“[Christian emperors] are happy if they rule justly; if they are not lifted up amid the praises of those who pay them sublime honors, and the obsequiousness of those who salute them with an excessive humility, but remember that they are men; if they make their power the handmaid of His majesty by using it for the greatest possible extension of His worship; if they fear, love, worship God; if more than their own they love that kingdom in which they are not afraid to have partners; if they are slow to punish, ready to pardon; if they apply that punishment as necessary to government and defense of the republic, and not in order to gratify their own enmity; if they grant pardon, not that iniquity may go unpunished, but with the hope that the transgressor may amend his ways; if they compensate with the lenity of mercy and the liberality of benevolence for whatever severity they may be compelled to decree; if their luxury is as much restrained as it might have been unrestrained; if they prefer to govern depraved desires rather than any nation whatever; and if they do all these things, not through ardent desire of empty glory, but through love of eternal felicity, not neglecting to offer to the true God, who is their God, for their sins, the sacrifices of humility, contrition, and prayer.”
While visiting with a family on a recent road trip, the topic of discussion included a friendly dialogue regarding the causes and results of what is commonly referred to as the Civil War. The results of this discussion lead me to prepare a list of the top 10 books that I would recommend as introductory reading about the Civil War.
Let me preface this list with the following disclaimer. The purpose of this list is not to set forth ten books that comprehensively cover every aspect of the war. Although there is one book in this list that does indeed attempt to set forth a comprehensive overview of the war, this list is not intended for the purpose of setting forth ten books to understand the entire war and all the events associated with it. This list is not intended to set forth books from either a pro-Union or pro-Confederate viewpoint. However, none of the books that are in this list approach the war from a neutral perspective. Every author has a decided opinion and worldview that affects their understanding of the war. Nor is this list meant to be considered as the best ten books to read in order to understand the Civil War. You will notice that none of these books were written during or immediately after the war. In fact the earliest book in this list was initially published in 1901. I firmly believe that the best resources for truly understanding history is to read and study source documents, yet the books that have largely assisted me, and opened new avenues of source document study are books that examine and discuss source documents.
The purpose of this list is to set forth ten books that act as a framework to introduce the conflict known as the Civil War. There are many other books besides these ten that are well worth reading, and some that profoundly impacted me that did not make it on the list. The first book I ever read that portrayed Lincoln in a negative light is included on the list (The Real Lincoln, Thomas J. DiLorenzo), yet the list doesn’t include the book that actually solidified my understanding of Lincoln as a jurisdictional usurper (The Fate of Liberty, Mark E. Neely Jr.). Not a single book by Al Benson, Jr. or Walter Donald Kennedy made this list, yet I would insist that anything that either of these men wrote is worth reading. Another book that did not make the list that is absolutely indispensable for understanding the the growth and expansion of Christianity during the war is the 600+ page work by J. William Jones titled “Christ in the Camp”.
My hope is that the following list of ten books will act as a catalyst to further the study of the Civil War, and lead to a better understanding that the world we live in today is a result of the providential events that took place in 1860-1865.
Lectures on the South, Joe Morecraft
This book is first on the list because it is always the first book that I recommend whenever someone is seriously desiring to study the Civil War. Henry Van Til observed that “culture is religion externalized.” What a person believes affects his actions and outlook on life. “Lectures on the South” clearly demonstrates the reformed Christian heritage of the south and the abandonment of historic Christianity in the northern states in favor of Unitarianism. This examination of the religious preconceptions of both sides in the conflict is essential to understanding their actions leading up to, during, and after the war.
Outlined in just under 700 pages is a comprehensive overview of the entire war, covering in three parts the causes of the war, the war itself, and post-war/reconstruction. Essentially it is a textbook that outlines every aspect of the war from a Christian perspective. So much could be said about the material within the book, but I believe that the essential benefit of this book relates to chapters 9 and 10 which outline the necessity of understanding the religious perspective of the north and south in order to recognize that the true battle was one between a Christian South and a Unitarian North.
There are so many books that relate to antebellum slavery, that it may be surprising that Doug Wilson’s book made the top ten list. Yet I am not aware of any other book that addresses the issue of slavery from such a consistently Christian perspective and examines the practice of slavery in the south with what the Word of God says slavery is and how it ought to be governed.
Initially published in 1901 as a 66 page booklet, it was later expanded in 1904 into a book of 273 pages. The book begins with the observation that Lincoln has been deified by the north, that he has been misrepresented as the savior of the nation and that he was not the great emancipator. The book sets about demonstrating that Lincoln was a man with many faults, and that many things that are said regarding Lincoln’s greatness are purely imaginative and undeserved.
This was the first book that I ever read that contradicted what I had learned about Lincoln as the defender of liberty and the great emancipator in school. It was my first exposure to Lincoln’s solution of slavery as colonization of blacks to Africa. It was the first time I had ever heard that Lincoln’s desire was for an immense federal government, or that Lincoln usurped authority that belonged only to congress (suspension of the writ of habeas corpus), or that he ordered presses burned and publishers imprisoned. The point of this book is that Lincoln was an enemy of liberty.
This book demonstrates through the citation of source documents that “Lincoln was a product of the Enlightenment.” Lincoln is regarded as a deist while according to Herndon “He lived and acted from the standard of reason—that throne of logic, home of principle—the realm of Deity in man.” This book also demonstrates how Lincoln was deeply impressed with the notion of evolution.
No other book examines the systematic destruction of republican government in the United states from a Christian perspective with constant citation, reference, and accompaniment of source documents. I have never read or seen the abridged edition, but I could not imagine being without a single supporting essay or document that is provided in the expanded edition.
Throughout this book it is demonstrated over and over that the Union army waged a horrific and terrifying war against the civilian populace of the south. The great number of atrocities that were perpetrated against women, children, and non-combatants is truly outrageous. This book demonstrates that the consistent and logical end of armed conflict that is unrestrained by Christian law is an abandonment of moral restraint, and thus total war.
Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery, Anne Farrow, Joel Lang, and Jenifer Frank
It is a commonly held belief that the South was racist for maintaining the practice of slavery, and that the north was free of racial tendencies on the basis that they prohibited slavery. This misconception is proven to be false as it is demonstrated that it was Northern ships that transferred slaves from Africa to America, that northern men financed the slaving voyages, and that northerners would kidnap free blacks and transport them to the south as slaves.
This book argues the case for southern secession by examining the the legitimacy of secession from many different viewpoints. It examines it on the bases of the original thirteen colonies declaration of independence from britain, the perspective of Great Britain on the war, that Jefferson Davis was never tried for treason, etc.
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
—Ephesians 5:31-32 ESV
In this statement we find that the very fabric of marriage is a picture of something larger than two people covenanting together to become one flesh. It is bigger than the establishment of a new covenantal household. It is bigger than two people being obedient to the commands of God. Marriage is a picture of Jesus Christ and his own bride, the church. Marriage is given to man as the clearest working illustration of Christ’s sacrificial love for his church.
The primary function and purpose of marriage is to glorify God by showcasing the great mercy and grace found in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. This gospel is the good news that was promised to Eve in the Garden. It is an assertion that Christ’s victory over his enemies will be total and complete. It is a promise of salvation for all those who are covered by the blood of Jesus Christ.
In order to understand the nature of this good news, we must turn our attention to the book of Genesis. We must begin with the book of beginnings. For it is within the first few chapters of Genesis that we find the first marriage established before God for the advancement of God’s kingdom on earth. It is here that we find that the first man Adam failed in his task of subduing the earth unto God. It is within the first few chapters that sin enters the world through Adam’s disobedience.
God established a law by which Adam and Eve were to live and conform their lives unto. Because Adam transgressed and violated this law by refusing to conform himself to it, he and all his posterity received the curse of sin upon themselves. Sin, in it’s simplest definition is any transgression of, or lack of conformity to the law of God. These laws and commandments constitute our responsibilty of obedience before God. Anything short of absolute perfect obedience to these commands is sin, and justly deserving of condemnation and eternal damnation.
This same law that condemned Adam also condemns every man woman and child who has ever lived. The word of God declares that if we violate just one commandment of God we are guilty of violating the whole law. Man’s refusal to follow and submit to the authority of God is an expression of his autonomy. It is an act of defiance against the creator and a futile attempt to suppress the knowledge of God. This same sin, the sin of asserting oneself as the determiner of ethics, justice, and morality is the sin for which Adam was expelled from the garden. It is the same sin that remains on each and every man woman and child today.
Yet even though this sin corrupts our entire being, and has driven us from fellowship with God, and has in fact placed us as enemies of God who face the wrath of God. He demonstrates his mercy and grace through the promise of his Son.
Immediately following the fall of mankind into sin, God decreed that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent. This was a promise to mankind that God had provided a means of reconciling fallen mankind to himself. It was an assertion of the victory of the promised seed over sin and death.
This promise was fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. When Jesus Christ was born of the virgin Mary he became a man without inheriting the sin nature of man. He lived a perfect life in obedience to the law of God, who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. He died upon the cross so that the he might be the propitiation for our sins. He rose from the dead proving his victory over the grave, and he has been exhalted to the right hand of power on the throne of heaven. God now commands all people everywhere to repent and believe the gospel, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness.
How then does this mystery of the Gospel relate to marriage? It relates to marriage in that Christ refers to all who are elect unto eternal life—having repented of sin and believed by faith in the Gospel—as members of his church, who is the bride of Christ. As redeemed men and women, we are brought into a restored fellowship and union with God. Christ’s death on the cross functions as a bride’s price, whereby he purchased us for himself and has made us sons and heirs of all things.
This splendor of salvation is what marriage is a picture of. As Christ loved his bride and laid down his life for her, so a man is commanded to love his wife, and lay down his own life for her. As the church is called to obey the word of God, so the wife is commanded to submit to her husband. As Christ has been given authority over all the earth and commanded the discipleship of the nations, so the family has been given authority to take dominion over the earth and subdue it unto the glory of God. Just as Christ declares that through the preaching of his word he will bring many sons to glory, so by parents instructing their own children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, they will likewise bring many sons and daughters to glory.
From it’s very inception, Nineveh was established as an expression of rebellion against God, and it’s foundation was laid in opposition to the commandments of God. We learn from Genesis 10:11 that Nimrod, after building the cities of Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh in the land of Shinar, went into Assyria and built Nineveh. Nimrod was a mighty hunter before the Lord, following in the footsteps of the mighty men who lived before the flood (Gen 6:4,5) and whose every thought and intention was only evil continually. This is made evident by the stated purpose of those who desired to build the city and tower of Babel:
“Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”
The very purpose of the city and it’s tower was the exaltation of man; a very prideful and arrogant act which not only dishonored the name of the Lord, but sought to supplant his rule and authority by disobeying his commission to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth (Genesis 9:1). Those who proposed the building of Babel were lead forward in their rebellion by Nimrod, for Babel was the beginning of his kingdom (Genesis 10:10). The audacity of Nimrod is demonstrated in his mightiness before the Lord. Not only did he have wicked thoughts and intentions of heart, but he flaunted his apostasy in the face of God. He built city after city in opposition to the command of God, and yet after he had built four cities, he could not rest until he had traveled to Assyria and continued his humanistic campaign by building Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and Resen.
Babel was the forerunner of Nineveh, and it was Babel’s vision of exulting man and it’s purpose of supplanting the rule of God that were summarily adopted by Nineveh. Hence, we find that from it’s very foundation, Nineveh was established for the purpose of drawing people away from the knowledge and worship of the one true God. It was established with the intention of preventing obedience to God, and insisting on the idea that man’s unity secures prosperity. It’s cornerstone was laid on the doctrine of humanism—the deification of man!
The self-asserted and pompous attempt of any civil government to supplant the rule of God by establishing a social order that is in rebellion to God’s revealed will is regarded as folly in the eyes of the Lord. Psalm 2 demonstrates the foolishness of kings and rulers who take counsel against the Lord by declaring that “He who sits in the heavens laughs” at their plots and councils. The Lord proclaims “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” Jesus Christ, as the ruler of kings on earth, does not concede one bit of his sovereign lordship to any other king, but has been given a rod of iron to break those nations who rebel.
The Book of Nahum clearly sets forth the rebellion of Nineveh as a city that has positioned herself against the Lord as his enemy and his adversary (1:2). Nineveh was a city that plotted evil against the Lord (1:9,11) and practiced unceasing evil (3:19). Sennacherib, king of Assyria, (whose capital was Nineveh) sent his messenger Rabshakeh to Hezekiah king of Judah to mock the living God (2 Kings 19:4, Isaiah 37:4) and boast of his defiance against the Lord (2 Kings 18:28,33–35, Isaiah 19:13,18–20). As a testimony to her own strength, Nineveh exulted herself and uttered a declaration of her own divinity; “I am, and there is no one else.” (Zephaniah 2:15)
This self assertion of divinity laid the foundation for building a social order that was at war with the law of God. It established a rule of ethics that was built on man’s reason, void of Biblical revelation, and thereby setting the basis for justifying all kinds of evil: drunkenness (1:10, 3:11), idolatry (1:14), cursing (2:13), murder (3:1), lying (3:1), theft (3:1), prostitution (3:4), and apathetic indifference among rulers (3:18).
Because of Nineveh’s unceasing evil, the Lord declares numerous times that he is against Nineveh (2:13, 3:5) and that she is an enemy (1:2) and an adversary (1:2,8). The culmination of God’s disgust with Nineveh is found in the great woe that describes her as “the bloody city” (3:1). This description is absolutely fitting because of the horrific murders that took place during her prominence. The first reference of these murders are those performed by the worshipers of Adrammelech who sacrificed their children in the fire out of devotion to this false god (2 Kings 17:31). King Sennacherib’s devotion to this false god is demonstrated by his son bearing this god’s very name (2 Kings 19:37, Isaiah 37:38). The second act of murder that is perpetrated in Nineveh is the horrific, disgusting, and unimaginable act of Adrammelech and Sharezer who struck down their own father Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:37, Isaiah 37:38). Hence, the depiction of Nineveh as the bloody city is most fitting, and the graphic picture described by Nahum of a city of dead bodies without end that causes the attacking horses to stumble is horrifyingly accurate (3:3). Nineveh is the city where fathers kill their sons, and sons kill their fathers.
There is a second aspect to the woe that is pronounced upon Nineveh, and that is in relation to her whoring and prostitution (3:4). Nineveh was a city of sexual fornication, and thus a city that was at war with God’s fundamental institution; the family. The family unit, according to the decree of God, is composed of a husband and wife who raise up a godly seed and advance the kingdom of God over all the earth (Genesis 2:26–28). This family unit is a picture of Jesus Christ and his bride; the church (Ephesians 5:32). When men and women commit sexual immorality, they are distorting and polluting the image of Christ and his bride. This assault against Christ is thereby grounds for God to shame Nineveh (3:5) and treat her with contempt (3:6).
Because Nineveh took what God calls wickedness and turned it into something graceful and charming (3:4) God made Nineveh a spectacle that all who will look upon will shrink away from (3:6,7). As a result of these atrocities that Nineveh perpetrated against the Lord, she was made a desolation and laid waste like a desert (Zephaniah 2:13–15).
Yet, Nineveh was not destroyed by God’s wrath without being shown mercy. God summoned the prophet Jonah to call out against that great city because their evil had come up before the Lord (Jonah 1:2). This call was a decree of judgment that would come upon the city for the great evil therein (3:4). This message alerted the people of Nineveh to the punishment and consequences of sin, and upon hearing this message, they believed God (3:5) and turned from their evil ways (3:10). The people of Nineveh humbled themselves before the Lord by fasting and putting on sackcloth (3:5). Likewise the king of Nineveh upon hearing of the judgment of God and recognizing his failure to establish justice in the land, removed himself from his throne (3:6). He humbled himself by replacing his vesture of authority with sackcloth and placing himself in submission to God issued a decree that every man was to fast, call out mightily to God, and turn from his violent and evil ways (3:6).
This king upon hearing the message of judgment from God turned the city of Nineveh away from the path of destruction. He became a king of wisdom by taking the warning of God seriously (Psalm 2:10). The salvation of his city was secured by his taking refuge in and kissing the Son (Psalm 2:11,12). He submitted to God’s Word and was spared destruction. Because the men of Nineveh humbled themselves before God and repented of their evil ways, they will stand at the judgment and condemn the Jewish generation that crucified the Lord (Luke 11:29–32).
The history of Nineveh ought to be a sobering realization for my generation. Nineveh was founded and established in rebellion to the Lord, yet God was merciful and relented from destroying her when the people repented and turned from their evil ways. Even so, just a few generations after the repentance of Nineveh, she returns to her founding principle of rebellion. This time God does not withhold his judgment, and Nineveh was so utterly destroyed that for over a thousand years there was seemingly no evidence that Nineveh had ever existed.
My generation must be alerted to the reality that we see the very same reprehensible practices that were found in Nineveh being practiced today; abortion, euthanasia, sexual immorality, perverted justice, dishonoring of parents, etc.. God will not allow this rebellion to continue forever. We must call out against the evil in our land, summon men to believe the gospel, and submit to the authority of God’s Word. Only then will God relent from his judgment.
Seven weeks ago I had a unique and distinct opportunity. It was a specific privilege that many will overlook, and few will recognize the true significance of. Yet, it is an event of such consequential importance that it will shape my viewpoint on generational legacy and the importance of honoring our forefathers. This specific event was the 70th anniversary celebration of Floyd and May Clem. This righteous man and his virtuous wife were celebrating 70 years of marriage! A special and unmistakable honor in a day when the purpose and role of marriage is confused and misrepresented.
Throughout the duration of the celebration, Mr. and Mrs. Clem were continually encompassed by friends and family who sought to congratulate and honor them for their 70 years of dedication and perseverance in marriage. This is truly a testimony of God’s mercy and favor on two people who were seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. It was a joyful thing to see my Uncle Mark rise before all who were present and publicly honor his father and his mother; giving testimony to the mighty work of God’s grace in both their lives, thanking them for their perseverance in the faith, ascribing greatness to the Lord Jesus Christ, and relating the purpose of marriage to the magnificent work of Christ and His bride the church.
I consider myself especially blessed that I had a personal conversation with Mr. Clem regarding the most influential men in his life, and the great signs of God’s providence that he desired to make known to a future generation. There was a certain spark in his eye as he related to me his admiration for Billy Graham and the work of his ministry. Mr. Clem’s words were spoken to me in a soft tone with an earnest passion to communicate how God’s hand was at work in his generation. This same tone of reverence accompanied his description of the protection rendered to him as he served in the US Navy during WWII. It was beautiful to see him ascribe gratitude and thankfulness to God for enabling him to safely return home after the war to his beloved wife.
The resulting fruitfulness of this marriage was 4 children, 11 grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren, resulting in a total thus-far of 28 descendants. Scripture teaches us that one of the purposes of marriage is to raise up a godly seed; it is to teach the future generation, and those yet unborn about the providence and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Mr. and Mrs. Clem lived their lives as a testimony of the grace of God. They instructed their children with the Word of God. They taught them the consequences of disobeying the law of God, and the forgiveness of sins found only in the gospel of grace.
With these thoughts and contemplations still in my mind, I received news on Nov. 3 that Mr. Clem had suddenly passed away on Oct. 30. It was a startling realization that the man who just a few weeks prior had declared to me the righteousness of God, was now standing before the very throne of Jesus Christ. As the psalmist declares, life is just a vapor. Our lives our but a moment in the corridor of time. We are placed on earth for the glory of God, with the calling of dominion and obedience to his command to repent and believe the gospel.
The word of God defines the life of man as 70 years, or by reason of strength as 80, and presents the blessed man who fears God as one who will see his children’s children. By the grace of God, Mr. Clem arrived to the age of 90 years, and was permitted by God to see his children’s children’s children. The mercy of God is so tender and sweet to allow a man to live such a full life, and see so much of his generational legacy.
It is my desire that the young men of my generation would learn from aged men and honor those who have lived long on the earth. It ought to be the aspiration of all young men to recognize strength of character in older men, and emulate those strengths in their own life. It ought to be the prayer of my generation that they would recognize the grace of God working in the lives of righteous men, and honor these men who have lived a life that brings glory to our Lord Jesus Christ. For truly the descendants of an aged man are his crown.
Grandchildren are the crown of the aged,
and the glory of children is their fathers.
Hear this word, you cows of Bashan,
who are on the mountain of Samaria,
who oppress the poor, who crush the needy,
who say to your husbands, ‘Bring, that we may drink!’
Most people are flabbergasted when they discover that God regards contentious wives as cows. This is a hard thing for many people to understand, yet when the actions of these wives is compared to the excellent and virtuous wife of Proverbs 31, it is not such a surprise to see why God would regard the wives of Amos 4 as cows.
In Proverbs 31 it is King Lemuel’s mother who instructs her son of the virtues that identify a godly wife. These virtues include the wife’s desire and efforts to assist the poor and the needy:
She opens her hand to the poor
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
This is a stark contrast to the wives of Amos 4 who both oppress and crush the poor and needy. Instead of caring for those in need and loving their neighbors, they have taken upon themselves an attitude of selfishness, debauchery, and self-aggrandizement; audaciously insisting that their husbands serve their glutinous, rapacious, and epicurean appetites.
An excellent wife is one that puts the well being of her household before herself. She rises while it is yet night to prepare food for her household and portions for her maidens.
She rises while it is yet night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens.
She does not seek to indulge every passion and personal delight by devouring her increase, but with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She reinvests her profits into the future so that at a later time there might be feasting and thanksgiving with surplus and bounty.
She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
Proverbs 31 sets forth the industrious woman who is regarded as a virtuous and excellent wife, while the self-indulgent woman of Amos 4 is rightly and justly regarded as a cow.
The book of Esther is a beautiful testimony to the sovereignty of God, the preservation of His church, and the providential orchestration of events in the life of men and women. The account of a young orphan maiden being elevated to the status of Queen of the Persian empire and interceding for the Jews is a story which many Christians are familiar with. God orchestrated each of the events in the book of Esther for our example, and had them written down for our instruction (1 Corinthians 10:11). We can look back on them in light of the full testimony of the Scriptures and see each element of history unfold in the beautifully ordained theatre of God’s providence.
I believe that the actor with the principle role in this tale is the understated Mordecai. As the events of the story unfold, he is at the forefront, directing, commanding, and interceding for the people of God, and seeking their well being. His life is filled with characteristics of a godly man who is rewarded for his righteousness and blessed greatly for the testimony of faith which he clearly lives out. Throughout the book, Mordecai is presented as a man of Christian influence, through whom many are brought to repentance and belief in the true knowledge of God. Additionally, the final chapter concludes with Mordecai’s proclamation of the gospel and the illustration of his life as a type of christ-like redeemer.
There are several characteristics possessed by Mordecai, which make him a man worthy of emulating. I wish to present those characteristics here so that his testimony of faith may be a source of encouragement and provocation to pursue these characteristics in your own life.
Raising a Virtuous Daughter
The legacy of Mordecai’s fatherhood is clearly illustrated in the life of Esther, who was raised as his own daughter. Esther’s parents died when she was very young and her uncle Mordecai brought her into his home — caring for the orphan child in a tender and compassionate way as her own father. This act was in accordance with both his faith and his love of God, in demonstration of the true religion of his heart (James 1:27).
There is no doubt in my mind that the virtue and dignity of Esther was gained through the daily dialogue she had with her father. We’re told that “every day Mordecai walked in front of the court of the harem to learn how Esther was and what was happening to her” (Esther 2:11). We should not assume that his interest in her daily activities, his care for her well being, his desire to understanding her needs, and his wish to know her cares and desires, came only when she was taken away from him. We see from many other passages that she was obedient and willing to obey every instruction from her father, and her clear communication with him demonstrate that she was well accustomed to speaking freely and openly on a variety of subjects. Such a close fellowship between father and daughter is the effect of a Christ-centered home, where God is honored, and the father is taking an active role in the instruction and training of his children.
In addition to seeking knowledge of her daily activities and her well being, Mordecai also instructed his daughter in upright virtue (2:17) which allowed her to win favor in the eyes of all the people she met. He instilled in her strength and dignity, with a resolve to do what is right regardless of the cost (4:16). She also demonstrated such qualities as wisdom and sensibility (2:15), obedience (2:20), supplication (4:16), attentiveness (5:1), forethought (5:4), tact (5:8), graciousness (7:3), humbleness (7:4), boldness (7:6), mercy (7:7), and perseverance(8:3). These are not attributes which suddenly arise from a heart of sin, but from a heart which has been nurtured with the Word of God and instructed in reverence for the Law of God (3:4). In her obedience to Mordecai, Esther demonstrated an honor for his commands which were consistent with the teachings of the Scriptures.
The actions of Mordecai, which are recorded in the book of Esther, demonstrate his superior qualities of leadership. Mordecai is said to be “sitting at the king’s gate” (2:19, 2:21, 5:13, 6:10, 6:12) which is to be understood that he was a man with authority in the city. The gates of the city is where the rulers of the city would gather to hear pleas and pass judgement against various lawsuits. Mordecai’s position at the king’s gate was one of high prestige because this gate was the last appeal before reaching the king’s throne (2 Chronicles 23:20). He had a great responsibility to exercise his authority justly and honorably, and from what is told of Mordecai’s actions, it appears that he acted accordingly.
When Mordecai learns of a plot to assassinate the king, he speedily acts as an honorable witness and bears testimony to his superiors of the evil plans devised by his subordinates (2:21). This act was recorded by the king and God used it to rescue Mordecai from the evil plans of Haman who was later seeking to put him to death.
The Law of God was highly revered by Mordecai — even more so than the laws of men (3:2). He would not obey the commands of the king that violated the commands of God and would violate his conscience. This action of his is highly commendable, for “the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (James 1:25). Mordecai was a man who acted with knowledge, and his actions were effectual in demonstrating his faithfulness (3:3).
Other characteristics of leadership which Mordecai portrayed were that he was a leader who inspired obedience in his followers (4:3); he showed backbone and resolve when others stood against him (3:4), he was honorable, trustworthy, detailed in his accounts, and accurate in his statements (4:7); and he sought to be a source of instruction to his brethren in order to focus their attention on the Lord (4:1, 8:11).
A Man of True Faith
The leadership qualities and manly characteristics of Mordecai stemmed from his true, enduring faith and his righteous standing before God. His saving faith is demonstrated in his public appeals to the Lord for mercy and deliverance — both for himself, his family, and the people of God (4:1). He was a man of supplicating prayer; entreating the Lord for the salvation of his people, and appealing to them also to turn to the Lord as their only hope of redemption (4:14).
Mordecai was not only a man of prayer, but of action. He did not stop at laying his supplications for deliverance before the Lord, but commanded Esther to plead with her husband to intercede for them (4:8). He took upon himself the responsibility to act according to his duty and instructed others to do the same. His sense of duty came from his solid reliance upon the sovereignty of God. He understood the times in which he lived and he knew that God would not forsake his elect (4:14). With this faith, Mordecai proceeded with hopeful assurance in the Lord, testifying to the providential care with which God orchestrates the events of the world.
This position of standing in righteous before the Lord was recognized by all who were around Mordecai — and they envied and despised him because of this (5:9). Christians are not despised for their own sake, but for the sake of Christ who makes them righteous (Mathew 10:22). By this testimony we understand Mordecai to be a man of true faith.
Because of the grace bestowed upon Mordecai by God, he was greatly blessed. We see that he was protected from death (6:4), honored by his enemies (6:10), given the wealth of the wicked which is stored up for the righteous (8:1), bestowed great stature and power (8:15), and rewarded for his faithfulness by being highly advanced in the sight of all around him (10:2). In all this Mordecai remained humble (6:12) and praised the Lord with thankfulness for his mercies by rejoicing in God’s kindness (9:18).
Preacher of Righteousness
Mordecai exhibits Christ-like attributes which point to the gospel being the primary characteristic of his life. He was influential in bringing about the conversion of many who were lost in their sin (8:17), thus he is said to be “popular with the multitude of his brothers” (10:3).
The closing verse of the book states the Mordecai was “great among the Jews … for he sought the welfare of his people and spoke peace to all his people” (10:3). Here we see his life exemplifying that of Jesus Christ who “came and preached peace” to all the earth (Ephesians 2:17). Again, Jesus is called “the Lord of peace” (2 Thessalonians 3:16) and it is in Him alone who we have peace from the afflictions of the world (John 16:33). Mordecai is presented as a man who boldly preached the kingdom of God (Romans 14:17) and who proclaimed the “gospel of peace” with all readiness (Ephesians 6:15).
In terms of Mordecai’s desire to seek after the well being of his people, this too is exemplifying the character of Jesus, for we know that our Lord “delights in the welfare of his servant” (Psalm 35:28) and He desires to do them good and not evil (Jeremiah 29:10–14). Psalm 122:6–9 reflect the heart of Mordecai and his desire to proclaim the peace of God and seek the good of his brothers:
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
“May they be secure who love you!
Peace be within your walls
and security within your towers!”
For my brothers and companions’ sake
I will say, “Peace be within you!”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good.
Throughout the book of Esther are woven these various illustrations of the gospel and character qualities of godliness, faithfulness, and perseverance. We would do well to learn and emulate the qualities which we can glean from searching through the beautiful tapestry which composes the story of Esther. It is truly a masterpiece in the theatre of God’s providence. May all men seek to follow after the examples of righteousness demonstrated in the life of Mordecai.
My son, if your heart is wise,
my heart too will be glad.
My inmost being will exult
when your lips speak what is right.
Here is a model set forth whereby a sons might gladden the heart of his father, and lend toward the exultation of the father’s inmost being. It is set forth as the desire of the father, not as a command like the commandment that a son should honor his father, which is his duty and most assuredly binds him.
It is expressed as a desire for the following reasons. First so that the son might recognize those things which his father delights in. Second that the son might also learn to delight in them. Third that the son might be pleased to do those things that his father delights in.
It is the father who divulges to his son what gladdens his own heart. This may not always be done in the most straight forward and recognizable way, so that at times it might be difficult to understand whether a certain task or action brings the father gladness and exultation. Surely the father who seeks to instruct his son will also labor to make known to his son what delights and pleases him, just as the father of this proverbs is doing. To this information a son should ever keep a keen ear, so that at the slightest hint of his fathers approval or happiness, he might take note and be sure to maintain the observance of whatever action or task brought joy to his father.
The commandment of the Law of God which binds all sons regardless of age is:
Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
By recognizing what brings gladness and exultation to his father, the son might better learn how to honor his father. In doing this, he is also learning what a father ought to delight in. Part of the instruction that fathers are to impart unto their son(s) is the desire to find an excellent wife (Prov 12:4). The training and equipping of the son is so that he might be a dominion taking, nation building, kingdom advancer, for the Lord Jesus Christ. Part of his duties in regards to these responsibilities is to raise up children of his own who he might instruct in the fear of the Lord. This shows that the son must be recognizing those things which his father delights in so that he knows what he ought to delight in from his own children.
Two things are expressly set forth as gladdening the heart and exulting the inmost being of the father. First, a heart that is wise. By a wise heart is it meant, first, a heart that fears the Lord, walks in his ways, loves him, and serves him (Deut 10:12). Secondly, it is a heart that is kept with all vigilance (Prov 4:23); the son is never to lax his dependency upon God to search and examine his heart. He must ever humble himself before the Lord and see if there be any wicked way in him. He must constantly walk in the ways of the Lord as his father has instructed him, fearing the judgement for disobedience, and trusting by faith that the grace of God is sufficient to save him.
The second thing that exults the inmost being of the father is when the lips of his son speak what is right. Being placed second, this demonstrates that without a wise (redeemed) heart, there is no good speech that can be uttered from the son’s mouth, for from the heart flow the springs of life (Prov 4:23; John 7:38). Thus, it is a redeemed son who can fulfill the desires of his father. No unregenerate son can exult the inmost being of his father to such levels as set forth in this passage.
The speech which come forth from the son’s mouth will be the same that his mother instructed him to open his mouth for:
Open your mouth for the mute,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
Thus his wise heart (redeemed state) is not for him to squander, but is a tool for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom. It is to assist the destitute, declare justice and righteousness, and defend the rights of the poor and needy. In doing these things he will bring gladness and exultation to his father.
The essence of manhood is forgotten in this generation. The nature of being a man, characteristics of leadership, and qualities of godliness are not being taken seriously today. Men have abandoned their God-given duties in every sphere of influence. They do not seek to disciple the future generations and they have no vision for expanding the kingdom of God. Their apathetic indifference has left them incompetent to face the many challenges in this generation.
Today we need men who are bold. Men who are engaged valiantly in the battle. We need capable and visionary men. Men who can see past the menial aspects of apathetic lifelessness to pursue goals and feats worth the effort of accomplishment. We need men to strive for bigger things than the latest sports scores and pop-star knowledge. Men in our age need to buck up. They need to play the part of a man of God who is called for greatness. Who has been given a commission. A man with a God-honoring mission will be a man pursuing great things.
Men need to be about great things—and not insignificant things. Things which have a dominion purpose and are intended to glorify God; to build the kingdom of Christ. Tasks which strive for such noble purposes are worthwhile. Such things we must pursue.
But worthwhile things are difficult to do. They must be fought for. Worthwhile things affect more than just ourselves. They take into account the future generations. Men must be visionary and purposeful in discipleship. They must aspire to encourage others. Men need to be about the things which further the gospel and domains of Jesus Christ. They must be about things that bring glory to God and which present to the world a living testimony of a man seizing his call as a steward of God—fulfilling his created purpose to properly and wisely mange all of creation which has been placed in subjectivity to him.
To do this men must be leaders. They must be able to lead through adversity. When the going gets tough, despite the numerous risks they face, men must persevere to prove their manhood and strengthen their character. Such trials are a necessary means of growth in the life of a Christian man.
It is for such purposes as these that the Hazardous Journeys Society was founded. For the advancement of the Kingdom and a call for noble and biblical manhood the society has commissioned teams of men to explore, research, and chronicle the many great and wonderful providences of God in every nation of the world. For far to long organizations such as the National Geographic Society have held the reigns to the cultural research of this world. They have promoted and discipled generations with an evolutionary and humanistic philosophy which interprets the world in a man-deifying way. They alone have addressed the relevant issues and questions of our world and Christians have stood by and let them do it. We have neglected this duty—a duty given to us in great commission—to teach all things which have been given us. It is time for godly men to rise up and address this aspect of cultural dominion. We must again become the responsible leaders in our culture and proclaim the majesty of our Lord. We must no longer follow the deceptions and trappings that the humanist ideology presents, but lead the charge to make the glory of the gospel known in all the world.
This is a great calling—a noble calling. This is a calling for real and genuine men.
Here are a few thoughts on the film Les Misérables. We’ll give some initial praise, some warnings, and then comment on several of the characters and their development in the storyline of the film.
- It is excellent to see characters in this film shown for what they are. The wicked people are portrayed as desperately evil and there is no confusion as to who they are. They are real despots and they are shown to be such in their dress, speech, manners, conduct, etc. Likewise, our protagonist and the fellow goodly people are portrayed as noble, courageous, kind, and compassionate. All such qualities and virtues as should be emulated by civil society.
- Jean Valjean is presented as an able and noble father to Cosette. His journey of repentance, and his taking responsibility for those he has wronged, are the main elements of the film which carry it to it’s conclusion. While he is concerned that at some point he will not be able to care for Cosette, he is relieved to find Marias a willing, able, and capable man to take on the responsibility of providing for her welfare as his wife.
- The cinematography is stunning. Not only visually appealing, but it also excellently conveys the passion and drama of the story. The musical scores are spectacular, and all of the vocals are well delivered by the brilliantly selected cast. The score and vocals do differ from the stage production with the unique aspect of being filmed live and being interpreted by the individual actors.
- Cosette’s virtuous presentation as a young girl with the meekness and kindness is refreshing to see—we can do without the pomp and glamor associated to the hollywood idea of a flirt. Cosette is gracious, not snobbish. For the little bit of screen time that she has, her entire impression is one of amiable grace.
- There are many more favorable elements to the film, but these are what we will mention for now.
In the film there are four very disturbing elements of the film that we strongly caution against in your consideration to view it.
- First, in the scene with the prostitutes (which occurs after Fantine is cast out from the Mayor’s factory), women are shown lewdly dressed and make an exhibition of themselves throughout the entirety of the scene. Near the close of the scene, it is shown that Fantine and a man commit fornication. While there is no nudity shown, the scene clearly depicts what is occurring.
- Second, and possibly the most offensive, is the scene in the Thénardier’s Inn which should have been completely scrubbed from the movie. This scene is filled with inappropriate behavior crude and vulgar comments, and a disturbing amount of graphic and sensual behavior on the part of the guests at the inn—as well as the Thénardiers themselves.
- Third, of the main characters in the film, three of them are killed in a more graphic manner than others who are killed. At the battle of the barricades, the little boy is shot twice—the sequence occurs with him directly in front of the camera making it gruesome. He falls back with his eyes wide open, which is meant by the filmmakers to stir and emotionally enrage the audience. Eponine is also gunned down at point-blank range in a close-up camera shot. Javert pitches himself off of a bridge where he crashes loudly onto the stonework in the water before being swept away by the current.
- Fourth, throughout the film an unnecessary use of vulgar or crude language is use by the Thénardiers and a few others.
Below are highlights and commentary on two of the main characters in the film.
Jean Valjean is not the typical helpless, hapless, Hollywood father. He is in fact a man of noble bearing, amiable character, visionary ambition, dutiful purpose & great resolve. He refuses to shirk duties or responsibilities that are considered below his position, and he has compassion on all who he encounters; giving as he is able to the poor and destitute. He takes responsibility for his own actions, and forgives those who make trespasses against him.
Jean Valjean is unjustly imprisoned for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread. Biblical law requires two fold restoration, not imprisonment as the restitution for theft.
Jean Valjean realizes that Fantine was a worker in his factory, and that her current situation as a prostitute is a result of his negligence in hearing the concerns of his workers. Because of this Jean Valjean assumes responsibility for Fantine’s care and takes her to a hospital. He also promises to care for Fantine’s daughter.
Jean Valjean is presented as an able and noble father to Cosette. His journey of repentance, and his taking responsibility for those he has wronged, are the main elements of the film which carry it to it’s conclusion. His concern that he will not always be there for Cosette, is relieved when he finds that Marias is willing, able, and capable to take on the responsibility of a husband to care for her as his wife.
Introduced in the opening scenes of the film as a merciless, heartless, and almost cruel prison guard, Javert, the antagonist of the movie, has zero tolerance to show mercy for even the slightest infraction of the law. Consistently throughout the film it is demonstrated that he is a man whose moral values are based in a duty to uphold justice (though his standard of justice is not defined until near the end of the film). He is not shown to have any religious affiliation in the film, though he does mention God in several of the lyrics.
Javert’s sense of duty to the law is based upon a flawed understanding of man’s depravity. He sees men who have transgressed the law as irredeemably evil. And this would be the case except that God has chosen to restrain man’s wickedness and to bestow His general grace upon him. He has shown mercy and unmerited favor upon men so that every act of theirs is not as wicked as it could be. Javert believes that a man is born in sin—and rightly so— but also believes that man has the ability to choose his path to right or wrong—and if he ever chooses the path of sin he is incorrigible. What he fails to understand is that man is already on the path of sin before he is born—and by the grace of God can be regenerated.
He also sees those who have broken the law as having no rights to it’s protection any longer—whereas this is not the case in a proper and biblical understanding of justice. A man is innocent until proven guilty by the testimony of two or three witnesses. No man is removed from the protection of the law—even a criminal who has an offense committed against him is a victim and can call for restitution to be made.
Javert’s understanding of duty, justice, and mercy are brought to a head when Jean Valjean releases him from captivity and spares his life. Javert cannot cease to hunt Valjean because his sense of justice requires him to continue pursuit. Yet he cannot bring himself to condemn the man to whom his life is indebted. Faced with this paradoxical circumstance he chooses to escape the conflict he finds himself by removing himself from the equation. Thus he commits suicide by hurling himself from a bridge.