Then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer,…
Deep and intense, if not prolonged, must have been the struggle in the breast of the beautiful queen of Persia. The doom that awaited her if she was unfavourably received was terrible, and would be immediately executed. She had not only to do that which was "not according to the law" (ver. 16), but also to ask a great boon of the king, to bring before him her Jewish extraction, and to measure her influence against that of the great favourite. She did not seem at this time to be in any especial favour with Ahasuerus (ver. 11), and it appeared as if the human chances were much against success. But the nobler motives triumphed in the struggle; she would not refuse to attempt this great deliverance, let come what might. The worst was death, and "if she perished, she perished" (ver. 16). These are memorable words; if they are not often on human lips, the thought which breathes in them is often in human minds, and the feeling of which they are eloquent is often in human hearts. Men in every age and land are running great risks, trusting everything to one cast of the dice, imperilling life, or much if not all that makes life dear, on some one hazard. The words of Esther are sometimes found on lips unworthy to use them; they are perverted or misapplied. Sometimes they are
(1) the motto of a foolish fatalism. There is a certain keen but desperate pleasure in the intense excitement which precedes the moment when for- tunes are either made or lost. The gambler, as well as the hypocrite, "has his reward," such as it is, in the slaking of that feverish thirst for highly-wrought feeling, and he either wins what he he has not fairly earned, and what he is certain to squander in dissipation, or he loses perhaps all the precious fruits of many years' toil. He risks everything on one throw, and "if he perishes, he perishes. In whatever ways men run such risks, whether it be a kingdom or a fortune or a competency, they greatly exceed their rights; they run risks which they have no moral right to run, and are walking in a perilous and guilty path. These words are
(2) the expression of a needless fear. It is sometimes said by those who are anxiously seeking salvation, that if they perish, they will perish at the foot of the cross. This is, perhaps, only the trembling of a great hope, the shadow of a new and great joy. The earnest soul seeking salvation from sin through Christ Jesus cannot perish. He that believeth shall not perish. God's word, which is the very strongest basis on which to build any hope, is our sure guarantee. So also with the future blessedness. We need not, in presence of death, indulge even in this measure of uncertainty. Death is finally conquered. Christ is the Lord of life eternal, and will most assuredly bestow it on all who love his name. We shall not perish in the darkness of death, but live on in the brightness of immortal glory. That, however, to which these words of Esther are specially applicable is this; they are - THE UTTERANCE OF MORAL HEROISM. Esther came to her conclusion after serious and earnest thought. Her life was dear to her. She had everything to make it precious and worth keeping if she honourably could, but affection for her kindred and interest in her race weighed all selfish considerations down. She would go forward, and if she did perish, her life thus lost would not be a vain and worthless sacrifice, but a glorious martyrdom. Such struggles men are still called on to pass through, such victory to gain: the soldier as he steps into rank on the day of battle; the philanthropist as he visits the hospital or waits on the wounded ones lying stricken on the field of slaughter; the physician as he goes his round when the pestilence is raging; the sailor as he mans the lifeboat; the evangelist as he penetrates into the haunt of the vicious and the violent criminal; the missionary as he lands among the savage tribe. In presence of this risk-running of ours, we remark -
1. That though we may timidly shrink at first, yet afterwards we may do noble service. Witness this case of Esther, and that of Moses (Exodus 4:13).
2. That if not the greater, yet the lesser risks we should all be ready to run. If not life itself (1 John 3:16), some precious things in life. Something surely, if not much, in health, or money, or friendship, or reputation, or comfort we will venture for Christ and for our fellows. If we never undertake anything but that in which there is perfect security from injury and loss, we shall do nothing, we shall "stand all the day idle."
3. That we have the very strongest inducement to run great risks. The will of Christ (Matthew 16:25); the example of Christ; the example of Christian heroes and heroines; the crying need of the world; the blessed alternative of present triumph, for if we perish we do not perish, but live eternally.
4. That we should sustain the hands of those who are passing through perils for us. Esther's maidens and "the Jews present in Shushan (ver. 16) fasted (and prayed), that the end might be as they hoped. We who wait while others labour or fight must "strengthen our brethren;" we must seek by our earnest prayer to touch the hand that turns the heart of kings, and that holds and guides all the threads of human destiny. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer,