FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS
A meditation on Esther, 4, 14.
“All my times are in His hand,
All events at His command” (Ryland)
A sure and profound truth stands declared in these words but the ease with which it can be sung is no measure of the truth of the experience of this doctrine of Divine Sovereignty.
In the case of Esther the mystery of Divine Sovereignty was a great deep and though the Name of God is never mentioned in the book of Holy Scripture that bears her name, yet how clearly His power and will is revealed there.
The Lord places His people where He would have them for His own eternal purposes. This is the first lesson that might be learnt from this narrative under the teaching of the Holy Spirit. Esther was in Shushan, the capital of Persia, not by the fictious power of chance or fortune, but by the purpose of the Lord. Who shall doubt that the death of her parents, her guardianship by Mordecai, her transcendent beauty was by the order of the Lord and bound up with the accomplishment of His purposes, the salvation of Israel, and the preservation of the Holy Seed which was essential to performance of the Divine Will concerning the coming of Jesus Christ and His Salvation?
The Lord overrules evil things for the good of the defenceless and needy. One turns with repugnance from the king’s demand for Vashti to be made a gazing stock for “merry” drinkers and from the “beauty show” that was ordered for the king’s choice of a new queen. The slight of Mordecai’s faithful service of the King and the immediate preferment of the sycophant, Haman, shews the weakness of hope “in princes”. The hatred demonstrated by Haman against Mordecai, the conspiracy to destroy all the Hebrews, and the progress of the plot under conditions of absolute autocracy all add up to shew the dreadful combination of evil which can be brought together in one age and in the experience of those who fear the Lord and yet how powerfully and, indeed, how graciously the Lord does overrule evil for the good of His people.
Where the Lord appoints His people to a place and position “For such a time as this” He gives them His own great gift of faith. Mordecai is a man not without knowledge of the Lord’s covenant purposes with Israel. If his proposal to Esther should fail, then deliverance and enlargement must “Arise to the Jews from another place”. When Esther agrees to the action proposed she appoints a time of fasting for herself and her maidens and requests this of Mordecai and the Hebrews in Shushan.
Where the Lord gives faith “For such a time as this” He also appoints that “Faith shall be tried”. Mordecai is in disfavour with Haman, the Prime Minister of Persia, and has also been slighted by the King. Esther, whilst Queen, has also apparantly lost favour with the King and her approach to the Throne Room is barred by an edict so strong as to require death for those transgressing. How great are natural fears in the face of fearful dangers and great threatenings. These fears are clearly shewn in the confessions of Esther to Mordecai and her actions; but which is the greatest, the fear of the mind of man or the faith which cometh down from heaven into the hearts of those to whom it is given? The answer is in no doubt.
Those who are brought to the kingdom “For such a time as this” shall, invariably, prove that salvation is of the Lord. Notice the proximity in the Scripture (though divided by the commencement of a new chapter), of these passages,Â—”And the thing pleased Haman and he caused the gallows (for Mordecai) to be made”. “On that night could not the King sleep.” Who brought these two events together? Haman is already jubilating upon the immediate overthrow of his victim, but little knows he of the power and purpose of God. Who would have thought that so much hung upon the insomnia of the King and why should the “records of the chronicles” be chosen as an entertainment for the sleepless hours, and it is the morning of the fatal day of Esther’s vital request! There is but one thing that can be said of such “Perfect timing” of events; it is that spoken by the Psalmist, “Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving kindness of the Lord. (Psalm 107. 43).
Perfect in all His works” is the Lord of hosts. It is no partial vindication that Mordecai receives; it is no small answer that Esther receives from the hand of the King. It is no slight deliverance that is accorded to the Hebrews. Those who are brought to the kingdom “For such a time as this” behold with amazement the complete overthrow of their enemies. Haman’s conspiracy is discovered and punished and the deep laid plans of a greater enemy than Haman, even the great adversary himself, are held up by the hand of the Most High for the derision of those “who understand”. Sad indeed it is, in these days of boasted enlightenment, to find that so many totally deny the intervention of the God of miraculous power. Still more sad to discover in one’s heart the same evil spirit of unbelief which in time of trouble, “such a time as this”, declares, “Who can do us any good?”
“Praise waiteth for Thee, O God, in Zion and unto Thee shall the vow be performed”. This is, indeed, the purposed outcome of the Lord’s great work and even though these people are still far from the promised Zion, yet Zion’s God has wrought deliverance for His people in a strange land and shall He not be praised? True, at the invitation of the Babylonians, Israel refused to prostitute the singing of Zion’s sacred songs to the usage of the theatres of Babylon: but now that the Lord God of Israel hath visited them in a strange land there is cause for the harps to be taken off the
willows. (See Psalm 137). So we read of the “good day” enjoyed by the Jews which became the inauguration of the Feast of Purim.
How frequently the words, “For such a time as this” seem to be exemplified in the records of the Word of God? Was it not a time of the revelation of the kingdom, or dominion, of Jesus Christ when Joseph was sold into Egypt by the malice of his brothers, was falsely accused of a crime attempted against him; when in prison he was forgotten of those he had assisted and for years he seemed forsaken of all? Yet the outcome, how glorious it was! Glorifying to the God of wisdom, power and love, and exalting the tried and afflicted Joseph not only to a place of personal honour and affluence, but to a post in which the glory of the Lord shall be clearly seen in the deliverance of Egypt from the dread visitation of the consequence of seven years’ famine, and especially in the salvation of Israel and all his house.
Daniel and his three compatriots experience the mysterious way in which the Lord’s wonders are performed. Exiled in a strange land of religious and social custom the direct opposite in impurity from that taught by the Lord to Israel in all its purity, they become protestants immediately upon their arrival in the court of the king. Is their presence in Babylon an evidence of the weakness or forgetfulness of the One in whom they trust? Rabshakeh declared that this was so when he spake loudly in the Jew’s language to the citizens of Jerusalem shut up within the walls of their city by seige. Infidelity, in sinner or saint, will always suggest this and find a thousand reasons for it. No, the “Keeper of Israel”, who never slumbers or sleeps has His purpose in their captivity. The faith of Daniel and his friends, strengthened in their adversity, though very sorely tried (let us not forget the fire and the den), comes forth triumphant on every occasion and the last words that we read concerning Daniel, in the book that bears his name, is a promise
that his “work of faith and labour of love” is not in vain in the Lord.
“For such a time as this”. See it in the life of Moses, the great prophet of the Lord. After forty years of the pleasures of Egypt, by faith, he identifies himself with his people who are his people by birth and by the grace of God. The outcome is forty years of mysterious residence in the wilderness of Horeb. Is Moses forgotten of the Lord, whose people’s cause he has espoused and for whose sufferings he now suffers this banishment? No the reverse is the case and now at the age of eighty years there commences the great work of Moses’ life for yet another forty years.
The life of Christ is full of incidents of the same nature. “He must needs to through Samaria”. The eternal purposes of grace in the covenant of love towards some of the inhabitants of Sychar, and in particular to the woman with whom the gracious conversation by the well took place, are revealed in the journey which the Lord took to this place where no Jew would have been found. “For such a time as this”. Blessed, thrice blessed words as they are expounded from the Lord’s own lips, “What shall I say? Father, save me from this hour; but for this cause came I unto this hour”
(John 12, 27), and “Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.” (John 18, 37). Yes, look to the One whose throne was the dread and accursed tree of suffering and see the fiery indignation of His Father against the sins of the beloved elect, see there the glory, the humiliation, the meekness and the sufferings of the One who was eternally chosen, ordained in holiness, born into this world “For such a time as this”. See again the fruit of this in a man or a woman upon their knees, their heart moved with sorrow for their sin, now revealed, crying for mercy yet fearing that it can never be for them; then as the light and blessedness of the Gospel breaks upon their heart what is it that is seen? Indeed, nothing less than this; the Holy One who hath appeared “For such a time as this”.
Does the way grow rough and enemies seem to prevail? Are the lusts of the flesh again working powerfully against the pilgrim and the trials of life more than he can bear? Are all prospects dark and foreboding and where good was once seen is there nothing but evil that can be found? Let me remind you of One, true the only One, but blessed be His Name The One who has appeared for, has suffered for, is sufficient for “Such a time as this”.
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” Visit the tomb of Lazarus, speak with the widow of Nain. Listen to the words of the women of Shunem and the praises of Jairus. Of whom do they speak? Only of one, even Jesus. Let us go further to that other tomb in the garden where never man had lain but now in which a body has been deposited by loving hands of sorrowing ones. What are the ringing sounds that fall from the lips of those who are running therefrom, not in fear but with great joy. “Christ is risen”. O our eyes close for the last time faith’s eye may more clearly see the One “Who endured the cross, despising the shame and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God”, the One who was all this, and is all this, and has done all this, and will ever do all this, “For such a time as this”.
F. L. Rowell.