Esther Lesson 8: Sackcloth and Ashes :: By Sean Gooding

Chapter 4:1-3

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. 2 He went as far as the front of the king’s gate, for no one might enter the king’s gate clothed with sackcloth. 3 And in every province where the king’s command and decree arrived, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes.

Last week we explored the issue of God’s people being in great danger. This is, of course, the Jews in the Old Testament, but the New Testament church in our era is in danger in many places on earth. The very mystery that Jesus brought to the Jews was that the Gentiles would be included in the Kingdom of Heaven. In the book of Acts, the Gospel and the Holy Spirit were given to the Jews, and the apostle Paul became the missionary to the Gentiles from Israel all the way to the Roman capital. For the most part, we have not had much persecution here in North America. There is certainly a wave in the air for the New Testament church to be shut down or at least limited. Freedom of speech and freedom of assembly is being challenged in many ways, even here in North America.

The government is working to limit free speech, labeling certain things as ‘hate speech,’ and this label would limit teaching from certain passages in the Bible. We cannot fall for this; we cannot stand by and let this happen. We may not be able to stop it, but we have to try and work our hardest to delay and stymie the progress that this agenda makes. Further, we have to be ready to be arrested and suffer loss in the cause of the Gospel. Not many of us are. We are not accustomed to Christianity costing us much, and what we count as costs are mere contributions, not fundamental costs that can alter your life. It is kind of like making ham and eggs; the chicken contributes, but the pig is wholly invested. Many of us are like the chicken. We contribute; God will soon call on us to be wholly invested.

Are we ready? I pray that the Holy Spirit will give me the strength to stand when the time comes. Mordecai expressed his sorrow by wearing sackcloth and ashes (dust); he was loud and cried out in the city.

Today we will explore true mourning. Mordecai, like many of the Old Testament saints, mourned for all to hear. When he began, all the Jews in every province under the reign of Ahasuerus began to mourn as well. They understood that they were in grave danger. They needed an intervention from God, and this is how they expressed it.

Do we need an intervention from the Lord today in our society? I think we need an intervention from God in our churches. Too many have become complacent about the Bible, about the Gospel; they have settled for saving the life and not the soul. We rescue people in this life but never introduce them to the Gospel. Many Christians today have never handed out a tract, never shared the Gospel with a neighbor or even their own kids, and many have never even invited someone to church. Many, if pushed, could not state a doctrine they believe and quote chapter and verse as to why they believe it. We have churches filled with people who are lovely but not actively living for the Lord. They are pleasant to be around, but they have no desire to let God rule their lives. They are saved but not surrendered to the King, and it shows.

  • Mordecai saw the danger, verse 1

As soon as he heard what was done, he knew that he and the Jews were in grave danger. He knew that only God could help them. He mourned for the plight that the Jews were in. How many of us mourn for the situation in our world today?

Just a few weeks ago, one of my dear brothers in the ministry went to the Superbowl and ministered to the people in the sex trade there. Big events like the Superbowl and other events are prime areas where sex trafficking takes place. While there, they were able to make over 36,000 phone calls to women in the sex trade and help those that wanted help. They were able to rescue 9 persons from sex trafficking and hand out a lot of hygiene kits to others, all with the goal of sharing the Gospel. But the scope of the sex trade is huge, far greater than anything that many in the Lord’s churches want to imagine.

I just watched a short video about the ‘Great Reset’ that many are trying to push, and the phrase or slogan that is accompanying it is ‘you will own nothing and be happy.’ This is a very dangerous philosophy, and it has taken root among some of our political leaders. Unlike Mordecai, many Christians are not in tune with the world around them, and they do not see the dangers. Many don’t want to hear; they are blissfully ignorant and don’t want to take off the blinders. Often when we pastors begin to teach on prophecy and talk about the dangers that are not too far away in the future, they treat us like ‘foil hat wearing’ conspiracy theorists. We are just fear-mongering and upsetting their spiritual mojo. They want an uplifting message that just makes them feel all fuzzy inside but does not challenge them to deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Jesus.

Mordecai was well aware of the dangers to him and his people, and he cried out. He refused to keep quiet, and he was very public about it. He went about in sackcloth and ashes; he mourned the dangers that were haunting them. This kind of mourning was common in the Old Testament. We find Jacob mourning for Joseph in Genesis 37:34 in the same manner. We see in Job 16:15 that Job put on sackcloth and threw dust on his head in mourning over his dire situation. Even the evil Ahab put on sackcloth and ashes in 2 Kings 21:37. Nehemiah led the people who returned to Jerusalem in mourning in Nehemiah 9:1. We can go on and see that this was a common thing to happen.

Sadly, many of us do not take the Bible very seriously, and we don’t really think that this bad stuff is going to happen. We don’t think that, as a civilized society, we will be forced to be quiet about Jesus and shut up about our faith. No one wants to imagine a child being killed to force our hands about denying Jesus, and no one wants to imagine that Matthew 24 is real or that the events recorded in the Revelation are not just scary stories that God told to keep us in line. But come on, do you think God will kill more than half the world’s population? Yes, I do! He killed all but eight in the flood (Genesis 6-9), and He is prepared to do it again.

I find myself starting to pray for God to give me the strength to stand and be faithful even to death for Him. I can see the tsunami that is coming, and I pray God gives me the power to endure and not deny Him.

Mordecai understood the cost of being a Jew. He stood out and stood up for the Lord, and it was going to cost him and his countrymen their lives. No bullets and bombs here, but gruesome and painful death. The amount of shed blood would be beyond what we could imagine, even in the worse movie we have ever seen with guts and gore. Are you praying and preparing to be called to give an account to the world? Are you counting the cost and preparing your children to stand for the Lord no matter what the cost? Is your pastor equipping you to be ready spiritually and mentally for what is coming? Why not? When is the last time someone in your church taught through the Revelation or Daniel? Is there much talk of God’s wrath? His holiness?

We need to be ready and sorrowful for the world around us, the world that hates God and hates His people. Yes, Christian, as much as you try to fit in, the world hates you. You either have to step out and stand out, or you have to operate like an undercover James Bond spy for Jesus. We hear of many celebrities that are ‘undercover’ Christians and conservatives; they are like the Pharisees that believed in Jesus but kept it secret, as we see in John 12: 42-43. Make no mistake, Jesus will put you in a place where you have to stand up or deny Him, but you will not be allowed to be secretive. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea had to stand up. Soon Saul came out. There is a part of me that wonders about Gamaliel as well and his salvation, but sooner or later, you need to stand for and with Jesus.

  • Mordecai Warned others, verses 2-3

There is a heaven to gain and a hell to shun. There is a judgment for sin that will be meted out. But what Mordecai faced here was simply pure hatred; Haman hated the Jews, and, man, did he hate Mordecai. We are told in Ephesian 6: 10-12 to be ready for battle. There is a war, and as a child of God, you are engaged, and you are not allowed to be on the sidelines. You are in the infantry, and there is a battle at hand. The battle is coming to you as a child of God; you cannot escape it. The enemies of the cross have been preparing for the battle that is coming for 4,500 years since the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. In the same chapter, God called Abram to come out, and through him, the lineage of the Messiah would be born.

This battle between Satan and Yahweh has been building and building, and we are at the height of the war. The end is near for Satan, and he is fighting literally for his life.

You and I need to be Mordecai; let us tell everyone that we can that Jesus is coming soon, that salvation is still freely available to them, and that they can be the friends of God and not be subject to His wrath. How many people have we talked to about Jesus? How many have we talked to about hell and heaven and where they are going? Have we shown people genuine love and care? A lot of times, we simply don’t love people, and we don’t have the drive to pray for them and plead for them. We need to cry out to the Lord to open doors, soften hearts and open their ears to listen. But we have to be ready with the scripture and the truth to tell them when God opens the door.

You see, by the time the word had gotten out, ALL the Jews knew the danger they were in, and they too began to mourn for their situation. Are you warning others? Are you preaching the Gospel? Are you sharing the truth with others, and are you willing to take a stand for what is right? Are you willing to pay the cost for others to have the same salvation that you have in Jesus?

There is no sense of the doom that is upon the world. And, sadly, no sense of the impending hurt that is coming to the church. We should be warning the folks in our congregations, and many churches are not. Some are, but it seems that we just have a small voice, and we are being drowned out by the ‘live your best life today’ churches. Very few want to hear that pain may be coming. Very few seem to have the spiritual fortitude or spiritual tough skin to handle the truth.

Like the Jews and Mordecai in Esther’s day, we are in grave danger, and it is led by the political class of our nations. They will not say it out loud because a lot of Christians still vote for men like Biden, and here in Canada, Trudeau. But these men hate all that the Bible teaches, and they intend to silence it and, by association, silence you and me. They will do it by laws to limit speech and under the COVID laws to limit association, but if not, they will begin to kill us. Are you asking God to prepare you for the dark time that is coming?

I pray that I am wrong, but many of you who are in tune with the Word of God and tune in to the evening news know that I am right. Mordecai did not take it lying down; he sought God’s mercy and God’s help in this dire situation. What are you and I doing? When is the last time we had a time of seeking God’s mercy and grace in our society? When was the last time we pleaded with God as Abraham did in Genesis 18 for the lives of the saved and righteous in Sodom? Have you been pleading with the Lord for help for us? We are going to need it, and so will every born-again believer on the planet.

I am a Pre-Trib believer and teacher, but there may be a lot of pain before we get there; we need to be asking God to prepare us and help us to endure the trouble that is coming. May the Lord have mercy on us!

God bless you,

Dr. Sean Gooding

Pastor of Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church

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