Lesson 4 Questions
Read Esther Chapter 4.
What do Mordecai's sackcloth and ashes signify?
What did Solomon hope would result from humility and supplication in 1 Kings 8:50-53? On what did he base his hope?
Daniel also spent time in sackcloth and ashes. Find some thoughts, admissions and requests he expresses in Daniel 9:3-5 and 16-19.
What is the encouraging answer to Daniel's prayers in Daniel 9:25?
Consider: Mordecai's mourning contains no recorded reference to repentance before God, but the Jews still get a temporary human deliverer in Esther. Why? Remember Solomon's basis for hope.
Mordecai may not enter the king's gate clothed in sackcloth. Relate to Exodus 29:4-9 and Matthew 22:11-13. Who offered Mordecai proper clothing? Where do we get proper clothing? See Romans 13:14 and Galatians 3:27.
Compare the "written decree" of vs.8 to the one in Colossians 2:13, 14.
What sort of mission is Mordecai asking Esther to perform? See Hebrews 7:24,25 and 8:11,12.
Does the danger expressed in vss.10-12 have a parallel in the priesthood? See Leviticus 16:2.
Consider parallels between vss. 13-16 and Matthew 26:36-39.
To Mordecai's statement about "such a time as this," compare Romans 5:6 and Galatians 4:4,5.
Along with the terrible face of judgment, God has always offered the hope of deliverance. The Jews in Persia might have recalled the words of Isaiah 25:8. "He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces; the rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; for the LORD has spoken." As they looked to the coming day of judgment, the Jews were in a situation similar to that of the church today. 2 Peter 3:10 reminds us that "the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night." Titus 2:13,14 reminds us that we should be "looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us..."
In the meantime, Mordecai dons sackcloth and ashes and cries out "with a loud and bitter cry" (4:1). The book gives no content or intended audience for this cry, but the sackcloth and ashes symbolize humility and supplication, which link Mordecai with others who were more specific, such as Solomon and Daniel.
When Solomon dedicated the Temple, he actually predicted that God's people would so offend God that He would allow them to be carried away to the land of their enemy. He asked God to forgive them when they cry out in captivity, "for they are Your people and Your inheritance, whom You brought out of Egypt" (1 Kings 8:46-53).
Daniel spends time in sackcloth and ashes over the "desolations of Jerusalem." In Daniel 9, he praises God as one Who keeps His covenant. He confesses the sin of the people and acknowledges that they have been driven into exile because of their own unfaithfulness. He appeals to God's mercy and urges, "Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name" (v.19). In verse 25 comes the encouraging answer, the promise of the coming Messiah.
Mordecai's mourning contains no recorded repentance for sin, no calling on the name of God, no reference to His covenant with His people. Nevertheless, God sends a temporal redeemer to rescue the Jews. Daniel and Solomon have shown us why. They are His people, and no matter how far they stray, He will keep His covenant. Messiah is coming, and until He comes in the flesh and in His time, they will have an illustration of God's redemptive intent in Esther.
The queen foreshadows the work of Christ in the matter of Mordecai's dress. His sackcloth is not fit for the king's court. We see the importance of appropriate clothing in Exodus 29:4-9, where Aaron and his sons must be washed and carefully covered with tunic, ephod, breastplate, turban and sash before they are fit to perform their work in God's tabernacle. In Matthew 22:11-13, Jesus tells the fate of a man who tried to enter the king's hall "without a wedding garment." He was cast into outer darkness.
It is Esther who offers Mordecai presentable garments. In order to enter God's presence, His people must be wearing the garments provided by His Son. They must "put on the Lord Jesus Christ," as in Romans 13:14. Revelation 7:1-14 shows a multitude dressed in robes "made...white in the blood of the Lamb." Since it is the blood of Christ that makes the robes clean and acceptable to God, it seems significant that Mordecai declines Esther's first offer of clean clothes. She has not yet made her risky approach to Ahasuerus, and the threat of destruction still lies on the Jews.
The threat is spelled out in a "written decree" (4:8). In the face of this decree, Mordecai asks Esther to "plead...for her people" (4:8) on a mission of intercession. It is a dangerous mission, as Esther explains in 4:10,11. Entering the inner court without being called may mean death. God made a similar rule for His Holy Place: "Tell Aaron your brother not to come at just any time into the Holy Place inside the veil...lest he die" (Leviticus 16:2).
We had a "handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us" (Colossians 2:14). Jesus has interceded for His people (Romans 7:25) and "with His own blood...entered the Most Holy Place once for all" (Romans 9:12). Jesus submitted to the threat of death in order to carry out this mission.
Jesus and Esther both approached the time of sacrifice with prayer. Both considered the possibility of another source of deliverance. Both bowed to the will of God, though, as usual, Esther's account does not mention Him by name. In 4:15,16, Esther tells Mordecai to gather the Jews to fast for her; she and her maids will do the same. We can assume that this means prayer, because fasting and prayer are so closely linked in the Old Testament, as in Judges 20:26-28, 2 Samuel 12:16, Daniel 9:3, etc. When Jesus went to Gethsemane, He was clear about His purpose: "Sit here while I go and pray over there" (Matthew 26:36-39). Esther at least had company. Jesus was left alone by those who "could...not watch with [Him] one hour."
Mordecai raises the possibility that "relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place" if Esther refuses to intercede, but predicts that such a course would lead to her destruction. Jesus prays, "Oh My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me." In this case, He knows that carrying out the mission guarantees His destruction. Esther may die; He must die. Esther's cry, "and if I perish, I perish!" echoes the attitude of Christ when He says, "not as I will, but as You will."
"Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" says Mordecai in perhaps the most frequently quoted verse of the book. As stated in Galatians 4:4,5, God sent His Son to be born and to redeem His people "when the fullness of the time had come." Romans 5:6 says, "in due time Christ died for the ungodly." God's timing is perfect in placing Esther to save the Jews. It is also perfect in the advent and sacrifice of Christ.