By Sam Nadler
We learn about Purim in the book of Esther, which is unique from all other books of the Bible in that the name of God is not mentioned. Every year on the fourteenth day of Adar (around February or March) Jewish people around the world celebrate Purim (“pur” in Hebrew means “lots”). Lots were cast as part of an evil plan to destroy the Jewish people in Persia. (Esther 3:7) The events described in this book take place fifty years after King Cyrus permitted the Jewish people to leave Babylon and return to the Promised Land (2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4). The story is written about those Jews who did not heed the call of God to return to Israel. Esther and Mordecai were among those who out of convenience or preference, chose to remain in Persia. Through a remarkable set of circumstances, the Jewish girl Esther became the queen. However, she kept her Jewish lineage hidden.
This book teaches us that God is faithful to His promises and will always providentially secure His people. However, it also warns us that neglecting His call may lead to a downward spiritual spiral. This trend was certainly true in Esther’s case. Even though God’s name is not mentioned, He brought problems into Esther’s self-centered life by allowing Haman, a vicious anti-Semite, to shake up her world. Though Mordecai exhorted her to intercede with the king on behalf of her people, Esther wanted no part of any plan that would endanger herself or her lifestyle.
Esther’s Character and Repentance
The Bible gives us some hints about Esther’s character. For example, Esther was indifferent about Scriptural details. Since Esther was Jewish, she knew of the dietary laws cited in the Law of Moses. However, when she was offered non-kosher food, she took it without protest – unlike Daniel in a similar situation decades earlier (Esther 2:9, Dan 1:8).
Furthermore, Esther was fearful of and disobedient to Mordecai’s request to intervene with the king on behalf of her people. It was risky to go uninvited into the king’s presence! Esther’s response to Mordecai indicates her timid heart, even after receiving the devastating news of the King’s decree to destroy her people: “All the king’s officials and even the people in the provinces know that anyone who appears before the king in his inner court without being invited is doomed to die unless the king holds out his gold scepter. And the king has not called for me to come to him for thirty days.” (Esther 4:11)
We might be tempted to overlook Esther’s response in light of her peril, especially since we know the ancient Greek historian Herodotus confirmed this Persian custom. Even so, Esther demonstrated she was more preoccupied with her own safety than the protection of her people. Mordecai’s truthful reply challenged Esther’s heart to such a degree that she changed her mind, and decided to risk it all. As a result of Mordecai’s exhortation, Esther repented and pleaded with the king on behalf of the Jewish people, and they were saved from extinction once again (Esther 4:15-16; 7:3-6; 9:20-25). What was Mordecai’s challenge?
First, he challenged the false security of her perception:
“Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews.” (Esther 4:13) Esther’s position as queen would not protect her. The foolish find their security in futile thinking (Proverbs 18:11). This vanity of the mind assumes our self-serving disobedience to God will somehow protect us. However, we cannot insulate ourselves from God.
Second, Mordecai challenged the false security of Esther’s position:
” 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?” (Esther 4:14) Esther had married King Ahasuerus, the most powerful man of his day. Did she think that her marriage and queenly position would provide her with the security her soul needed? Sometimes people marry to fulfill their lives, only to discover afterwards they are still lonely and empty. Only a relationship with the living God can satisfy the deep desire of our souls. As the Scripture states, “My God shall supply all your needs through His riches and glory in Messiah Yeshua” (Philippians 4:19), and “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
View your like situation as an ever-constant opportunity to share Messiah. Our only real refuge is in our saving relationship with God. Esther’s position as Queen was not her security, but became the opportunity for her to save her people. Like her, The most secure place is always in the will of God. Thankfully, Esther finally repented —“I will go to the king, which is not according to [Persian] law; and if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16). God brought a disobedient woman to repentance to save His people and demonstrate His faithfulness.
What then is the message of the Purim story? Simply this: God is always faithful and uses ordinary people who willing to repent, trust, and serve Him. God wants to use you today just as He used Esther long ago. Perhaps Mordecai’s Purim challenge to Esther is God’s challenge to you as well. Be spiritually pro-active in life—in your family, community, and congregation. Do not keep silent; rather, share God’s love in Yeshua with others. (For more, read Messiah in the Feasts of Israel by Sam Nadler, available on Kindle, or in hardcopy)