Purim March 15-16,2014
God, don’t remain silent! Don’t stay quiet, God, or still; because here are your enemies, causing an uproar;
those who hate you are raising their heads, craftily conspiring against your people, consulting together against those you treasure. They say, “Come, let’s wipe them out as a nation; let the name of Isra’el be remembered no more!”
Since the beginning of time, the people who will stand up for the Righteous Name of the One God of Israel, those who refuse to bow to evil have been attacked by the forces of the father of lies. Psalm 83 echoes the statements made in our time by nations that our own government in America have scarcely batted an eyelash to. Only last week the intentions of Iran became clear as a huge ship loaded with arms was seized by the Israelis. America was mute in response. In this season of Purim, known as the time for seeking that which is hidden (The name Esther is related to the word “hester,” meaning hidden. God is not specifically named at all in the Book, yet the Tetragramaton- yud hey vav hay is embedded in the Hebrew throughout the text.) I pray that our eyes be opened in this nation as to the forces at work “behind the scenes”.
Esther 3;1 Some time later King Achashverosh began to single out Haman the son of Hamdata the Agagi for advancement; eventually he gave him precedence over all his fellow officers. 2 All the king’s servants at the King’s Gate would kneel and bow down before Haman, because the king had so ordered. But Mordekhai would neither kneel nor bow down to him. 3 The king’s servants at the King’s Gate asked Mordekhai, “Why don’t you obey the king’s order?” 4 But after they had confronted him a number of times without his paying attention to them, they told Haman, in order to find out whether Mordekhai’s explanation that he was a Jew would suffice to justify his behavior. 5 Haman was furious when he saw that Mordekhai was not kneeling and bowing down to him. 6 However, on learning what people Mordekhai belonged to, it seemed to him a waste to lay hands on Mordekhai alone. Rather, he decided to destroy all of Mordekhai’s people, the Jews, throughout the whole of Achashverosh’s kingdom.
Purim celebrates the prevailing light over darkness. The realization that there was a plot devised against God’s people because they were set apart. Although there were some Jews who had assimilated, the faithful remnant were targeted by an anti-Semitic force at work and it closed in on them because of their faith- because they kept the Lord’s Laws, because they upheld His Torah.
Esther 3; 7 In the first month, the month of Nisan, in the twelfth year of Achashverosh, they began throwing pur (that is, they cast lots) before Haman every day and every month until the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar. 8 Then Haman said to Achashverosh, “There is a particular people scattered and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom. Their laws are different from those of every other people; moreover, they don’t observe the king’s laws. It doesn’t befit the king to tolerate them. 9 If it please the king, have a decree written for their destruction; and I will hand over 330 tons of silver to the officials in charge of the king’s affairs to deposit in the royal treasury.”
The bribe was accepted, once the silver had been deposited in the king’s treasury, the wicked Haman wan given the authority to use his judgment regarding the fate of the people he hated. He was not simply angry at one man who wouldn’t bow, he was disgusted by every Jew and their God and he sought their total extermination.
Jeremiah 24; 5 “Here is what Adonai the God of Isra’el says: ‘I will regard the exiles from Y’hudah, whom I sent away from this place to the land of the Kasdim, as good, just as I do these good figs. 6 “‘I will look after them for their good, I will bring them back to this land; I will build them up and not tear them down, plant them and not pull them up. 7 I will give them a heart to know me that I am Adonai. They will be my people, and I will be their God; for they will return to me with all their heart.’ 8 “But concerning the bad figs that are so bad as to be inedible, Adonai says: ‘I will make Tzidkiyahu the king of Y’hudah and his leaders resemble them, likewise the rest of Yerushalayim remaining in this land and those living in the land of Egypt. 9 Everywhere I drive them I will make them an object of horror, repulsive to all the kingdoms of the earth, a disgrace, a byword, a laughingstock and a curse; 10 and I will send sword, famine and plague among them until they have disappeared from the land I gave them and their ancestors.’”
The Babylonian exile began in the year 586 b.c. Esther is said to have become queen in the year 478 b.c. In 444 b.c. the king of Persia had given permission to the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple. When we read Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther we should realize these are all relatively close time periods.
When God’s people are planted in their Land He causes them to flourish. His hand of protection is always evident, but while in the Diaspora it seems as though the Jewish people are subject to the curse in Jeremiah…becoming a byword among the nations. May all God’s people be in anxious preparation for the rebuilding of the Temple, the return of Messiah and while we await him may we all be building and rebuilding and renewing our hearts to be a set-apart place for God wherever we may find ourselves.
Esther 8;16 For the Jews there was light and gladness and joy and honor. 17 In each and every province and in each and every city, wherever the king’s commandment and his decree arrived, there was gladness and joy for the Jews, a feast and a holiday.
The holiday of Purim commemorates the accounts in scripture of the deliverance of God for the Jews from destruction. We celebrate by reading the book of Esther and remember the salvation of God in our own lives. We remember the bravery of queen Hadassah (Esther) and take part in “blotting out the name of Haman” (the descendant of Amalek) by shaking noise makers called graggers when his name is read from the text. The Tradition is that Hamentashen cookies are in the shape of Haman’s hat, so in our own way we can blot out the wicked intentions of all “haman-like” forces in the world symbolically by crunching into the Hamentashen.
While it is a festive holiday, Purim has a serious side as well. It reminds us that we must always grapple with the problem of evil, and with people who, like Haman, hate us simply for being Jews. But we are reassured that God and the forces of good will ultimately triumph over evil. Esther’s bravery and willingness to stand up for her people reminds us that we must not be silent in the presence of evil, but must confront and eliminate it, combining our human initiative with trust in God’s.
Purim also reminds us of our human frailty and vulnerability. We see how close all the Jews in the Persian Empire came to being wiped out overnight at the whim of a foolish, capricious leader. Jews are particularly reminded of the precariousness of their condition. Yet, Purim also affirms that while oppressors come and go, God’s promise and covenant with his people, Israel, is everlasting. The Jews of the Persian Empire, after all, were saved, reminding us that God never deserts His people.
Judaism affirms that there are two basic categories of miracles. First are supernatural miracles that transcend or defy the laws of nature, such as the parting of the Red Sea. Second are hidden miracles such as Purim, in which God’s redemptive actions take place in the course of normal human events.
While almost everyone would agree events falling into the first category are miracles, many would not recognize those in the second category as miraculous. But this depends on your perspective. One person, for instance, might attribute one of Israel’s military victories to better training, better technology, better morale, etc. Another person, while recognizing the importance of these things, might claim that the victory is properly credited to God, who acted through man and natural phenomena. To the second person, who recognizes life’s miracles, life itself is a miracle!
What Purim reaffirms to Christians and Jews alike is the fact that the everyday order is infused with God’s presence and is under His control. It reaffirms that God’s hand is indeed at work in human history. Renewing our belief in a God who acts in history and continues to perform miracles is one of the most fundamental affirmations we can make. And knowing we believe in a God of miracles is indeed cause for celebration at Purim or any time of year!
Esther 9; 20 Then Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, 21 obliging them to celebrate the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same month, annually, 22 because on those days the Jews rid themselves of their enemies, and it was a month which was turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and rejoicing and sending portions of food to one another and gifts to the poor.28 So these days were to be remembered and celebrated throughout every generation, every family, every province and every city; and these days of Purim were not to fail from among the Jews, or their memory fade from their descendants.
The word Purim comes from Pur meaning Lots (as in cast). Although wicked men cast the fate of God’s people into a lottery of chance and happenstance…true believers understand there is no such thing as coincidence. God’s authority and sovereignty is what reigns in heaven and on earth and length of His allotment for the powers of darkness is drawing very short.
Proverbs 16; 33 One can cast lots into one’s lap, but the decision comes from Adonai.
May the Lord be honored and glorified as we celebrate His mercy and favor over the Jewish people and all true believers who will not bow to evil no matter what the decrees of the worldly authority declare.
Psalm 118; 13 You pushed me hard to make me fall, but Adonai helped me. 14 Yah is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation. 15 The sound of rejoicing and victory is heard in the tents of the righteous: “Adonai’s right hand struck powerfully! 16 Adonai’s right hand is raised in triumph! Adonai’s right hand struck powerfully!” 17 I will not die; no, I will live and proclaim the great deeds of Yah! 18 Yah disciplined me severely, but did not hand me over to death. 19 Open the gates of righteousness for me; I will enter them and thank Yah. 20 This is the gate of Adonai; the righteous can enter it. 21 I am thanking you because you answered me; you became my salvation.
Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who hast sanctified us by thy commandments, and hast given us command concerning the reading of the Megillah.
Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who wroughtest miracles for our fathers in days of old, at this season.
Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who hast kept us in life, and hast preserved us, and enabled us to reach this season.
Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who dost plead our cause, judge our suit and avenge our wrong, who renderest retribution to all that hate our soul, and on our behalf dealest out punishment to our adversaries. Blessed art thou, O Lord, who on behalf of thy people Israel dealest out punishment to all their adversaries, O God, the Savior.
—Who broughtest the counsel of the heathen to nought, and madest the devices of the crafty of none effect, when a wicked man, an arrogant offshoot of the seed of Amalek, rose up against us. Insolent in his riches, he digged himself a pit, and his own greatness laid him a snare. In his mind he thought to entrap, but was himself entrapped, he sought to destroy, but was speedily destroyed. Haman displayed the hatred of his fathers, and stirred up against the children the ancient enmity of the brothers (Esau and Jacob), remembering not the mercy of Saul, through whose compassion for Agag the enemy was born. The wicked plotted to cut off the just, and the unclean was caught in the hands of the pure. (Mordecai’s)
Lovingkindness (to Esther) prevailed over the father’s (Saul’s) error, but the wicked (Haman) heaped sin upon the sins of his ancestor. In his heart he hid his cunning devices, and sold himself to do wickedness. He stretched forth his hand against God’s saints; he gave his silver to cut off the remembrance of them. When Mordecai saw that wrath had gone forth, and that the decrees of Haman were issued in Shushan, lie put on sackcloth and wrapped himself in mourning, ordained a fast and sat upon ashes. Who will rise up to atone for error, and obtain pardon for the sin rind iniquity of our fathers? A flower blossomed from the palm tree: lo! Hadassah arose to awaken the merit of those that slept in the grave. Her servants hastened to make Haman drink the wine of the poison of snakes. He rose by his riches, but fell in his wickedness; he made him a gallows, and was himself hanged thereon. All the inhabitants of the world opened their mouths, for the lot of Haman was turned to be our lot. When the righteous was delivered out of the hand of the wicked, and the enemy was put in his stead, the Jews ordained for themselves to celebrate Purim, and to rejoice thereon every year. Thou didst regard the prayer of Mordecai and Esther: Haman and his sons thou didst hang upon the gallows.
The lily of Jacob rejoiced and was glad when Mordecai was seen in the purple. Thou hast ever been Israel’s salvation, and their hope in every generation, to make known that all who hope in thee shall not be ashamed, neither shall any be confounded who put their trust in thee. Accursed be Haman who sought to destroy me; blessed be Mordecai the Jew; accursed be Zeresh, the wife of him that terrified me; blessed be Esther my protectress, and may Harbonah also be remembered for good.
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