To get this one, you really need to read the Book of Esther. It’s only ten, short chapters, so go ahead and read it before you read the rest of this.
Esther showed incredible courage, to the place of risking her life (and we can’t minimize that), but although this book of the Bible is entitled the Book of Esther, I think it could have just as easily been named the Book of Mordecai. Mordecai is the unsung hero in this story. Esther was Mordecai’s younger cousin who he raised as a daughter. Through a series of events, Esther became the Queen of Persia. And through the courage of Mordecai and Esther, the Jewish exiles were saved from genocide. Here’s just small glimpse into the story.
1 Some time later King Xerxes promoted Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite over all the other nobles, making him the most powerful official in the empire. 2 All the king’s officials would bow down before Haman to show him respect whenever he passed by, for so the king had commanded. But Mordecai refused to bow down or show him respect.
3 Then the palace officials at the king’s gate asked Mordecai, “Why are you disobeying the king’s command?” 4 They spoke to him day after day, but still he refused to comply with the order. So they spoke to Haman about this to see if he would tolerate Mordecai’s conduct, since Mordecai had told them he was a Jew.
5 When Haman saw that Mordecai would not bow down or show him respect, he was filled with rage. 6 He had learned of Mordecai’s nationality, so he decided it was not enough to lay hands on Mordecai alone. Instead, he looked for a way to destroy all the Jews throughout the entire empire of Xerxes. NLT
12 So Hathach gave Esther’s message to Mordecai.
13 Mordecai sent this reply to Esther: “Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. 14 If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” NLT
The king’s right-hand man, Haman, was a man rooted in arrogance, greed, and self-importance. A real likable guy. Mordecai was not impressed in the least, even though Haman somehow got the king to sign off on a decree that would require people to bow before him. He was so insecure and self-aggrandizing that this one lone Jew, who would not bow, caused him sleepless nights. There was only one possible solution. Kill him. In fact, why not kill all the Jews. So Haman planned on having Mordecai hanged on the gallows he had built for this occasion, and the rest of the Jews at a later date. But through a miraculous turn of events orchestrated by God…Mordecai, Esther, and the entire Jewish people in Persia were delivered, and Haman was hanged on the same gallows he had built to execute Mordecai. Even a Hollywood screenwriter could not come up with a more perfect story with a more perfect ending. But I think the very last verse of the entire book is one that should not be neglected.
3 Mordecai the Jew became the prime minister, with authority next to that of King Xerxes himself. He was very great among the Jews, who held him in high esteem, because he continued to work for the good of his people and to speak up for the welfare of all their descendants. NLT
Guys, I think there is an incredible lesson in this for us as men. Yes, Mordecai exhibited great courage and tenacity and faith, and he was rewarded for it. The king raised him up to the second highest position in the land. But this is what stands out to me. It didn’t go to his head. “…he continued to work for the good of his people and to speak up for the welfare of all their descendants.” Pride is such a subtle enemy. Something good comes your way…a promotion happens…and the next thing you know, pride starts creeping in. “I’m so talented…I’m so smart…look at me…I’ve forgotten where I come from.” That’s a dangerous place that will ultimately become a lonely place. You can’t escape the truth of God’s word that says “pride goes before destruction.” (Proverbs 16:18) Mordecai never went to the “look-at-me” place.
3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names… NLT
There’s the example we have. Christ himself.
Mordecai was an example of that as well…and he didn’t even have Philippians 2 to look at like we do!
Never forget. The way up is down. And the way to be first is to be last. And the way to be great is to be the least. And the way to be honored is to humble yourself. And not many guys really like to hear that. But that doesn’t change what God has to say.
Which leaves us with a terrifying question.
Who are we trying to impress?
May it always be the God who elevates without ruining.
“Greatness lies not in trying to be somebody, but in trying to help somebody.”