Tag Archives: Mordecai

A Small Cog in the Works

Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Xerxes, preeminent among the Jews, and held in high esteem by his many fellow Jews, because he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews.
Esther 10:3 (NIV)

I found myself working with a small Inside Sales team that was a small cog in the works of a large business silo of a global corporate empire. The fact that we had this gig was a bit of a minor miracle. You see, the corporation they worked for didn’t care about their customers. The corporation didn’t survey their customers because they didn’t want to know. The corporation made it virtually impossible for customers to reach the right people by virtue of a labyrinthine phone system in which you could get lost for days among vague menu choices, endless loops, ignorant operators, and unempowered employees who long ago ceased to care. The corporate system was set up to serve the system itself. Customers were treated as a necessary nuisance.

So, how in the world did I end up there?

There was one front-line manager in charge of this small Inside Sales team. He couldn’t do anything about the corporate empire, the phone system, or any of the other teams, departments, divisions, or silos of the system. He determined, however, that he could control his little cog buried in the systemic works. He hired me and my team to help his little team to apply what I call Customer Service Rule #1: Do the best you can with what you have.

The sheer size and scope of the corporate system working against their efforts made it feel, at times, like we were Quixote tilting at windmills. Still, I had to admire the manager and his team for their courage to make a small difference and do their best to do the right thing for customers in a corporate environment that would never support their efforts, and would only undermine those efforts time and time again.

Over the past weeks on this chapter-a-day journey, I’ve been making my way through what’s known as the exilic books of God’s Message. It was a period of history when the ancient Israelites had been taken into captivity and were ruled by the Assyrian, Babylonian, Median, and Persian empires. Individuals like Daniel, Esther, and Mordecai were strangers in a strange land. They were despised by many and the odds were stacked against them in a myriad of ways. Yet, their stories tell of God using these small individual cogs to accomplish His work in the foreign empirical machines and the often horrific circumstances in which they found themselves.

Today’s final chapter of Esther is simply a brief epilogue that honors Mordecai for his accomplishments. It’s a literary epitaph of sorts and it leaves us with the reminder that Mordecai rose to power because concerned himself with the needs of all his people and worked tirelessly for the welfare of others.

I find myself reminded of two statements this morning. One from Peter’s letter to the believers who, like the Jewish exiles, were scattered by persecution around the Roman world:

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”
1 Peter 5:6 (NIV)

The other from the prophet Micah:

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
    what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
    be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—
    take God seriously.
Micah 6:8 (MSG)

The exiles were like the Inside Sales team that I and my team worked with inside their own corporate empire. In many ways, that Inside Sales team was small, impotent, and relatively insignificant in the grand corporate scheme of things. But, they chose to humbly do the best they could each day to serve as best they could with what little power and influence they had. Sometimes, that’s the best you can do.

In the quiet this morning, I’m reminded that along life’s road I will encounter many situations and circumstances that are out of my control. There are so many times when I’m really powerless to make a significant change to large problems. The exiles provide a good example to follow as they, themselves, heeded Micah’s advice. I can do the same. Humbly, quietly, mercifully, faithfully do the best I can each day, in every circumstance, with what I have.

Victim of My Own Poison

So they impaled Haman on the pole he had set up for Mordecai.
Esther 7:10 (NIV)

I once had a person who told me they were angry with me. I had done something to offend, and the person confessed that they knew I had no idea what I had done to hurt them so deeply. I asked what I had done and sought to reconcile, but they chose to not to tell me. Sometime later, I made another appeal and asked the person to share with me what I had done. Again, they chose not to do so.

Two cannot be reconciled if one is unwilling to do so.

Along my life journey, I have encountered many individuals who hold on to their anger, their grudges, their hatred, and their judgments of others. Typically, I find that underneath it all lies a spiritual, relational, and/or emotional wound. The wound often remains carefully hidden beneath all the bitterness and rage. If the wound is not addressed the destructive emotions remain.

I have observed that anger, hatred, grudges, and vengeance are spiritually dangerous things. It has been said that harboring them is like drinking a cup of poison yourself and expecting that it will somehow kill your enemy.

In today’s chapter, the plot twist is downright Shakespearean. Haman’s plot to kill Mordecai and all of the Hebrews is uncovered. Ironically, Haman is impaled on the very pike he had erected for the impaling of his enemy, Mordecai. He allowed himself to drink from the poisonous cup of anger, resentment, bitterness, and rage for so long that he became its victim.

This morning I find myself praying for the person I mentioned at the beginning of this post, as I do whenever that person comes to mind. Perhaps someday the time will be right and they will be ready to talk things out. I hope so. I also find myself taking an internal inventory of my own wounds and examining my own levels of anger, resentment, bitterness and the like. I don’t want to harbor such things lest I find myself the victim of my own internal poison.

Chapter-a-Day Esther 10

The Triumph of Mordecai by Pieter Lastman, 1624.
The Triumph of Mordecai by Pieter Lastman, 1624. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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 (NLT)

Mordecai was held in high esteem. He was considered great and in the end his life was marked by triumphant success. The reason given for this was simple: he looked out for the needs of others. The story of Esther is the story of deliverance for an entire people, but it would never have happened if Mordecai had not been diligent in being aware of all that was going on around him. It would not have happened if Mordecai had not loved Esther, taken her under his wing, and mentored her. It would not have happened had Mordecai not been willing to stand in the face of persecution when everyone else bowed in fear and appeasement. It would never have taken place had unless Mordecai considered the greater needs of his people more important than his own personal security.

As I read this morning, I was reminded of this passage from Paul’s letter to Philippian believers:

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

 Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
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,
     he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
    and gave him the name above all other names,
 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Mordecai was a living example of this attitude that all followers of Jesus are told we must have.

It is Friday as I write this post. It was on a Friday that Jesus obediently hung on the cross for our sins as described above. In the deep tradition of Jesus’ followers, each Friday is a day of introspection and confession as we think about our own sins and shortcomings.  As for me, I couldn’t help but feel a pang of sorrow as I read about Mordecai this morning. I confess that my life is so marked by thoughts of self. My attitude is so seldom about others and so often about me. My bad.

Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Chapter-a-Day Esther 7

Poison
(Photo credit: Thorius)

So they impaled Haman on the pole he had set up for Mordecai, and the king’s anger subsided. Esther 7:10 (NLT)

I have heard it said that hatred is like drinking a cup of poison with the expectation that your enemy will die. Based on the experiences and observations of my own personal journey, I would expand that definition of that cup’s contents to include anger, bitterness, and prejudice.

Today’s story of Haman is a great example of this principle. Haman’s uncontrollable hatred toward Mordecai leads him to scheme, not only against Mordecai, but also against all of Mordecai’s people. The result is  that Haman himself is impaled on the pike he’d set up for his enemy.

Over time I’ve come to realize just how unproductive and personally destructive negative emotions are both relationally and spiritually. Wander through Jesus’ teachings and you find that the theme is always in choosing the things of God over the things of this world: love over hatred, trust over anxiety, faith over fear, kindness over anger, life over death.

Today, I’m asking God to reveal the pikes I have set up in my own heart:

  • Prejudice against entire groups people whom I don’t know or understand
  • Anger towards those who’ve crossed me
  • Bitterness towards those who long ago injured me
  • Frustrations, fears and anxieties over those whom I cannot control

God, help me take this cup of poison in my hand and pour it out harmlessly to the ground. Then fill it with your love, grace, kindness and mercy. Make me an instrument of your peace.

Chapter-a-Day Esther 6

60th Primetime Emmy Awards
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So Haman came in, and the king said, “What should I do to honor a man who truly pleases me?”

Haman thought to himself, “Whom would the king wish to honor more than me?”
Esther 6:6 (NLT)

Wendy and I watched the annual Emmy awards last night on television. I chuckled to myself as I watched. There is no industry like the entertainment industry for sheer self-indulgent self-promotion. Even the host last night made fun of the fact that the Emmy awards were named after who they are really all about: M – E.

The sight of the self-congratulatory television stars came to mind this morning when I read about Haman’s blunder. The contrast between Mordecai and Haman could not be more stark. Mordecai was motivated to do what was right without expecting any reward for it. Haman did what made him look good and expected to be exalted. Haman was blind to the notion that the king would want to honor anyone more than himself.

I learned a long time ago that if you desire recognition you will surely be disappointed. Hard work, doing the right thing and the satisfaction of a job well done produce their own reward. Jesus said:

“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”

Today, I find myself prompted to do a little heart check. Are my actions and deeds motivated by desire for Hollywood like or Haman like self-promotion and recognition? Or, am I willing to do the right thing without consideration of the earthly cost or human reward?

Chapter-a-Day Esther 3

English: Vashti Refuses the King's Summons, pa...
English: Vashti Refuses the King’s Summons, painting by Edwin Long (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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. Esther 3:2 (NLT)

Two days ago, we read about Queen Vashti refusing to come to the King and how it led to her being deposed. I couldn’t help thinking about Vashti as I read this morning about Mordecai’s conscientious objection to bowing down before Haman. Thousands of years later, we continue to honor Mordecai for his refusal to bow before Haman, but we think very little of Vashti’s refusal to be summoned like a trained dog to be paraded like a stripper before her drunk husband and his cronies.

So it is when we choose to make a lonely stand against tyranny, dishonor or injustice. You can’t predict the results. People might shake their heads and roll their eyes in mockery. You might end up losing everything and suffering incredible personal loss (even your life). Or, you might end up changing the course of history and being honored through the centuries.

When we are called to, or choose to, conscientiously object we must do so out of obedience with a willingness to accept the consequences whatever they may be.