Living in the Image of God through Adversity

Example from Mordecai—
Worshiping and Serving God Even in Adversity

Mordecai’s interactions with others show he was committed to worship and serve God, determined what the commitment meant in every situation, and interacted in a way to uphold his commitment. He did this while facing severe adversity due to being the descendant of a captive exile in Babylon. In a subsequent study we show that living in the image of God in spite of his adversity propelled him to triumph over the adversity.


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We continue our study series on Responding to Adversity with a sub series on Mordecai, descendant of one of the Jews that fell captive to Nebuchadnezzar and lived in Babylon as exiles for several decades. We examine Mordecai’s life in captivity, focusing on adverse circumstances that befell him and three interactions with others as he lived through the adversity. We discuss the interactions to show how they relate to the meaning of a commitment to worship and serve God. Further, in subsequent studies under the sub series on Mordecai, we highlight how the interactions triggered event sequences that coalesced to lead him to triumph over his adversity.

The sub series helps us understand the life of Mordecai as an example of living in the image of God through adversity and lifting over the adversity as a result.

Mordecai’s Adversity

Mordecai faced the adversity of being descendant of a captive exile in Babylon, where his people’s religion and culture drew persistent discrimination against them. He shared the adversity with numerous other Jews. Additionally, he was rather of modest means. For example, through most of the period covered by the study, he worked as a low-level employee (maybe, watch man or other kind of attendant) at the king’s gate. His third adversity arose from the other two: his people faced an open threat of annihilation as punishment for something he did that was noticed because of his regular presence at the king’s gate. The evidence for the second source of adversity (i.e., living in poverty) and the circumstances of the third are part of events that we discuss in more detail in subsequent studies. However, his adversity arose primarily from being descendant of a Jewish captive.

Kingdom of Xerxes
Kingdom of Xerxes
Sweet Publishing

He was great grandson of one of the Jews carried into exile in Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar [Esther 2:5–6]: “Now there was in the citadel of Susa a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, who had been carried into exile from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, among those taken captive with Jehoiachin king of Judah.” The part of his life described in the book of Esther and the events that are the focus of this study occurred during the reign of King Xerxes, whose kingdom extended over a vast region from modern-day India through Ethiopia.

How Mordecai Lived in Adversity

The biblical account about Mordecai provides a “window” into his life by describing three key interactions between him and other people. The interactions are important for two reasons. First, they underscore Mordecai’s commitment to worship and serve God by showing he lived to uphold the commitment even while facing adversity. Second, each of the interactions triggered a sequence of events that all coalesced to propel Mordecai onto a new phase of life over his adversity. This study focuses on the first: understanding the three interactions that describe Mordecai’s life in adversity. The three interactions are: (1) he raised his uncle’s orphan daughter as his, (2) reported an assassination plot against the king, and (3) refused to worship an agent of the king even while facing a threat of execution for his refusal.

Mordecai Adopts Orphan-Cousin Esther

Mordecai adopted his cousin Hadassah, also known as Esther, and raised her after both her parents died [Esther 2:7]: “Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This young woman, who was also known as Esther, had a lovely figure and was beautiful. Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died.” Raising her orphaned cousin as her daughter qualifies as serving God through people—an act of worship.

God's provider assistants for a paralyzed
God’s provider assistants for a paralyzed

As we describe in a previous bible study under Call to Compassion, God creates every person to be his provider assistant. He offers opportunities for every person to provide service to others and at times benefit from service provided by others. When a need exists, God positions a person to provide for the need. He offers the person opportunity to recognize the need and do what he/she can to provide for it. As Christ describes through the parable of The Sheep and the Goats, a person earns blessing by providing service to alleviate another’s need [Matthew 25:35–36]. Mordecai recognized a need, took full responsibility, and did what he could to provide for it. Being a man of modest means, he could have been discouraged from taking on the additional responsibility. But he did what he could and brought the girl up as “his own daughter.” Thus, he fulfilled his responsibility as God’s provider assistant by raising his orphaned cousin as his own daughter.

OPPORTUNITY FOR ESTHER Further, Mordecai recognized an opportunity for Esther when King Xerxes announced a search to replace his deposed queen. The reigning queen was deposed to punish her for disobedience. Thereafter, the king announced a contest to choose another queen [Esther 2:2-4]: “Then the king’s personal attendants proposed, ‘Let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king. Let the king appoint commissioners in every province of his realm to bring all these beautiful young women into the harem at the citadel of Susa. Let them be placed under the care of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women; and let beauty treatments be given to them. Then let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.’ This advice appealed to the king, and he followed it.”

Esther crowned queen
Esther crowned queen
Sweet Publishing

ESTHER CROWNED QUEEN Mordecai advised Esther to enter the contest but withhold information about her family background and nationality: “But Esther had kept secret her family background and nationality just as Mordecai had told her to do, for she continued to follow Mordecai’s instructions as she had done when he was bringing her up” [Esther 2:20]. Esther accepted Mordecai’s advice. She entered the contest and won. “Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen …” [Esther 2:17]. The orphaned girl that Mordecai raised as his daughter was crowned queen.

Mordecai Reports Assassination Plot Against the King

While working as a watch man or attendant at the king’s gate, Mordecai found out about a plot by two gate keepers to assassinate King Xerxes. He reported the plot to Queen Esther, who in turn reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai. The report was investigated and found to be true. The two officials were executed. Information about the plot, including credit to Mordecai for uncovering it, was recorded.

Good Samaritan: God's provider assistant
Good Samaritan: God’s provider assistant

Reporting the plot qualifies as serving God through people—an act of worship. Having uncovered the plot, Mordecai found himself possessing information that could affect a person’s life. He could protect the king from assassination by reporting the information (like the Good Samaritan) or withhold the information and let the plotters proceed with their plan to commit murder (like the chief priest or Levite in the Parable of the Good Samaritan). God placed him in position to protect another person from threat of assassination. His responsibility as God’s provider assistant is to recognize the need, care for the needy (any potential receiver of a service that God has placed you in position to provide), and do what he can to alleviate the need. He chose to serve God by doing what he could (i.e, reporting the information) to protect the king from assassination.

Because Esther was the queen, Mordecai had access to report the information to the appropriate authority. He did not have any concern about reporting the information to the wrong person, such as one that might “steal” the credit or turn the information against Mordecai. This subtle point is important because it shows how Mordecai’s effectiveness in protecting the king with the information he uncovered was enhanced by his raising Esther (and guiding her to become queen).

Mordecai Refuses to Worship Haman

In a subsequent but unrelated incident, the king promoted one of his nobles, Haman, to “a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles” [Esther 3:1] and commanded that all officials and workers at the king’s gate kneel down in honor to Haman every time they saw him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay honor to Haman [Esther 3:4]: “Day after day they spoke to him but he refused to comply. Therefore they told Haman about it to see whether Mordecai’s behavior would be tolerated, for he had told them he was a Jew.”

Out from furnace unscathed
Out from furnace unscathed
Will worship God and God only
Sweet Publishing

His explanation that he would not comply with the command because he was a Jew means he interpreted the gesture as an act of worship. He was committed to worship God, and God only. Therefore, he would not worship Haman even if commanded by the king. His refusal to worship Haman as commanded by the king, therefore, was an act of worship. Similar to the defiance of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego against Nebuchadnezzar using threat of death in a fiery furnace to compel worship of an image of gold he set up (as we discuss in a previous bible study under Motivation for Worship). His refusal was met with a threat of execution that Haman extended to include all Jews in order to maximize his vengeance. But we postpone a discussion of the threat to a subsequent bible study in order to capture as much of the details as we can.

Summary of What We Learned

Mordecai’s interactions with others show he was committed to worship and serve God, determined what the commitment meant in every situation, and interacted in a way to uphold his commitment. He did this while facing severe adversity due to being the descendant of a captive exile in Babylon. In a subsequent study we show that living in the image of God in spite of his adversity propelled him to triumph over the adversity.

More Information

Please watch this bible study on video at VIDEO_LINK , listen to or download the audio at AUDIO_LINK . You can also download a PDF copy of the PowerPoint presentation from PDF_LINK.

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