The Celebration of Purim

 

We have come to the discussion of the annual celebration of Purim that is celebrated on the 14th and 15th of Adar. For those in the rural areas it is the 14th while for those in the city it is the 15th. This is due to the extra day of fighting in the city of Susa, the city of the king in the time of the events.

They are days of rejoicing and celebration. Life has been granted. Life can once again be lived and lived to the full so there was feasting. God is praised and worshiped. The people once again begin to love, help and look out for each other’s daily needs in life. That is why they share portions of food – a daily need – with each other.

Mordecai then steps in again and with the power and position God has given him writes down the events and also sends a letter to all the Jews in the kingdom of Xerxes, even those in Israel, to instruct them to hold this celebration annually. They were to be remembered as days when mourning and sorrow were turned to gladness. God had given them rest from their enemies, true rest – a Sabbath rest. Yes, God is the one who gives rest, rest from work, rest from sin, rest from our enemies and from death – rest, peace and safety. This rest allowed them (and us) to live life the way God had always intended, truly devoted to Him, loving Him, worshiping Him and loving others. This life put Him and His kingdom first and seeks after His treasures.

The Jews were now free to live that life once again. Mordecai wants to make sure they understand that these days need to be remembered. However, full and complete rest had not yet come, the poor were (and are) still among them so Mordecai also calls on them to celebrate this rests with gifts to the poor.

As for the Jews, they did adhere to the words of Mordecai. They were thankful for his position in the kingdom and they praised God for it. In other words, they were not jealous of the position God had given him. God had done it for a reason just as He had with Joseph.

Judgment came to Haman, the enemy of the Jews, and to his son’s on the authority of the king. Our enemy and all his sons will also be defeated and judged by our King. Just as Haman’s schemes were turned on him so will the schemes of Satan be turned on him. Haman had used the pur, the lot, to decide the time and so the time would be named Purim. Only what the enemy meant for death and distruction would now be used for life and celebration. (Romans 8:28)

So because of what Mordecai had written to them and because of what they had seen and experienced themselves the Jews established and received this celebration for themselves, their seed and for all who allied themselves to them (all those who became Jews – for us this would be all of those brought into the nation of Israel as adopted sons and daughters by the blood of Yeshua our Messiah, our King). They would hold this celebration annually. The days of Purim were not to pass away or the memory of these days and from among their seed.

Then Queen Esther and Mordechai wrote with full authority of the kingdom another letter to the Jews. In other words, this was an official letter of court, of the court of Persia. This official letter was one of peace and truth regarding the events. Notice this, it was a letter of peace and truth, not one of confusion and lies. Yes, there would come a day when some would attempt to rewrite history and tell lies, but Queen Esther and Mordechai did everything within their power to make sure the truth was told all throughout the kingdom of the king.

Also, take note that the days of Purim were also entered into the official court records and that the Queen and Mordechai were not asking the rest of the Jews to do anything they themselves or their seed were not doing. Queen Esther and Mordechai knew these days well and had experienced the full brunt of them. They knew that not only were they now days of celebration, but also that many days of fasting and lamentation had preceded these days of celebration. They had been on their knees before God Almighty and he had heard their cry for help and they also wanted to make sure everyone remembered that as well. That is why they also gave instructions for the Jews to have days of fasting and lamentation before celebrating the festival of Purim, which they still do today. All of these customs for the celebration of Purim were established at the command of Queen Esther and written in the book. I believe the book that is spoken of here is the book we know of as Esther. That’s right, I believe the book known as Esther was written at her command and therefore bears her name.

Epilogue: Chapter 10 seems to read more like an epilogue written after the deaths of Xerxes and Mordechai. It acknowledges both men, but primarily Mordecai and the position he was given by Xerxes, second only to Xerxes, and how he was held in high esteem by his people. Mordecai was always looking out for the interests of his people and they knew it. He loved his nation and they loved him. And let this fact at the very end truly sink in, all these things were written in the annuals of the Kings of Media and Persia.

God be Praised,

Vicky

 

The Events of Purim

We have finally reached the day that became known as Purim. It begins in chapter 9 with the giving of the date, Adar 13. As the text says the edict of the king, the first edict, had given the people of the kingdom the hope of overpowering the Jews. However, the tables had turned due to the edict written by Mordecai in the name of the King and now the Jews were the stronger.

All over the kingdom of King Xerxes the Jews gathered to defend themselves against those who hated them. The Jews that are mentioned here would not only include those natural  born Jews, but also all those from other nationalities who had become Jews; their numbers had greatly increased.

There was also another factor involved in this battle, those who came to attack them were actually afraid of them. This reminds me of the account of Gideon when the Midianites actually attacked each other in their fear. There is also the account of when the Israelites were first entering the land of Israel and Rahab tells the two spies in Jericho that the hearts of the people were melting in fear because of them. They had heard what their God had done for them. Sound familiar? The people who attacked the Jews here in Esther might have come out to fight because of their hatred for the Jews, but they were also afraid of them because they knew what God had all ready done for them. So their hearts melted in fear and were defeated.

Scripture tells us in James 2:19 that even the demons tremble in fear. They know who God is and they know what he can do to them. Yet they still come out to fight. We also know from James 4:7 that when we submit to God and resist the devil he will flee from us. We see in Esther that the Jews had submitted to God and the enemy who is afraid of them is defeated.

Do you see the difference in the two types of fear that is mentioned? The first type of fear at the end of chapter 8 led to salvation while the second led to death. The first developed faith and love while the second flowed from hate. The first was out of a fear of the one true God and the other out of a fear of death and defeat. What a difference!

The nobles and officials of the kingdom even helped the Jews in their battle. Why? Because they feared Mordecai. I do not think this is the same fear as the one at the end of chapter 8 because there is no mention of them becoming Jews here. Rather their fear seems to have more to do with Mordecai’s power in the palace under Xerxes. Mordecai’s reputation went all throughout the land and his power increased greatly. You see, Mordecai had the king’s ear. They all knew of the influence Mordecai had. King Xerxes respected the views of Mordecai, if not sharing them himself, and took them to account. The fear here led to a respect of authority despite one’s own views.

The Jews were victorious over their enemies and even killed the sons of Haman and 500 men in the citadel of Susa itself. Please understand this. With all we have said above there were many in the citadel itself, where the King, Queen and Mordechai lived, that sought to kill the Jews. It would not surprise me if many of them were related to Xerxes, as well as, members of the Zoroastrian priesthood and if this was and unsuccessful coup. After all, if you are going to kill the Jews in the citadel would you not be going after the two most powerful Jews in the kingdom, the Queen and Mordechai, not to mention that Jew loving Xerxes who married not only outside the family but a Jewess and then aligned himself to her family instead of the other way around. If you are going to have any hope of survival in an attack in the citadel you are going for it all. You are going to kill the King.

When this is reported to Xerxes, I picture him in a war room getting updates on the battle, he turns to Esther his queen and makes a very interesting statement. Not only does he report the death of the five hundred and the 10 sons of Haman, but also wants to know how successful they had been in the rest of the kingdom. He and his wife are in this together. Then comes the ultimate statement and expression of love and trust. Xerxes says to Esther, “Now what is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? It will also be granted.”(NIV)  Did you catch it? We have seen Xerxes make similar statements before, yet this one stands apart. Do you see why? He places absolutely no limit on her petition or request. He simply says, before he hears it, it is yours. He stands unequivocally beside her with no reservations at all. The ultimate show of trust and love! She is the apple of his eye and he will withhold nothing from her. Let that picture wash over you and then remember our King lavished his love on us.

Esther wants complete victory, not just a partial one. She wants to make sure all those who hate her people are gone from Susa. She asks, “if it pleases the king”(NIV) for another day of fighting in Susa. She also asks for the sons of Haman to be displayed for all to see. She wants all to know what happens to those who would defy the living God. It is interesting to note that when Xerxes is killed in a coup led by Zoroastrian priests and family members about 10 years later that it does not take place in Susa.

And so it pleased the king to grant by his command and edict another day of fighting in Susa. While those in the provinces, which remember included Israel, rested and feasted with great joy on the 14th of Adar – after killing 75,000 on the 13th – the Jews in Susa assembled again to fight and killed another 300 men.

The Jews defeated their enemies but none of them laid their hands on the plunder. They were not after riches. They were after the right to live. They were after relief from their enemies. Yet God gave them a plunder they could have never imagined. Their tent had been enlarged with the coming in of new followers of Yahweh. He had truly blessed them with true fruit and a heart turned back to Him and His covenant.

May God rescue us from our enemy and enlarge our tent,

Vicky

Mordecai is Honored by the King

After the banquet Xerxes was unable to sleep.  We could speculate that perhaps he was wondering what his bride would request of him because obviously this was not going to be a small thing.  However, Scripture does not tell us why he could not sleep, but it does give us the result of that insomnia.  Xerxes has the chronicles of his reign brought in to be read.  Perhaps he was hoping he would find it easier to sleep after listening a while or perhaps he thought he might as well get some work done.  Either way it was read that Mordecai had saved his life.

Notice that Xerxes is the one who asks if Mordecai had been honored for saving his life.  When the answer of “no” comes back to him he genuinely  desires to honor Mordecai.  He also wants to make sure he does just the right thing to honor him.  He wants some input and ideas from others.  So he asks if there is someone in the court and, of course, Haman had just entered to ask if he could hang Mordecai.  However, unbeknown to Haman he will indeed be discussing Mordecai, but in terms of honoring him not executing him.

Xerxes wants an honest opinion to his question of how to honor someone that the king delights to honor; so he does not give Haman the name of the man.  Haman being an egotist thinks that naturally the king is meaning him and so gives the king a very elaborate plan for honoring someone.

Xerxes knew he could count on Haman for this and likes his idea.  Here’s the kicker to Haman’s gut, the man the king delights to honor was not him, but his enemy Mordecai.  Not only did Haman come up with the idea of how to honor Mordecai, but he would be the one to carry it out and parade Mordecai through the streets.

I love the sense of humor of our God.  Remember, that Haman is the antagonist in our story.  Haman had intended to make an example of Mordecai with an execution.  Instead, he would make an example of him as someone honored by the king.  God is very capable of turning the enemy’s plans upside down  and making His people shine as the stars instead of being extinguished by the enemy.

The enemy here is humiliated by having to parade Mordecai on the king’s horse while wearing the king’s robe.  But that was not all.  Haman himself would robe Mordecai.  In other words, he would serve Mordecai.  What a humiliation.

As we study this we must understand the theological truth within this passage.  For the hearer it seems like all is lost.  Haman is about to get his way and kill Mordecai.  It is at that moment that the king steps in to honor him.  Our King wants to see His people robed for His glory.  He wants us to shine and be the light of the world, because the light we reflect is His.

Let’s break this down.  We are to put on our new selves or the Lord Jesus Christ.  Just as Mordecai was clothed in the king’s robe so when we put on our new selves we are putting on Yeshua our King.  We are made into His image in righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4 & Colossians 3).  We are then lead  by God Himself “in triumphal procession in Christ” (II Corinthians 2:14).

Mordecai is led through the streets in the name of the king.  Granted, Haman leading Mordecai is not the same as God leading us, but then again even though we see truths in this account it is not a perfect parallel.  I believe for Haman this was part of God making him His footstool (Psalm 110).  For Haman set a trap that he himself was falling into and he would fall hard (Psalm 57:6 & Proverbs 28:10).  The one who set out to destroy the Jews, God’s people, was indeed to be made the servant of God’s people, a sign of cursing.

This was a sure sign that God was working and about to deliver His people. But notice that Mordecai does not proudly declare victory yet among his people.  Instead he returns to the city gate where he had gone to fast, pray and mourn.  He did not stop appealing to God, but persevered in his appeal.  Allow me to give an example.  Let’s say you are in a strange town with your family and having car trouble.  Your husband must go into a potentially dangerous situation to get the car to the place that can help, so you begin to pray.  Once you hear from him and know that God is answering your prayer for his safety do you stop praying or continue until you see him walk in the door?  You continue to pray for God’s protection until he walks in the door.  That is what Mordecai is doing.  He does see God working, but still continues to pray and watch.

Meanwhile, Haman and those connected to him definitely see the writing on the wall.  They know the reputation of the God of the Jews and know His hand is against Haman.  Here we see the enemy experiencing the fear of the Jews and knowing he is in real trouble and will come to ruin.  When something happens in the book of Esther through God’s people, the Jews, it is clear that it is God doing the work.  Again, God’s people are a reflection of the One True God.  Their actions, the actions of God’s people, are not seen as their own, but as those of their King. 

And the king’s eunuchs come and quickly take Haman into the presence of the king.

May We Truly Reflect His Glory,

Vicky