The Feast of Purim

Haman’s plot against the Jews, concocted in hate and malice but exposed through courage and faith, had called for the legal genocide of the Jews at the hand of all those who hated them, wherever they lived throughout the one-hundred twenty-seven provinces of the Persian Empire. So, while the king had executed Haman and authorized the Jews to defend themselves, they still had to fight. As the calendar turned to the thirteenth day of the month, the Jews, helped immensely by the prominence of Mordecai in the Persian government, turned the tables on their adversaries and won a great victory by offering a successful defense and killing their enemies—not only in Shushan but throughout the empire. By the consent of the king, the Jews in Shushan received an extension of a day to complete the necessary defense (Est. 9:1-16). Throughout the provinces, the Jews celebrated on the fourteenth by holding a feast, joined the next day by their brethren in Shushan (Est. 9:17-21). Thus, on the basis of this historic occasion, Mordecai sent letters to establish these two days as a holiday (Est. 9:20-21), “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. So the Jews accepted the custom which they had begun, as Mordecai had written to them” (Est. 9:22-23).

We can only imagine the relief of the people. To celebrate deliverance from annihilation must certainly have been a natural outburst from the stress they had experienced throughout the year as the day approached. However, it is interesting that they chose to name this feast “Purim” (Est. 9:26-28) after the casting of lots by Haman and his fellow conspirators that began their trouble rather than after Esther, Mordecai, the later decree or something else that figured more into their deliverance (Est. 9:29-32). Their decision reveals a level of reflection often lacking in our own day. They determined to remember the danger they were in as much as the deliverance they enjoyed. This matters because only by a regular consideration of their peril would they appreciate the significance of their deliverance.

So many people in the religious world have turned everything they do into a celebration without meaning. At weddings people celebrate the occasion without considering the seriousness of the covenant entered. At funerals people want to celebrate the person’s life but not think about the origin of death and its meaning. Even in worship people seem intent on having a mindless celebration without the burden of any serious spiritual reflection. If we fail to think deeply about our previous sinful situation and its consequence, we will also fail to appreciate the depth of the deliverance made possible through Jesus’ blood. Moreover, if we do not consider the death of Christ and the purchase price of Jesus’ offered blood, what exactly do we have to celebrate?

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