A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog post titled, “A Month of Happiness,” regarding the Jewish month of Adar. It is about the story of Esther from the Old Testament. The month of Adar was “the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration” (Esther 9:22). That celebration within the month of Adar is known as Purim. The basic story of Purim can be found at this link.
This weekend, including Monday, celebrates Purim (and Shushan Purim). It is celebrated on the 14th and 15th of Adar each year which translates to February 23-25, 2013, on our calendar this year (sundown to sundown). While the name of God is never mentioned in Book of Esther, God is all over every detail of the story. It is a story about how God rescued His people from annihilation at the hands of some truly evil people (and one person specifically, Haman). It is truly one of the “great escape” stories of the Old Testament and is cause for the greatest celebration in the Jewish calendar year to this day.
We live and breathe in a physical world of sights, sounds, sensations, and scientific facts; so much so, that we forget the reality of the spiritual realm. Indeed, many folks scoff at such a “reality.” If they can’t see it, touch it, or experience it, they doubt it’s existence and scoff at those who do believe. The powers of darkness have never had a better deal then this–to blind people to the reality of the spiritual realm. We laugh at the caricature of the devil in a red suit with a pitchfork, but fail to see the reality of his work in the temptations we succumb to and the trials we go through every single day of our lives. Ephesians 6:11-13 (NIV) makes it clear that the war going on in the spiritual realm in no laughing matter: “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”
We are in a war, folks. And it’s a war we can’t fight or win on our own. We are in a daily spiritual battle, whether we realize it or not (and if we don’t realize it, we have lost the battle already). Just coasting along on the wings of God’s love without an understanding of the spiritual war all around us will get us maimed and/or killed. Ephesians 6:10-18 (MSG) makes that clear. Let’s read it from The Message Bible:
“. . . God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.
“Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.”
Esther understood this. So did Mordecai. When one is up against the evil of a Haman (or any evil), only the power of God can break it. Human flesh cannot. When Mordecai learned of the plot by Haman to have all of the Jews annihilated on the 13th of Adar, he sought Esther’s help (read Esther 4 for the full account). Esther 4:15-16 states, “Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: ‘Go gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.’”
The outcome, of course, was that in the end the Jews were able to defend themselves successfully on the 13th of Adar and the destruction that Haman planned specifically for Mordecai fell on Haman instead (as well as his ten sons). Haman was hanged on the very gallows he had built for Mordecai. And due to the success of the Jews on the 13th day of Adar, the celebration of Purim was instituted on the 14th of Adar which is still celebrated to this very day.
We hear a lot about God’s love today, but hardly anything about spiritual warfare. We live our lives any way we want and expect God to keep us from all harm. Almost any kind of discipline in the Christian life (at least here in America) is sorely lacking as we live our lives much like the rest of the culture all around us with it’s many excesses and throw in a little “God talk” and maybe a cursory reading of a few verses in the Bible on Sunday morning to make us feel good (and impress others). But a relationship, a real relationship with Jesus? Does anybody really have that? And if so, how can anybody else even tell? Not by our actions most of the time.
When I was a child growing up in the church forty and fifty years ago, there were many hymns that we sang that we don’t hear much today. Those hymns spoke of power—power in the blood, power in the name of Jesus . . . the power of God. After Jesus’ resurrection what did He tells the disciples in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20)? He told them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
All authority–all power–in heaven and earth has been given to Jesus, and we don’t even take the time to get to know Him because we are too busy running our own lives and asking Him to bless what we do or what we want. We are too busy building our own little kingdoms right here on earth to bother with His kingdom.
Esther and Mordecai and the rest of the Jewish people KNEW they couldn’t do anything on their own. They knew their very lives depended on the power of God to save them. They fasted for three days for His guidance. They took God very seriously. And they knew they were in a spiritual battle and that only God could save them from their fierce enemies.
Over the past several decades we have gone from a focus on Jesus to a focus on us and what we want (and please bless it, Jesus). We know more about the soap opera stars on TV, or our favorite sports stars and celebrities then we know about Jesus, and yet when we get in a jam we expect Him to show up and get us out of it.
We’ve lost our way and we need to get back . . . .
The celebration of Purim is one of God’s “great escape” stories of how He delivered His people from certain destruction at the hands of a very fierce enemy. It required the total submission of His people (Esther, Mordecai, and the rest of the Jewish people who fasted so that Esther would gain the wisdom she needed to speak the truth to the King and also to prepare the King’s heart for what she had to say). And a tragedy of monumental proportions was averted.
Wishy-washy “Christianity” will accomplish nothing. If we took God as seriously as we take everything else that is important to us in our lives (and most of that stuff is really detrimental to us–like the love of money and material possessions and all the other stuff that clogs up our lives), imagine what a better place this world would be. We’d actually stop being so selfish and self-consumed. We might actually even learn to love each other instead of talking about people behind their backs.
The celebration of Purim is a wake-up call for the rest of us. Do we want to see victory in our own lives and not for selfish reasons but so that the power of God can be displayed to this world of ours? The story of Esther is a powerful example down through the ages of what God can and will do when His people turn to Him instead of relying on themselves.
It’s Jesus’ name that should be lifted up, and not our own.
YouTube Video: “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” sung by Chris Tomlin: