Free to Mourn
The outfit these verses describe Mordecai wearing wasn’t a fashion statement but a means of conveying the grief which had engulfed his heart. Throughout the Old Testament, tearing clothes and wearing sackcloth and ashes was a common way to publicly display mourning, agitation, and consternation (Job 1:20; Jonah 3:6-9).
This anguish was especially personal to Mordecai because he carried the burden of knowing his people were about to be exterminated on account of his refusal to bow before Haman (Esther 3:2-6). He had done what he thought was right, and he had to leave the rest to God. But that did not mean he glibly walked about, singing of God’s providence. No, Mordecai headed for the middle of the city, wailing bitterly. It’s a sad picture, and one replicated throughout the provinces as the news spread and others reacted similarly (4:3).
As he cried and mourned, the king’s gate was as close to the throne as Mordecai dared to go. If he had gone any closer, he would have been a dead man. Kings generally don’t like it when people are grieved by their decrees. At times, we have a similar disdain for sadness within the church. Perhaps you have even heard it said that solid, faithful, believing souls never feel the need to lie on the ground, wail, or mourn. This is an error, foisted foolishly upon believers and owing far more to self-help books than to God’s word.
George Lawson writes that “the faith of God’s people does not interfere with the exercise of affections suited to mournful dispensations of providence.” These “mournful dispensations of providence”—tragedies that take your spouse when you want her to stay living with you, that take your child when you expect him to grow old, that take your health or your security or your dreams—bring with them a tumult of emotion. And we see in Mordecai an honest and understandable reaction which sets many of us free to do the same: to feel and acknowledge and communicate our emotions in a godly way, rather than to suppress or ignore them.
A trust in God and a commitment to the understanding that He overrules everything for the praise of His glory and will bring everything underneath the rule of Christ does not rule out lament over the sinfulness and brokenness of this world. It is legitimate and even good for us to express deep sadness, lament, inquiry, discouragement, disappointment, fearfulness, and faintheartedness when our path leads us through difficulty. As you face such emotions, cry out to God. He does not forsake His people. He does not sneer at your pain or disdain your tears. Indeed, “the LORD is near to the brokenhearted” (Psalm 34:18).
Taste and See That the Lord Is Good
Of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away.
1I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
3Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together!
4I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
5Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
6This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
7The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
8Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
9Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
10The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
11Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12What man is there who desires life
and loves many days, that he may see good?
13Keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking deceit.
14Turn away from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
15The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
16The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
17When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
19Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
20He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
21Affliction will slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22The Lord redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.
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