Throughout the centuries the
God's people have plotted their destruction. Time and again they have
schemed, and counseled together, but in the end their treachery has
to rest on their own head. And, this is the amazing part, each time
happened the children of
We see this at the time of the
We see the same pattern in our
reading for today. The Book of Esther tells us about the evil plot of
Known as "The Feast of Esther" and also as "Mordecai's Day" (2 Macc 15:36), Purim celebrates the deliverance of God's people through Esther and Mordecai.
B In 539 B.C., Cyrus king of
Within this setting we meet the
of Purim Esther and Mordecai. To avoid persecution, they hid their
ethnicity from the public eye. We are told that Mordecai had forbidden
to reveal her nationality and family background (Esther 2:10,20). And,
public, they both went by their Persian rather than their Jewish names.
real or Jewish name was Hadassah, meaning "myrtle," and testified to
her great beauty (Esther 2:7). We are not told Mordecai's Jewish name,
know it could not have been "Mordecai" because "Mordecai"
is derived from the name of the Babylonian god, Marduk.
What we have, then, are two Jews living as Persians, with Persian names; yet, Esther and Mordecai both have a strong Jewish identity and are fiercely loyal to the God of Israel. That's why, Mordecai refused to kneel down and pay honor to Haman (Esther 3:2); as a good Jew, Mordecai believed such honor should be given to God alone. When questioned by the other royal officers, Mordecai explained he was a Jew and could not bow before Haman.
Mordecai's enemy, Haman, was an
(Esther 3:1). This means he was a descendent of Agag, the king of the
Amalekites during the reign of King Saul (1 Sam 15:8). The Amalekites,
were descendants of Amalek, the grandson of Esau (Gen 36:12).
Now, you need to remember that
the two brothers,
Jacob and Esau, had a bitter rivalry ・a rivalry
that spilled over into future generations. The Amalekites,
for instance, hated the Israelites and treacherously attacked the
Israelites as they passed through the Sinai desert under the leadership
Moses and Joshua. Because of their blind, inbred hatred, the Lord
curse to blot out the Amalekites (Exodus 17:14,16;
The events of the Book of
Esther take place
mostly in the king's palace in
Haman takes note of Mordecai's
bow before him. And he becomes angry. He decides to kill not only
all Jews everywhere. Haman reasons that if one Jew will not bow down
him, then no Jew will bow down before him. His inflated ego and honor
stake. Haman casts lots to gain direction from the Persian gods as to
date for the planned massacre. The lots fall on Adar 13, giving Haman
to work out the plans and details for his demonic plot (Esther 3:7). He
king to issue a decree to destroy, kill, and annihilate all the Jews ・young and
old, women and little children ・and to
plunder their goods on that day
(Esther 3:13). Since the decree is written in the king's name and
his ring it cannot be revoked (Esther 8:9).
In God's providence, Esther ・the Jew ・becomes Queen
and intervenes with her husband, King Xerxes. Haman is
killed on the gallows he has prepared for Mordecai (Esther 7). Esther
the estate of Haman. Mordecai takes Haman's place and becomes the
right-hand man. And, the king issues an edit granting the Jews in every
the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill, and
any armed force of any nationality or province that might attack them
women and children; and to plunder the property of their enemies
All the nobles, satraps, governors, and the king's administrators help
because fear of Mordecai has seized them (Esther 9:3). You know what
On the day the enemies of the Jews hope to overpower them, the tables
turned and the Jews have the upper hand over those who hate them. The
800 of their enemies in
Observance of Purim
Adar is supposed to be a month
and mourning; instead, it ends up being a month of joy and celebration.
Adar 13 is supposed to be a day of destruction and devastation for the
The day after the tables are
a day of feasting and joy (Esther 9:17). And, a day for giving presents
other and gifts to the poor (Esther 9:19,22). Of course it becomes a
feasting and joy and presents and gifts because God's people are saved
destruction. They are so happy and so joyful they just have to
Mordecai commands that from
then on the
Jews are to celebrate annually Adar 14 and 15. It is called the Feast
The principal ceremony of Purim
reading of the Book of Esther in the synagogue. Through these readings,
listeners relive the miraculous events of Purim. During Purim, the
command to blot out the name of Amalek is taken literally. When Haman's
read from the scroll of Esther, it is met by a thunderous roar of
stamping feet, booing, and the grinding noise of twirling noisemakers.
During Purim, a plate full of
pastries, fruit, and nuts is sent to friends. It is also customary to
charity to at least two needy individuals during Purim so that they too
able to enjoy the festival.
Purim is a time of rejoicing and gladness, the merriest holiday on the Hebrew calendar today.
Purim's Lesson for Us
A s we look at the Feast of
Purim, we see a
number of lessons for us.
The first lesson goes back to the time of Abraham and even before that to the Garden of Eden. Remember the words of God to the serpent? God said,
(Gen 3:15) And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."
Do you remember, too, the words God said when He first called Abraham to leave his country, people, and father's household? God said,
(Gen 12:2-3) "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. (3) I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."
This verse helps to explain the
what happened to Haman. Haman built the gallows for Mordecai, but he
was hanged on it. Haman sought to solidify his position, but his
given instead to Mordecai. Haman sought to kill Mordecai's people, but
his whole family and all those who hated the Jews were killed instead.
sought to wipe out the worship of the one true God which prevent people
Mordecai from bowing to him, but instead "many people of other
nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them"
(Esther 8:17). Purim celebrates that the Haman who cursed the
Abraham was himself cursed. Purim ultimately celebrates the defeat of
hate Christ. Purim gives hope to persecuted Christians everywhere!
That's the first lesson of
celebrate that God's enemies are and will be defeated.
But there is also a second
Purim a lesson that is even better than the first. It is a lesson that
delivers His people. It is only when Mordecai and Esther have given up
hope, it is only when they go into the king's presence armed with
God and prayer, that God brings about the salvation of His own. It is
human might, not by sword, not by politics, but only by God's might
deliverance is accomplished. The Jews of Persia are helpless to save
themselves. Deliverance is found only in the Lord.
That's the second lesson of
Purim ・we celebrate that God brings deliverance to
His people. And, we know He does this only in and through Christ.
And then there is also a third
Purim. For 11 months things have been looking dismal indeed. Each day
deadline comes closer. Each day the demise of God's people looks a
certain. And, when those enormous gallows go up, the future looks
Everything seems lost. Each new morning only deepens the ache and pain
hearts of Persia's Jews because the rising sun means another day has
crossed off their calendar and Adar 13 is creeping closer, ever closer.
But then in the space of a few
everything is changed. Just before the curtain call, just before the
executioner's axe is about to fall, just before the fateful day
Lord God intervenes and the tables are turned. What a relief! What
news! Good-bye to fear and pain and sorrow and grief, and hello to
pleasure and joy and celebration.
Now, after all of this can you
a moment that there is a single Jew in Susa or any of the Persian
continues to be gloomy and depressed and upset, bemoaning Haman and his
ways, instead of rejoicing and being glad? Can you imagine any Jew
to walk around with a sad and sorrowful expression? Can you imagine any
with a frown on her face after all of this?
I think we all agree the answer
As Christians we have so much
to rejoice in
and so many things to be glad about, yet there are Christians who
wear frowns on their faces. Our Hamans have been defeated and
these Christians choose to see only tough times rather than fun times.
of enjoying reward and relief they choose to experience stress and
is almost as if they are happy in their misery and enjoy seeing
a negative point-of-view. Deep within they have a bad news mentality
a glass as being half-empty rather than being half-full.
God does not desire our lives
to be a
grind. He has given us joy rather than sadness and has exchanged our
smiles. Yet, many still find themselves more comfortable with mourning
fretting than rejoicing and celebrating.
Yes, the past has been awful,
present may not be all that great either ・there may be
cancer, heart attack, death, bankruptcy, poor prices,
financial struggles, conflict with a family member. But, in Christ, the
is glorious. So how do we respond? We are to celebrate the feast. We
rejoice that God's enemies have been defeated and that God's people
Are you one of those who sees
gloom and doom? Do you always see the dark side of things? Do you have
time seeing past the looming deadline? Then Esther speaks to you.
That's the third lesson of the
Purim ・we are to rejoice in
what God has done.
We are in the middle of Mission Emphasis. What does Purim say to us? The same lesson that we are to bring to the world: God's enemies are defeated, God brings salvation to His people, and we are to rejoice in what God has done.