Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Purim is Here!

Tonight is the start of Purim. (sundown 3/23 - sundown 3/24) Though we are not Jewish in our faith, our Savior was and, we love to celebrate and honor the times He did. We find such a richness in the holy days and celebrations tied to Biblical history and those days commanded of the Jews to celebrate. It's amazing, when you look at Jewish celebrations and Holy days, how they all point to the need of a Savior and to the beautiful Savior that came to us so long ago.

If you don't know the story of WHY Purim exists, let me share that with you now.
A long time ago there was a King of the Persian Empire named Ahashverush.  At a very lavish and decadent party, while rather drunk, he gave an order to his Queen, Vashti. She denied his order and he had her executed for her disobedience. This left him to search for a new queen. 
Eventually the woman chosen to fill the role of Queen was a Jewish woman named Esther. As a principled and morally sound woman grounded in Jewish values, Esther did everything she could to avoid being chosen. Nevertheless, the King favored her above all and she was chosen to be the next Queen, all the while hiding her Jewish identity. 
Esther had a very close and loving relative named Mordechai who remained supportive of her through her tragic situation.  Mordechai stayed close to the palace in order to hear news from Esther and it was there that he overheard of a plan to assassinate the King.  He quickly told Esther of the plan and Esther, in Mordechai’s name, told the King.  Although the King had chronicled that Mordechai the Jew had saved his life in his Book of Chronicles, the good deed was quickly forgotten. 
Enter Haman- King Ahashverush’s anti- Semitic and narcissistic prime minister who required the people to bow down to him. When Mordechai refused to bow, Haman became enraged and devised a calculated plan to destroy Mordechai together with the entire Jewish people.  In order to convince the King to allow him to carry out his plans, Haman went to the King with his anti-Semitic propaganda and lies thereby making the Jews appear worthless in the eyes of the King.   Influenced by Haman, the King permitted him to kill all the Jews on one day, the 13th day in the Jewish month of Adar, as per Haman’s plan. 

Once aware of this horrific plot Esther and Mordechai set in motion a very risky plan to save every Jewish man, woman and child in the vast empire.  Esther had to put her own self in mortal danger in order to save the lives of all the Jewish people.  The plan would take time and it involved her having to reveal her Jewish identity, appear before the King uninvited and make special preparations in order to expose Haman’s lies.  Only then could she petition to the King to annul the decree.  They were working with a deadline of the 13th of Adar and used their time wisely to plan, pray, fast and repent before attempting to save the Jewish nation. 

One night, the King was having difficulty sleeping and to pass the time, had his Book of Chronicles read to him.  Upon coming to the section regarding Mordechai having saved his life, King Ahashverush realized that Mordechai had never been royally honored for this! Meanwhile, as the King was thinking of ways in which to carry out the honor, Haman was on his way to visit the King.  He just couldn’t shake his hatred for Mordechai who had again refused to bow down to him.  He came to request permission for Mordechai to be hanged in advance of the 13th of Adar. Haman had it all worked out and would hang Mordechai on the gallows he had built for this purpose.  Upon Haman’s visit, and before Haman could ask for permission, the King asked his loyal prime minister for his suggestion regarding a suitable honor for someone whom the King favored.  Haman thought that he was the one in favor and thus suggested that it be regaland publicized.  The King agreed and instructed Haman to take Mordechai out on the streets of Shushan and show him this honor!  In other words, Haman had to be the one to carry out the King’s request and show Mordechai honor- on the very night he intended to have him killed!  
 All the while, Esther had strategically planned a feast for the King and Haman set for shortly after this.  Haman was looking forward to his private audience with the royal couple as it reconfirmed his importance, however, it was there that Haman’s demise began. Esther used this planned opportunity to reveal herself as a Jew and petitioned to the King for her life and the lives of her people who were destined to die due to the decree Haman had influenced the King to sign off on. The King, having been previously unaware that his beloved Esther was a Jew, was angered at having been duped by Haman had him hanged on the very gallows that Haman had built to hang Mordechai!  The King then made Mordechai the new prime minister who then set a new decree for the 13th of Adar - allowing the Jews kill their enemies instead!!

If you don't know this story well, or are interested in more of the story's details, check out the Book of Esther in the Bible. Yep, the whole book. Really, it's not long.

So, what does one do to celebrate Purim? Let me start with this.

As with our celebration of Hanukkah, we do not celebrate these days to put ourselves under the law. We are redeemed by the sacrifice Christ made on the cross and His defeat of death by rising from the grave. Under His grace are we given eternal life.

No, we celebrate as a way to honor Him. If you look at all the holy days and celebrations in the Jewish history, you will see one thing. You will find they all point to a savior, and, more importantly, to Jesus as that Savior. Add in that our Savior celebrated Biblical holy days, and we want to walk as He walked. We don't have 100% proof He celebrated Purim since it's considered a minor feast, but He celebrated Hanukkah (as noted in the Bible) so minor feasts were something He took as important. There is some evidence that He probably celebrated and that it was the feast mentioned in John 5.

Now, on to the fun of Purim. Yes, it is known as a fun celebration.

  • Normally time is spent in worship service if your church has one. Since ours doesn't, we will spend the evening at home reading God's word, singing songs of worship, and celebrating our need for a Savior and that fulfillment in Christ. When the reading of Esther happens, it's fun to boo or stomp your feet when Haman is mentioned and cheer when Mordechai is spoken about.
  •  The eating of the Hamantaschen. Yummy. Jelly filled little cookies, also known as Haman's ears. 
  • Gifts for others. This is usually food, already cooked food. It's common to deliver these yourself, and often on the way home from your worship time. These are frequently tasty treats. 
  • Charity - giving to the poor is a big part of this feast. It's a way of expressing thanks for our Salvation and deliverance. 
  • Purim meal - party in the dining room. Kids often dress up, you light the candle, and eat fun and festive foods at the meal. This should be a joyous time. Don't forget more Hamantaschen. 
There are three blessings of Purim that are recited during worship services.

So, take a moment to thank God for His only begotten Son today. Without Him there would be no true deliverance and salvation. There would be no reason for celebration. There would be no reason for hope. 

By the way, want a simple tutorial on Hamantaschen? Check it out!


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