Monthly Archives: February 2015
Purim, the fast and feast of Esther, begins March 4th. In light of the ongoing grievous events in the Middle East region, we believe it is good to review the miraculous intervention by God on behalf of His people. We continue to pray for the Christians of the ancient church in Islamic nations presently enduring unimaginable attacks and persecution, as well as the Jewish people facing horrific antisemitic attacks against her citizens and borders. We agree together for the protection and deliverance of God’s people, as well as all the nations under attack in the region, in the face of such evil Haman-schemes. Amen.
The book of Esther unveils the ancient and captivating Persian world. The customs and the splendor of the Persian Empire are enthralling. The empire was far reaching in this time period. It encompassed nations such as Egypt, Babylon, Turkey and more. Much like stepping through Alice’s Looking Glass, the book of Esther is a trip backward in time through a Persian, lattice-work window. A plot so dramatic that it remains unrivaled for millennia and comes to life for us in the midst of the most colorful setting.
In some scenes, one can almost smell desert jasmine in the air. Like warm, summer nights with stars blazing above, and hot desert days enfold a story of God’s compassion for His people.
The stunning gardens of Persia, carved in stark contrast to the surrounding desert landscape, were the backdrop for a drama rivaling the best screen scripts of modern times. The word “paradise”, by the way, is an ancient Persian word for “garden.”
The Festival of Purim
The Festival of Purim takes place on the 14th of the Jewish month of Adar, around February or March. The celebration is not a Levitical pilgrimage festival requiring the worshiper to come up to Jerusalem as is Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles.
Purim is a microcosm of Jewish history. Here, like many other times in history, we find the Jews in exile and at the mercy of the whims of a local ruler. The handiwork of Heaven is constantly in view. Circumstances draw together in unusual ways that add up to more than just coincidence.
The Story of Queen Esther
In the opening of the story, Ahasuerus, King Xerxes’ Hebrew name, calls for Vashti his Queen to provide entertainment in the midst of a drunken banquet lasting 180 days.
Refusing, the queen is dethroned, and Esther, a young Jewish girl in exile from Jerusalem, is chosen to take her place.
Esther’s guardian, her uncle Mordecai, coaxes her as he stands on the sidelines, and this story unfolds. Day after day, Mordechai refuses to pay homage to Xerxes’ vizier, Haman, an Amalekite descendant. An incensed Haman pleads with the king to destroy Mordechai and annihilate his people, the Jews. The king, unthinkingly, gives Haman authority to execute his plan.
Mordechai, hearing the plan, pleads with Esther to approach the king lest the Hebrews perish.
Esther, with great planning and ceremony, entertains the king for three days in Persian style. On a sleepless night, the king reviews the archival records and discovers that Mordechai had exposed a plot to murder the king.
Irony spices the plot as Haman is appointed to parade Mordechai through the streets arrayed in royal attire to honor him for his bravery. Haman’s family prophesies his downfall from the event. In a surprising plot reversal, Queen Esther exposes Haman for the evil creature he is in the presence of the king and all his court. In great anger, the king then has Haman hanged on the gallows he had constructed on which to hang Mordechai.
In accordance with Persian law, all ten of Haman’s sons are hanged along with him. In ancient times, laws dictated that the sons of a felon were to be hanged along with him.
In the scroll of Esther, the names of Haman’s ten sons appear arranged as a verse of poetry. Tradition dictates that the reader of the scroll in the synagogue roll through the ten names in one breath as if to read through it with more than one breath might be a waste.
God so thoroughly defended the Jewish population that great fear came upon the rest of the population.
The story of Esther stands as a testimony of the power of God to deliver His people against all odds, even in the face of potential annihilation as they cried out to Him with fasting, prayer, and desperation. In this book, where God’s name is not even mentioned, He pervades every chapter and every character. Every twist of plot is orchestrated behind the scenes as if a puppet master were putting on a performance.
Deliverance Will Come!
Purim may not be a Levitical feast, but the lesson is worth celebrating: God will deliver us! Some of the other biblical feasts are also celebrations of God’s power in awesome acts of deliverance. This celebration, and other feasts of the Hebrew calendar, remind us again and again that we love a God who thwarts the plots of the ungodly who oppose the people He passionately loves.
We can celebrate ahead of time the victory He is working on our behalf no matter how impossible it may look. We are more impressed with God’s great power and His love for us than anything the enemy could send against us.
The above is an excerpt taken from The Feasts of the Lord: The Feasts, Fasts, & Festivals of the Bible, written by Ron Cantrell, available in paperback and digital formats on Amazon.com.
We are God-Appointed
The words Mordecai said to Queen Esther ring true to us all today (Esther 4:14, HCSB):
Perhaps you have come to the Kingdom for such a time as this.
We have been perfectly positioned, fully equipped, and God-appointed to partner with Him in all He is doing in the nations. Motivated by God’s great compassion, we are committed to pray, and be actively engaged, to see the nations delivered into the full freedoms provided by the Messiah.
Let’s agree together:
Lord of the nations, deliver Your people, once again, from the hands of such horrific evil… for Your glory. May Your Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven. Amen.
(Illustrations by Ron Cantrell)
Without a doubt you have seen the tragic and disturbing news about the Coptic Christians that were brutally murdered by ISIS in Libya. Our hearts are with the families — and all of Egypt — who are mourning the loss of their beloved ones. God bless each one of them today.
Pope Francis did not shy away from the clear religious motivation behind the mass beheading. “They were murdered just because they were Christians,” he said during a meeting with a Scottish church leader, calling the victims “brothers, who died simply because they professed their faith in Jesus Christ.”
Who are the Coptic Christians?
In Egypt alone there are estimates of 9-15 million Coptic Christians, about 10-20% of the population. The Coptic Church community is one of the oldest in the Middle East. It is thought to believe that St Mark took the Gospel to Alexandria, Egypt shortly after the ascension around 42 A.D.
By the 2nd century, Christianity began to spread to rural areas and the Scriptures were translated into the local language known today as the Coptic language, but then known as the Egyptian language. By the beginning of the 3rd century A.D., Christians constituted the majority of Egypt’s population. You can read more about the history of the Coptic church on wikipedia.
The Ancient Church of the Middle East
It is important to note that the target of ISIS has been the ancient church of the Middle East that has been unconquered by Islam through the centuries— slaughtering Christians of the ancient church of Assyria in Northern Iraq, and the Coptic Christians of Egypt. Islam was unable to completely conquer the Coptic Church of Egypt, and so they continue to this day to persecute, kill them, and burn their churches. There seems to be an intentional strategy of these extreme Islamic radical groups to go after Christians in Islamic nations in particular.
Another of their intentions is to target Islamic nations that have partnered with the West: Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Turkey, and even Saudi Arabia.
With the rise of attacks against the Jewish communities in Europe as well, it is clear about the brutal agenda of these radical Islamic groups against Jews and Christians emerging around the globe.
How to Pray
We count it a privilege that God has allowed us to bless these nations where we have traveled and lived and have come to know many friends of the Middle East over the years—Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Israel, Iran. One of the things God has put on our hearts as we have been engaged with the Middle East, and Europe, is to pray God’s blessings on these nations. We have also been praying specifically for revival, that they will return to their spiritual roots of faith in Jesus. We have walked these lands and prayed on site in the Muslim, Christian, and Jewish communities for God’s purposes to be realized.
Pray especially for the Christians of these nations who are facing persecution as believers in Jesus.
Let’s agree together in a prayer for the nations of the Middle East:
Father, comfort the Egyptian families who have just lost their loved ones in this brutal act. We pray you will surround them with Your presence today. Continue to strengthen Egypt so that she will arise to the destiny You ordained for her at this time in history. Bless the church of Egypt – and in particular, all of our Egyptian friends!
Bless the church of Jordan today! Bless the King, the nation, his parliament, the economy, and all those agencies who are assisting the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing ISIS.
We pray for the Assyrian, Iraqi, Syrian and Lebanese Christians, in particular, and ask that you make provision for all they need today. Protect them – and pour out Your goodness upon them.
Bless Israel today and surround her borders securely as the mountains surround Jerusalem. Bless the Body of Messiah of Jewish and Arab believers. May they demonstrate Him in creative ways.
Father, glorify Your name through the church of the Middle East today. Comfort the hurting, and provide for the all those who are in need today. May You be revealed as the Messiah and Lord of all. Thank you for all You are doing in these nations that You love.
In the name of Jesus/Yeshua/Yesu3, amen!
A single event has awakened a giant. The recent video-taped burning alive of a captured Jordanian pilot has enraged and enflamed King Hussein. The nation of Jordan is now showing her strength targeting a virulent enemy.
This rogue militant extremist islamic group (IS), operating out of weakened Iraq, had verbally and openly announced to Jordan that the kingdom was next on the list to attack by the new emerging Caliphate (the worldwide Islamic government anxiously awaited by radical muslims).
Carol and I were called to be feet on the ground last fall, to stand with Jordan against the evil spirit attempting to overrun the kingdom of Jordan – and, in fact, the entire region.
Now, Carol and I watch in calm assurance of God’s promises to that nation as she battles the dark forces of Islam.
For years we have observed Jordan, both from afar and on site, to see a land blessed by God for their moderation and peaceful overtures toward Israel. In addition, the Jordanians have the largest refugee camps in the world — caring for many of the Syrian and Assyrian refugees escaping IS. God has truly blessed this nation for their efforts on behalf of these displaced peoples.
Thank you for your heart for the peoples of the Middle East!