God’s amazing power, provision and providence.
The celebration of Purim, created out of the events as recorded in the book of Esther, that is to take place this week, beginning on Wednesday 28 February, has certainly received mixed reviews over time. The attitudes and perspectives within and without the body of Christ and Judaism, differ to such a large extent that equating it to those of the cold war antagonists would not be a fanciful exaggeration. Even Martin Luther, the protagonist of the reformation, was an aggressor against the book. He stated that he wished it did not exist at all, for it is Judaized too much and has much heathen perverseness.
These differences are to be expected, at least outside the confines of Judeo-Christian standpoints. However, it is sad that there is such a schism within. Without wanting to get technical on the subject, such a rift, which should not be present, has its foundational root likely stemming from one of two doctrinal perspectives, or even from both.
- Our view and acceptance of the Word of God, and
- Our view and acceptance of God’s plan and purpose for Israel and the Jewish people.
Point a: Our view and acceptance of the Word of God.
Today, one of the most critical and dangerous enemies of Christianity is the vituperate uprising and invective onslaught on the credibility of the bible. Such divisive gnawing by cutworms at the foundational roots is nothing novel though, for the very first sin was committed on the back of the questioning of the Word of God. Satan sowed the seeds of doubt by asking, “Yea, hath God said?”
It is also argued that God is not present in the book of Esther. The fact that God is not directly mentioned does not necessarily disqualify the book, or justify its inclusion in the lot destined for the trash heap. Paul tells us as recorded in 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 that, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished into all good works.” The book of Esther was included in the Old Testament, so what Paul was referring to included the book of Esther. How can we now come along and exclude it? And on what grounds? The short answer is, we cannot!
Point b: Our view and acceptance of God’s plan and purpose for Israel and the Jewish people.
1. Before Christ (then)
Additionally, the book of Esther has been referred to as just being a fantastic, nationalistic and Zionistic story, with no direct referral to God. The book may be all of these, but that does not mean God was not in it or that, once again, on such grounds it can be swept aside as being inconsequential.
For the Jewish people, yes, it was most certainly directly significant. Yet this does not mean it is any less significant for non-Jews. What we fail to remember in this instance is that God had instituted a covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12 – 17), and given a promise to David (Psalm 132:11; Jeremiah 33:17) regarding the Messiah. Right back in Genesis 3:15, God had declared that a Saviour would restore the fall of man. It was later revealed that through God’s plan, this Saviour would come out of Abraham and through the line of David. It was also learned that He would not only be a Saviour for the Jewish people, but for all mankind. As a result, the events that took place in the book of Esther are very significant to those who believe and accept that Jesus is the Messiah. Should we view with disdain the deliverance and victory that the Jewish people obtained, we in many ways will then stand directly opposed to the continued succession of the line of David and our ultimate victory, wrought through the pain and suffering of Christ on the Cross of Calvary. The short answer is, we dare not!
To note, the Saviour would be the ultimate destruction of our arch-enemy, the devil. It is not surprising then that the devil would hate the Jewish people and seek there destruction and annihilation. The story of Esther is a perfect example of this and in the pages of the book there is a strong spirit of anti-Semitism, and it was in-fact, an attempt at creating a holocaust, just like Hitler millennia later. For if this could be achieved, it would be his so-called “saving grace”, and defer his own destruction – if that were possible. As Satan is the enemy of God, it is also not difficult to comprehend that he would hate everything God loves and that belongs to God – the Jewish people and the nation of Israel being one of the most significant. Everything we know about God came through the Jews and we are also told by Jesus himself, as recorded in John 4:22, that salvation is of the Jews. Therefore, Satan has been determined to destroy the Jewish people by whatever means he knows how.
The book of Esther has been condemned as being, or on the brink of being, farcical. Yet how many times have Christians been able to testify to God’s timely intervention in their own lives? If this be true, why need we right-off the book of Esther as being absurd?
2. After Christ (now)
There continues to be much debate regarding where Israel and the Jews fit in the scheme of God’s purposes and plans. Although in its main embodiment, it is a discussion on its own and for another time, what needs to be understood here is the inseparable connection between Purim in Esther’s time and today. As with 2 Timothy 3:16, 17, as included in point A above, 2 Peter 1:20 reads, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” There are many prophecies about Israel in relation to Christ’s second coming, so these cannot be overlooked.
As recorded in Luke 21:24b, Jesus told the disciples the following, “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” This is very significant as Jesus indicates that there is a certain period of time allocated to the Gentiles, after which, Jerusalem (Israel) will no longer be trodden by them. It means that God has not rejected Israel, or the Jewish people, and they yet have a significant role to play in His purposes. Paul refers to this time of the Gentiles as also being a spiritual time.
Paul also says, as recorded in Romans 11:1, 2a, “I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew.” If this be the case, God is watching very carefully over the land of Israel and the Jewish people, particularly his faithful remnant. It would seem rather significant that the turning point in the book of Esther almost pivots on the insomnia of King Xerxes (Esther 6:1 – 4), and although it may not be related, the words recorded in Psalm 121:4 seem to parallel and come to life, “Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.”
An encouragement to the Jewish people and Israel, and a caveat to the nations
The events that created the institution of Purim are fantastic, and God is present in every verse, although He may not be directly mentioned. The book oozes with God and is an incredible testimony of His power, provision and providence – from start to finish. God knew that trouble and distress would be coming to His people, and took it in hand. Even before the nascent stage of trouble was even conceived, He set his purpose in progress for Hadassah (Esther) to become queen. Further down the line, in my NIV bible, the subheading of chapter 6 reads – Mordecai Honoured, and that of chapter 7 – Haman Hanged. It is amazing how the circumstances turn around completely. Coincidence or providence? With such a succession of circumstantial occurrences, culminating in the final deliverance and emancipation of the Jewish people, it is hard to attribute it to anything other than God’s mighty hand at work.
In chapter 6:13, Haman’s wife and wise men sum up the prevailing conclusion, “Then said his wise men and Zeresh his wife unto him, If Mordecai be of the seed of the Jews, before whom thou hast begun to fall, thou shalt not prevail against him, but shalt surely fall before him.” In simple words, they are saying that if Mordecai is of the seed of the Jews, whose God is the LORD, you cannot prevail against him. And before this, why would Esther have bothered to call for a 3-day fast, if not to entreat the mercy of divine intervention and help?
Haman sought to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews – young and old, women and little children and to plunder their goods (Esther 3:12, 13). He had a venomous hatred for the Jewish people. But what he did not recon on was that God had a divine love for his people and a plan of salvation for all mankind that encompassed their inclusion and continued succession. Haman’s plots of evil had been put in place against the purposes of God, and the process could not be stopped, or reversed. The man had stood against God, and was now having to face God defending His people. What Haman did not know was that Psalm 21:11, 12 tell us, “Though they plot evil against you and devise wicked schemes, they cannot succeed; for you will make them turn their backs when you aim at them with drawn bow.”
King Xerxes (King Ahasuerus) extended his gold sceptre to Queen Esther and the tables were turned. By the king’s command, the Jews in every city throughout all the 127 provinces under the king’s rule were given the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate any armed force of any nationality or province that might attack them and their woman and children; and to plunder the property of their enemies (Esther 8:11). What is interesting is that Haman and those who hated the Jews would have plundered them, but although the Jews were given the right to return the compliment, they did not lay their hands on the plunder (Esther 9:10, 15), they just defended themselves and destroyed those who were intent on destroying them.
Today we see the same situation. There are nations hostile to the Jews and the existence of the Jewish nation, Israel. They have a venomous hatred towards them and have expressed their desire to destroy, kill and annihilate them. However, the King (the LORD) has once again given the Jews the right and ability to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate any armed force of any nationality or province that might attack them and their women and children – just as was the case in the time of Esther.
Israel does not have the right to be arrogant in the face of seemingly insurmountable hostility and aggression. However, they can take courage from the miracles that have taken place right from the rebirth of the nation out of the ashes of Hitler’s heinous destruction. The day Israel was declared a nation in 1948, they came under fire from armies all around. Against all odds they were able to survive and stand firm. The nation today exists and is carried on the shoulders of miracles, and although tough, trying and tearful times may be ahead, they can be glad and sing for joy for the King has once again raised his gold sceptre and is with His land and people.
We can thank God for Esther and the establishment of Purim, and we can thank God for Jesus, who is revealed in the book of Esther as our Advocate and champion.