is so critical, so vital to our faith. The book is titled With a Mighty Triumph. It'll walk you through the Apostle Paul's defense of the gospel, where he emphasizes the central role of Jesus' bodily resurrection. In this book you'll discover why Christ's victory over the grave is the source of hope for our own resurrection.

As you read the book you'll also learn how to live what is described as a resurrection-shaped life, that is a life that is marked by hope, a hope that is obvious by the way you worship, the risks you take, and the holiness you display. Request your copy of the book With a Mighty Triumph when you give a donation to support the teaching ministry of Truth for Life, visit truthforlife.org slash donate or call us at 888-588-7884. And by the way if you're planning to travel away from home over the Easter or spring break and you'd like to listen to Truth for Life on a local radio station, you can find the time and station call letters by visiting truthforlife.org slash station finder.

Just type in the zip code or the city name where you'll be traveling, even a local landmark, and the stations that broadcast Truth for Life in that area will be listed for you. I'm Bob Lapine, thank you for listening today, we hope you enjoy your weekend, hope you're able to worship with your local church. On Monday you'll hear the conclusion of this dramatic and compelling series from the book of Esther. We'll see that although the Israelites in Esther's story enjoyed a great deliverance, it doesn't compare to the ultimate deliverance of God's people. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-24 05:05:49 / 2023-03-24 05:14:58 / 9

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