PARLIAMENTARY MADNESS: WHEN A BURDEN BECOMES AN OBSESSION

1 When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly. 2 But he went only as far as the king’s gate… 

Esther 4:1-2, New International Version (NIV).  

1.  Garments that Must Go 

Mordecai was a very prominent government officer in the ancient Kingdom of Persia.  He was one of the first persons that anyone saw as they entered the palace to see the king or attend to official functions.  He was one of the last that they saw as they left.  When this respectable man heard of the wicked plot of Haman the Prime Minister, a plot to kill all Jews on an occult date in a year’s time, he was troubled to the point of a kind of social ‘indecency’ that might have been considered insanity.  First thing, he tore his clothes, publicly. 

 

2.  Seductive Alternatives 

The clothes that Mordecai tore in his unconcealable grief for his people could not have been cheap wears; they could not have been second-hand stuff passed down from unknown ancestors in some distant foreign land.  However, in desperate attempt to undo the ‘public embarrassment’ of her uncle without addressing the holy obsession behind his action, the queen – his niece, sent Mordecai fresh replacements from the palace, but he would not receive them.   

That his wardrobe could so promptly be replenished from the palace only tells the quality of the garments that Mordecai usually wore, and those that he tore mindlessly in lamentation for his threatened race.  They must have been palace-grade garments as worn by prestigious palace staff.  Unfortunately, there had come such a season of pains upon his people that his fanciful private outlook seemed grossly out of place with the general mood in the land.  Those garments had to go; replaced ‘more appropriately’ with sackcloth and ashes.  But the queen, his niece, thought otherwise.  She could not understand his sudden costly sacrifice; she couldn’t make sense of his apparent class suicide in deliberately ignoring a rare privilege.  In her royal daintiness far removed from the common folks and their pains, she couldn’t feel the weight upon his holy soul. 

Unfortunately for the queen, that mourner would not accept her cosy replacement of his burdens with her insulating garments of privilege; he would not let her to substitute his ‘embarrassing’ costumes of intercession with her pampered and impotent imperial alternatives (Esther 4:4).  The queen was his niece, but the matters he carried were beyond being compromised on the sentimental altars of ‘family’ or other proximate relationships; her gift was sincere – so was the anguish in his soul; those imperial garments were very compelling, still that intercessor would not fall for them.  The burdens he bore had taken from him the appetite for food and fashion. 

Does it still happen today, that palatial comfort and privileges insulate a privileged few from the blatant horrors of their threatened masses?  Does it still happen today, that the palace threatens or bribes strategic gatekeepers with fanciful garments that have silenced their messianic voices? 

 

3.  The Fashion Parade 

Mordecai did not only tear his clothes in public, he replaced them with sackcloth, a kind of rough clothing indicating mourning; then he topped it up with the cosmetics of ashes, a very base kind of religious powdering.  That done, he began his very conspicuous ‘fashion parade’ along the high streets of the kingdom’s capital city.   

I wonder how many tourists turned around to look at that ‘newly mad man.’  I wonder what the headlines and his very respectable government colleagues made of him.  Maybe they said,  

“This thing has finally driven this guy mad!”   

“Oh, such madness as has come out at last to the open!”   

“What inconsiderately crazy fanatical costumes of rags and ashes in the public place!”   

“Doesn’t he have some sensible people left, who could have restrained him at home?”   

Mainstream media would have gone wild.  They couldn’t understand what was driving the minister so righteously mad. 

In his crazy ‘fashion parade’ of uncommon intercession against a new crazy decree from his government, Mordecai took a prophetic walk down the highway leading to the palace; yes, the busy highway; not some deserted back alley hidden from public view.  He kept his slow burdened pace until he got as far as his holy protest could carry him: the king’s gate, his very duty post.  Wow, now his colleagues have finally got it: “This man is mad!” 

 

4.  The Loud and Bitter Voice 

Mordecai was sufficiently loud in his conspicuous wears, but he still chose to add his voice audibly enough to catch prominent attentions.  He “went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly.”   According to the King James Version, Mordecai “cried with a loud and a bitter cry.”  Nobody could miss that popular ‘big man’ in his unconventional costumes, making very unusual bitter noises along the busy highways until the very palace gates where protocol stopped him.  That high government officer was raising a voice for the poor and voiceless multitudes in the kingdom; speaking up for a people who did not have his kind of privileged access as far as the king’s gate; a people about to be sacrificed on some ambitious politician’s altar of ethnic cleansing.  He dared to raise a voice in an apparently weird way that didn’t fail to catch heavenly and earthly attention.  

Some burdens press people in ways that sometimes force out their voice even when they had always wanted to be politically ‘correctly’ quiet.  Sometimes a burden drives people crazy in ways that don’t make sense to ‘normal’ folks.  Convenience doesn’t matter in emergencies. 

 

5.  The Odd Garment of Posters 

Many years ago, as an undergraduate student, we had a campus outreach to which we were inviting everyone.  A great preacher was coming to speak.  I had a general faculty class during one of those afternoons and chose to wear the large posters in front and behind, like an outercoat of odd billboards.  Somehow, that day I was late to the class, so I sneaked into the hall from the back door and quietly took a seat, but the lecturer had seen me.  He called out promptly, pointing in my direction, “Hey, you there!”  Everyone turned back, wondering what or whom he was addressing.  I knew it was me, but I also turned back, like everyone else.  “You there, stand up!” he screamed again.  I did, then the class roared in spontaneous amusement as they saw my mad billboards-garment.   

“Leave my class,” he ordered.  I turned around and obeyed while the class continued to enjoy themselves noisily at my expense, but in those few seconds, he helped me to advertise the outreach much more than I could have done to that large faculty class of over two hundred students.  They read the poster I wore in front as I stood up at the back of the hall, and they read the other notice off my back as I walked out.  My madness became a talk on campus, strangely advertising the outreach much more, thanks to my free ‘promoter’ – the hostile lecturer.  Not to worry, I was tops in the exams. 

Some burdens are obsessive, and they drive crazy in ways that make little sense to ‘normal’ manicured palace folks.   

 

6.  Prophetic Madness on the Royal Highway 

Mordecai took to the streets with his burden for the future of his people, a noble man driven by a ‘spirit’ that not everyone would call noble.  A road leading to the palace would not be a lonely murky dark street.  It would be a kind of boulevard, some busy International Avenue with tourists and diplomats and curious stragglers.  That was where this intercessor chose to carry his one-man madness to.  It caught attention that promptly made news in the palace (Esther 4:4).  That was how the revival started that birthed Esther’s prayer meeting in the palace that ignited the people’s three-day national fasting and prayers in the cities that reversed the already-passed malicious law of the ‘national assembly’ of Haman and killed the plotter at last in his own gallows.  Sometimes it takes just one person to start the change, and that person could be YOU. 

 

7.  Waiting for You 

Sometimes we wait for too many people to start the good thing.  It might take too long too late.  Sometimes a burden doesn’t make sense to the comfortable and the complacent who have their endless arrays of fashionable garments in place of the radical ashes and unthinkable sackcloth of the burdened intercessor.   If he minds his class and status more than he minds the destiny of God, the same connections to the palace that could have been used to the advantage of radical intercession could become the intercessor’s carnal distractions and his death.  

We have not always properly discerned the reason for the connections and privileges that God brings our way, thus we have sometimes, callously or ignorantly, consumed to private advantage what was meant for the good of His Kingdom.  In the apocalypses resulting from the intercessory neglects of Mordecai the aristocrat, what will have been the benefit of the fashionable wears and pageant outlook?  Of what use the insulative alternative imperial garments in the face of a coming colossal death?  Not every burden makes sense to everybody, until… 

Sometimes we wait for too many people to start a good thing. That something is good does not mean that every good person will support it. Our streets might be waiting for the next mad parliamentarian in sackcloth and ashes, marching in holy protestations against Hamans in high places; a lofty man angered by malicious decrees with their deadly reach far into the future.  Maybe it is time to choose between polished palace protocols and uncanny high-street prophetic intercessions; between inhibitive fashions and redeeming craziness. 

When Esther’s maids and eunuchs came and told her about Mordecai, she was in great distress. She sent clothes for him to put on instead of his sackcloth, but he would not accept them (Esther 4:4, NIV). 

13 Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews. 

14 For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this? (Esther 4:13-14). 

Sometimes it takes just one person to start the change we seek, and that person could be YOU.  It may be a tragic long wait to wait until every good person joins the good march down the highway to the palace.  Some good men are too cultured and comfortable to be the crazy messiahs that a threatened land needs, and “who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” 

 

From The Preacher’s diary, 

July 12, 2020 (Revised, April 2022) 

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