By Rick Elsey
Pastor, West End Baptist Church, Columbia
Have you ever been warned not to go off “half-cocked?” The term dates back to the days of flintlock or caplock firearms. Half-cocked describes the position of the hammer that allows the primer to be loaded as well as serving as a basic safety measure against the gun firing prematurely. Today the term describes the danger of taking premature or ill-considered action. In other words, act first, think later. Archbishop Thomas Secker had a great insight into this type of mentality. He states, “Some persons [act] first, think afterward, and then repent forever.”
The study for today deals with the response by Mordecai and Esther to the news that Haman has been given the king’s permission to wipe out all of the Jews in the region. What would they do, or for that matter, what could they do? Through grief and struggle, their response highlights the point that “surrendering to God leads to greater things.”
A time to grieve (Esther 4:1-3. In Ecclesiastes 3:4, the writer reminds us that there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” Upon hearing the King had posted an edict giving Haman the authority to wipe out the Jews in the region, Mordecai’s first response is to mourn and cry out to God. No other action is warranted at that moment. Through his grief, he shows great restraint. Verse two tells us that he only went as far as the king’s gate. To go any farther in his condition would have been a breach of the law. While he may have had the desire to enter and confront those responsible, he recognized that now was not the time. He needed to trust God and his provision.
Too many times we find ourselves responding to injustice or personal hurt before we take time to think through our actions. Often conflicts have been exacerbated by knee jerk reactions. Praying through our situation allows God to strengthen our convictions and give us spiritual direction.
A time of challenge (Esther 4:10-14). One of the definitions of “stand down” is “to resign or withdraw especially in favor of another.” Mordecai understood he had been faithful to God, but now he must challenge Esther to do her part in rescuing her people. His message to Esther was simple, go and plead before the king. However, she knew this was easier said than done. To go before the king without being summoned could mean death. Her current lack of status before the king brought additional fear. She shared her reluctance and fear with Mordecai.
The response to Esther by Mordecai was two-fold. First, her inaction could mean death for her family. Mordecai was convinced of God’s deliverance (v. 14), but he feared for Esther if she did not respond. Second, Mordecai believed God had put Esther in the right place just for this moment.
A time to act (vv.15-16). Esther takes a step of faith and will see the king, even if it means she will die. That is total surrender. In preparation, she seeks the spiritual support of all of the Jews. With that support, she can now come before the king with courage and conviction. In the end, she stands down to her own will and submits to God’s purpose.
Do you believe in divine appointments? God puts you in just the right place at just the right time to minister in his name. Just as God put Esther in her royal position at the right time, he still leads and guides us if we surrender completely to him.