Purim is the celebration of the Feast of Esther. We celebrate with hamantachen, Purim spiels, carnivals and costumes. On the surface it is the victory of the Jewish people over an ancient enemy. However there is, as Paul Harvey used to say, “the rest of the story.” The rest of the story is God at work behind the scenes bringing about the deliverance of the people through the courageous faithfulness of the two main characters, Esther and Mordechai. Like Passover it is a story of deliverance. However, the way God reveals himself at Passover is quite different that the way he does so at Purim. At Passover God performs miracles – supernatural events such as the ten plagues and the parting of the Red Sea. In the Book of Esther we read that God works through natural occurrences – through the actions of people. Since most of us do not see too many miracles happening in our lives, the story of Purim is very encouraging because it serves as a reminder that God is always at work in our lives whether we realize it or not. As we read in psalm 121, Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. Even though it may be hard to see the hand of God in our personal situations, Purim reminds that that he indeed is there. While we might not experience the same outward victory that we read about in Esther, the story is a reminder that eventually victory will come, either here or in the world to come. As Messiah followers, we have an assurance of both a final victory in the resurrection and the presence of God in our lives today via the Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit). But the reality is that most of us have a hard time believing that God is really present when difficult times come and we have a difficult time experiencing peace and comfort as we endure difficulty. The reason has to do with what I consider the main lesson of the book. For me the main lesson is that when we stand firm and overcome fear with faith, we will “see” God at work and we will be encouraged in our endurance – even if we do not see the victory in this life. In Esther 3:8 we read a key verse that comes from the mouth of none other than Haman, the villain of the story. “There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from those of all other people and they do not observe the king’s laws, so it is not in the king’s interest to let them remain.” The Jewish people do not conform to the norms of Persia and most importantly they do not acknowledge the king as a god. In the story, Mordechai will not bow down to Haman, the emissary of the king. In reading the story we sometimes miss the point that if Mordechai had bowed to Haman there would be no threat to the people. There would have been no story of deliverance. Haman did not care about the ethnicity of the people. His anger was based on Mordechai’s refusal to bow. As a result of Mordechai’s actions, persecution comes to the Jewish people. But along with the persecution come the deliverance. The hand of God becomes evident when the people remain faithful to God. Through the faithfulness of Mordechai and Esther Jewish identity was preserved and victory of the Jews was secured. Today perhaps the greatest threat to the Jewish people is assimilation. Assimilation occurs when we conform to the culture around us and do not maintain covenant faithfulness. Messianic Jews are especially vulnerable to assimilation because most followers of Yeshua are Gentiles and therefore it is easy to lose one’s Jewish identity. That is why it is so important to be strengthening our local messianic communities. As followers of Yeshua we, must not bow to the king but follow The Lord wherever that may lead.
Purim means not conforming to the culture; not bowing to the king; not always being politically correct. It means living in a way that is counter to the popular culture of permissiveness and conformity. It means being a “non-conformist.” It means being “radical.”
On the surface, the life of Yeshua was tragic. He never married and he died at a young age. After his death there was still plenty of sickness and death. Also, he was rejected by the majority of the people he came to redeem. But because of his radical obedience to God, we see that God was at work through His incarnation in Yeshua bringing about the most glorious, wondrous event in all of history, the resurrection of the Messiah and the deliverance of people from the bondage to sin and the forgiveness of sin. When we practice radical obedience – radical love; radical forgiveness; radical service to others; radical ethics; radical morality – as taught in the Scriptures, then we will have eyes to see God at work in the circumstances of our lives. It is then that we will find satisfaction in God and be able to experience joy even in the midst of difficulty. It is how we can endure with peace and joy until the end. We could call it an alternative lifestyle. That term is usually reserved for a permissive lifestyle but we can define it as a godly lifestyle. It is a way of life that cannot be turned on like a faucet. It is a way of life that is cultivated through spiritual discipline accompanied by the power of the Ruach HaKodesh. It is through living in this kind of community that we proclaim the loudest that the Messiah has come! Let us follow in the footsteps of Mordechai and walk in covenant faithfulness. Happy Purim.