In this chapter, we get a very important piece of information about life in the Persian empire: “an edict written in the name of the king and sealed with the king’s ring cannot be revoked.” The law was the law, and it was valid – apparently – forever.
That was no big problem in ancient Persia, apparently. If the king ever encountered a law that he didn’t like, he simply created another law to oppose it. Two laws saying basically the opposite things balance each other out. Sort of.
That’s the story here in Esther 8 – the undoing of King Ahasuerus’ edict to annihilate the Jews. The whole chapter is one that depicts reversal. Mordecai found himself dressed in royal robes instead of sackcloth. The Jews who had been in mourning suddenly were experiencing gladness and joy. The Jews who had fasted for three days suddenly were feasting. The Jews who had feared extermination suddenly were seeing other people claiming to be Jews because the “fear of the Jews had fallen on them.”
Everything was turned upside down in this rescue story.
And the law that called for the extermination of the Jews on the 13th day of the 12th month was counteracted. Mind you, it wasn’t done away with. The king’s laws cannot be revoked. So Mordecai crafted what amounted to an opposite law. It was a balancing act. To put an end to one law, you need another law.
This is how things work in this world. And if there ever was a book of the Bible about the world, this is it. The ridiculousness of the world’s ways shines through in the book of Esther. The pressure on God’s people to conform to the world’s ways also shines through. And in Mordecai’s counter-decree, we see more about the world.
We concoct laws to offset laws. When we want to undo a law that seems prevalent in our lives, we create another law to live by. This made me think about sin.
In my own life, I struggle with particular sins. These sins, or sin patterns, are unique to me. You have your own unique sin patterns that you have to deal with. No one is immune to this. We’ve all fallen short of the glory of God.
And these sin patterns create a kind of “law” in our lives. It’s just how things work for each of us. We want to do the right thing, but the law of our lives pushes us to do the wrong thing. The temptation to do the wrong thing crops up on a regular basis and, sometimes, in some fairly predictable ways.
Just think of your own signature sin pattern. You know what you struggle with, and you know when you struggle with it the most. You may even know what time of year or what time of day or what type of life circumstance brings on your struggles. There’s a law in your life that pushes you into sin.
And so I sometimes concoct new laws to counteract the law that I find at work in my life. Like Mordecai, I realize that the first law can’t be abolished. So I craft an opposing law that runs against the law of sin in my life. You might do this sometimes, too. I’ve heard numerous people tell me about wearing rubber bands on their wrists – snapping themselves every time they said a curse word or had an immoral thought. They’ve created a law for themselves to counteract the “law.”
This is good – although it’s not perfectly effective. We can work to retrain ourselves and have decent success at it. But again, it’s not perfect. Two laws don’t perfectly balance each other out. You’ll see that in tomorrow’s reading of Esther 9!
What we need is for the first law to be eliminated – revoked. And that hasn’t happened.
But as Christians, we do have something else that is beyond this law of sin in our lives. We have Jesus Christ.
What Jesus did through his work on the cross is set each believer free from the old law of sin and death (Romans 8:2). That old law still exists. It cannot be revoked. But we can be set free from it.
Mordecai gave the Jews in Persia the license to defend themselves against their enemies – which it appears they did with gusto. To combat the first law, a second was created. Not every problem, of course, was solved.
But we have Christ.
Think today about your own life of sin. The promise of Jesus is to free us from our bondage to the law of sin and death. We have committed sins that have condemned us to death. Instead of needing to work extra hard to balance out those sins, or to override them, we have a Savior who promises simply to take them away. He makes it right. He enables forgiveness and mercy. This is ultimate grace.
In what areas of your life are you seeking freedom from the law of sin and death? Have you fully accepted what Christ has done for you on the cross? Are there areas where you need to let go rather than work harder?