Providence and Human Agency
Esther 4:14
For if you altogether hold your peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place…

We are very apt to under-estimate the value of our own lives. When we contemplate the countless worlds which constitute the universe, the countless ages which make up duration, how unspeakably insignificant do we and our affairs appear l But we must not be misled by such reflections. Even as the presence of the least particle conceivable affects all material existence, so the most insignificant human life influences in some measure the eternal course of events. Mordecai wished to impress Esther with a due sense of her own responsibility. She was not an ordinary individual, but a queen; she was allied to the man who swayed the destinies of nations; her position invested her with boundless power for good or evil. The time had come when she must either act in a manner becoming her resources, must use the opportunities at her disposal to save her people, or incur the guilt of neglecting her duty at the most momentous crisis. As a Jew, Mordecai believed in Providence, but not in a Providence that weakened human responsibility. Let us consider the main points emphasised here.

I. THAT PROVIDENCE IS INDEPENDENT OF HUMAN AGENCY. "For if thou altogether boldest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place." These words suggest -

1. That Providence is a well-established fact. The confidence of Mordecai was doubtless begotten of a conviction that God governs the affairs of men. To him this was not a matter of speculation; for, apart from the teaching of reason, he enjoyed the light of revelation, and was familiar with the wonderful history of his people. Some profess to derive comfort from their atheism. They rejoice to think that there is no God; or, if there be one, that he has left the world to manage for itself. As well might the passengers in a railway train be jubilant because they had got rid of the engineer, and were left to the mercy of an unguided locomotive.

2. Tidal the designs of Providence are never thwarted. The Jews had not yet fulfilled their mission. The great Deliverer of mankind who was to come out of Judah had not appeared. Mordecai knew that until the Divine purposes were accomplished the nation could not be destroyed. Hence the sublime assurance of his speech. The Jews had passed through a similar crisis before, when Pharaoh pursued them through the Red Sea. Profane history abounds with like instances. The Greeks were about to be. crushed by the iron heel of the invader when they won the battle of Marathon. The English nearly lost their independence through the Spanish Armada, which the tempest scattered to the four winds of heaven. We should never be bowed down by calamities. If we are children of the great Father we need not fear. Above, beneath, and around us there are unseen powers which steadily carry out his eternal decrees.

3. That Providence is the refuge of the oppressed. To no other power could the Jews have appealed in their dire distress. The wealth, and rank, and influence of the greatest empire in the world were against them. We need not wonder if they gave way to despair. But the God of Abraham had arranged for their sure deliverance. The labours of legislators, philanthropists, and divines had been powerless to release the black race in the United States of America from their intolerable bondage. Their wrongs seemed to multiply, and their fetters to be more securely fastened, as the years rolled on. But an incident as terrible as it was unexpected - the civil war - led them to liberty. Let the oppressor tremble, and the oppressed be encouraged; for the triumph of might over right cannot be permanent.

II. THAT PROVIDENCE AVAILS ITSELF OF HUMAN AGENCY. "But thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" Providence is not a synonym for fate. While it employs human agency, it never interferes with individual liberty; it leaves every man accountable for his conduct, whether of omission or commission. The words of Mordecai imply -

1. That Providence places men in certain positions for definite ends: "Who knoweth," etc. The supposition in this case was natural. The elevation of Esther, just before the threatened destruction of the Jews, was most significant. It pointed out to her the way of duty with unmistakable precision. Are we in difficulties as to what our own life-work may be? If so, it must be due to want of reflection. Rulers and subjects, rich and poor, learned and unlearned, have their distinct spheres of action in reference to material interests; their work is cut out for them, so to speak, by the very circumstances in which they are placed. In like manner we might nearly always answer the question, "Lord, what wilt thou have us to do?" by answering another question far less profound, "What can we do?"

2. That Providence chastises men for their unfaithfulness. "But thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed." Mordecai felt certain that if Esther failed to do what lay in her power to avert the coming calamity she would be singled out for retribution. To be in a position of influence at the very time when that influence could be turned to such a noble account, and yet remain culpably inactive, would have been to invite the reproaches of men and the anger of God. Deliverance would doubtless have arisen from another quarter, and in that case she might have persuaded herself that her own efforts were superfluous; but the sophistry which so easily deluded her own mind would have been powerless to arrest the course of righteous punishment. The ways of Providence are very mysterious; things come to pass in the most inexplicable manner; but we need not be baffled thereby. What is to be will be, in spite of our negligence, in spite of our indolence, in spite of our opposition; but woe be to us, for all that, if we fulfil not the duties of our position. In the checking of war, in the progress of civilisation, in the diffusion of knowledge, in the advancement of religion, we have each his allotted share, and there is a tribunal before which we must all answer for the manner in which we acquit ourselves. The Jews in the time of Deborah and Barak triumphed over their enemies, but Meroz was not therefore excused for its cowardly inactivity. "Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the Lord, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty." - R.

Parallel Verses
KJV: For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

WEB: For if you remain silent now, then relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Who knows if you haven't come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"

Position and Responsibility
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