– Isaiah 61:1b-3d
"Now Haman thought to himself, 'Who is there that the king would rather honor than me?' So he answered the king, 'For the man the king delights to honor, have them bring a royal robe the king has worn and a horse the king has ridden, one with a royal crest placed on its head. Then let the robe and horse be entrusted to one of the king’s most noble princes. Let them robe the man the king delights to honor, and lead him on the horse through the city streets, proclaiming before him, "This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!”'
"'Go at once,' the king commanded Haman. 'Get the robe and the horse and do just as you have suggested for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate. Do not neglect anything you have recommended.'
"So Haman got the robe and the horse. He robed Mordecai, and led him on horseback through the city streets, proclaiming before him, 'This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!'
"Afterward Mordecai returned to the king’s gate. But Haman rushed home, with his head covered in grief, and told Zeresh his wife and all his friends everything that had happened to him.
"His advisers and his wife Zeresh said to him, 'Since Mordecai, before whom your downfall has started, is of Jewish origin, you cannot stand against him—you will surely come to ruin!'"
- Esther 6:6-13 (NIV)
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Today's Isaiah 61 devotional comes direct from Holy Scripture's grandest "fairy tale" love story -- complete with handsome young king, scumbag villain, and lowly damsel who becomes queen through a series of serendipitous events. The best part is that it all happened in REAL LIFE -- a treasure box of allegory and inspiration from the pages of Bible history.
But what makes this particular scene from the Book of Esther most poignant is its backstory. Mordecai's niece -- now the grand Queen Esther of Persia -- had him mobilize the city's entire Jewish population to three days of affliction, fasting, and prayer against Haman's murderous extermination plan ... a plan that would not stop at the palace gate, but would include the death of the queen herself, since she was a Jew.
The king, of course, was blissfully oblivious to all of this when he ordered his trusty minister to parade Mordecai the Jew through the streets of the capital, wearing the king's own cloak and seated on his royal steed. (Oh say, can you say ... "irony"?)
But, how does this relate to Isaiah 61?
As our Lord Jesus made known in his great inaugural speech -- Luke chapter 4 (quoting from Isaiah 61) -- He was anointed and sent forth by the Father to rescue those "Blessed Mourners" (that's us!) who lament the sinful state of mankind and afflict their souls in prayer to see His saving hand. And one of the first things He'll do? Give them "the mantle of praise" in exchange for their heaviness and grief.
What does this look like?
Think of a time when you were alarmed by a news story or appalled by a revelation on social media. When you felt the needle of disgust, grief, and -- yes, despair -- stab deep into your gut or, as it says in Acts 2:37, you were "pricked to the heart." I mean, to the point where your jaw went unhinged and your knees went limp with heaviness and grief ... and all you could think was, "God, how can this be?" And, "God, PLEASE ... DO something!" (Remember September 11?)
As Nehemiah reacted, when he was first apprised of the desperate conditions under which the repatriated captives in Jerusalem were living: "I sat weeping and mourning for DAYS, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven." (Nehemiah 1:4) Or, as Ezra the Priest reacted when they told him how quickly the people had backslidden into sin with their idolatrous neighbors: "When I heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled." (Ezra 9:3) Or, as Mordecai reacted in today's passage from the Book of Esther, wrapping himself in sackcloth and leading the Jews of Shushan in three days of desperate appeal to God for their lives ...
When you have that sort of a Nehemiah moment -- Ezra moment -- Mordecai moment -- THAT'S when you know you've joined the ranks of the Blessed Mourners. THAT'S when you've become a mighty intercessory hammer in the Master's hand. The kind of that is "made powerful by God to tear down strongholds" (2 Corinthians 10:4) in prayer.
And it's from the very womb of that gripping backstory that the transcendent episode of today's passage is birthed.
Picture Mordecai, still swathed in sackcloth, passed out on the floor after three days of passionate prayer and fasting. And at sunrise, a knock on the door -- his archnemesis, Haman! Who proceeds to clothe him in the king's own mantle, set him on the king's horse, and herald him all through the city as "the man the king delights to honor!" (And the true spectacle here was not Mordecai, but Haman -- humiliated beyond recovery, as his own wife and advisers were quick to point out upon his return home.)
Unspeakable joy! ... and, incidentally, a profound allegory of the dawn of the Messianic Age almost five centuries later. After three days in the valley of grief and impending death, Mordecai is wrapped in the king's own mantle -- symbolic of the king's delight. After three days in the tomb, Christ arose victorious, making a public spectacle of principalities and powers, so that -- IN HIM, wrapped in the mantle of His Spirit -- we too, may burst forth to joyous abundant life.
Now, as we continue Jesus' work on Earth -- "Just as the Father has sent Me, I also send you" (John 20:21b, NASB) -- let's employ all the mighty tools He's equipped us with, INCLUDING the "mantle of praise in exchange for heaviness." It's a powerful cloak of transcendent joy, reserved for the Blessed Mournful, who have obtained it ONLY in exchange for heaviness -- grief, fainting, and desperate intercessory pursuit of God.
As the psalmist said, "He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." (Psalms 126:6)
Why not pray ...
"Dear Father, I thank You for calling me to take up Your yoke, to share Your intercessory heart for a lost and dying world. So, whatever specific yoke You have for me TODAY, please lay it on me thick! And help me bear it faithfully and fervently, so I'll be worthy to exchange it tomorrow for Your glorious mantle of joy.
In Jesus' name. Amen"
Originally published as a “Bradstix” devotional on the National Minute of Prayer Facebook page 12/12/2021.