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Purim 2019: Evening Wednesday March 20 to evening Thursday March 21!
Purim is a happy, fun-filled holiday that rejoices over the irresistible grace of God and His providential care. Purim also has a prophetic dimension that both has been fulfilled, and is yet to be fulfilled.
Purim commemorates the salvation of the Jewish community from near destruction at the hands of a power-crazed Persian high ranking official named Haman. As recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther, Haman nearly secured the King’s permission to wipe out the Jewish community, and he “cast lots” (kind of like the modern day flipping a coin) to choose which day to do it, only to be foiled at the last moment by Queen Esther and her uncle Mordechai. (Interesting too that Proverbs 16:33 says “The lot is cast in the lap, but all his judgment is from the Lord.”) Well, anyway…
Wild that in this book, Esther, there is not one reference nor inference at all to God. This is the key to understanding the whole Purim saga. Lurking behind the dramatic scene is a miracle that will eventually be revealed in the end…
At the last moment of gloom and doom, the whole situation is turned completely around to have the totally opposite result. The wicked Haman who plotted to exterminate the Jews ended up being hanged himself instead! Was it just by chance that Esther became queen? Was it simply a fluke that Mordechai was in the right place at the right time to overhear the plot to kill King Achashverosh?
If you believe in God, you will see the hand of God and credit the hand of God; seeing the unseen. And if you don’t believe in God, you will say, oh, simply coincidence.
As this holiday celebration is about seeing the unseen, let us delve into that.
What did our ancestors do to merit this Divine Intervention? Did they do anything? Were they actually deserving of intervention, of salvation? Think about it carefully, reflect on what Scripture says, all of Scripture.
Based on the entirety of Scripture it is a firm NO, the people did NOTHING to deserve God’s intervention and saving grace.
Saving grace. It was an act of mercy, of love, from God bestowed upon His people. HIS GRACE.
Let’s delve deeper.
God places His people in the right place at the right time for His purposes. Esther 4:13-14 “And Mordecai ordered to reply to Esther, do not imagine to yourself that you will escape in the king’s house from among all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and rescue will arise for the Jews from elsewhere, and you and your father’s household will perish; and who knows whether at a time like this you will attain the kingdom?”
God is always in control. Sometimes He begins moving us into these places well before the time comes to perform the particular task He has in mind. Our responsibility is to be open to His leading and ready to go!
The primary observance of Purim is to hear the reading of the book of Esther. The book of Esther is commonly known as the Megillah, which means scroll. It is customary to boo, hiss, stamp feet and rattle gragers (noisemakers) whenever the name of Haman is mentioned in the service. The purpose of this custom is to “blot out the name of Haman.” Fascinating. A great study for those interested would be to research the abundance of scriptures where God gives His people the authority to “blot out” the name of the enemy. We are told in Scripture that we are given the power and authority to tread down the wicked, tread on serpents (which represent the enemy), to resist the devil and he will flee…
The Purim holiday is immediately preceded by a one day fast, the Fast of Esther, which commemorates Esther’s three days of fasting in preparation for her meeting with the king. It is one day before Purim unless that day is Friday or Saturday and then it is moved to the preceding Thursday. Why did Esther fast for 3 days? Why 3? Why not 2, or 1, or 5?
Another Purim custom is for people to dress up and disguise themselves, another allusion to the fact that the miracle of Purim was disguised in natural garments. The Tanakh (Old Testament) is rich in veiled references to the Messiah, the who, what, where, when, why, and how of His first and second comings. Hidden, disguised.
Tradition proclaims this a time to drink alcohol and some may even proclaim it a time to get drunk. In the Rava (one of the Talmudian Rabbis) this advice is given “A person has to get drunk on Purim until he cannot distinguish between ‘cursed is Haman’ and ‘blessed is Mordechai.”. Well, what does God say about that? When you read the celebration of Purim in the Tanakh, nowhere does it say to get drunk. The Scriptural celebration of the holiday in the Tanakh talks of feasting and joy, happiness, rejoicing. One does not need to overdose on alcohol to do that and God is quite clear on that.
Esther 9:22 “as the days when the Jews rested from their enemies, and the month that was reversed for them from grief to joy and from mourning to a festive day-to make them days of feasting and joy, and sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.” God warns us that it is not wise to get drunk on alcohol (Proverbs 20:1, Hosea 4:11, Isaiah 5:12, 22, Proverbs 23:20). And God does not contradict Himself (Malachi 3:6, Numbers 23:19, Isaiah 40:8). Where does Scripture say that joy comes from? That is another great scripture digging study for anyone interested. I’ll point you in the direction of Nehemiah 8:10 to start…
A common (and oh so delicious) treat associated with Purim is hamentaschen. These triangular fruit-filled cookies represent Haman’s three-cornered hat. Some say it represents his ears as his head was lowered in shame. As the fruit is somewhat hidden within the three cornered crust, it is also an allusion to the fact that the miracle of Purim was disguised in natural garments; God using a person for “such a time as this”.
Another fascinating interpretation for this delicious pastry is that the three corners are symbolic of the three patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Hmm, then we can also say that it could be a reference to a triune nature of the one triune pastry (one God with each corner of the triangle; Father, Son, Holy Spirit).
As we celebrate with joy at Purim, we again recognize God’s amazing love. The Jewish people did nothing to merit or earn God’s miraculous rescue at Purim. God saved us because He loves His people and is faithful to His covenantal promises (even when we are faithless).
The rejoicing at Purim reminds us of the faithfulness of God and the triumph of righteous victim over evil oppressor. Yet there are those today who see the meaning of Purim in terms of our good deeds overpowering the Hamans of this world. However a realistic view of our world shows us that despite our many good and noble efforts to work within social and political frameworks, there are too many Hamans for the Esthers and the Mordecais to handle.
What if the innocent willingly took the place of the guilty? Would the weight of such a sacrifice be enough to swing the world back to an upright position, a position where people could face God and ask forgiveness? Instead of an evil Haman hanging from the gallows, what if an innocent one, made this sacrifice? Hmm.
Would that one’s name be blotted out, forever cursed? Or would such a name become the name that brings life and salvation, a name that is above all other names, a name before which someday all will (in the words of the Aleinu, a Jewish prayer found in the siddur, the classical Jewish prayer book) “bend the knee and bow down.”
This Purim, as we reflect on the celebrations and traditions, we might also want to consider the claims of Jesus whose very name means “Salvation.” He offers life and peace to all, regardless of ethnic or racial background, all, who trust in his name. He puts out the call. And all who receive will have their own names written the book of life, where they can never be blotted out. Fascinating points to ponder! Chag Purim Sameach!
Jeremiah 33:6 “Behold, I will bring it healing and cure, and I will cure them, and I will reveal to them a greeting of peace and truth.”
Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.“
Peace and truth. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Okay, we all fall short. Those who profess to be God loving, Jesus following saved people and those who are not. However, momentary lapses are far different from a constant and regular pattern of speech and behavior.
Hiding behind an online presence on “social media” and spewing insensitive comments and commentary about real life, current day issues? That is far more than simply airing a viewpoint or sharing information. That is hate speech and it is unfathomable how anyone believes this is becoming of any person, never mind one who professes to be a follower of Jesus/a Christian.
The insensitivity and crass commentary is not limited to online either.
Compassion is a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is hurting, in pain, or has misfortune and is accompanied by a strong desire to help the suffering. It is not always easy to show compassion, especially when we feel strongly about the issue(s) surrounding the situation. However, if I am who I say I am, a follower of Jesus, a Christian… (as an aside, I happen to be a Christian who is also Jewish, a first generation American woman of European descent)
Colossians 3 “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”
Psalm 116:5 “The Lord is gracious and righteous, and our God is merciful.” And for one who professes to love God and follow Him, if God is gracious, righteous (moral) and merciful, that is who we are called to emulate. For one who professes to be saved, a Christian, we, our self focused, pompous, ungodly self has died and we have been given a new life, in Jesus. We understand the exchange that occurred at salvation. We understand our inheritance that is of far more value than anything money could buy.
- Our destination when we die here on earth, is now to everlasting life with God. Heaven (Colossians 1:10-14).
- The flesh (our sin nature) is crucified through the cross of Christ (Galatians 5:24).
- We are dead in the sense that the old unbelieving self (soul) has died (Romans 7:1-6, Romans 8:2,4).
- Our old stony heart has been removed and has been replaced with a new heart of flesh (soft, pliable) with God’s laws written on it (Deuteronomy 30:6, Jeremiah 24:7, Ezekiel 36:26-27, John 3:3).
- We have been given the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16).
- We are a new creation, a new soul (2 Corinthians 5:17).
- Our source of strength is “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). This is why the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10)!
- We have an incredibly beautiful new identity, for here and for eternity. Our inheritance! Please read these verses and allow them to sink deep into your heart.(Colossians 1:10-14; 1:21-23; 2:6-15, Romans 6:1-11, Ezekiel 36:22-30.)
Only God is the ultimate judge of someone’s heart. However, what I say and do, and what you say and do, we are representing who we claim to be. Matthew 7:16 “You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” 1 Samuel 24:14 Tanach (24:13 OT) “As says the proverb of the ancient one; ‘From the wicked comes forth wickedness,’ and my hand shall not be upon you.”
Historically people claiming to be Christians, or doing horrific things in the name of Jesus have certainly given Jesus and Christianity a bad name. People watch how other’s react and behave in and through many different situations. We all do that. Many times it is that watching that draws people to us and opens minds and hearts to learn about God, Jesus, the gospel. And many times it is that watching that draws people away from us and what we claim to represent.
1 Corinthians 1:20 “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God. You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
Do we realize the depth of what it means that God gave us salvation? Do we realize that we are not our own, removed now from death in it’s permanent eternal state, purchased by the final atonement, the propitiation, our savior, Jesus. No more covering. It is finished. Do we realize how intense that is? Glorifying God in one’s body carries a ton of meanings and situations. One of which is our tongue. Another our fingers as we type across the keyboard on social media. Glorify God. Love as God loves.
Romans 6 “Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.”
I pray for myself and for each one of you this day, that our walk becomes deeper in the truth of what it means to be God’s redeemed.