Haman the Agagite was a powerful prince in the Medo Persian government. In more ways than one, he had the ear of the King and wielded an inordinate amount of authority and influence over his peers.
But, despite almost universal adulation, there was one man who refused to bow down to him. Mordecai the Jew, the King’s gatekeeper. Mordecai’s refusal to worship Haman was not an act of defiance or civil disobedience.
After all as a high-ranking government official Haman was invested with authority to execute the King’s business and every loyal subject of the Kingdom was expected to recognise and submit to his authority.
Mordecai was more than willing to do this as long as loyalty to Haman or the King did not get in the way of his allegiance to God. In Mordecai’s mind, there was a clear separation between the authority of the King and the authority of God.
Jesus explained this separation best when He said in Matthew 22:21 (NKJV), “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s”.
Jesus’ meaning was plain. There are certain things that civil authorities cannot dictate. No civil authority has the right to control a man’s conscience. This belongs to God alone and Jesus himself asks us to make a clear distinction between religious and civil matters.
In Mordecai’s case Haman’s demand for worship cut across Mordecai’s personal religious convictions. As a Jew, he could not and would not worship anyone but God. Incensed by Mordecai’s refusal to comply, Haman decided to crush him.
Going to the King, Haman proposed the complete annihilation of all Jews. In an attempt to destroy Mordecai, Haman decided to attack an entire group of innocent people for their religious convictions. It was a blatant attack on freedom of conscience.
But in ancient Medo-Persia, as in Babylon before it, freedom of conscience was an issue. The King believed he had a right to control the conscience of his subjects and no one could speak against that.
Devastated by the news of an impending attack on his people in retaliation for his actions, Mordecai tore his clothes, put on sackcloth, sprinkled ashes on his head and went into a period of deep mourning.
It was at this point that the Queen of Persia intervened. Queen Esther was a Jewess and Mordecai’s cousin. When she heard of her cousin’s distress, she sent messengers to find out what was troubling him.
After explaining the situation Mordecai asked Esther to go before the King and intercede with him on behalf of her people. At first, Esther recoiled from the idea. It was inconceivable. By law, she couldn’t go before the King unless she was summoned.
The penalty for disregarding the law was death. But Mordecai was insistent, telling Esther that perhaps God had raised her to the position of Queen for just such a time as this. Esther then made a request.
She asked Mordecai to gather together all the Jews of Shushan, the capital of Persia, and to fast and pray for her for three days. They earnestly asked God to watch over and care for Esther. She and her ladies in waiting did the same. They plead with God for His care and protection. At the end of three days she would go before the King and intercede for her people.
After a period of prayer, Esther went before the King and was granted mercy. The King held out his scepter to her and she was given permission to petition him. In the end, she successfully petitioned the King to alter the law that Haman set up and the Jews were saved from destruction.
Esther’s actions give us one important lesson about prayer and that is the power of intercessory prayer. The situation the Jews found themselves in seemed impossible. The odds were overwhelmingly stacked against them.
But, instead of giving up in hopelessness and despair or worse yet, turning her back on her people altogether, Esther interceded for them before God and the King and as a result, they were saved.
When the people we love or the people around us face difficult situations and it is tempting to give way to despair, hopelessness, or indifference, remember Esther. What might seem impossible to us is more than possible with God.
Our first response must always be to intercede with God on behalf of our family and also those who are drowning in despair. It might just be the most significant, life-changing thing we can ever do for them.
If you would like to find out more about the power of prayer and how to pray more effectively, then I’d like to recommend the free book we have on offer today. It’s entitled, “Reaching Out to God in Prayer – How to Pray”.