the Days of Queen Esther
favor shown them by Cyrus, nearly fifty thousand of the children of the
captivity had taken advantage of the decree permitting their return.
These, however, in comparison with the hundreds of thousands scattered
throughout the provinces of Medo-Persia, were but a mere remnant. The
great majority of the Israelites had chosen to remain in the land of their
exile rather than undergo the hardships of the return journey and the
re-establishment of their desolated cities and homes.
A score or
more of years passed by, when a second decree, quite as favorable as the
first, was issued by Darius Hystaspes, the monarch then ruling. Thus did
God in mercy provide another opportunity for the Jews in the Medo-Persian
realm to return to the land of their fathers. The Lord foresaw the
troublous times that were to follow during the reign of Xerxes,--the
Ahasuerus of the book of Esther,--and He not only wrought a change of
feeling in the hearts of men
but also inspired Zechariah to plead with the exiles to return.
come forth, and flee from the land of the north," was the message
given the scattered tribes of Israel who had become settled in many lands
far from their former home. "I have spread you abroad as the four
winds of the heaven, saith the Lord. Deliver thyself, O Zion, that
dwellest with the daughter of Babylon. For thus saith the Lord of hosts;
After the glory hath He sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he
that toucheth you toucheth the apple of His eye. For, behold, I will shake
mine hand upon them, and they shall be a spoil to their servants: and ye
shall know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me." Zechariah 2:6-9.
It was still
the Lord's purpose, as it had been from the beginning, that His people
should be a praise in the earth, to the glory of His name. During the long
years of their exile He had given them many opportunities to return to
their allegiance to Him. Some had chosen to listen and to learn; some had
found salvation in the midst of affliction. Many of these were to be
numbered among the remnant that should return. They were likened by
Inspiration to "the highest branch of the high cedar," which was
to be planted "upon an high mountain and eminent: in the mountain of
the height of Israel." Ezekiel 17:22, 23.
It was those
"whose spirit God had raised" (Ezra 1:5) who had returned under
the decree of Cyrus. But God ceased not to plead with those who
voluntarily remained in the land of their exile, and through manifold
agencies He made
for them also to return. The large number, however, of those who failed to
respond to the decree of Cyrus, remained unimpressible to later
influences; and even when Zechariah warned them to flee from Babylon
without further delay, they did not heed the invitation.
conditions in the Medo-Persian realm were rapidly changing. Darius
Hystaspes, under whose reign the Jews had been shown marked favor, was
succeeded by Xerxes the Great. It was during his reign that those of the
Jews who had failed of heeding the message to flee were called upon to
face a terrible crisis. Having refused to take advantage of the way of
escape God had provided, now they were brought face to face with death.
the Agagite, an unscrupulous man high in authority in Medo-Persia, Satan
worked at this time to counterwork the purposes of God. Haman cherished
bitter malice against Mordecai, a Jew. Mordecai had done Haman no harm,
but had simply refused to show him worshipful reverence. Scorning to
"lay hands on Mordecai alone," Haman plotted "to destroy
all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, even the
people of Mordecai." Esther 3:6.
Misled by the
false statements of Haman, Xerxes was induced to issue a decree providing
for the massacre of all the Jews "scattered abroad and dispersed
among the people in all the provinces" of the Medo-Persian kingdom.
Verse 8. A certain day was appointed on which the Jews were to be
destroyed and their property confiscated. Little did the king realize the
far-reaching results that would have
the complete carrying out of this decree. Satan himself, the hidden
instigator of the scheme, was trying to rid the earth of those who
preserved the knowledge of the true God.
every province, whithersoever the king's commandment and his decree came,
there was great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and
wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes." Esther 4:3. The decree
of the Medes and Persians could not be revoked; apparently there was no
hope; all the Israelites were doomed to destruction.
But the plots
of the enemy were defeated by a Power that reigns among the children of
men. In the providence of God, Esther, a Jewess who feared the Most High,
had been made queen of the Medo-Persian kingdom. Mordecai was a near
relative of hers. In their extremity they decided to appeal to Xerxes in
behalf of their people. Esther was to venture into his presence as an
intercessor. "Who knoweth," said Mordecai, "whether thou
art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" Verse 14.
that Esther faced demanded quick, earnest action; but both she and
Mordecai realized that unless God should work mightily in their behalf,
their own efforts would be unavailing. So Esther took time for communion
with God, the source of her strength. "Go," she directed
Mordecai, "gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan,
and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I
also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king,
which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish." Verse
that followed in rapid succession,--the appearance of Esther before the
king, the marked favor shown her, the banquets of the king and queen with
Haman as the only guest, the troubled sleep of the king, the public honor
shown Mordecai, and the humiliation and fall of Haman upon the discovery
of his wicked plot,--all these are parts of a familiar story. God wrought
marvelously for His penitent people; and a counter decree issued by the
king, allowing them to fight for their lives, was rapidly communicated to
every part of the realm by mounted couriers, who were "hastened and
pressed on by the king's commandment." "And in every province,
and in every city, whithersoever the king's commandment and his decree
came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a good day. And many of
the people of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews fell upon
them." Esther 8:14, 17.
On the day
appointed for their destruction, "the Jews gathered themselves
together in their cities throughout all the provinces of the king
Ahasuerus, to lay hand on such as sought their hurt: and no man could
withstand them; for the fear of them fell upon all people." Angels
that excel in strength had been commissioned by God to protect His people
while they "stood for their lives." Esther 9:2, 16.
given the position of honor formerly occupied by Haman. He "was next
unto King Ahasuerus, and great among the Jews, and accepted of the
multitude of his brethren" (Esther 10:3); and he sought to promote
the welfare of Israel. Thus did God bring His chosen people once more into
favor at the Medo-Persian court,
possible the carrying out of His purpose to restore them to their own
land. But it was not until several years later, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes I, the successor of Xerxes the Great, that any considerable
number returned to Jerusalem, under Ezra.
experiences that came to God's people in the days of Esther were not
peculiar to that age alone. The revelator, looking down the ages to the
close of time, has declared, "The dragon was wroth with the woman,
and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the
commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ."
Revelation 12:17. Some who today are living on the earth will see these
words fulfilled. The same spirit that in ages past led men to persecute
the true church, will in the future lead to the pursuance of a similar
course toward those who maintain their loyalty to God. Even now
preparations are being made for this last great conflict.
that will finally go forth against the remnant people of God will be very
similar to that issued by Ahasuerus against the Jews. Today the enemies of
the true church see in the little company keeping the Sabbath commandment,
a Mordecai at the gate. The reverence of God's people for His law is a
constant rebuke to those who have cast off the fear of the Lord and are
trampling on His Sabbath.
arouse indignation against the minority who refuse to accept popular
customs and traditions. Men of position and reputation will join with the
lawless and the vile to take counsel against the people of God. Wealth,
genius, education, will combine to cover them with contempt.
rulers, ministers, and church members will conspire against them. With
voice and pen, by boasts, threats, and ridicule, they will seek to
overthrow their faith. By false representations and angry appeals, men
will stir up the passions of the people. Not having a "Thus saith the
Scriptures" to bring against the advocates of the Bible Sabbath, they
will resort to oppressive enactments to supply the lack. To secure
popularity and patronage, legislators will yield to the demand for Sunday
laws. But those who fear God, cannot accept an institution that violates a
precept of the Decalogue. On this battlefield will be fought the last
great conflict in the controversy between truth and error. And we are not
left in doubt as to the issue. Today, as in the days of Esther and
Mordecai, the Lord will vindicate His truth and His people.