The biblical feast of Purim,
commanded in the book of Esther, is celebrated this year on March
15th and 16th. There
are many facets of the story that could be emphasized, but if we ask the
Lord He will pinpoint not only that which is universal but that which is
pertinent to each of our lives as well.
I became very familiar with Purim while writing and performing multiple
Purim dramas over the years as part of congregational celebrations. This
year, as I have sought to see the story with fresh eyes, I am drawn to
the issue of consequences. There are circumstances which require
us to take some sort of action, and there are often consequences
if we fail to take that action.
In the story of Esther, the existence of the Jewish people (dispersed in
Babylon and Persia) was threatened because of the hatred and arrogance of
one man. This man, Haman, was only alive as a
consequence of the failure of Israel's king to do what God
had commanded many years before. Allow me to explain.
King Saul failed to obey God when he did not kill Agag of the
Amalekites (1 Samuel 15). Haman was a descendant of Agag (Esther 3:1).
Therefore Haman's plot to destroy the remnant of Israel was a
consequence of King Saul's disobedience.
Opposition in Every Generation
We may ask whether or not another Amalekite would have arisen to threaten
God's people even if Saul had killed Agag. The answer is: if
it had not been him or another Amalakite it would have been someone
else. Israel has never lacked for enemies. The Passover liturgy
says, "It is this that has stood by our ancestors and us: It is not
only one that has risen up against us to destroy us; rather, in every
generation, they rise against us to annihilate us. But the Holy One,
blessed be He, saves us from their hand." Inevitably there will
always be opposition to those who belong to God and are called to be His
representatives here on earth, especially in Israel. As the old Yiddish
proverb goes, "If God lived on earth people would throw rocks at His
windows." Or as Yeshua put it, "If the world hates you, you know that
it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world
would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you
out of the world, because of this the world hates you" (John
15:18-19). It seems that these dynamics will continue - because of the
conflict existing since the fall of Satan - until the restoration of all
things in the coming kingdom.
Even in the midst of opposition, like Esther and Mordechai, we are all
called to do what is right and stand against evil regardless of its
source. We stand by the grace of God that is given to us. Their stand led
to a great triumph. Ours can too.
"And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: 'Do not think in your
heart that you will escape in the king's palace any more than all
the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief
and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and
your father's house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come
to the kingdom for such a time as this?'" (Esther 4:13,14)