By Rabbi Cal Goldberg
The Feast of Purim is considered one of the minor Feasts on the Jewish calendar and comes exactly one month before Pesach. It is hard to imagine that Passover is only a month and half away. It’s time to start your spring house cleaning!
The story of Purim has many different themes. (It is the story of a bride, a king and a kingdom; it is a story of a people of destiny. It is a story about the God who is hidden (Esther is the only book in the Bible that does not mention the name God), the principle of the Abrahamic blessing and the curse is found in this book like no other book in the Bible. It is a beautiful foreshadowing of how Esther is a type of the end time believer and how we have been grafted into royalty for such a time as this. But I believe that one of the most important messages in the Book of Esther and something we need to be reminded of every year is how the life of Esther and Mordecai describes the power of prayer and intercession.
This morning I want to challenge us with a message on prayer. Prayer is a vital ministry and a weapon of warfare that most believers struggle with. Traditionally, prayer is not a discipline that most believers are well trained and equipped in even though Jacob says the effective and fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much. Queen Esther was willing to stand in the gap and intercede for her people. Her selfless act of intercession determined the fate and destiny of her people. I have discovered over the years that it is usually women who are the most effective intercessors. In most prayer gatherings women almost always outnumber men. Perhaps it is because women are more relational by nature then men. Prayer is all about relationship and intimacy with the Father.
Because of Esther’s obedience, faith and courage, and because of Mordechai’s urging, she delivered her people from a decree of death. There is an important message for us. Don’t ever believe that one person’s life doesn’t make a difference because it does. Prayer has the power to change. Each one of us are sitting here today because we are the result of prayer, the prayers of those who have prayed for us and for our salvation. It was through the intercession of Moses going up to the mountain continually pleading over and over again, for His people that the Lord forgave Aaron and did not destroy Israel because of their great sin. It was through prayer that Moses parted the Red Sea. When Joshua was in battle and needed more time in the day, because it was getting close to sun down, Joshua prayed and God stopped the sun. When the 120 prayed in the upper room, the fire of God fell and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and became the first fruits of a new community of faith. God chose prayer as a means of accomplishing His purpose on the earth. The Lord is waiting for you and I to pray, to intercede, to demonstrate faith, trust and obedience in Him because through Him you can accomplish great and mighty things. Be encouraged when you are in your prayer closet.
The story of Purim is an ancient story about the deadly sin of Anti-Semitism. Things have not changed over the centuries. Anti-Semitism is once again rearing its ugly head in our generation. The rise of anti-Semitism is always a prophetic sign that something significant is about to happen. Israel is God’s timepiece. What happens to Israel and the Jewish people is a barometer, an indicator of where we are on God’s prophetic timetable. The birth pangs of the Messiah are getting closer. For centuries Israel’s enemies have with craftiness and cunning, plotted the annihilation of the Sons of Israel, but history has shown over and over again that as the enemies of Israel have plotted, schemed and counseled together, in the end, their treachery, their mischief, and their evil intentions have always resulted in their own demise. Gen. 12:3. Psalm 7;14-16 clearly describes the fate of the wicked.
“Behold the wicked brings forth iniquity. Yes, he conceives trouble and brings forth falsehood. He made a pit and dug it out, and has fallen into the ditch which he has made. His mischief will return upon his own head. And his violent dealings shall come down on his own crown.”
Throughout history the only lasting achievements of Israel’s enemies have been the occasion for another holiday to be instituted on the Jewish calendar. Such was the case with Pharaoh King of Egypt. His evil decree of genocide to throw all the Hebrew sons into the Nile River, and his hard heartedness towards Moses and the children of Israel in refusing to not let God’s people go, resulted in establishing the Feast of Passover, a day that has been celebrated for the past 3500 years. It is as a memorial of Israel’s exodus from Egyptian bondage and slavery, and represents the season of our freedom.
Such was the case with the defeat of Antiochus Epiphanes and his evil intentions against Israel when he defiled the temple in Jerusalem and tried to Hellenize the Jewish people. It resulted in instituting the Feast of Hanukkah, a feast that we still celebrate today. Such was the case with the defeat of Adolph Hitler in the Second World War who was as modern day Haman.
The tragedy of the holocaust paved the way for the miraculous re-birth of the modern state of Israel in 1948, one of the greatest miracles of the past century. Every year Yom Haatzmaut is a day to celebrate Israel’s rebirth as a nation and it was because Adonai overturned Hitler’s decree of death. Israel is 66 years old as a modern day nation and she will never again be uprooted from their land. Amos 9:15- `I will plant then in their land, and no longer shall they be pulled up from the land I have given them, says the Lord your God.` Chaim Yisrael Chai!
It is also true with the Feast of Purim. The evil intentions of Haman to destroy and annihilate all the Jews living in the Persian Empire resulted in his own death. All of his own mischief and evil intentions resulted in him falling into the very pit he dug for the people he wanted to destroy. Today Israel continues to face many enemies who are threatening to destroy them. We have modern day Haman’s living today who have the same intentions to destroy the Jews, but their fate will be the same as all of their predecessors because, He who touches Israel touches the apple of my eye. I will curse those who curse my people. The story of Purim is a warning of what happens to a leader or a nation that arrogantly curses the people of God. God’s promise and commitment to Israel is that He will judge mankind in direct proportion in how they treat His people. That is why we are so blessed to have a Prime Minister that supports and blesses Israel. Because of Steven Harpers moral and righteous stand, we have become known as a sheep nation. Adonai`s promise is I will bless those who bless my people.
One of the main messages of Purim is the power of intercession and how Queen Esther sent out a call to fast and pray in order to overturn a decree of death that was pronounced upon her people. Purim is the Hebrew word for “lots” in remembrance of the Pur (lot) cast by the wicked Haman to determine the month and day on which the Jewish people were to be destroyed. Ironically, the very lot that was thrown to determine the day of Israel’s destruction, the 13th. of Adar (March 15th. this year) became the very day that was chosen by the Jews to celebrate as a day which was turned from sorrow to joy and from mourning to a holiday that they should make them days of feasting and joy. Haman found out that there is no good day, or any day to hate the people whom God loves. Many people today believe as Haman did. They believe that life is determined by luck, by chance, by throwing of the dice. Just as God was in control in Esther’s day, He is still in control today. Proverbs 16:33 tells us that you can cast dice, live by chance, but God will still work out His divine plan. “The lot is cast into the lap but every decision is from the Lord.” We don’t live our lives by luck, fate or chance but by faith in the living God who loves us and gave Himself up for us and who knows the length of our days from beginning to end.
This ancient story of Esther took place around 538BC, 70 years after the Babylonian captivity. When the Babylonian empire was defeated, the incoming Persian King Cyrus turned out to be a benevolent King toward the Jews. He allowed them to prosper in the land and gave them opportunity to return to their homeland even helping to finance their return under Nehemiah. But there were many Jews who chose to stay in ancient Persia. Many were reluctant to leave their comfortable lifestyle and return to a desolate and forsaken land. After being away for 70 years, many lost sight of their calling, their destiny and their desire to return and rebuild. Many had become wealthy, content and well integrated into Persian society.
This is not unlike many North American Jews living in the Diaspora today who have become very comfortable and satisfied with life here. Life is good. The thought of returning to Israel with the fear of war, of missiles and terrorism, of traveling across the ocean, becoming part of a different culture, learning Hebrew, facing a higher standard of living and giving up so much, is too high a price for many. In spite of the many challenges, difficulties and threats of war, there are many who are responding to the call of God and making Aliyah to Israel. Israel has grown from 500,000 in 1948 to over 5 million today and the numbers continue to grow.
The message for us today parallels this ancient story. Don’t become too comfortable and content in the things of this world because circumstances can change very quickly in your life and they often come unannounced. One day the Jews in Persia felt safe and secure, the next day their lives were in turmoil after hearing that a decree of death had become the law of the land, Esther 3:13-15. And in every province where the king’s command and decree arrived, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping, and wailing, and many lay in sackcloth and ashes. We have all experienced times in our lives when things seem to be moving along smoothly. Life is good. Then suddenly something happens and our lives are turned upside down. We become fearful and confused.
People today are losing their homes, their jobs, family members. Marriages are failing. We are living in difficult times. How do you deal with a circumstance that comes suddenly and without warning into your life? Do you panic and become fearful? We need to prepare ourselves spiritually, emotionally, and physically because uncertain and perilous times are ahead. When prophetic events occur, I guarantee you that they will come suddenly and without warning especially to those who are unprepared.
Shaul warned us of the coming Day of the Lord in 1 Thess. 5:1-4 “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you brethren, are not in the darkness so that this day should overtake you as a thief. For you are sons of light and sons of the day.”
The operative word is Be Prepared. Be like the five wise virgins and not the five foolish ones who were sleeping and unprepared for their bridegroom. It is prayer and diligent study of the word that will help prepare us , to keep us sober, alert and watchful. Prayer and the word are spiritual weapons of warfare that we can use against the enemy. Prayer and the sword of the spirit are offensive weapons to defeat the works of the enemy in our lives. In spite of what our enemies conceive for evil God always has a plan. God is never taken by surprise. He is always prepared, always ready, always there at a moment’s notice. He is the sovereign and omnipresent God of the universe who is all powerful, all knowing and all powerful and you know what? He is on our side! We are on the winning side. We can’t be defeated. If He is for us who can be against us? We are victorious overcomers.
The main characters in this story were Esther, Mordecai, Haman and the King. Each one played a significant role. It was because of Mordecai’s righteous stand in refusing to bow down to Haman and worship him that created the circumstances for this story. Mordecai was from the tribe of Benjamin the same as King Saul. This historical fact created an interesting background to this story. The other main character was Haman the bad guy and was given the reputation as Mr. Boo man! He was an Agagite, a descendant of the King of the Amalekites who lived during the time of King Saul. King Saul was given the command by God to destroy the Amalekites because of how they treated Israel when they came out of Egypt. They refused to allow them passage through their land on their way to the Promised Land . They cursed and harassed them as they passed by. God’s purpose was to destroy the Amalekites for their treatment of Israel and He intended to fulfill the Abrahamic curse through King Saul but he disobeyed Gods command. It was because of his sin of disobedience that Saul was rejected as King. If King Saul had been obedient in carrying out this command, this threat of annihilation of the Jewish people in the book of Esther may never have happened. Disobedience has serious consequences. Ironically, Mordecai was a descendant of King Saul. Haman was a descendant of the Amalekites.
It was six centuries later that these two descendants met once again. As the book of Esther concludes we read that Mordecai completed the job that King Saul failed to do. Haman and all of his sons were put to death fulfilling the curse that God pronounced upon the Amalekites. It was Mordecai who recognized the providence of God in realizing that Esther was supernaturally appointed as Queen. How could an orphan, an unknown be chosen to be the queen over the greatest empire of the day? What were her chances of her becoming Queen unless Adonai orchestrated it? Esther 4:11-13. The Queen realized how dangerous this request would be, to go before the King without being summoned. It was against royal protocol, even for the Queen. It would mean certain death. But Mordecai reminded her that she was strategically placed in a position of great power and authority and was positioned in the kingdom for such a time as this. Don’t miss your opportunity Esther. God put you there for a reason.
4:14- “For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise 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 accepted the challenge and sent out a call throughout the empire for the people to fast and pray for three days, 4: 15-17. This is the heart of a true intercessor, one who is willing to intercede and stand in the gap in the face of danger. Esther had to go before an ungodly King to make her request not knowing whether she would live or die. As she entered the inner court of the king, the King said to her, “What do you wish, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given to you, even up to half of my kingdom.” Before Esther even made her request known to the king, she already had found his favor. To her amazement he was willing to give her half of his kingdom more than she had even requested.
Adonai has a way of changing hearts through prayer. Prov. 21:1 says, “The Kings heart is in the hand of the Lord. Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.” The kings heart was in the hand of the Lord and like rivers of water, the Lord turned it according to His will. When we stop and consider how an ungodly king was willing to grant Esther her request and share half of his kingdom with her;
“How much more will God bring about justice for His elect who cry to him day and night and will He delay long over them? Luke 18 The Lord says, ask and it shall be given to you, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives and he who seeks finds and to him who knocks it shall be opened.” Mt. 7
If God did not spare His own son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him freely give us all things. The Lord is more than willing to give us exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think.”
As children of the king of kings and. Lord of Lords, we don’t have to approach our king with fear and trepidation. We can approach His throne with boldness and confidence. We have free access into the Kings presence 24/7. It was because of Queen Esther, Mordecai and the people of God who were willing to fast, to intercede and pray that they received this great victory over the enemies. Many even became Jews. As Queen Esther revealed the true nature of Haman’s evil plan, Haman was put to death and the Abrahamic curse was put into effect. I will curse those who curse thee. The very curse that Haman meant for the Jews was the very curse that came upon him.
The principle of the Abrahamic curse was fulfilled in the life of Haman.
- It was Haman who built the gallows to hang Mordecai but it was he himself who was hung upon them.
- It was Haman who sought for power, honor and position but instead it was His position, authority and honor was given to Mordecai the very one he hated.
- It was Haman who sought to kill all the Jews in his empire, but it was Haman and his entire family as well as those who hated the Jews that were killed.
- It was Haman who sought to wipe out the worship of the one true God by trying to force the Jews to bow down and worship him. Instead many among the peoples of the land became Jews and worshipped the God of Israel because the fear of the Jews fell upon them.
- The very day that Haman determined to destroy the Jews became the very day that the Jews instituted as the day to celebrate Gods victory over Haman and his enemies.
The path of Anti-Semitism is a well-worn path that will always lead to the destruction of those who choose to walk on it. The Hamans of history have been far too many. There was Pharaoh, the Philistines, the Babylonians, Antiochus, Hitler, the Khoemeni (whose name actually means Haman), Arafat, Assad, Saddam Hussein , Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Israel is facing a similar situation today. Just as Haman threatened the Jews of that day, Israel’s very survival is being threatened today, ironically from the very place that the events of Purim occurred. Ancient Persia is modern day Iran. There is a decree of death being pronounced over Israel. May this story challenge us to pray and intercede for the people of God. In the time of Esther and Mordecai, Israel had only one enemy come against them. Today Israel has many enemies who are united with a common cause, the destruction of Israel. The Hamas, Hezbollah, the entire Islamic world are hostile towards Israel and have threatened to annihilate them. We have an opportunity to pray, to intercede and fast so that Adonai will protect our people and not allow this evil decree to be carried out against them. We can have an important part in praying for the salvation of Israel and the Jewish people.
2 Ch. 7:14 “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. And my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to prayer made in this place.” Will you commit yourself to pray and intercede? Will you be a watchman on the wall?
“On your walls O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen; All day and all night they will never keep silent. You who remind the Lord, take no rest for yourselves; and give Him no rest until He establishes and makes Jerusalem a praise in all the earth.” Is. 62