The Elements of Perfect Joy
Esther 9:19, 22
Therefore the Jews of the villages, that dwelled in the unwalled towns…

A good day, and of sending portions one to another:.., days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor. Twice then, among the other particulars of the people's glad celebration of their deliverance from a savage massacre, is this detail included, that they sent "portions one to another;" and once it is added that they sent "gifts to the poor." This was no ancient prescription of the law, so far as literal command is concerned. But the spirit of it is no doubt to be detected even there, especially in those passages which urge the principle of taking care that days of general joy should be felt in their warming influence by "the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow." In the same spirit we read in Nehemiah (Nehemiah 8:10), however, what comes verbally much nearer our present passage. A day of deep feeling and special cause of joy was to be observed as a day of feasting, and of sending "portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared." There can be no question that we have here a portion of the genuine history of the human heart. We seem to hear some of the better and simpler utterances of human nature. The joy of the saved people of God is before us. And whatever other marks it may have, it certainly has those which make it a type of Christian joy on earth. In this light principally we may now regard it. We notice here -

I. A GENERAL AND SIMULTANEOUS JOY. It was not in every respect equal. But in one respect it was equal, in that wherever it spread it was the joy of life, of life rescued from the brink of destruction. Joy need not be equal all round a family; nor all round the world's family; for there are in hearts exceedingly various degrees of susceptibility, and these by themselves are sure to govern largely the exact amount of what can be called happiness or joy. All that is necessary to the one largest, purest, most loving heart in the whole circle is, that all others be blessed and happy at the same time, and according to the full measure of their capacity. But a joy that is not general, that is exposed to overhearing the sounds of complaining, or the sighs of those who mourn alone, or the echoes of the outcry of pain, is deeply felt to be imperfect.

II. A JOY FULL OF MUTUAL KINDNESS. Quite independently of the differences in human life that show one man rich and possessing all things, and another poor and needy, there are differences within a far less range of compass, and yet innumerable. These do not show the extremes of condition; and by Divine wisdom they do make the room for all the play of sympathy, for all the works of mutual kindness. These save hearts from stagnation, and make the healthful ripples and movement after movement of life, stirring the affections within. Were all this at an end, the dead level of human life and feeling would be appalling indeed. The joy that does not find this room for mutual service, for "readiness to good works," for interchange of the offices of affection and friendship, if general, would nevertheless be selfish to the last degree. How happy that short reign of community of goods in the early apostolic history, when all "of them that believed were of one heart and one soul: neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common." And that would be inferior to the conscious pleasure of a constant exchange of the tokens of sympathy and of the deeds of kindness. In the joy that should shut out the prizes of mutual service it would be felt that there was something wanting.

III. A JOY FULL OF CHARITABLE KINDNESS. There can be no doubt that the kindness of charity is in reality an easier exercise and a less rare grace than that of a perfect mutual kindness. Yet we know the special honour put upon poverty both by the life and the lip of Jesus. And we know the abounding promises that his word makes to those who pity and give to the poor. There is indeed a certain subtle danger that may lurk in the perpetual exercise of charitable kindness. The giver can almost always reckon on the exaltation of position which belongs to the patron. He may be injured by what underlies the beautiful and ever-welcome words of the regretful Job: "When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me." Nevertheless, men little need at present to be warned of the danger; they seldom come near enough to this temptation. And, meantime, must not the joy that knows not the spirit of charity to the poor fatally want? There must be something different from vacant want indeed, bad as that should be. That joy must feel itself "a guilty thing." But now in this typical joy of God's suddenly-rescued people in the days of Esther all these elements were present. The people had all been in one danger, had all enjoyed one deliverance, and they all experience one general pervading joy. Common suffering while it lasts draws us near to one another by a proverb; it is rather the index of cowardice of heart. But when the return of common mercy finds us drawing near to one another in the works of practical fellowship, and showing compassion to the poor in the works of charity, then a happiness is kindled of the best that earth knows. The companions in danger and in rescue are found still companions in prosperity. In woe and in weal they have learned to be one. The common escape from danger quickens a sincere compassion. And this history cannot be judged to fall short of portraying the one danger of the whole race of mankind, the one rescue open to them, and the one united life of joy, of love, of charity that Christians ought to live here on earth. - B.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Therefore the Jews of the villages, that dwelt in the unwalled towns, made the fourteenth day of the month Adar a day of gladness and feasting, and a good day, and of sending portions one to another.

WEB: Therefore the Jews of the villages, who live in the unwalled towns, make the fourteenth day of the month Adar a day of gladness and feasting, a good day, and a day of sending presents of food to one another.

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