It is not uncommon to find some Jewish festivals celebrated (or at least commemorated) in Christian churches today. One that is not, however, is the feast of Purim. Perhaps because it is not one that seems to have been instituted directly by God in the way, say, Seder (Passover) was. In other words, there is no mention in the scriptures of God commanding Israel to observe it. But that doesn’t mean God was not involved.
The book of Esther gives us the historical context in which this feast was instituted. The Jews were in exile at that time, under the Persian king Ahasuerus. You can read the entire account in your Bibles but suffice it to say that he chose Esther, a young Jewish woman, to become his queen – although she did not reveal her ethnicity at the time. Thus begins an account of political intrigue that could rival modern offerings like Game of Thrones or Kingdom any day!
It came to be that Haman the antisemitic Agagite became Ahasuerus’ prime minister and tricked the king into ordering, by royal decree, the genocide of all the Jews. Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, appeals to her to help the Jews since their survival was at stake. Esther realized what she needed to do was to appeal in person to the king even though this was a capital offence – not even the queen could see the king unless she were summoned. God’s hand was upon her and Ahasuerus was pleased to see her and hear her appeal. It is then that she revealed her Jewish heritage. She also told him how Haman had sought to destroy the Jews including herself and Mordecai. However, because the decree had been sent out and could not be rescinded, Ahasuerus issued another decree giving the Jews permission to defend themselves against anyone seeking to kill them. This strategy worked and the Jews were spared. In remembrance of this, Mordecai, with approval from Ahasuerus and Esther, instructed the Jews to commemorate Purim.
As I reflect on this, 2 major points are brought to bear.
- God protects His interests. The Jews were God’s chosen instrument to make known His grace and kingdom to the world. Because He chose them, He has protected them. No nation in the world has been scattered from their homeland and returned later. The Jews have experienced this twice! The account of the first is given us in the Old Testament. The 2nd time started in 70AD and ended in 1948! The message to Gentile Christianity is clear – God has not forgotten about the Jews. They still have a role to play in God’s will.
- Understanding kingdom assignments. In a parlance familiar to the OasisCF family, Esther was an example of what it means to be an Archippus. She was an unknown young girl whom God took and prepared and exalted to be queen. Through Mordecai’s counsel and instruction, she had been awakened and aligned in preparation for her assignment. Mind you, she may have been appointed as queen but her assignment was to stop the slaughter of the Jews. She was so committed to her assignment that she uttered those famous words, “If I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16). Her assignment involved taking a risk but she was not going to let that deter her.
When I consider these 2 points, they go hand-in-hand. In my childhood, I used to sing this song, “He’s got the whole world in His hands…” and the book of Esther gives me added assurance of that. God’s got this – whatever your “this” is! His hands are the safest around so we do not need to fear. God’s cause is never lost. And because of this, what have I to fear when obeying Him? Even if I die, I die in His presence. In Philippians 1:21, Paul says, “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” If I die doing what He has commanded me to do, it only means I get to see Christ face to face earlier!
And that is what I would like to encourage you with, dear reader. This year, Purim will be observed on the 25th and 26th of February. Can I suggest you join the Jews commemorating this feast in reading the book of Esther, reflecting on and responding to how great our God is. Selah…