« السابقةمتابعة »
on the sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem.
17 Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day?
18 Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the
19 And it came to pass, that when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the sabbath, I commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after the sabbath: and some of
my servants set I at the gates,
22 And I commanded the Levites, that they should cleanse themselves, and that they should come and keep the gates, to sanctify the sabbath day. Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy. LECTURE 747.
Of prayer for mercy.
It is evident from these last words, that when Nehemiah prayed, as he often did, that God would remember him for good, concerning any one or other of his actions, he was far from considering that he deserved that reward which he devoutly prayed God to give him. Whether he had been engaged in separating "from Israel all the mixed multitude," or in casting forth out of the temple "the houshold stuff of Tobiah," or in securing for the Levites their portions, or in preventing the profanation of the sabbath, he still prayed, as we might still pray to God, to be spared according to the greatness of his mercy. And yet if God had promised to reward the "good deeds" of those who persevered in well doing, as Nehemiah knew He had by the mouth of the prophet Ezekiel, 18. 5-9, it well became him also to pray for the fulfilment of God's most gracious promise. And instead of censuring him for so doing, it would well become us to follow his example, both in fulfilling God's commandments, and in praying that whilst God spares us in his mercy, He would also reward us according to his word. See Matt. 6. 4, 18.
Nehemiah denounceth them that married strange wives.
23 In those days also saw I Jews that had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab:
24 And their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews' language, but according to the language of each people.
25 And I contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves. 26 Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless even him did outlandish
women cause to sin.
27 Shall we then hearken unto you to do all this great evil, to transgress against our God in marrying strange wives?
28 And one of the sons of Joida, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was son in law to Sanballat the Horonite: therefore I chased him from me.
29 Remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the priesthood, and the covenant of the priesthood, and of the Levites.
30 Thus cleansed I them from all strangers, and appointed the wards of the priests and the Levites, every one in his business:
31 And for the wood offering, at times appointed, and for the firstfruits. Remember me, O
my God, for good.
Of praying to be rewarded by God.
It was one of the proofs of the faith of Moses, that "he had respect unto the recompence of the reward." Heb. 11. 26. In this book of Nehemiah we find frequent proof that he too gave this proof of being faithful; and we can have little doubt that in his hope of recompense he looked for "a better country, that is, an heavenly." Heb. 11. 16. The frequent celebration of the sacrifices of the Law, which he did so much to restore, must have kept him mindful of this truth, which we are taught still more plainly in the Gospel, namely, that the reward which God is pleased to promise to his servants is not reckoned of debt but of grace. See Rom. 4. 1-5. It is not deserved by us. It is given freely and graciously by God. So much the more ought we frequently to work for it with diligence, and to think of it with thankfulness, and frequently whilst we labour in the service of our Lord, to lift up our hearts in prayer, like Nehemiah, and say, "Remember me, O my God, for good."
THE BOOK OF ESTHER 1. 1-4.
Ahasuerus maketh a feast.
1 Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus, (this is Ahasuerus which reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia, over an hundred and seven and twenty provinces:) 2 That in those days, when the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the palace,
3 In the third year of his reign,
he made a feast unto all his princes and his servants; the power of Persia and Media, the nobles and princes of the provinces, being before him :
4 When he shewed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honour of his excellent majesty many days, even an hundred and fourscore days.
Of setting our hearts on heaven.
There is some doubt as to which of the great Persian monarchs mentioned in history was the one here called Ahasuerus. So uncertain is the tenure of worldly glory! So obscure, after a lapse of centuries, are the honours of the greatest earthly potentates! Their kingdoms, however powerful, are dismembered. Their provinces, however numerous, are conquered, or decay. Their feasts, however long protracted, must have an end. And all the riches of their glorious kingdoms, and all the honour of their excellent majesty, however abundantly shewn forth for the delight of the beholders, will not prevent their very name and memorial from perishing together with themselves. Oh let us then set our hearts on better things than this world has to offer to the most exalted of its children. A feast that never ends is ours, a glory that never can decay. These things are ours by God's free gift. Let us beware lest we lose them by our own neglect. And when we read of earthly greatness, instead of longing to share in a prosperity so full of danger, let us work out with redoubled zeal our way to endless and boundless joys, as set before us by our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
The decree against Vashti.
5 And when these days were wroth, and his anger burned in expired, the king made a feast unto all the people that were present in Shushan the palace, both unto great and small, seven days, in the court of the garden of the king's palace;
6 Where were white, green, and blue, hangings, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble: the beds were of gold and silver, upon a pavement of red, and blue, and white, and black, marble.
7 And they gave them drink in vessels of gold, (the vessels being diverse one from another,) and royal wine in abundance, accordto the state of the king.
8 And the drinking was according to the law; none did compel: for so the king had appointed to all the officers of his house, that they should do according to every man's pleasure. 9 Also Vashti the queen made a feast for the women in the royal house which belonged to king Ahasuerus.
10 On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven chamberlains that served in the presence of Ahasuerus the king,
11 To bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on.
12 But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king's commandment by his chamberlains: therefore was the king very
13 Then the king said to the wise men, which knew the times, (for so was the king's manner toward all that knew law and judgment:
14 And the next unto him was Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, which saw the king's face, and which sat the first in the kingdom:)
15 What shall we do unto the queen Vashti according to law, because she hath not performed the commandment of the king Ahasuerus by the chamberlains? 16 And Memucan answered before the king and the princes, Vashti the queen hath not done wrong to the king only, but also to all the princes, and to all the people that are in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus.
17 For this deed of the queen shall come abroad unto all women, so that they shall despise their husbands in their eyes, when it shall be reported, The king Ahasuerus commanded Vashti the queen to be brought in before him, but she came not.
18 Likewise shall the ladies of Persia and Media say this day unto all the king's princes, which have heard of the deed of the queen. Thus shall there arise too much contempt and wrath.
19. If it please the king, let there go a royal commandment from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes, that it be not altered, That Vashti come no more before king Ahasuerus;
and let the king give her royal estate unto another that is better than she.
20 And when the king's decree which he shall make shall be published throughout all his empire, (for it is great,) all the wives shall give to their husbands honour, both to great and small.
21 And the saying pleased the king and the princes; and the
king did according to the word of Memucan:
22 For he sent letters into all the king's provinces, into every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language, that every man should bear rule in his own house, and that it should be published according to the language of every people.
The duty of wives to husbands.
It is not easy to form a correct judgment on the conduct of Vashti the queen, in refusing the order sent her by Ahasuerus. Taking into account the customs of the age and country, we shall be apt to think her refusal justified, by the impropriety of her appearing before the assembled company merely for the display of her beauty. But on the other hand we must remember, that in those times and regions of the world, wives were little else than slaves unto their husbands, and that a monarch so powerful as Ahasuerus was accustomed to the most abject submission on the part of all his subjects, and above all on the part of his wife. These things make it doubtful, how far Vashti, in her circumstances, did right or wrong. We may learn from this history to be thankful for the altered condition of society amongst ourselves. We may learn. to be thankful for our manifest improvement in the treatment of wives by their husbands. Whilst such as are wives must at the same time lay to heart the principle insisted on by the king's wise men, that "all the wives should give to their husbands honour, both to great and small." This is a principle laid down repeatedly in Scripture, on the authority of the will of God. Few things lead to more disorder in families than its wilful violation. Whilst its due observance, on the other hand, helps largely to make a family what it ought to be, a scene of peace and happiness on earth, such as redounds to God's glory in heaven.
PART IV. O. T.