The Religion of National Gratitude
Esther 9:21, 27, 28, 31
To establish this among them, that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same, yearly,…

Mordecai and Esther were not the people to receive great blessings and then at once to forget them. We not unfrequently see those who have had hair-breadth escapes from the worst of calamities recover in a moment their previous light and jaunty spirits. They seem insensible to the risk which had so imperilled them, and certainly are not grateful for the mercy which had rescued them. They do not return either to give thanks to man or glory to God. It is far otherwise now with Mordecai, with Esther, and, at their initiative, with the mass of the people. Wherever Mordecai had sent to his people the messages of relief and the warrants to resist, there he now sends proposals which, if acceded to, will insure the perpetual memory of their deliverance, and will suggest ever new gratefulness for it. Esther joins heart and hand in the same, and the people themselves warmly approve the suggestion. They solemnly and enthusiastically adopt the proposal. They "undertook to do as they had begun, and as Mordecai had written to them." The method of observing an anniversary to all generations is accepted as the means by which "the memorial" of their deliverance "shall never perish" from them or "their seed." It is evident that a deep religious interest was thrown into this matter, and the account of it is repeated as many as four times, and with minuteness of detail. The example is good for individuals. The precedent is good for nations. We have here -

I. A LEADING INSTANCE OF NATIONAL GRATITUDE. There is great danger of the fit occasions of national gratitude passing by unimproved. This may often arise simply from the fact that "what is every one's business is no one's." The danger needs to be counteracted, and sometimes it is effectually counteracted. Three conditions present, will exhibit, the fair and happy display of national gratitude.

1. The benefit must be in its character such as reaches the heart. Whether cheap bread, cheap health, or cheap Bible; whether free laws, free knowledge, or free conscience, it must be what is adapted to all, and can be appreciated by all. The blessing called life had perhaps never been considered in this light by the Jews till they were so near to losing it. But it was what every one of them, young and old, and of every class, appreciated.

2. The benefit must be such as has reached, either directly or indirectly, every class of the people. In highly-developed communities it should form part of the self-imposed work of all kinds of public and religious teachers to show the value of benefits which may be only indirect, and how they claim gratitude. In the present instance, the benefit for which such gladness and joy had sprung up had penetrated not only to every class, but to every individual.

3. The call to celebrate the benefit must be made so as to win the hearty approval and co-operation of the people. The moral influence of Mordecai and Esther was evidently very great. Their own example, their own deep interest in the course suggested, was contagious. The urgency with which they wrote helped to throw conviction of duty and enthusiasm toward its performance into the hearts of all the people. God never loves a cheerful giver more than when the cheerful giving is in very simple matters - that of thanks, or praise, or grateful adoration presented to himself.

II. A SOLEMN RESOLUTION FOR THE PERPETUATION OF NATIONAL GRATITUDE. Much kindly feeling passes away for want of embodiment. It dies down within, and there comes "no second spring" for it. Certainly gratitude is liable soon to die away. The most solemn claim of affection that the world knows is couched in the language of the claim of gratitude: "Do this in remembrance of me." In this perpetuation of national thanksgiving we may notice -

1. The wise method by which it was obtained.

(1) The happy moment was seized by the moral leaders of the people for giving a religious character to the joy that already possessed them. Mordecai made use of the excited state of feeling to say, Let it take the direction of thanksgiving.

(2) The right moment was seized, when the "willing mind" of a whole people would be inclined to make a day into an anniversary ever to be observed. After the people had once pronounced assent, as it were with one voice, and their chief men had put their hand to the engagement, they would not be likely to turn back. The resolution of that critical time has lasted and has borne fruit now over twenty-three centuries.

2. The good ends which it would serve. Love and thankfulness, and praise and gratitude, are all alike in one respect, that they ask no utilitarian questions. Their motive lies in themselves. And probably it was never more so than in this history. Yet we are permitted to observe the many directions in which they bear good fruit. The perpetuation of national thanksgiving on the right occasion - that is to say, not after every bloody battle, to which the Lord never sent forth his people; and in the right method - i.e. not in such a way as will gratuitously wound the feeling of another nation, - is adapted to produce great and good results.

(1) The acknowledgment is a direct act of glorifying God.

(2) It keeps him in the memory of the people as the Giver of all good, as the Sovereign Ruler and the beneficent Friend.

(3) It reminds again and again of the need once felt so keenly, of the poverty once so trying, of the exceeding peril which once threatened, of the boundless relief once experienced. God's people were bidden to remember how "they were bondsmen in Egypt," to "look to the rock whence they were hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence they were digged." And these are the memories that chastise the pride of the human heart, and raise the tone and level of the character, and lead gradually nearer real safety and real prosperity. They are also the memories which for the future guide to the right source of confidence and of help. Of whatever advantage we know these things to be in any individual life, the advantage is one immensely multiplied in the case of a nation - multiplied, that is, by the whole number of those who go together to compose it. - B.

Parallel Verses
KJV: To stablish this among them, that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same, yearly,

WEB: to enjoin them that they should keep the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month Adar yearly,

The Elements of Perfect Joy
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