This is what happened in the days of Xerxes, who reigned over 127 provinces from India to Cush.
1. A fact disclosed. That the Jews while in exile, under judgment, and without vision, were remembered and cared for by God. Outcast, they were not cast off, they were still the children of promise; God was still faithful to them.
2. From this fact an inference may be drawn. There is a Divine providence in the world; no supernatural exercises of power are needed to enable God to effect his will; all laws and things are his creatures, and therefore under his control; human dramas and tragedies take place every day in which acutest plans are foiled, and, by seemingly natural processes, truth and right vindicated. Our introduction to this king is in connection with a great FEAST. Its barbaric magnificence - prodigality and waste. All the princes and governors were invited - not together, but in companies, so that the revelry continued for the long period of six months (a hundred and fourscore days). What its motive? If we take the king to have been Xerxes, it may have preceded his expedition into Greece, as a boastful anticipation of triumph, or as a means of uniting in the monarch's resolve all the governing forces of the empire. But our story says nothing of any special purpose; that was beside the object for which it was written. The feast itself was described only because, in connection with it, a thing occurred which had a direct influence on the subsequent rescue of the Jews from a conspiracy against their life. The lines are in God's hands. He sees the end from the beginning. Every point in the narrative is necessary to the great issue, and to the general and abiding lesson. Yet enough is said to indicate that, so far as the king was concerned, the chief motive was vanity - a childish love of display, a vainglorious desire to witness the effect of the splendours of his person and palace on the magnates of his empire. During all the days of the feast "he showed the riches of his glorious kingdom, and the honour of his excellent majesty." His mind was puffed up by the conceit of his high-mightiness; he thirsted for the admiring homage of the world - not an homage attracted by mental greatness or moral worth, by elevation of character or heroism of conduct, but that low and degrading homage which fawns and flatters in presence of the vulgar ostentations of material pomp and power. This king of Persia was no Solomon, who could draw to his capital princes from all quarters by a wisdom and worth which were not overshadowed even by an unrivalled material splendour. Let us learn -
II. THAT HOMAGE TO RICHES AND THE LUXURIES THEY PURCHASE IS UNWORTHY OF A HUMAN SOUL. Not confined to any condition, place, or age. As readily exacted and given now as at any time. Wealth too often goes before worth. The material receives more respect than the moral or spiritual. The unspoken language is common-better be rich than good; better be surrounded with the showy emblems of worldly prosperity than have our character and homes adorned with the Christian virtues of truth, uprightness, and charity. The power to form right estimates as between the seen and the unseen, the material and the spiritual, much needed. How acquire such a power? Only by looking and listening to Jesus Christ, by having conscience, mind, and heart enlightened at the feet of him who said, "Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart." Best gifts and possessions, and truest springs of honour and happiness, in Jesus. Study his truth, his spirit, his life, and our idolatries of earthly good will shame us, and make us wonder how men with a Christ before them can sacrifice the benefits of a higher and nobler life for the material and perishing things of the present world. Our Lord himself presents the true test in Matthew 16:26.
III. THAT MEN ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE USE THEY MAKE OF THEIR WEALTH. Hospitality is a Christian virtue; but it is often sadly abused - a feeder of vanity and an incentive to sin. While showing a liberal and kindly spirit, it should avoid all extravagance. How much of the money that is spent on rich, showy, and self-glorifying banquets might be put to better use! A deep spirit underlies the words of our Lord in Luke 14:12-14.
IV. THAT MUCH POWER IN ONE HAND IS A DANGEROUS THING. Nothing tries a man more than a flood of prosperity. Ahasuerus was to be pitied, and the empire which he governed still more. Few heads or hearts can stand strong and erect under the burden of anything approaching an absolute authority. How terribly is this taught by history! It is well for the happiness of nations that improved ideas of government are now the rule. But the individual man, whatever be his rank, is to be put on his guard against the intoxications of what may seem to him good fortune, and against the temptation to abuse whatever power he possesses. Many who have acted worthily in adversity have been carried off their feet by a tide of prosperity.
V. THAT GOVERNMENTS OR EMPIRES ARE STABLE OR THE REVERSE ACCORDING TO THE PRINCIPLES AND LAWS THAT GOVERN THEM. It is hardly credible that the miserable nation whose Shah we have seen could ever have occupied a position like that described in our narrative. How great the contrast between then and now! Not alone, however; other and greater empires have gone the same way. In all edifices the foundation is the main thing. No empire, however strong, can last unless founded on Divine truth and righteousness. "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord." As with nations, so with men. A living trust in God, a true fellowship with God's Son, is the only safeguard that will give victory to a human life over all the evils that assail it, and enable it to enter at last into full possession of the life everlasting. - D.
Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus (this is Ahasuerus which reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia).
(A. B. Davidson, D. D.)
(G. Lawson, D. D.)
(G. Lawson, D. D.)
(A. B. Davidson, D. D.)
(Mark Guy Pearse.)
Which was in Shushan the palace.
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