This weekend marks the celebration of Purim in the Jewish calendar.
According to Exodus 23:14-17 (from The Message version of the Bible):
“Three times a year you are to hold a festival for me[the LORD]. Hold the spring Festival of Unraised [Unleavened] Bread when you eat unraised bread for seven days at the time set for the month of Abib, as I commanded you. That was the month you came out of Egypt. No one should show up before me empty-handed. Hold the summer Festival of Harvest when you bring in the firstfruits of all your work in the fields. Hold the autumn Festival of Ingathering at the end of the season when you bring in the year’s crops. Three times a year all your males are to appear before the Master, GOD.” This passage identifies the times God commanded His people to appear before Him to recognize His faithfulness to them.
In Leviticus 23, all of the Feasts of the Lord are identified. I viewed a few websites to try and piece together this information for it to make sense. I found one site which was particularly helpful in identifying the feasts and the messianic significance (http://www.enduringword.com/commentaries/0323.htm). I would not endorse it as the definitive site, but it certainly was well-organized and easy to understand.
So then we have Purim. According to the Jews for Jesus site (http://www.jewsforjesus.org/judaica/purim) this is not one of the major significant holidays which the Jews were commanded to recognize yearly. Purim comes from the Book of Esther (http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday9.htm). Wicked Haman seeks to destroy the Jews due to his hatred for Mordecai, Esther’s uncle. Mordecai would not bow to Haman, a close influential advisor to the king. Most of us are familiar with the story: Haman convinced the king that the Jews were a threat and needed to be exterminated. Does this sound familiar? It seems that maniacal leaders in every generation see the Jews in the same light. Why might that be?
Since the Garden of Eden, people have acted to blame others for their misfortune. To many people, the Jews have become the people to blame for whatever ails them. Maybe it is because God has kept and blessed the Jews throughout history, and they have prospered. Christians in recent history (the past 2000 years) have suffered a similar fate. But there is something unique in the history of the world, where the Jews have suffered an inordinate proportion of hatred and venom from demented leaders seeking to rule others. Ultimately these leaders are proven to be selfish egotistical power-grabbers wanting to make a name for themselves. This is the only thing they do accomplish – getting their images hung in humanity’s hall of shame for all to see. Yet no sooner has the world mourned the tragic consequences of allowing such a lunatic access to any influence at all, and then the next maniac comes on the scene and repeats the same tragic sequence.
Thus the reason for the yearly celebration of Purim. Those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it. But there is more we can learn from this story. My thanks to the following website for some of these reflections (http://jewishroots.net/library/holiday-articles/seven-lessons-from-purim.htm):
1. We must remember that God is ultimately in control. No Haman nor Hitler will continue unabated. The question really is – why does God allow these man to flourish to begin with? That is a harder question to answer. So let’s look at this another way.
2. God is sovereign and works out His will in accordance with His plan for our lives. This could mean some will respond to His pressing in and tearing away things to which we formerly trusted. But sometimes tragic consequences will lead to hurt and loss, and what can be learned from these things could be bigger than our limited understanding.
3. In the end God is the Judge of all men. He knows men’s hearts and will not only judge the wicked but also all men. It is not to us to compare ourselves to these wicked men and absolve ourselves because we are not as bad as them. The Bible is clear: “All have sinned…yet God declares us righteous through Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24 NLT). Only through Christ can all men be absolved from sin.
4. Be faithful to God. Mordecai was faithful, and God allowed him to learn of the plot. Esther was faithful to God, and God allowed her to speak to the King and save her people. Ultimately faithfulness to God brings deliverance, although not always in this life.
5. Our lives have purpose. Like George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” like Esther in this story, our lives have an impact on the people around us. Unlike George Bailey, we know that God brings us into situations like He did with Esther where our decisions can have a positive effect “for such a time as this.” God is ready to use those who surrender their lives to Him.
6. God can and will turn our sorrows into joy. The psalmist David wrote this: “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5b NLT). God has promised to deliver His people, and He continued to prove His faithfulness.
Let us continue to remember God’s faithfulness to His people and His promises. Let us also invoke the promise from Psalm 122:6 – “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: They shall prosper that love thee.”