"When Mordecai learned all that had happened, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city. He cried out with a loud and bitter cry. He went as far as the front of the king's gate, for no one might enter the king's gate clothed with sackcloth." (Esther 4:1-2)
Mordecai had torn his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes because he was grieved. This was how people back in the Old Testament times showed that they were deeply grieved. Why did Mordecai head toward the king but stop at the gate? There were two reasons:
1) Something the king had done was the source of his grief:
"And the letters were sent by couriers into all the king's provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their possessions. A copy of the document was to be issued as law in every province, being published for all people, that they should be ready for that day. The couriers went out, hastened by the king's command; and the decree was proclaimed in Shushan the citadel. So the king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Shushan was perplexed." (Esther 3:13-15)
Mordecai was grieved because the king had issued a decree that all the Jews be annihilated. He instinctively went to an earthly leader for help...even though that leader was who had caused his grief. Why did he stop?
2) According to Esther 4:2 no one grieving or mourning was allowed through the gate. The king had no compassion whatsoever for those who were grieving in his kingdom.
As we grow up we often learn a hard lesson. We learn that most people do not care. We learn that many in authority, like politicians and government officials, really do not care even if they pretend to care to get our support in elections. And, sadly, we learn that many in leadership in the Church do not really care about the people....they just care about what the people can do for them.
This is especially tragic because it seems that God has designed us to expect compassion when we have trials and when we grieve. Mordecai did what many of us have been trained by life to do: stop at the gate. We have been taught that no one really cares and that desire to reach out to be comforted dies yet the craving for comfort burns within us.
We become like Mordecai, standing just outside of where comfort should be found.
I read this in Esther and was immediately brought to a favorite passage in the Bible that shows Jesus, our Heavenly King, to be in stark contrast to earthly kings and other leaders who do not care for their people:
"But the multitudes saw them departing, and many knew Him and ran there on foot from all the cities. They arrived before them and came together to Him. And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things." (Mark 6:33-34)
Jesus is different! He is nothing like earthly leaders who do not care. Jesus has compassion. When He sees abuse, grief, sadness, loss, lack.....His insides boil.
He HURTS for us.
He hurts WITH us.
Jesus is different but because many of us have had parents, guardians, bosses, teachers, church leaders and other earthly authorities who really did not care we tend to assume that God is like that too. So we do not turn to Him nor to His people when we grieve.
Still, because He IS compassionate, here is HIS cry:
"'Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.'" (Matthew 11:28-30)
He wants us to come to Him. He wants us to tell Him about our pain. He does not require, like the king in Esther 4, that we keep our grief and morning at the gate....far from Him. He urges us to bring them to Him....and the gate is open to us!
Jesus is different!
"Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:14-16)
And what about those who were supposed to care for us with the love of the Lord and failed to do so?
Forgive them. Release them to the King to do with as He sees fit. He will deal with it on your behalf (if you will let Him.)
"For we know Him who said, 'VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,' says the Lord. And again, 'THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.' " (Hebrews 10:30)
Finally, I urge us all to not give up on God's people when it comes to our griefs and our God-given desire to be comforted when we hurt. His Spirit dwells within the spirits of His people. This is the same Holy Spirit that Jesus referred to as The Comforter in John 16:7 and He seeks to comfort through His people.
There are many safe people in the body of Christ who have Christ's heart of compassion. They delight in obeying Paul's command found in Galatians:
"Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2)
Find these people. They can be found in church buildings, house churches, ministries and Christian men's and women's groups everywhere.
My encouragement today, then, is that we lay aside our distrust and turn first to our King directly. HE CAN BE TRUSTED! He welcomes us as we exercise our right to boldly come to His throne of grace.
Then I encourage us to turn to a brother and sister in Christ that we can trust....someone who needs nothing from us....and allow the Lord to comfort us through that person. Sometimes we just need that and the Lord has provided for all our needs. (Phil 4:19)