Esther 4:1
When Mordecai learned of all that had happened, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the middle of the city, wailing loudly and bitterly.
Anguish Keenly FeltW. M. Taylor, D. D.Esther 4:1
Great SorrowW. Burrows, B. A.Esther 4:1
Mordecai in SackclothJ. Hughes.Esther 4:1
Mordecai's GriefA. M. Symington, B. A.Esther 4:1
Mordecai's GriefJ. S. Van Dyke, D. D.Esther 4:1
The Transfigured SackclothGrenville KleiserEsther 4:1
An Unyielding GriefW. Dinwiddle Esther 4:1-3
DistressW. Clarkson Esther 4:1-3

We have a very vivid picture, in these few touches, of a nation's exceeding sorrow. We are reminded of ?

I. THE HEARTLESSNESS AND IMPOTENCE OF TYRANNY IN REGARD TO IT. The king could cheerfully speak the word which caused the calamity, and then, when its sorrow surged up to his palace wall, shut his doors against the entrance of any sign of it; "for none might enter into the king's gate clothed with sackcloth" (ver. 2). The tyrant first becomes responsible for grievous and widespread woe, and then takes measures to prevent its utterance from disturbing his royal pleasure or repose. Such is selfishness in unchecked power. But though heartless, it will discover the limits of its sway; the hour will come when it will find itself impotent as a leaf in the flood; when the loud and bitter cry of a people's wrongs and sufferings will pass the sovereign's guards and penetrate his gates, will find entrance to his chamber and smite his soul.

II. ITS CRAVING FOR EXPRESSION. "Mordecai rent his clothes and put on sackcloth with ashes,.., and cried with a loud and bitter cry" (ver. 1). "And in every province.., there was great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and wailing, and many lay in sackcloth and ashes" (ver. 3). All strong feeling craves utterance; joy in song, grief in tears. In this case intensity of national distress found expression in the most speaking and striking forms to which Eastern misery and despair were accustomed to resort - in "sackcloth and ashes;" a "loud and bitter cry;" "fasting, and weeping, and wailing" To command ourselves when we suffer pain or stand in grave peril is manly and virtuous. Yet it is but shallow wisdom to say that crying will not make it better. There is real and valuable relief in the act of utterance. In saddest griefs the worst sign of all is a dead silence, the undimmed eye.

"Home they brought her warrior dead;
She nor swooned nor uttered cry.
All her maidens, watching, said,
She must weep, or she will die." Even the "loud and bitter cry" is not without its worth to the heart that utters it (Esau ? Genesis 27:34). Sorrow may utter itself in many ways; the best of all is in prayer - in hallowed, soothing, reassuring communion with our heavenly Father, telling all our tale of grief in the ear of our Divine Friend. Next best is human sympathy - the unburdening of our souls to our most tried and sympathising friend. We may well be thankful that he has so "fashioned our hearts alike" that we can reckon on true and intense sympathy in the time of our distress. A third channel is in sacred poetry. How many of the bereaved have had to bless God for the hymns and poems in which their own grief has found utterance, through which it has found most valuable relief.


1. We are moved by it. Our hearts are stirred to their depth by the recital of the woes which are endured by great numbers of men and women, when fire, or flood, or famine, or the sword of man comes down upon them in irresistible calamity.

2. Are not the angels of God moved by it, and do not these "ministering spirits" with unseen hands minister then to the children of need and sorrow?

3. God himself, we know, is moved by it. I have surely seen the affliction of my people" (Exodus 3:7). He "heard their groaning" (Exodus 2:24). If the woe of the world is not doubled, it is largely swollen by the sorrowful sympathy it excites. But it is well it should be so, for such sympathy is good for those who feel it, and it is the spring of remedy and removal.

IV. THE DISTRESS OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST. Looking on the afflicted Israelites at this crisis of their history, we may regard them as a type of the Church of God in its distress. Thus regarding the subject, we remark -

1. That God allows his Church to pass through very strange and trying scenes. It is wholly inexplicable to us, but it is a certain fact that he has done so, and it is probable that he will do so again. There have been, and will be, crises in its history. Persecution will assail it. Infidelity will seek to undermine it. Worldliness will endeavour to corrupt it. It may go hard with it, and its very life be threatened.

2. That in its distress and danger it must seek Divine deliverance. God only can, and he will rescue and restore. At the eleventh hour, perhaps, but then, if not earlier, he will interpose and save. But his aid must be

(1) earnestly,

(2) continuously,

(3) believingly sought by his faithful children. - C.

When Mordecai perceived all that was done, Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes.
In the case of Mordecai, the first effect of the proclamation was bitter anguish, for his conduct had been the flint out of which the spark leaped to kindle this portentous conflagration. But Mordecai's grief did not upset his judgment. The genuine sorrow of an honest soul very seldom has that effect; and this man's greatness comes out in his deliberateness. Faith, too, as well as sound judgment, may be discerned under this good man's grief.

(A. M. Symington, B. A.)

I. MORDECAI WAS EXCEEDINGLY AFFECTED AT WHAT THE KING HAD COMMANDED (ver. 1). See the stirring benevolence of this man, the sweet philanthropy which dwelt in his soul, and how deeply he felt the common calamity, which resulted from his own conscientious doings. There is nothing new in the Lord's people meeting with adversities and troubles in this life. "Let them that suffer according to the will of God, commit the keeping of their souls to Him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator." "As the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ."

II. IN THE DEPTH OF HIS GRIEF, MORDECAI "CAME EVEN BEFORE THE KING'S GATE, CLOTHED WITH SACK CLOTH" FOR NONE MIGHT ENTER INTO THE KING'S GATE CLOTHED WITH SACKCLOTH (ver. 2). Amusements or diversions are one class of spiritual idols to which many of the sons of men render homage. The wise man informs us that a scene of unbroken enjoyment is not the best for the interest of the soul. "It is better to go to the house of mourning," etc. "for that is the end of all men, and the living will lay it to heart." Do as the saints of old did; we never hear them saying, "I will rejoice in the world"; but "I will rejoice in the Lord," "I will rejoice in Thy salvation." "In the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice." "My soul shall be joyful in my God: for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness."

III. Mordecai, though he could not enter within the king's gate with his signals of distress, WENT AS NEAR IT AS HE DARED TO GO, WITH THE VIEW OF ACQUAINTING ESTHER, BY MEANS OF HER ATTENDANTS, WITH THE IMPENDING DANGER. As soon as she heard of his mournful habit, she sympathised with him, and sent him raiment instead of his sackcloth, that he might resume his place. We cannot but admire two things which the grace of God had wrought in this woman — her condescension and gratitude. She was now a queen. Providence had placed her on the summit of worldly greatness, yet did she not disregard one of her subjects in distress. She kindly inquired into the cause of his sorrow. Her gratitude also was lovely. Mordecai had acted the part of a tender father towards her, when she was cast a parentless child on the wide world. She does not now forget that tenderness.

IV. MORDECAI SENT BACK TO ESTHER TIDINGS OF THE SITUATION IN WHICH HE, AND SHE, AND THEIR PEOPLE WERE PLACED (vers. 7, 8). Esther was now in a station, high and influential, and she is here charged to use her influence on the side of right and justice, and against oppression and tyranny. It is delightful to behold power thus employed! Power is a mighty weapon, and effects great things either to the injury or benefit of the community.



1. That Mordecai had a strong belief that God would interfere for His people in this case.

2. That we are not to flinch from our duty by reason of the danger which we incur by its performance. It is easy to walk in the way while it is smooth and easy, but it must be walked in also when it is rough and thorny.

3. That the work of the Lord shall prosper, whether we endeavour to promote it or otherwise. "Deliverance shall arise to the Jews from another place: but thou," etc. God is never at a loss for instruments to accomplish His will. If we neglect the honour, He will make others willing to spend and to be spent in His service.

VII. WE COME NOW TO ESTHER'S ANSWER (vers. 15, 16). Fasting and prayer were resorted to on this occasion. Spiritually performed, they never fail of success. United prayer, as in these cases, and in that of Peter, who was about to be killed by Herod, is omnipotent. Like Esther, let us work and pray. These duties must ever be associated. To work without praying is Pharisaism and presumption. To pray without working is insincerity and hypocrisy. Like Mordecai, let us counsel others to do their duty, heedless of all temporal consequences, and pray that they may have power from on high for its due accomplishment.

(J. Hughes.)

At first it would appear that he was so stunned, and almost stupefied, by the news, that he knew not what to do. He was cast into the uttermost distress. He was like a vessel struck by a cyclone. He would get to the use of efforts to meet the crisis by and by; but, for the moment, when the hurricane first burst upon him, he could do nothing but give way to the violence of the storm.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

I. SORROW CANNOT BE PREVENTED. Sibbes says, "None ever hath been so good or so great as could raise themselves so high as to be above the reach of troubles." Thomas Watson observes, "The present state of life is subject to afflictions, as a seaman's life is subject to storms. Man is born to trouble; he is heir-apparent to it; he comes into the world with a cry and goes out with a groan."

II. SORROW CANNOT BE EXPLAINED. In its general aspect sin is the cause of sorrow. When we come to particularise we find ourselves at fault. Eternity is the only true and complete interpreter of time. Heavenly joys only can make plain the meaning of earthly sorrows.

III. SORROW CANNOT BE HIDDEN. Emotion is as much part of our God-given nature as intellect. The man who does not feel is a man with the better part of manhood destroyed. Feeling must sooner or later find an expression. It is better not to hide our sorrows. Trouble concealed is trouble increased.

IV. SORROW CANNOT BE CONFINED. It passes from nature to nature; from home to home. This community of feeling, this susceptibility to sorrow, speaks to us of our brotherhood. We are members one of another.


1. By believing that the threatened trouble may never come.

2. By believing that God knows how to effect a deliverance.

3. By believing that sorrow may be made productive.As the waters of the Nile overflow the surrounding country, and open up the soil, end prepare it for the reception of the rice seed, so the waters of sorrow should overflow and open up the otherwise barren soil of our nature, and prepare it for the reception of the seed of all truth in its manifold bearings. "Tribulation worketh patience," etc.

(W. Burrows, B. A.)

There is perhaps but little doubt that Mordecai passed hours — they come to nearly all — when gloom lay heavy upon the soul, when the shock he had felt seemed to render existence a blank, leaving little of hope before him save that which glittered around the gateway of death and seemed to whisper, "Abandon effort; accept the inevitable" — seasons when the fruitlessness of labour, the unreasonableness of man, the malignancy of human enmity, the worthlessness of human sacrifice, the emptiness of the most ardent aspirations, and the ineffciency of goodness, leave the soul drifting upon the open sea of despondency with a torturing sense of loneliness — moments when faith in man, even faith in the Church, is shaken, inducing the spirit to cast itself upon the Fatherhood of God, as the storm drives the wearied bird to its home in the rocks. But since faith still lives, and can only live, in the performance of present duty — which alone has the power of maintaining piety in the soul — he soon discovers that continued reliance upon God is urging him to labour for the realisation of the results he covets.

(J. S. Van Dyke, D. D.)

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