When Abraham Lincoln became President in 1860, along with the trials associated with the pending Civil War, he went crazy with people coming to him to seek out political patronage appointments. Some years later, his secretaries John G. Nicolay and John Hay wrote a Lincoln biography about their experiences in his administration, and they had this to say about the endless process …
“The city was full of strangers; the White House full of applicants from the North. At any hour of the day one might see at the outer door and on the staircase, one line going, one coming. In the anteroom and in the broad corridor adjoining the President’s office there was a restless and persistent crowd – ten, twenty, sometimes fifty, varying with the day and hour, each one in pursuit of one of the many crumbs of official patronage. They walked the floor; they talked in groups; they scowled at every arrival and blessed every departure; they wrangled with the doorkeepers for the right of entrance; they intrigued with them for surreptitious chances; they crowded forward to get even as much as an instant’s glance through the half-opened door into the Executive Chamber.”
Among statements credited to Lincoln were: “Please, save me from all of my friends,” and “I think the only way to escape this is to hang myself from one of the trees on the south lawn.”
In yesterday’s Scripture section from Esther 4, Esther spoke of the dangers of coming before the King unannounced and uninvited. You would either be accepted, or it was off with your head. She said, All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives.
The ancient Jewish historian Josephus also wrote of this danger of approaching the Persian throne uninvited: “Now the king had made a law, that none of his own people should approach him unless they were called, when he sat upon his throne; and men, with axes in their hands, stood round about his throne, in order to punish such as approached to him without being called.”
Abraham Lincoln may have at times wished for such a system, though he had to play the political card game in a way that Xerxes had no need.
The picture with today’s devotional shows an ancient stone sculpture of King Darius of Persia (from just before the era of Xerxes) and you can see the scepter in his hand.
But Esther puts aside the fear and concern and comes before the king to ultimately apprise him of the situation. And as you see, she is going to do it in a multi-step process.
5:1 – On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance. 2 When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold scepter that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter.
3 Then the king asked, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you.”
4 “If it pleases the king,” replied Esther, “let the king, together with Haman, come today to a banquet I have prepared for him.”
5 “Bring Haman at once,” the king said, “so that we may do what Esther asks.”
So the king and Haman went to the banquet Esther had prepared. 6 As they were drinking wine, the king again asked Esther, “Now what is your petition? It will be given you. And what is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.”
7 Esther replied, “My petition and my request is this: 8 If the king regards me with favor and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come tomorrow to the banquet I will prepare for them. Then I will answer the king’s question.”
I believe it is a rather common experience of believers today to undervalue the nature of the relationship that they have with God. So many see God as very much like an ancient king on his throne … don’t get near him unless you are asked, because he is very random. And frankly, he is quite cranky, you don’t know what you’re going to get from him. So it is better to just stay away and not bother him.
You might add, “But God is a God of judgment” … the Scriptures say it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of an angry God … that He cannot stand anyone in his presence who is not perfectly pure and righteous.
But you see, we don’t stand there simply in our own filth, but rather in the righteousness of Christ and with Christ there as the guarantee of having had our sins paid for by him. We can come before the throne in confidence, and we’ll tell you why over the next two days.