The scene has been set and we are introduced to the villain of this period of Persian and Jewish history. Xerxes, being an absolute monarch, decides to promote Haman, noted as an Agagite, to the highest position in the land apart from the King himself. Further, a decree is sent out relating to this promotion, that all palace personnel and officials were to bow down and pay homage to Haman and as Mordecai had stationed himself at the king’s gate in order to stand with Esther, he too was expected to pay homage. But he refused. Day after day! (3.4)
The writer does not record the reason for Mordecai’s stance. It could be that, being a faithful Jew (and interestingly he had let it be known that he was a Jew, whereas he had told Esther not to reveal her parentage) his position was that God alone should be worshipped. It could also be Haman’s descent – he was an Agagite. Agag was king of Amaleck who opposed God’s people during the reign of Saul. It is interesting to conjecture, especially as Haman’s lineage is recorded but it is still only conjecture.
What is important though, is Mordecai’s principled stand and the consequences that flowed from it which the remainder of the book focusses upon and which surely raises questions for us to grapple with.
Simply, Mordecai’s stance arouses Haman’s anger and results in Xerxes, apparently without any detailed questioning, signing a decree that Jews throughout the empire should be annihilated ‘young and old, women and children, in one day’ v.12 (ESV).
Would it not have been wiser for Mordecai to have kept quiet?
That question can certainly be debated but it needs to be done in the light of the fact that those who acknowledge and worship the one true and only God will always be hated by the world, for sinful man hates God’s perfect holiness. Further God’s people were given this mandate in Exodus 19.5-6
Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
Had Esther revealed her parentage she might not have been in the place where she could be used by God for the salvation for her people. But with the same logic had Mordecai not revealed his parentage then the edict to destroy might not have been issued and thus the tension under which God’s people live is revealed.
When to speak and when to keep silence.
How is this tension resolved? By you and I walking closely with our God, immersed in his word and with the aid of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, being sensitive to his leading and bold in standing against the culture that surrounds us which is ever more opposed to the covenant quoted above.
Standing firm and speaking boldly for the truth which is Jesus and in Jesus will result in persecution but God is sufficient for such things as the rest of this book testifies.
So let us stand firm without fear, boldly sharing the good news to a needy world.