Jesus said it. And we do well to give heed to it and remember it, if we would rightly understand the message in the book of Esther. What did He say that applies to this book? You will find it in Matthew 7:20where we read: “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” In the verses preceding it He had spoken of entering into the kingdom by the strait gate and of being wary of false prophets. Already inMatt. 7:16 He had stated, “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” And plainly the idea is that when we stand before a tree or bush, we can tell what kind of tree or bush it is by the fruit that we find upon it.
Thus far in our consideration of this book of Esther I have pointed out time and again the thistles and thorns and the complete lack of any grapes or figs in the lives of Esther and Mordecai, who were of the fleshly seed of Abraham. One fig, or one grape would at once reveal that we were looking at a grape vine or fig tree. And it is not a case of not looking closely enough. It is a case of God Himself, as His Spirit guided the author of this book infallibly and with a definite message in mind, deliberately pointing out the thorns and thistles and showing us that these descendants of Abraham were not the type that can and did produce as much as one grape or fig.
This comes again so clearly to manifestation in the last section of the book. What are the fruits of a branch engrafted into’ Christ? Not thorns and thistles but grapes. And what do these grapes on the branches engrafted into Christ, The Vine, look like? We have to be able to recognize a spiritual grape also when we see it. God Himself tells us inIsaiah 43:21 in these words: “This people have I formed for Myself; they shall show forth My praise.” Or, if you are looking in the New Testament for the spiritual figs to be found in the life of the child of God, who has been born again with life out of heaven, you will find in I Thessalonians 5:18, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” In these two you have the evidences of the new life of the believing child of God. He praises God and expresses his thankfulness for the gift of salvation. Yes, he confesses his sins. He flees to Christ for forgiveness. But a heart filled with thankfulness to God for salvation is the evidence that he does hate his sins, and is putting his trust in Christ and His cross. The Heidelberg Catechism in Lords Day XXXII states this truth when it points out that we must still do good works, that is, produce grapes and figs and not thorns and thistles, after we are delivered by grace through Christ, because Christ “also renews us by His Spirit, after His own image; that so we may testify, by the whole of our conduct, our gratitude to God, and that He may be praised by us; also, that every one may be assured in himself of his faith, by the fruits thereof. . . .” There you have it. One may know whether one is a good tree, by God’s grace, or not by the fruits of praise and thanksgiving one finds in one’s own life.
What did Noah do after that great salvation from the wicked world by the waters of the flood and in the safety of the ark? He built an altar to God, which is called a sweet savor which God smelled. This was not thorns and thistles but grapes and figs. What did Moses do when God destroyed the military might of Egypt in the Red Sea and saved His people from the bondage they had suffered for 400 years? Look up Exodus 15 and you will find his song of praise and thanksgiving. What did Jonah do when God sent the fish to save him from certain death in the midst of the sea? What do you read so repeatedly in the book of Psalms of the believers who were protected and saved by the God of our salvation? Is the book not full of praise to God? When Christ was born did not the shepherds return to their sheep glorifying and praising God? What did Simeon and Anna do when He was presented to the Lord in the temple when He was forty days old? Indeed, by their fruits ye shall know them.
Now let us return to the line drawn for us in the book of Esther. A marvelous “enlargement and deliverance” was wrought. The Jews were safe with Mordecai the Jew as the prime minister and Esther the Jewess as the queen of the nation where they had their citizenship. Seventy-five thousand of their enemy were killed; and fear took hold upon their enemies. No one dared to lift a finger against the Jews. So we read in Esther 9:3, 4. But of what fruit are we told by God Himself, through the man He used to write this book? Are we shown grapes and figs of praise and thanksgiving to God? Or is there presented to us the thorns and thistles of a carnal feasting that does not even suggest that God was in the thoughts of these Jews, much less in the mind and heart of Mordecai, who ordered this day of feasting and called it not after God but after the dice, the “lucky” stones used by those who did not look up to God? There is a reason why the Almighty moved the secondary author to include this bit of the history that speaks of Purim and not of Jehovah.
The climax of the narrative actually comes earlier in the book when Haman and his sons are hanged, Mordecai is exalted to his most lofty position, and the Jews are victorious over their enemies and can breathe freely and have “joy and gladness” instead of terror because of doom staring them in the face. Why tell us of this feasting, if it is not exactly to show the carnality rather than spirituality of these Jews who stayed in the land, when the opportunity had presented itself for them to return to the promised land where God’s temple again stood, and the types and shadows of the coming Christ were to be seen and enjoyed?
Now feasting as such is not necessarily carnal. We may and must appreciate the earthly gifts which God bestows upon us. He made a beautiful world for Adam and Eve to enjoy. Outside of the garden were thorns and thistles. Adam and Eve were given to feast on all the dainties in that first paradise. For even this was a picture of the amazing life we will have in the paradise to come. That life Jesus Himself more than once in His parables presented as a feast. And we are given sense organs of smell, sight, taste, hearing, and touch to enjoy this creation. God wants us to hear the beautiful music which He created—not the jungle noises, the screaming and moanings with animal gyrations that is called music by the world today. He wants us to see the beauty of color and shape in His creation; and to smell not only the flowers but the delightful aroma of food being cooked, the fresh scent of the pine forest, and many other delightfully fragrant creatures on this earth. He made us to feel smoothness and cooling breezes, as well as warmth of the sun and the softness of cotton. We must not then exclude also the delicious taste of the tremendous variety of fruits and vegetables and other foods. All these God has created, and all these He has given to man to experience in order that he may bring these back to God in praise. Remember that statement in Isaiah 43:21 that He has formed a people for Himself that will show forth His praise. That belongs to man’s calling as God’s royal priesthood. He must see, hear, smell, taste and touch the earthly creation and then bring it back to God in the form of praise and thanksgiving. That is dedicating it and consecrating it to God. And that is the duty of the priest. So beautifully we have it in I Peter 2:9 where the threefold office of man is presented. This people of God is a royal, that is, a kingly, priesthood which shows forth, as prophets in confession and song, the praises of Him Who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. We must eat and drink, taste and smell, feel, see, and hear, and then render thanks and praise to God for what He gave us to enjoy. In that sense feasting is not in itself sin. It is sin when we eat and drink, taste and smell, and it all stops there! Then we are carnal, moved by and ruled by our flesh. Then what comes from God does not return to Him, because in Adam Satan got us to turn our backs upon the Giver of every good and perfect gift, and to say that this gift is ours and not the Creator’s.
What we have to understand is that God never gives anything away. He gives. He is the over-and-everflowing fountain of all good, the Supplier of all man’s needs and Provider of everything that man enjoys. And He gives, gives, and continues to give. But He gives in the sense of lending to the creature tools, means, instruments whereby he may praise Him and say, “O God, how great Thou art! O God, how good Thou art!” Is not that what we see when we are given glimpses of heaven today and of the kingdom of heaven as it shall be in the day of Christ? Does not every picture of heaven painted for us in Scripture shout loudly “Hallelujah”? Hallelujah translated means Praise Jehovah. Did you ever see a picture of heaven in Holy Writ that gave you the impression that there man is praising himself or some other creature?
What must be and is the significance of Romans 11:36? “For of Him, and through Him, and unto Him, are all things; to Whom be glory forever, Amen.” And by all means do not pass thoughtlessly over I Corinthians 15:28where we read, “And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.” In a sense this is a commentary—as Scripture interprets Scripture—upon Romans 11:36. Because of Him, through Him, and unto Him are all things, He shall be all in all the thinking, willing, and acting of all the saints, when His counsel is fulfilled and His people are enjoying the wedding feast of the Lamb. What a feast that will be; and what a praise will begin and never end with thanksgiving to Him from all in the kingdom of heaven!
And in the day of shadows we do have shadows of what will happen when that kingdom is fully come and the new Jerusalem descends from God out of heaven and the tabernacle, dwelling place of God, is with man (Revelation 21:1-3). Shadows are caused by realities. The reality in this instance is the true, spiritual seed of Abraham in the new creation praising and glorifying God with thanksgiving for the wonderful enlargement and deliverance He has given us from Satan’s power of sin over us, and from the curse and punishment we deserve.
And we must remember that a solid, square building will not cast a shadow in the shape of a tree with a long, thick trunk and an oval shaped foliage, Neither does a kingdom wherein all the citizens praise and glorify God with thanksgiving cast the shadow of a people that never confesses His name, never prays to Him, displays shameful, unvarnished fatalism, and after being rescued from the brink of death does not reveal one shred of thankfulness, and uses the name of its idol Pur instead of the name of Jehovah to remind the coming generations of this deliverance. And God does not want us to call that a shadow of His kingdom. Had He wanted us to see Esther and Mordecai as believers, He would have shown us one or two grapes or figs instead of bushels of thorns and thistles.
Yes, by their fruits we shall know the believers. By the shape of the shadow we will know what reality casts this shadow upon the earth in this life.