Purim, the Feast of Lots, is observed on the fourteenth day of the Hebrew month of Adar (February-March). This year it falls at Sundown on Thursday February 25.
It the celebration of the deliverance of the Jews of Persia (Now Iran) over the plot to exterminate the Jewish people.
The book of Esther in the Tenach (Older Covenant) tells the story of how Esther (Hadassah) and her cousin Mordecai thwart the evil Haman, who plots to massacre the Jews.
Purim means literally “lots” and refers to the choice by lot of the date Haman picked to annihilate the Jews in the Kingdom of Persia.
The book of Esther has been referred to as “Just one more season in the history of anti-Semitism.” The root of anti-Semitism is HaSatan (Heb. the adversary).
Ever since the Garden of Eden, Satan has been at work seeking to destroy God’s creation and His Chosen people. He is the chief of the fallen angels described in the Jewish Scriptures.
Isaiah 14:12-20 “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations! “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God,
And I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ “Nevertheless, you will be thrust down to Sheol, To the recesses of the pit. “Those who see you will gaze at you, they will ponder over you, saying, ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble,
Who shook kingdoms, Who made the world like a wilderness And overthrew its cities, Who did not allow his prisoners to go home?’ “All the kings of the nations lie in glory, Each in his own tomb. “But you have been cast out of your tomb Like a rejected branch, Clothed with the slain who are pierced with a sword, Who go down to the stones of the pit Like a trampled corpse.
“You will not be united with them in burial, Because you have ruined your country, You have slain your people. May the offspring of evildoers not be mentioned forever. Ezekiel 28 compliments this description of Satan.
The Jewish people have faced elimination as a group many times through ancient, medieval, and modern societies. Their enemies have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance (Ps 83:4).
At the time that the book of Esther chronicles, the Jewish people were living in captivity in Persia. Many of the Jews socialized with the Persians and became assimilated and more and more worldly.
They were accepted as integrated citizens who blended in to Persian life. In much the same way the Jewish people today have assimilated into American, British, and French life. So much so that a Jewish woman became the Queen.
Imagine their shock, when in just a key moment in their national history, their lives were drastically changed. Out of the blue, the Prime Minister convinces the King to destroy the entire Jewish people.
The Jewish people had a rude awakening! In a brief instant, they went from their normal daily routines to persecution and a day appointed for their destruction. They were hated, on the verge of extinction simply because they were Jews.
Purim took place after the Jewish people were removed from the land of Israel by God’s judgment upon them. In 586 BC the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and brought the Jewish people into captivity.
They were called to live in the promised land. It was God’s land, and he chose one people to live in it to the exclusion of all others. Displacement from the land was punishment for their sin.
The Bible explains, when the Jewish people failed to keep God’s commands and betrayed His covenant, He sent them out of the land.
“I will deliver them to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth …And I will send the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, among them, till they be consumed from off the land that I gave unto them and to their fathers” (Jer. 24:9-10).
The restoration of the Jewish people to the land today is a sign that God keep His Word. The covenant of the Promised Land is still valid.
The name Feast of Lots comes from the fact that the day was chosen for the Jews to die by way of lottery or “Pur”. While God’s name never appears directly in Esther, it does appear in acrostic form in Esther 5:4.
It is the first letter of each of four successive words “come king and Haman today”- yod hay vav hay, YHWH. This is the only book of the Bible that does not directly contain God’s name. There is no doubt, though, that God was clearly in charge behind the scenes!
When I think of what’s happening in our world right now, I believe that we are at a strategic moment in time. You and I are here with the opportunity of a lifetime. Esther also stood at a moment in time that was crucial to the life and future of the Jewish people.
The challenge Esther received is found in Esther 4:14 and it may very well be the challenge that our God and King has for us at this point in our lives, “that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”
If you’re a child of God then you too have attained a royal position, and God has placed you where you are, not just to enjoy the benefits of life in America, but to build His kingdom, to help His people, fulfill His purposes.
God created us for a divine appointment – a unique role to fulfill in our lives – just like Esther! There is something we can do for God that no one else can – a God-given niche only we can fill.
Of all His millions of children, we are the one God has positioned to rescue the people around us. Like Esther who was placed in a strategic spot, so too have we been placed “for such a time as this.”
I want to consider three thoughts today. We are where we are for such a time as this because… 1. God’s people are in distress.
In 538 BC, God’s children who were exiled to Persia were allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. But many were reluctant to leave the relative security of Persia. Kind of like most of us who are Jewish in the U.S.
The Persian Empire was huge, and the capital city was Susa — located on the current borders between Iraq and Iran — which was home to thousands of Jews where business was very good.
It is against this backdrop, that the story of Esther unfolds. The Persian King decreed that he wanted a new Queen. So, a search began. All the beautiful virgins in the Empire were eligible to be the new queen.
Now, Esther was a poor, Jewish orphan. Her older cousin, Mordecai, had become her adopted father. He raised her well. And Esther was chosen. She was named the new Queen because of her extraordinary beauty, but also because of her grace.
The King genuinely loved Esther and would do anything for her. But he didn’t learn that his new Queen was Jewish!
Meanwhile, the King’s top assistant, an evil, ego-maniac named Haman, plotted to murder every Jewish person in Persia. Esther’s cousin Mordecai, the Jewish man who raised Esther, had refused to bow down to Haman one day on the steps of the King’s court.
So, Haman, manipulated the king to make a royal decree to have the Jews annihilated. At stake were the lives of thousands and thousands of God’s people. A day was set for them to die.
Today, in America, we aren’t living with the threat of physical death. But God’s people are in distress! My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Hosea 4:6
We have the knowledge of the Good News and need to share the way that leads to life to those who will spiritually and eternally perish without this knowledge!
We are where we are for such a time as this because God’s people are in distress!
2. Secondly we are where we are because you can’t hide who you are.
Mordecai learned of the plan to kill all the Jews. He wrote a letter warning Esther of Haman’s plans. But Esther wrote back to say that she was powerless to stop the killing. Her excuse was that the law stated no one could enter the King’s chambers uninvited – even the Queen.
Esther had not seen the King for a long time. She may have even wondered if she had fallen out of favor with him. To enter the throne room uninvited was to literally invite death.
In essence, Esther was telling Mordecai, “I can’t do what God wants. I don’t want to break the law and be killed by the King!” Let’s read Esther 4:10-12.
Then Esther spoke to Hathach and ordered him to reply to Mordecai: “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that for any man or woman who comes to the king to the inner court who is not summoned, he has but one law, that he be put to death, unless the king holds out to him the golden scepter so that he may live. And I have not been summoned to come to the king for these thirty days.” They related Esther’s words to Mordecai.
Esther didn’t feel she was the person for God’s job!
Then Mordecai sent a second message to Esther, insisting that she too would be discovered to be Jewish and she also would surely die; Even though she was Queen who she was violated the King’s law. Esther and the Jewish people were doomed unless she acted.
Look at 4:13-14.
Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”
This has to go down as one of the most incredible “pivot points in history.” Mordecai says, “If you do nothing, don’t think you’ll escape death. You too will be found to be a Jew and you also will die.
God’s hands aren’t tied. He will use someone else to save His people. But think how great it would be for God to use you Esther. This was the reason why you were chosen to be queen, for such a time as this for this very moment?”
This was the testing of Esther’s character. She was beautiful on the outside. But was she beautiful on the inside?
I believe these verses show us her real character as I Samuel 16:7 says, “The LORD sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”
What did He see when He saw Esther’s heart? What does He desire to see in our hearts?
1. God is looking for a teachable heart.
Esther 4 is basically a record of messages back and forth between Mordecai and Esther. Look again at a couple of phrases in Esther 4:12, 13, “They related Esther’s words to Mordecai. Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther…”
Yes, Mordecai raised her and trained her. But she’s now on her own. She’s the queen of Persia – the most powerful woman in the world! She could have said, “Look! I’m a VIP now. You should be listening to me.”
Yet she didn’t. She’s still listening to this man of God. She allows herself to be influenced. She has a teachable heart.
When God looks at your heart, does He see a teachable heart?
Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser, teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning. Proverbs 9:9
God issues His challenge and teaches us in many ways. He does it though His Word. He does it through His spiritual leaders and elders. He does it through family members or friends or bosses or co-workers. He will do it only if we are humble enough to receive it.
I want to encourage you to let God teach you this week. He’ll speak! He’ll speak. If you are teachable.
God is looking for a teachable heart.
2. God is looking for a prayerful heart. Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, “Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens also will fast in the same way. And thus, I will go to the king, which is not according to the law…” Esther 4:15-16
In the Bible, we often see fasting and prayer together. In Daniel 9:3, we read, “So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting…” Fasting causes us to look to the Spirit rather than to rely on the flesh or own strength.
When Esther knew in her heart that God was calling her, she took action. She told Mordecai to have God’s people begin praying and fasting on her behalf.
Esther knew that if she was going to fulfill her divine calling, she couldn’t do it relying on her own resources or clever schemes. But only through prayer and fasting, she relied on God’s to give her words. She asked for God’s wisdom and power for her every move.
We don’t have the power in ourselves to fulfill our divine calling for such a time as this. God is the source! Through His Holy Spirit, God will empower us to take the action we need “for such a time as this.”
God is looking for a teachable heart a prayerful heart and;
3. God is looking for a sacrificial heart – giving time, talent and treasure.
Notice how verse 16 ends. “…and if I perish, I perish.”
If Esther obeyed Mordecai, she stood to risk everything, including her life. Although the king was her husband, she couldn’t just stroll into his presence and casually unload what was on her mind.
Things didn’t work like that in ancient Persia. He had to send for her.
Put yourself in her place. “No one knows I’m Jewish. If I don’t say anything, I’m still the queen. I can keep all this wealth and fame intact. People will still continue to serve me. But if I go before the king in defense of my people, then I could lose my life.
Or I could lose my royal status, my wealth, my honor.” You have to think that she thought about her options. She understood the implications of her decision. She decided, “I’m willing to sacrifice it all because God’s people are in distress. If I perish, I perish!”
Scholars say that people weren’t allowed into the king’s presence without an invitation because it may have been a safety precaution designed to protect the king’s life. Men stood around the throne with axes to punish any who approached the throne without being invited.
She’s thinking, “If a guard drives a sword through my body, I die doing the right thing.” She has changed from concern for her own safety to concern for her people’s survival. She reached her own personal hour of decision and made the right choice.
God challenges our values, doesn’t He? What is most important to you? In order for us to fulfill our divine call in such a time as this, we must be willing to let go of our selfishness and our need to be in control.
We’ve got to let go of telling God when it’s convenient in our schedules to serve Him. We’ve got to be living sacrifices God is looking for a sacrificial heart.
What does God see when He looks into our hearts?
For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. 2 Chron. 16:9
“Enough of the easy life,” said Esther. “It’s time to put my life on the line. I’m a daughter of the King of Kings, and I believe in the living God. I’m ready to stand up for my people. And if I perish, I perish.”
What does it matter if you get involved or not? It matters greatly because it shows what’s in your heart. Yes, it’s true that God has other ways to accomplish His objectives.
He has other people He can use. He isn’t frustrated or restrained because you and I may be indifferent. But when that happens, we are the losers.
There won’t be some heavenly shout urging you to take a stand. No flash of lightning will wake us up. It doesn’t work like that. So, let me ask you: What are you doing to stand up, to answer the call of God in this hour?
What we see next is that when someone does stand up for God His power is displayed. Esther had asked for prayer and fasting to prepare her for the moment when the doors to the Throne Room opened and she walked through the door.
She knelt as soon as she was clear of the doorway and waited for the response from the King. Would she live or would she die? When the King extended his golden scepter, he had spared her life.
His response was so tender. The king listened to her pleas for her people. The tables were now turned on the man who wanted to kill Mordecai and all Jews. The king saw him for what he was – an evil selfish, power-hungry, ego-maniac.
He was executed on the very gallows he had built for Mordecai. Not only were the Jews allowed to live, but they were also permitted to defend themselves against their enemies. Esther, remained the queen. And Mordecai, becomes second-in-command.
Psalm 68:35 O God, You are awesome from Your sanctuary. The God of Israel Himself gives strength and power to the people. Blessed be God!
It’s interesting that the name of God is absent from the pages of this book in the Bible. But He’s there.
He’s present in every scene and in every event, until He ultimately and finally brings everything to a marvelous climax as He proves Himself Lord of His people.
Are you struggling today? Caught in between a rock and a hard place? Stop, take a breath and look around, and know that the hand of God is leading you and orchestrating the events around you. Who knows, but that you have been lead to right where you are, for such a time as this.