Following Jerusalem’s last stand against Nebuchadnezzar, Mordecai’s family was deported to Babylonia. He was probably born in Susa, a city that became one of Persia’s capitals after Cyrus conquered Babylon. Mordecai then inherited an official position among the Jewish captives that kept him around the palace even after the Babylonians were driven out. At one time, when Mordecai overheard plans to assassinate King Xerxes, he reported the plot and saved the king’s life.
Mordecai’s life was filled with challenges that he turned into opportunities. When his aunt and uncle died, he adopted Esther, their daughter and his young cousin, probably because his own parents were dead and he felt responsible for her: Later, when she was drafted into Xerxes’ harem and chosen to be queen . Mordecai continued to advise her. Shortly after this , he found himself in conflict with Xerxes’ recently appointed second-in-command, Haman. Although willing to serve the king, Mordecai refused to worship the king’s representative. Haman was furious with Mordecai. So he planned to have Mordecai and all the Jews killed. His plan become a law of the Medes and Persians, and it looked as though the Jews were doomed.
Mordecai, willing to be God’s servant wherever he was, responded by contacting Esther and telling her that one reason God had allowed her to be queen might well be to save her people from this threat. But God had also placed him in the right place years earlier. God revealed to the king through his nighttime reading of historical documents that Mordecai had once saved his life, and the king realized he had never thanked Mordecai. The great honor then given to Mordecai ruined Haman’s plan to impale him on the specially built pole he had set up. God had woven an effective counter strategy against which Haman’s plan could not stand.
Later, Mordecai instituted the Jewish Festival of Purim. He had a lengthy career of service to the king on behalf of the Jews. In Mordecai’s life. God blended both character and circumstances to accomplish great things. God has not changed the way he works. He is using the situations you face each day to weave a pattern of godliness into your character. Pause and ask God to help you respond appropriately to the situations you find yourself in today.
Strengths and accomplishments
Exposed an assassination plot against the king
Cared enough to adopt his cousin
Refused to bow to anyone except God
Took Haman’s place as second-in-command under Xerxes
Lessons from his life
The opportunities we have are more important than the ones we wish we had
We can trust God to weave together the events of life for our best, even though we may not be able to see the overall pattern
The rewards for doing right are sometimes delayed, but they are guaranteed by God himself
Where: Susa, one of several capital cities in Persia
Occupation: Jewish official who became second in rank to Xerxes
Relatives: Adopted daughter: Esther. Father: Jair
Contemporaries: Xerxes, Haman
“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” (Esther 10:3)
Mordecai’s story is told in the book of Esther.
We treasure security, even though we know that security in this life carries no guarantees-possessions, then, must be found beyond this life. Only when our security rests on God and his unchanging nature can we face the challenges that life is sure to bring our way.
Esther’s beauty and character won Xerxes’ heart, and he made her his queen. Even in her favored position, however, she would risk life by attempting to see the king when he had not requested her presence. There was no guarantee that the king would even see her. Although she was queen, she was still not secure. But, cautiously and courageously, Esther decided to risk her life by approaching the king on behalf of her people.
She made her plans carefully. The Jews were asked to fast and pray with her before she went to the king. Then on the chosen day she went before him, and he did ask her to come forward and speak. But instead of issuing her request directly, she invited him and Haman to a banquet. He was astute enough to realize she had something on her mind; yet she conveyed the importance of the matter by insisting on a second banquet.
In the meantime, God was working behind the scenes. He caused Xerxes to read the historical records of the kingdom late one night, and the king discovered that Mordecai had once saved his life. Xerxes lost no time in honoring Mordecai for that act. During the second banquet, Esther told the king of Haman’s plot against the Jews, and Haman was doomed. There is grim justice in Haman’s death on the impaling pole he had set up for Mordecai, and it seems fitting that the day on which the Jews were to be slaughtered became the day their enemies died. Esther’s risk confirmed that God was the source of her security.
How much of your security lies in your possessions, position, or reputation? God has not placed you in your present position for your own benefit. He put you there to serve him. As in Esther’s case, this may involve risking your security. Are you willing to let God be your ultimate security?
Strengths and accomplishments
Her beauty and character won the heart of Persia’s king
She combined courage with careful planning
She was open to advice and willing to act
She was more concerned for others than for her own security
Lessons from her life
Serving God often demands that we risk our own security
God has a purpose for the situations in which he places us
Courage, while often vital, does not replace planning
Where: Persian Empire
Occupation: Xerxes’s wife, queen of Persia
Relatives: Cousin: Mordecai. Husband: Xerxes. Father: Abihail
“Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat and drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will do the same. And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die” (Esther 4:16).
Esther’s story is told in the book of Esther.
The most arrogant people are often those who must measure their self-worth by the power or influence they think they have over others. Haman was an extremely arrogant leader. He recognized the king as his superior but could not accept anyone as an equal. When one man, Mordecai, refused to bow in submission to him, Haman wanted to destroy him. He became consumed with hatred for Mordecai. He was already filled with racial hatred for all the Jewish people because of the long-standing hatred between the Jews and Haman’s ancestors, the Amalekites. Mordecai’s dedication to God and his refusal to give homage to any human person challenged Hama’s self-centered religion. Haman saw the Jews as a threat to his power, and he decided to kill them all.
God was preparing Haman’s downfall and the protection of his people long before Haman came to power under Xerxes. Esther, a Jew, became queen, and Mordecai’s role in exposing an assassination plot indebted the king to him. Not only was Haman prevented from killing Mordecai; he also had to suffer the humiliation of publicly honoring him. Within hours, Haman died on the pole he had built to impale Mordecai, and his plan to wipe out the Jews was thwarted. In contrast to Esther, who risked everything for God and won, Haman risked everything for an evil purpose and lost.
Our initial response to the story about Haman is to say that he got what he deserved. But the Bible leads us to ask deeper questions: How much of Haman is in me? Do I desire to control others? Am I threatened when others don’t appreciate me as I think they should? Do I want revenge when my pride is attacked? Confess these attitudes to God, and ask him to replace them with an attitude of forgiveness. Otherwise, God’s justice will settle the matter.
Strength and accomplishment
Achieved great power second in rank to Persia’s king Xerxes
Weaknesses and mistakes
The desire to control others and receive honor was his highest goal
Was blinded by arrogance and self-importance
Planned to murder Mordecai and built an impaling pole for him
Orchestrated the plan to slaughter God’s people throughout the empire
Lessons from his life
Hatred will be punished
God has an amazing record for making evil plans backfire on the planners
Pride and self-importance will be punished
An insatiable thirst for power and prestige is self-destructive
Where: Susa, the capital of Persia
Occupation: Second in rank in the empire
Relative: Wife: Zeresh
Contemporaries: Xerxes, Mordecai, Esther
“When Haman saw that Mordecai would not bow down or show him respect, he was filled with rage. 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” (Esther 3:5-6)
Haman’s story is told in the book of Esther.