For The Fear of The Jews

In the ten months that followed the issuing of the second edict there was a great time of rejoicing within the Jewish community.  It was such an outward expression of joy that it was clearly seen by their friends and neighbors, even by those who had before wanted to attack them.  After the second edict came a time of gladness a time when their light of that joy shined onto those around them.  They became a witness to the power of God, a light to the Gentiles.

I believe this to be an initial fulfillment (the ultimate fulfillment of the following passage I believe will be fulfilled in the end) of Zechariah 8:23 which says, “This is what the Lord almighty says:  “In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘ Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.'””(NIV)  It is interesting to note that Zechariah was written in the time of Xerxes father Darius and even in the early part of Xerxes reign.

This is what the ancient world was seeing.  Many peoples were coming to the Jews and following their God.  God had made it obvious that He was with His people and the Gentiles did not want to be caught on the wrong side.

Remember that the first edict was sealed with the king’s signet ring, but so was the second.  The people now had a choice as to which edict they would follow.  Before the second edict came out there was but one choice and it had to be obeyed.  Now, however, there was hope.  Hope in the God of the Jews.

Here is where most people miss the blessing of the book of Esther.  It is not just that God rescued his people through Mordecai and Esther, but that He used them to also start a chain reaction, so to speak, that overflowed to the rest of the peoples of the kingdom.  It is clear that because of the fear of the Jews many became Jews.  Yes, it does take looking beyond the surface to see the object of that fear.  It is God Himself.

Remember that even Haman’s wife knew that his downfall began with parading Mordecai, a Jew, through the streets of Susa.  Because the King’s honor went to a Jew, she knew he would surely come to ruin.  She knew who truly lead the Jews, it was their God.  It was their God that caused her to predict the ruin of her own husband.

Here too, we see the peoples of the kingdom understanding that the fear of the Jews is God.  Their only hope was in trusting in this God of the Jews and thereby becoming Jews themselves. We must not think that becoming a Jew was a casual thing.   It was not and is not.  It involves, and did then as well, a public ceremony declaring your allegiance to the God of the Jews, immersion (called mikvah) for both men and women, and circumcision for the men.  It is and was no small thing to become a Jew. 

What we see at the end of chapter eight is a mass revival.  We see people from different tongues, tribes and nations coming to God through the joyful witness of His people.   We see the heart of God giving us a glimpse of what he would one day do.

Why do I say it like that?  Because this was a short lived revival, it only lasted one generation.  After the death of Xerxes, his son, Artaxerxes would declare Zoroastrianism the official religion of the kingdom.  It is important to remember here that it was the Zoroastrian priests who helped conspire against Xerxes and largely gave direction to the coup against him that put Artaxerxes on the throne.  One must ask the question why?  Why would the priests feel the need to do that?  Perhaps Xerxes himself turned and followed the God of his new adopted family.  He had publically aligned himself to that family and perhaps, we can hope, to their God.

Either way, God had moved among the nations and given His invitation to the peoples of the Persian Empire just as He had with Egypt (The Exodus), Assyria (Jonah), and Babylon (Nebuchadnezzar’s turning to God).  God’s heart has always been that His people, Israel, be a light to those far away so that they can be brought near. 

Let us also not forget that the Northern Kingdom of Israel was dispersed into this area by the Assyrians.  They may very well be a part of this revival.  We think of them as lost, but God never lost them and never stopped wanting them back.  We see in Ezekiel 37 that God would once again bring the house of Israel and the house of Judah back together to be one.  This event in Esther may very well be that event or at least a part of that process.  Remember Ezekiel was a prophet during the time of the Babylonian exile about 100 years before the account of Esther. 

We also know that by the time of the first century that the Jews once again saw themselves as the twelve tribes.  We see this in the opening verse of James where he addresses his letter “To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations”(NIV).  The scattering James is referring to is not the exile but the diaspora in the first century after the stoning of Stephen.

Here in Esther we see God once again drawing people to Himself.  This is the heart of our Father.  We should never neglect to see the working of His might Hand.

For The Fear of our God,

Vicky

 

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