Occasionally, things in life are not as they appear. A friend or supervisor asks something of you in order to manipulate events for their own good. People are sinful, sometimes life hurts. As Christians, what are we called to do?
Purim, pronounced poo-REEM in the East or PUH-rim among Western English speakers is a celebration to remember the Jewish peoples' deliverance from their enemy in ancient Persia. This year observance begins with the Fast of Esther at dawn on March 9, 2020. The party begins at sundown lasting until nightfall March 10th. This is one of the most joyous Hebrew celebrations. Purim is marked by indulgence, revelry, charity donations, special cookies and noise! It sounds a little like Mardi Gras, but is there a heart lesson? Read the full story in the Book of Esther to get us started.
And Mordecai wrote these things and sent letters to all the Jews, near and far, who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, to establish among them that they should celebrate yearly the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar, as the days on which the Jews had rest from their enemies, as the month which was turned from sorrow to joy for them, and from mourning to a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and joy, of sending presents to one another and gifts to the poor. Esther 9:20-22 NKJV
As we walk this journey of life, there are times when the path appears to spiral downward. We look back later and see how God orchestrated everything for good. The story of Esther is full of dramatical twists and turns. In life, as in Esther's story, events may seem to go forth randomly, like rolling the dice, but God Most High has a plan.
In the first month, which is the month of Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, they cast Pur (that is, the lot), before Haman to determine the day and the month, until it fell on the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar. Esther 3:7 NKJV
Was Vashti banished simply because the King was prideful and intoxicated? Does it make sense that a Hebrew orphan girl is the likely choice to replace the queen? Is it mere coincidence that Esther's uncle overhears a plot to kill the king? Was it simple luck that Haman appeared at the palace just as the king honored the one person he detested? Did chance cause the king to choose his queen over his devoted minister? During Purim, observers dress in costumes in remembrance that things are often different than what we think they are.
What can Christians learn from Esther's story?
God is in control. Yahweh places circumstances in our lives to shape us, our family or the world. Esther, a Jewish girl became Queen of Persia, "who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" Esther 4:14 NKJV
Prayer aligns our hearts with God's will. Esther and the Jewish people fasted and prayed for three days to prepare Esther to approach the king. (Esther 4:11-17) Appearing without being summoned could have resulted in death. Praying for God's provision strengthens us to face obstacles that would otherwise be overwhelming.
God will orchestrate good for those who seek Him. Even when things appear bleak, a divine turn of events changes the outcome. "Look! The gallows, fifty cubits high, which Haman made for Mordecai, who spoke good on the king's behalf, is standing at the house of Haman." Then the king said, "Hang him on it!" So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Esther 7:9-10 NKJV
Express gratitude. When God provides for you, rescues you, or sends an unexpected blessing, do not forget His kindness. Celebrate, dance like no one is watching and sing as if no one is around to hear you. Express your gratitude in abandon! "Therefore the Jews of the villages who dwelt in the unwalled towns celebrated the fourteenth day of the month of Adar with gladness and feasting, as a holiday, and for sending presents to one another." Esther 9:19 NKJV
Bless others. Another way to demonstrate thanksgiving is to bless someone else. God is extremely generous towards us. When He provides, use it as an opportunity to pass along His goodness. "As the days on which the Jews had rest from their enemies, as the month which was turned from sorrow to joy for them, and from mourning to a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and joy, of sending presents to one another and gifts to the poor." Esther 9:22 NKJV
During our observance of Lent, celebrate God's hand upon your life. Thank Him for His abundant goodness, past and future. Remind yourself of the sad or uncomfortable events that He turned into blessings. Over the next two days, put on a funny hat and make some hamantaschen, Purim three cornered cookies, to share with family, friends and those in need. Express gratitude to your ABBA Father God for turning sadness into joy.
So they called these days Purim, after the name Pur. Therefore, because of all the words of this letter, what they had seen concerning this matter, and what had happened to them, the Jews established and imposed it upon themselves and their descendants and all who would join them, that without fail they should celebrate these two days every year, according to the written instructions and according to the prescribed time, that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city, that these days of Purim should not fail to be observed among the Jews, and that the memory of them should not perish among their descendants. Esther 9:26-28 NKJV
Kind Creator, Elohim, as humans we only see a part of Your divine plan for our lives. Help us trust You, Your omnipotence, grace and mercy. Rough paths give opportunity for us to submit our control to Your will. When we come to the end of our abilites, when life gets to be more than we can bear, gently help us bend our knees in prayer. Thank You for loving us beyond measure. From everlasting to everlasting You are faithful. May we celebrate Your goodness all the days of our life. Amen.