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)