And all the king's servants, that were in the king's gate, bowed, and reverenced Haman: for the king had so commanded concerning him…
But Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence. This book of Esther abounds in revelation of human nature. It has been much remarked upon as not containing the name of God. Furthermore, it has nothing of strict doctrine in its technical and theological sense. Neither does it lay itself out to exhibit the great spiritual facts which arrest the attention of the Bible reader in other portions of it. It does not refer with any explicitness to the unseen, to the great future, to the "that day" of the epistles. On the other hand, it is wonderful in the various exposition it offers of human nature. To history, indeed, its matter is confined. But that history seems to pursue its object with undeviating exactitude of aim. Through impartiality of selection and fidelity of description it advances, awarding its present verdicts to those on the left hand, or to those on the right. We have already considered the illustration it offers of a noble refusal on the part of a woman, on an occasion when to refuse was both undoubtedly right and undoubtedly the cause of much suffering and loss. We have here an illustration of the noble refusal of a man, right against the enormous force of the current of the whole world around him. Consistently with his race, his education, his religion, it is not merely, as in the case just alluded to, in the dictates of nature, but in the whispered monitions of religion as well, in the principle of "enduring as seeing the invisible," that the basis of the refusal in question is found and justified. Notice this refusal in some of the more prominent features it presents -
I. IT IS A REFUSAL WHICH COMES FROM THE DEEPER RECESSES OF OUR NATURE. It comes down from its higher haunts, from its more sacred retreats. To refuse at the price of suffering, loss, possibly death, because of the blush that would mantle in the cheek if you did not refuse, is to obey worthily God-given nature. All honour to Vashti that she did so! But to refuse at the imminent price of martyrdom for self, and for the all you hold dearest to the heart, and for your people scattered over a hundred lands, just because of a recovered snatch of Sinai's second commandment, is the achievement of a much higher reach. Obedience to the dictate of what We generally call nature is not to be disparaged. It reflects the intention of the Creator, and "repeats his praise." But So far as we are concerned, it may be considered to have something more of instinct about it. Mere physical temperament will in part account for it. But when the obedience is attributable to the new-learnt lessons of the word of God, then, though it is not a nobler parentage that accounts for it, it owns to a directer descent from the one Parent of all good, and this sheds fresh lustre upon it. Innocent nature in Eden, the broken snatches of Divine communication to our first parents in Eden, the patriarchal gains in similar methods of Divine revelation, then the ten commandments, the prophets, the beatitudes, the new commandment, all in developing order, challenge our lower life to regulate and improve itself by higher principles. "Thou hast magnified thy word," said the Psalmist, "above all thy name" (Psalm 138:2). The word of God unfolds duty, opportunity, responsibility in an ever-increasing ratio, and on an ever-ascending scale. And it ascertains the law which distinguishes the praise of the obedience, amid possibly great sacrifice, of nature, from the obedience paid, often amid the greatest possible sacrifice, to the inner, living Word. Mordecai was a worthy successor, by some fifty years, of Daniel and his three companions with their food (Daniel 1:8-17); of those same three companions in the matter of the golden image at Dura (Daniel 3:8-28); and again, in particular, of Daniel and his prayers (Daniel 6:4-24). "These all obtained their good report through faith" - the faith that saw, heard, obeyed, what was a blank to mere nature, inaudible and invisible to mere sense.
II. IT WAS A REFUSAL INTENSIFIED IN EFFORT BY ANXIETY AS TO WHAT IT MIGHT ENTAIL UPON ESTHER. It risked the premature betrayal of the nationality of Esther as well as of Mordecai himself, and thereby the spoiling of what it is probable Mordecai already had in his mind, viz., that Esther might prove a great benefactor of her people generally.
III. IT WAS A REFUSAL FAITHFULLY ADHERED TO WHEN DANGERS GREW THICKER. Mordecai did not yield and cringe to Haman when the original inner reason of his refusing to do so had now become immensely added to by Haman's enormous revenge. Outer policy might have advocated yielding at that very moment. The dictate of that policy would have been felt a temptation, resisted by few indeed. Very painful thoughts might also have attacked the steadfastness of Mordecai, as to what the recriminations of his people might be - that by his one display of feeling against Haman so many were involved in a common destruction. They might have said, "Why should he endanger the welfare of his people?" All the more would they have said this if at all envious because of the relation in which he stood to the new-made queen, Esther. But "none of these things moved him." He was inflexible at the right time.
IV. IT WAS A REFUSAL WHICH OPENED A PERIOD OF DREADFUL SUSPENSE. There are many sacrifices, great in themselves, but easier to make because a moment will make the resolution, another moment will execute the resolution, and a third moment will be quite sufficient to acquaint one with the result of it. The discipline of suspense, however, with many natures is nothing less than torture. And now Mordecai's refusal inaugurated the strain of days, weeks, and months of anguished conflict of feeling, of strenuous planning, and alternative purposings, the end of which he could not foresee, but the likeliest end for himself "hanging on a tree" (Esther 2:23); for his nation, destruction.
V. IT WAS A REFUSAL WHICH THREW DOWN ITS ROOTS DEEP INTO THE SOIL OF TRUST AND FAITH. Mordecai descried one possible way out of his own and his people's fearful peril. It was a narrow, uncertain, and dimly-lighted track. It was enough. He strove for it. He prayed for it. Faith and hope appropriated it. He will not relax an effort, nor will he permit Esther to be remiss. This was the best thing about Mordecai's refusal, that it was willing to abide by the alternatives, the worst conceivable extremities, or God's own deliverance. He had trust, and his trust was rewarded. The position then shows one man, deserted of earthly help, standing immovable in the same place, in the same posture, against a fierce current, midway in which he stood, for conscience' and honour's sake. And the issue shown was this, that to himself and to thousands upon thousands with him were brought salvation and great honour. - B.
Parallel VersesKJV: And all the king's servants, that were in the king's gate, bowed, and reverenced Haman: for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence.