“After these events, King Xerxes honoured Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, elevating him and giving him a seat of honour higher than that of all the other nobles. All the royal officials at the king’s gate knelt down and paid honour to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honour.” NIV

I remember reading a book in which the author made an observation about a pastor friend of his. He said something like this: ‘He was such an able man; so talented, and I was surprised that he didn’t rise higher in his denomination.’ One day he expressed this opinion to his friend, who replied that he felt it was a good thing he had not been given a larger, more influential role. ‘I think the Lord knew I wouldn’t be able to handle it,’ was his frank assessment.

I have to say I marvelled at the humility and self-awareness in his words. Sometimes, promotion to high office (and honour) is one of the worst things that can happen to a person. Or, perhaps, to get the position at the wrong time.

As we are going to see, Haman got a big job, but it couldn’t cover over the fact that he was a little man in it. In fact, being given the role brought exposure. He had nowhere to hide.

Why did Mordecai refuse to bow the knee to Haman? Some suggest there may have been religious connotations to Haman’s role, and, as a Jew, Mordecai did not want to be an idolater. But the Bible doesn’t spell this out. Tom Hale points out that some scholars ‘believe it was because Haman was an Amelekite. He is called an Agagite (verse 1), which may be derived from the name Agag, an Amalekite king whom the Benjamite Saul defeated five hundred years earlier (1 Samuel 15:1-9). The Amelikites had been enemies of Israel since the time of the Exodus (Exodus 17:8-16). Now the Benjamite Mordecai, himself likely related to Saul’s father Kish (1 Samuel 9:1-2; Esther 2:5), was continuing this struggle between Jews and Amalekites.’ ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary’,p.772.

This morning (Sunday 27th as I write) the Radio 4 service was a commemoration of the martyrdom of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral many moons ago. But it also honoured all those who, right up to the present, have been prepared to suffer and die for their faith.Mordecai (and all his race) would have died for this perceived insubordination, if God had not intervened. But he know when to make a stand, and was quite prepared to do so.

PRAYER: Lord, help us to not be cowardly, but brave. May we know where to draw a line in the sand and always be willing to do so, leaning on your strength.