The Feast of Purim

purim1Reading: The book of Esther

Exodus 17:8-16

Psalm 7

Zecharia 12:2-3, 6-10, 13:1,8-9, 14:1-9

Hebrews 11

The Feast of Purim is mentioned in the book of Esther and was instituted following the events described in that book. "To stablish this among them, that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same, yearly, As the days wherein the Jews rested from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning into a good day: that they should make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor." (Esther 9:21-22).

We all know the story - the orphaned Jewish girl Haddasah becomes queen Esther of the Persian empire, and when Haman the amalekite tries to kill all Jews, she is able to plead with the King to save her people's life. Her cousin Mordochai said to her "who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14).

The events in the book of Esther is often seen as the first antisemitic persecution in history. Haman wished to kill all the Jews in the kingdom in one day. But that horrifying threat was turned into gladness and celebrations for the Jews.

The joy of Purim is exactly that - in every generation we have been persecuted and accused of atrocities, but God has always and will always protect us. Every generation has its own Haman.

But that's not all! There's something very interesting that we can see if we start to look at this story more closely. In the end of the story, Mordechai, after saving his people from destruction, was entrusted with the King's ring, which means that he got the authority to do anything in the name of the king. Does this ring a bell? First - he saves. Then - he gets full authority. Do we see a parallel to Joseph here? Actually, we have more examples in the Bible of people who were "regular people" and got authority of a kingdom - Samuel, and David to name a few. And of course, Mordechai's ancestor, king Saul. Saul, who failed to kill the amalekite king Agag, but which was accomplished through Mordechai, his descendant who defeated Haman.

But let's take a moment and look at that - what do all these different stories represent? The low slave and servant who became king?

"He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. ... Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever." (Isaiah 53:3, 9:7),

"And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." (Matthew 28:18)

"And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." (Ephesians 1:19-23)

We can see here that the story of Esther is, just like many other parts of the Bible, more than just an actual story. It's a prophetic story, telling us the story of the salvation. Mordechai is a picture of the Messiah - who saved us from sin and delivered us from the evil, and has been given the authority of the entire creation. Psalm 110, as well as the readings in Zecharia, shows this in a beautiful way.

Ester means hidden, and we can find that word in Deut 31:18, relating to how God will behave if Israel is cast out of Israel "And I will surely hide my face in that day for all the evils which they shall have wrought, in that they are turned unto other gods." Indeed we can see that the Jews were scattered in the Persian empire, becuase they had been cast out from Israel. And indeed, the book of Esther is the only book in whoch God is not mentioned. His face is hidden.

Isn't it an amazing comfort that we can see that despite God hiding his face due to our sins, he is still "behind the curtains", orchestrating everything to the best? Using his people to accomplish his will? If God was faithful and helped us at such a difficult and painful time, of which he said that he would hide his face (see also Lam. 3:22-23), how much more now, now that we have free access to God through the blood of Yeshua? And what a comfort it is for those who struggle. People who feel that God is not present, that he has forgotten them or doesn't care. If that is you - know that he is hiding his face, but he is still with you and carrying you.

In Purim we normally dress up in different costumes. It's both for the joyousness and the festivites, but also relates to the "hiding his face". It is also relating to the "oppositness" of the holiday. Whatever Haman tried to do, it was done to him. The horror was turned to joy. We also give gift baskets to one another, as ordained by Mordechai (Esther 9:19), and when the book of Esther is read in the synagogues, the kids make noise every time Haman's name is mentioned, in order to "blot out the remembrance of Amalek" (Deut. 25:19). We also eat Hamantaschen (on the picture) - a traditional Purim treat.

Happy Purim!