Now Satan put it into the heart of Haman to contrive Mordecai’s death we read in the foregoing chapter; how God put it into the heart of the king to contrive Mordecai’s honour we are here told. Now, if the king’s word will prevail above Haman’s (for, though Haman be a great man, the king in the throne must be above him), much more will the counsel of God stand, whatever devices there are in men’s hearts. It is to no purpose therefore for Haman to oppose it, when both God and the king will have Mordecai honoured, and in this juncture too, when his preferment, and Haman’s disappointment, would help to ripen the great affair of the Jewish deliverance for the effort that Esther was to make towards it the next day. Sometimes delay may prove to have been good conduct. Stay awhile, and we may have done the sooner. Cunctando restituit rem—He conquered by delay. Let us trace the steps which Providence took towards the advancement of Mordecai.
I. On that night could not the king sleep. His sleep fled away (so the word is); and perhaps, like a shadow, the more carefully he pursued it the further it went from him. Sometimes we cannot sleep because we fain would sleep. Even after a banquet of wine he could not sleep when Providence had a design to serve in keeping him waking. We read of no bodily indisposition he was under, that might break his sleep; but God, whose gift sleep is, withheld it from him. Those that are ever so much resolved to cast away care cannot always do it; they find it in their pillows when they neither expect nor welcome it. He that commanded 127 provinces could not command one hour’s sleep. Perhaps the charms of Esther’s conversation the day before gave occasion to his heart to reproach him for neglecting her, and banishing her from his presence, though she was the wife of his bosom, for above thirty days; and that might keep him waking. An offended conscience can find a time to speak when it will be heard.
II. When he could not sleep he called to have the book of records, the Journals of his reign, read to him, Est. 6:1. Surely he did not design that that should lull him asleep; it would rather fill his head with cares, and drive away sleep. But God put it into his heart to call for it, rather than for music or songs, which the Persian kings used to be attended with (Dan. 6:18) and which would have been more likely to compose him to rest. When men do that which is unaccountable we know not what God intends by it. Perhaps he would have this book of business read to him that he might improve time and be forming some useful projects. Had it been king David’s case, he would have found some other entertainment for his thoughts; when he could not sleep he would have remembered God and meditated upon him (Ps. 64:6), and, if he would have had any book read to him, it would have been his Bible; for in that law did he meditate day and night.
III. The servant that read to him either lighted first on that article which concerned Mordecai, or, reading long, came to it at length. Among other things it was found written that Mordecai had discovered a plot against the life of the king which prevented the execution of it, Est. 6:2. Mordecai was not in such favour at court that the reader should designedly pitch upon that place; but Providence directed him to it; nay, if we may believe the Jews’ tradition (as bishop Patrick relates it), opening the book at this place he turned over the leaves, and would have read another part of the book, but the leaves flew back again to the same place where he opened it; so that he was forced to read that paragraph. How Mordecai’s good service was recorded we read Est. 2:23; and here it is found upon record.
IV. The king enquired what honour and dignity had been done to Mordecai for this, suspecting that this good service had gone unrewarded, and, like Pharaoh’s butler, remembering it as his fault this day, Gen. 41:9. Note, The law of gratitude is a law of nature. We ought particularly to be grateful to our inferiors, and not to think all their services such debts to us but that they make us indebted to them. Two rules of gratitude may be gathered from the king’s enquiry here:—1. Better honour than nothing. If we cannot, or need not, make recompence to those who have been kind to us, yet let us do them honour by acknowledging their kindnesses and owning our obligations to them. 2. Better late than never. If we have long neglected to make grateful returns for good offices done us, let us at length bethink ourselves of our debts.
V. The servants informed him that nothing had been done to Mordecai for that eminent service; in the king’s gate he sat before, and there he still sat. Note, 1. It is common for great men to take little notice of their inferiors. The king knew not whether Mordecai was preferred or no till his servants informed him. High spirits take a pride in being careless and unconcerned about those that are below them and ignorant of their state. The great God takes cognizance of the meanest of his servants, knows what dignity is done them and what disgrace. 2. Humility, modesty, and self-denial, though in God’s account of great price, yet commonly hinder men’s preferment in the world. Mordecai rises no higher than the king’s gate, while proud ambitious Haman gets the king’s ear and heart; but, though the aspiring rise fast, the humble stand fast. Honour makes proud men giddy, but upholds the humble in spirit, Prov. 29:23. 3. Honour and dignity are rated high in the king’s books. He does not ask, What reward has been given Mordecai? what money? what estate? but only, What honour?--a poor thing, and which, if he had not wherewith to support it, would be but a burden. 4. The greatest merits and the best services are often overlooked and go unrewarded among men. Little honour is done to those who best deserve it, and fittest for it, and would do most good with it. See Eccl. 9:14-16. The acquisition of wealth and honour is usually a perfect lottery, in which those that venture least commonly carry off the best prize. Nay, 5. Good services are sometimes so far from being a man’s preferment that they will not be his protection. Mordecai is at this time, by the king’s edict, doomed to destruction, with all the Jews, though it is owned that he deserved dignity. Those that faithfully serve God need not fear being thus ill paid.