Esther is often the person celebrated in this book. She’s the one chosen as queen. She’s the one who risks her life and goes before the king. But sometimes I wonder why the book of Esther wasn’t named for Esther’s cousin and adoptive father, Mordecai.
Though often behind the scenes, this man plays an important role in foiling Haman’s plot against the Jews and supporting Esther in her role as queen.
Mordecai, a man of action.
Esther’s cousin does not seem like the kind of man to sit still. He has a heart of compassion and a need for justice. He’s a fighter, but the fist-flailing kind. He fights with little actions that make a world of difference.
When Esther is left orphaned, he takes her in and brings her up as his own daughter. When the edict is issued from the king that beautiful young women are to be brought to the harem, Mordecai forbids her to make her Jewish heritage known, lest harm come to her. And once she was taken to the palace “every day he walked back and forth near the courtyard of the harem to find out how Esther was and what was happening to her” (2:11).
His love and compassion toward Esther is obvious in the actions he takes to protect her.
But love for his cousin isn’t the only thing motivating his actions.
Mordecai is also driven by a sense of justice.
Soon after Esther is named queen, Mordecai is sitting at the king’s gate when he hears of a plot to kill the king. Making sure he isn’t noticed, Mordecai leans in a little closer as two of the king’s guards conspire to assassinate the king.
Though a Jew by birth and descended from those brought into exile by the Babylonians, Mordecai seems to be well established in the Persian community and cares for his king. Or at the very least, he knows murder, especially of a ruler, is wrong and will only tip the kingdom into chaos.
Using his connection to the queen, Mordecai sends a message to Esther, alerting her of the plot. When Esther passes on the news and saves the king’s life, the tip is credited to Mordecai–an honor he most certainly did not expect.
It seems the humility Esther possessed, which we talked about last week, was learned by the example of Mordecai.
Mordecai, a man of faith.
Things calmed down for a while and Mordecai went about his business again, keeping tabs on the queen, until the day Haman’s plot to destroy the entire Jewish nation is announced: “When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly” (4:1).
Torn clothes and ash-covered bodies were outward signs of mourning in ancient cultures. When tragedy struck and despair came over the people, they would do just as Mordecai did.
When Esther tries to send clothes to him, he denies them and later sends news about what has happened. And somehow he knew all the details because he told Esther’s servant “everything that had happened to him, including the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay into the royal treasury for the destruction of the Jews” (4:7).
Though Esther is concerned, Mordecai senses the fear in her response. Mordecai had requested Esther go before the king and plead for their lives, but Esther seemed hesitant.
“When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: ‘Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this” (4:12-14).
Mordecai calls Esther to action. He tells her to lay aside her fear and her belief that she might escape harm if she stays quiet. He calls her to act on behalf of her people and reminds her that Yahweh will provide. If she chooses to keep quiet, He will raise up someone else to step in and stop this madness; but Esther will perish.
Though it’s been generations since his family walked the streets of Jerusalem, Mordecai still holds tightly to his faith. Despite the fact that he still lives in exile, Mordecai believes that his God will protect His people. And he urges Esther to consider that maybe she was chosen queen for this very reason: to save her people.
Mordecai’s speech worked because three days later Esther went before the king and made her heritage known, pleading with the king to save her and her people. Haman is hanged for his plot and Mordecai is given the position of second in command. He’s given full authority to write a new edict that allowed the Jews to fight back on the day of their destruction and take the land and possessions of those who try to kill them.
The book ends with the words that make me wonder why it wasn’t named for Mordecai as well: “Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Xerxes, preeminent among the Jews, and held in high esteem by his many fellow Jews, because he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews” (10:3).
Mordecai didn’t sit still. He acted in love, fought for justice, and did what he believed was right, never expecting recognition. And for that he should not only be celebrated, but we should also learn from him.
There are so many things going wrong in our world, and we can’t just sit around and do nothing. The actions we take don’t have to be big, but we should be willing to stand up and do something.
I’m not going to tell you to join a cause or fight for justice in a particular way. You know what stirs up your heart, what gets your blood pounding in your ears. For Mordecai, it was a love for his people.
So what gets you fired up? What are you willing to fight for? What is one step you could take today to help even one person and show them God’s love. How can you call others to action like Mordecai did?
Live in His love!
**If you are looking for an organization to partner with on a global scale, these are two I believe in:
Compassion International partners with individuals to provide food and supplies for children in poverty. You can sponsor a child, send support to needy areas, and send supplies like livestock, Bibles, and provide education through their gift catalogue .
Preemptive Love goes into the war-torn areas that have seen some of the most violence and provide supplies, medical care, and hope to those effected. There are times I look at this world and I wonder what I can do about all the devastation. Sending aid through them allows me to play a role in the relief efforts.
If you’re interested in learning more about these organizations or partnering with them, you can find their websites here:
Related: Yahweh, the Unnamed Hero