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Free At Last

CelebrateDuring the next several days ending on Sunday, March 27, 2016, we will be celebrating several events here in America that encompass one of the greatest themes known to humankind–deliverance. Also known as Passion Week (the last week in the life of Jesus Christ), it starts this Sunday, March 20, 2016, which is Palm Sunday, and is followed by Good Friday on March 25th, and Easter on Sunday, March 27th. Thrown into the middle of this week is the Jewish holiday of Purim (based on the Old Testament book of Esther), which starts at sundown on Wednesday, March 23rd, and ends at sundown on Thursday, March 24th.

For the past couple of years I have reposted a blog post I first wrote at Easter 2013. That post is titled, On the Road to Emmaus (click here for link to last year’s reblogged post). I’ve also posted two other blog posts on Easter titled, He Is Risen (click here), and The Resurrection of Jesus Christ (click here). Also, I have posted a blog post originally written on Purim 2014 with the latest version, Celebrate Purim 5775 (2015),” published last year (click here for post).

The holidays of Purim and Easter are two holidays celebrating this theme of deliverance. Back in 2005 when Purim and Easter fell on the same day, Day of Discovery published a video titled, Two Holidays of Deliverance: Purim and Easter (click here to watch the video). Here is a brief description of Purim from Wikipedia.com:

Purim (Hebrew: פּוּרִים) is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire where a plot had been formed to destroy them. The story is recorded in the Book of Esther (Megillat Ester מגילת אסתר in Hebrew).

According to the Book of Esther, Haman, royal vizier to King Ahasuerus (presumed to be Xerxes I of Persia) planned to kill all the Jews in the empire, but his plans were foiled by Mordecai and his adopted daughter Esther who had risen to become Queen of Persia. The day of deliverance became a day of feasting and rejoicing (quote source here). [The entire story can be read in the Old Testament book of Esther].

Easter, of course, is the Christian holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead–giving new life to all who believe in Jesus as the One and Only Son of God (see John 3:16-18):

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. ~John 3:16-18

While I was tempted to repost my previously written blog posts on Purim and Easter from past years again for this year, the subject of deliverance is one that is too important to overlook. So let’s start by finding out what the Bible says on the subject of deliverance. GotQuestions.org states:

Deliverance is defined as “a rescue from bondage or danger.” Deliverance in the Bible is the acts of God whereby He rescues His people from peril. In the Old Testament, deliverance is focused primarily on God’s removal of those who are in the midst of trouble or danger. He rescues His people from their enemies (1 Samuel 17:37; 2 Kings 20:6), and from the hand of the wicked (Psalm 7:2; 17:13; 18:16-19; 59:2). He preserves them from famine (Psalm 33:19), death (Psalm 22:19-21), and the grave (Psalm 56:13; 86:13Hosea 13:14). The most striking example of deliverance is the exodus from Egypt (Exodus 3:8; 6:6; 8:10). Here is God defined as the Deliverer of Israel who rescues His people, not because they deserve to be rescued, but as an expression of His mercy and love (Psalm 51:1; 71:2; 86:13).

In the New Testament, God is always the subject—and His people are always the object—of deliverance. The descriptions of temporal deliverance in the Old Testament serve as symbolic representations of the spiritual deliverance from sin which is available only through Christ. He offers deliverance from mankind’s greatest peril—sin, evil, death and judgment. By God’s power, believers are delivered from this present evil age (Galatians 1:4) and from the power of Satan’s reign (Colossians 1:13). All aspects of deliverance are available only through the person and work of Jesus Christ, who was Himself delivered up for us (Romans 4:25) so that we would be delivered from eternal punishment for sin. Only Jesus rescues us from the “wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

Another aspect of deliverance concerns the temporal. While believers are delivered once for all time from eternal punishment, we are also delivered from the trials of this life (2 Peter 2:9). Sometimes that deliverance is God simply walking through the trials by our side, comforting and encouraging us through them as He uses them to mature us in the faith. Paul assured the Corinthian believers that “no temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). In these cases, rescue is not immediate, but in due time, after patience has had its perfect work (James 1:2-412). God makes the way of escape simultaneously with the temptation which, in His perfect will and timing, He permissively arranges or allows for His people.

Deliverance is often sought from evil spirits or the spirit of lust, jealousy, etc. It’s important to understand that, as believers, we already have eternal victory over Satan and demons. But we can be delivered from their influence in our lives by using two weapons God has given us as part of our spiritual armor with which we battle “against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12-17). The believer defends himself with the shield of faith and uses the offensive weapon of the Word of God. Against these two, no spirit can prevail. By holding up the shield of faith, we extinguish the flaming spiritual arrows they send against us, arrows of lust, doubt, guilt, jealousy, evil speech, and all manner of temptations. With the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, we overcome the evil one by proving his temptations to be lies because he is the father of lies (John 8:44). John’s second letter commends the young Christians whose spiritual strength came from the Word of God living in them. By the offensive weapon of the Truth, we overcome the evil one (1 John 2:14).

Deliverance from sin, rescue from trials, and escape from the influence of a world in the control of the evil one come only through Christ, the Son of God who has come and “has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true—even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:19-20). (Quote source here.)

It is God who delivers. When we find ourselves going through very trying times that never seem to end, no matter how hard we may try to coerce or plead with God, or try to work it out on our own or manipulate our circumstances, it is only God who delivers in His way and in His timing. He sees the whole picture, and it’s always much broader then we can possibly know, conceive, understand, or imagine it to be. And it is always far greater and wider reaching than what we as individuals are personally going through at any point in time, although what we are personally going through is also of great importance to Him, too. Everything in this life is connected in one way or another, and in ways we cannot possibly understand. God didn’t create this world and then decide to leave it up to us to run. After all, we know what happened in the Garden of Eden when left on our own, and we haven’t done much better on our own down through the ages to today.

freedomDietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), a German Lutheran pastor, theologian, anti-Nazi dissident, and key founding member of the Confessing Church during the reign of Adolf Hitler in Germany (1933-1945), wrote a statement in his diary in 1939 at a time when he was contemplating returning to Germany after spending only 26 days in New York City. While he was “safe” in New York City from the reach of Hitler, he was compelled to return to Germany in spite of Hitler’s growing reign of terror. While making the decision to return to Berlin, Bonhoeffer wrote the following in his diary:

It is remarkable how I am never quite clear about the motives for any of my decisions. Is that a sign of confusion, of inner dishonesty, or is it a sign that we are guided without our knowing, or is it both? . . . Today the reading [a passage of Scripture not noted in this diary entry] speaks dreadfully harshly of God’s incorruptible judgement. He certainly sees how much personal feeling, how much anxiety there is in today’s decision, however brave it may seem. The reasons one gives for an action to others and to one’s self are certainly inadequate. One can give a reason for everything. In the last resort one acts from a level which remains hidden from us. So one can only ask God to judge us and to forgive us. . . . At the end of the day I can only ask God to give a merciful judgement on today and all it’s decisions. It is now in his hand. (Quote source: Bonhoeffer Abridged: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (2014), by Eric Metaxas, p. 130).

Now I assume some people reading this blog post may not believe in God or at least think it is crazy that a God “out there somewhere” (if he even exists) would care about the decisions we make, or even on some level unknown to us, that this God could be directing our steps. However, God is not surprised by any of our actions whether good or evil, but only God can use everything to fulfill His purposes in this world which really does belong to Him. That is not to say we are robots as we certainly do make our own choices, even those choices that turn out to be extremely detrimental to us. When sin showed up in the Garden of Eden, it was passed down to all of us, and we all succumb to it on a very regular basis. The Bible is filled with the history of people who accomplished His will unknown to them on a personal level (even people who never claimed to believe in Him). However, it is also filled with many stories of people who loved God and sought His will on a regular basis.

Here are a couple of verses to get us thinking in this direction:

The Lord works out everything to its proper end—even the wicked for a day of disaster.” ~Proverbs 16:4

“For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” ~Philippians 2:13

While scoffers are everywhere, for those of us who believe in Jesus Christ, we know that Romans 8:28-30 are key in understanding the very thing Bonhoeffer wrote in his diary on that day he made his decision to return to Germany:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. ~Romans 8:28-30

For the Christian, the more we love and follow after Jesus Christ (and I’m not talking about putting on a religious show), the more He shapes us into what he wants us to be and do in this life. Psalms 37:3-4 states the following:

Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

“Safe pasture” isn’t always what we think it might be, but if we trust in the Lord with all of our heart (see Proverbs 3:5-6), the safe pasture can be found even in a hotel room. It is not in the externals of life (e.g., a hotel room) where we find safe pasture, but in Who we trust to take care of us during this journey through life. And, in looking at the second verse, as we learn to delight in the Lord even when fear is stalking our paths, we find that the desires of our heart change to His desires for us, and our faith and trust in Him grows exponentially.

Let’s look at the two verses in Proverbs I mentioned above–Proverbs 3:5-6:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Being human, our tendency to lean on our own understanding is as automatic as breathing air. I can’t tell you how many times over these past almost seven years now since I lost that job in Houston that I have thought something would work out one way and what actually happened could not have been further from what I thought would happen. It is so hard to “let go” of our own understanding when our world gets pulled out from under our feet. It requires total trust in God that the inner compass he provides will lead us on even when we don’t understand, just as Bonhoeffer stated in his diary entry on that very important decision-making day in his life. And, as we learn to trust that inner compass and submit ourselves totally to God on a daily basis, He makes our path straight, even if that path includes living in hotel rooms temporarily in two different cities as has been my circumstances for the past 17 plus months. And there have been times when I have experienced exactly what Bonhoeffer wrote about when he was making his decision to return to Germany. As we experience God bringing us through each day according to His will and not our own, the world around us opens up in amazing ways we would never have seen and experienced in any other way. And all of the people mentioned in Hebrews 11 (the “Hall of Faith” chapter in the Bible) knew the power of following God without knowing where it was leading in this life, but with an eternal perspective in mind.

Returning to the Easter story, Jesus Christ was both fully human and fully God (see John 1:1-18). Imagine being in his shoes from a human perspective during that last week of his life (click here for the chronology of the last week). Imagine what he must have been going through during the last 24 hours before he was crucified. Imagine what he must have been praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. We know part of what he said as it is recorded in Matthew 26:39 when he prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Yet he knew the balance of the whole human race was about to change forever through his death by crucifixion, his burial, and his resurrection again on the third day. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). And for the past two millennium people from all the nations around the world have been coming to him and trusting in him as Savior and Lord.

As Hebrews 12:1-2 states:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses [the people mentioned in Hebrews 11], let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

As we start into the Passion Week, the last week of Jesus’ life before his resurrection on Easter Sunday, may we commit to . . .

Running with perseverance . . .

The race marked out for us . . .

Fixing our eyes on Jesus . . . .

YouTube Video: “Ready” by Third Day:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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Celebrating Purim 5775 (2015)

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Today, March 5, 2015, is the celebration of the Jewish holiday of Purim. The following blog post below was written a year ago on Purim 2014. The only changes that has been made in it from last year’s post is the updating of the date for Purim on our Western Calendar for 2015, and a new YouTube Video, Purim Song,” at the end of the post.

Celebrating Purim

Originally posted on March 12, 2014 (date changed to reflect date for 2015)

happy purimThe Jewish holiday of Purim is celebrated every year on the 14th day of the month of Adar on the Hebrew calendar and it is a celebration of victory for the Jews over their enemies. On our Western calendar, this year it started at sundown yesterday (March 4th) and ends this evening at nightfall March 5th. Here is a brief description of Purim from Wikipedia.com:

Purim (Hebrew: פּוּרִים) is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire where a plot had been formed to destroy them. The story is recorded in the Book of Esther (Megillat Ester מגילת אסתר in Hebrew).

According to the Book of Esther, Haman, royal vizier to King Ahasuerus (presumed to be Xerxes I of Persia) planned to kill all the Jews in the empire, but his plans were foiled by Mordecai and his adopted daughter Esther who had risen to become Queen of Persia. The day of deliverance became a day of feasting and rejoicing (quote source here).

The entire story can be read in the Biblical Book of Esther in the Old Testament. Wikipedia.com provides this plot summary at this link:

Ahasuerus, ruler of a massive Persian empire, holds a lavish party, initially for his court and dignitaries and afterwards for all inhabitants of the capital city Shushan. Ahasuerus orders the queen Vashti to display her beauty before the guests. She refuses. Worried all women will learn from this, Ahasuerus removes her as queen and has a royal decree sent across the empire that men should be the ruler of their households and should speak their own native tongue. Ahasuerus then orders all beautiful young girls to be presented to him, so he can choose a new queen to replace Vashti. One of these is the orphan Esther, whose Jewish name is Hadassah. After the death of her parents, she is being fostered by her cousin Mordecai. She finds favor in the king’s eyes, and is made his new queen. Esther does not reveal that she is Jewish. Shortly afterwards, Mordecai discovers a plot by courtierBigthan and Teresh to assassinate Ahasuerus. The conspirators are apprehended and hanged, and Mordecai’s service to the king is recorded.

Ahasuerus appoints Haman as his prime minister. Mordecai, who sits at the palace gates, falls into Haman’s disfavor as he refuses to bow down to him. Having found out that Mordecai is Jewish, Haman plans to kill not just Mordecai but all the Jews in the empire. He obtains Ahasuerus’ permission to execute this plan, against payment of ten thousand talents of silver (which the King declines to accept and rather allows him to execute his plan on principle), and he casts lots to choose the date on which to do this—the thirteenth of the month of Adar. On that day, everyone in the empire is free to massacre the Jews and despoil their property. When Mordecai finds out about the plans he and all Jews mourn and fast. Mordecai informs Esther what has happened and tells her to intercede with the King. She is afraid to break the law and go to the King unsummoned. This action would incur the death penalty. Mordecai tells her that she must. She orders Mordecai to have all Jews fast for three days together with her, and on the third day she goes to Ahasuerus, who stretches out his sceptre to her which shows that she is not to be punished. She invites him to a feast in the company of Haman. During the feast, she asks them to attend a further feast the next evening. Meanwhile, Haman is again offended by Mordecai and consults with his friends. At his wife’s suggestion, he builds a gallows for Mordecai.

That night, Ahasuerus suffers from insomnia, and when the court records are read to him to help him sleep, he learns of the services rendered by Mordecai in the previous plot against his life. Ahasuerus is told that Mordecai has not received any recognition for saving the king’s life. Just then, Haman appears, to ask the King to hang Mordecai, but before he can make this request, King Ahasuerus asks Haman what should be done for the man that the king wishes to honor. Thinking that the man that the king is referring to is himself, Haman says that the man should be dressed in the king’s royal robes and led around on the king’s royal horse, while a herald calls: “See how the king honours a man he wishes to reward!” To his horror and surprise, the king instructs Haman to do so to Mordecai. After leading Mordecai’s parade, he returns in mourning to his wife and friends, who suggest his downfall has begun.

Immediately after, Ahasuerus and Haman attend Esther’s second banquet, at which she reveals that she is Jewish and that Haman is planning to exterminate her people, including her. Overcome by rage, Ahasuerus leaves the room; meanwhile Haman stays behind and begs Esther for his life, falling upon her in desperation. The king comes back in at this moment and thinks Haman is assaulting the queen; this makes him angrier than before and he orders Haman hanged on the gallows that Haman had prepared for Mordecai. The previous decree against the Jews cannot be annulled, but the king allows the Jews to defend themselves during attacks. As a result, on 13 Adar, 500 attackers and Haman’s ten sons are killed in Shushan, followed by a Jewish slaughter of 75,000 Persians, although they took no plunder. Esther sends a letter instituting an annual commemoration of the Jewish people’s redemption, in a holiday called Purim (lots). Ahasuerus remains very powerful and continues reigning, with Mordecai assuming a prominent position in his court (quote source here).

The story of Esther is truly one of the most inspiring stories in the Old Testament, and while the name of God is not mentioned in the Book of Esther, God is all over every page and circumstance that happens in this book. It is about a courageous young Jewish woman and her relative, Mordecai, whose faith and courage remained unwavering in the midst of a plot to destroy all of the Jewish people in Persia. And the plot was not only foiled, but the man behind the plot fell victim to the very plans that he laid out for the destruction of Mordecai.

Faith has nothing to do with how we look on Sunday morning or who we know at church or in the community-at-large. It is a total dependence on God in the midst of circumstances we cannot control. It is not looking out to the larger world to find answers, but relying on God to supply them as they are needed. It is a laying down of any personal agendas; indeed, of one’s own pride and self-sufficiency, and humbly submitting our lives to the will of God. Without this, faith is meaningless. It becomes nothing more than depending on our own resources or people we know to get us out of our trials and circumstances.

True faith leaves the circumstances and the results up to God. True faith doesn’t try to manipulate; it doesn’t fabricate; it doesn’t deceive others to get our own way. In fact, true faith isn’t about us and what we want; it’s about God and how He is working in this world of ours. And it’s about giving Him total control of the situation and following His lead and not one of our own making.

Far too often we view faith as something we want to manipulate in our own small world, yet God is at work in the entire world weaving a large and dynamic story of the history of humankind, and each of us has a role in it. It’s not about selfishly seeking for our own gain, but living daily under God’s control so that His will is accomplished through us. Second Peter 3:8-9 summarized God’s mission on this earth:

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

If we take seriously the stories in the Old and New Testaments, God is not into giving us everything we want in this life so that we can have “the good life.” That is an American ideal that has no basis in Scripture. Whether as Kings or paupers, Biblical characters from Abraham, Moses, Esther, Job, David, Solomon, the Prophets, John the Baptist, Mary and Joseph, Jesus Christ (the Son of God), Nicodemus, the Disciples, Paul (and the list goes on and on), the one thing they all had in common was total submission to God and His will, not their own will. They weren’t always perfect at it but God looks at the heart attitude. And a selfish and self-centered heart attitude doesn’t know God, nor does it care about His will.

God’s will is done in each and every one of our lives on this planet of ours, make no mistake about that. Whether we acknowledge Him or not, He is still in ultimate control. Whether we submit to that control determines which way our lives will go–either self-serving or serving God. In the story of Esther, there came a point when she was Queen where she had to make a choice, and it was clear that even if she didn’t make the right choice, God would still find someone else to bring about the redemption needed to save the Jews at that time. When the plot by Haman became known throughout Persia to kill all the Jews, Mordecai sent this message to Esther (Esther 4:13-14):

Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?

We make choices daily that indicate who we really serve–God or ourselves. It shows in the way we treat others, including those we don’t like or view as our enemies. It shows in how we spend our time and our money, and what is truly important to us (e.g., status, careers, money, possessions, etc.) Every decision we make is either self-center or God-centered. We live in a society that is constantly telling us to put the focus on ourselves and what we want, and that attitude has invaded the Church-at-large. And if we are focusing on what we want all the time, we will eventually drown out the voice of God in our lives as to what He wants us to do, and He will look elsewhere to accomplish His will, just as Mordecai stated to Esther.

Esther chose right because she had a heart for God and for her people, the Jews. She wasn’t focused on being Queen, but on being God’s servant in the role He had given to her. How much do we miss today because we focus on ourselves and what we want more than we focus on truly getting to know God and what He wants? Mostly likely far too often.

The celebration of Purim stands as a monument to us down through the ages as to what one person can accomplish who is truly sold out to God and His will. Through her obedience to God, Esther’s actions saved her people, the Jews living in Persia, from total destruction.

Our challenge today is to take our eyes off of everything our society offers to us and what we want, and to spend time understanding what God would have us to do in this world of ours. We never know what circumstances might be coming our way–for example, I never dreamed I’d spend five years late in life unemployed through no fault of my own. Yet if that had not happened, my life would have still been focused on me trying to find “my best life now” and asking God to bless it instead of getting to know God through Jesus Christ and what He would have me do with my life in serving Him.

While most of us may not ever have to make a decision on the scale of Esther’s, we have no idea what the impact on others might be even in the smallest decisions we make if they are God-focused and not self-focused. God’s focus is on the redemption of humankind. And that should be our focus, too.

I challenge all of us to take some time in the next few days to consider the story of Esther and how it applies to our own life, even in the small decisions we make. Are our lives God-focused or self-focused?

Now is the time . . .

Before it’s too late . . .

Don’t wait . . . .

YouTube Video: “Purim Song” by the Maccabeats:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here

Celebrating Purim 2014

happy purimThe Jewish holiday of Purim is celebrated every year on the 14th day of the month of Adar on the Hebrew calendar and it is a celebration of victory for the Jews over their enemies. On our Western calendar, this year it falls on March 15th (starting at sundown) and ends on March 16th (at nightfall). Here is a brief description of Purim from Wikipedia.com:

Purim (Hebrew: פּוּרִים) is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire where a plot had been formed to destroy them. The story is recorded in the Book of Esther (Megillat Ester מגילת אסתר in Hebrew).

According to the Book of Esther, Haman, royal vizier to King Ahasuerus (presumed to be Xerxes I of Persia) planned to kill all the Jews in the empire, but his plans were foiled by Mordecai and his adopted daughter Esther who had risen to become Queen of Persia. The day of deliverance became a day of feasting and rejoicing (quote source here).

The entire story can be read in the Biblical Book of Esther in the Old Testament. Wikipedia.com provides this plot summary at this link:

Ahasuerus, ruler of a massive Persian empire, holds a lavish party, initially for his court and dignitaries and afterwards for all inhabitants of the capital city Shushan. Ahasuerus orders the queen Vashti to display her beauty before the guests. She refuses. Worried all women will learn from this, Ahasuerus removes her as queen and has a royal decree sent across the empire that men should be the ruler of their households and should speak their own native tongue. Ahasuerus then orders all beautiful young girls to be presented to him, so he can choose a new queen to replace Vashti. One of these is the orphan Esther, whose Jewish name is Hadassah. After the death of her parents, she is being fostered by her cousin Mordecai. She finds favor in the king’s eyes, and is made his new queen. Esther does not reveal that she is Jewish. Shortly afterwards, Mordecai discovers a plot by courtiers Bigthan and Teresh to assassinate Ahasuerus. The conspirators are apprehended and hanged, and Mordecai’s service to the king is recorded.

Ahasuerus appoints Haman as his prime minister. Mordecai, who sits at the palace gates, falls into Haman’s disfavor as he refuses to bow down to him. Having found out that Mordecai is Jewish, Haman plans to kill not just Mordecai but all the Jews in the empire. He obtains Ahasuerus’ permission to execute this plan, against payment of ten thousand talents of silver (which the King declines to accept and rather allows him to execute his plan on principle), and he casts lots to choose the date on which to do this—the thirteenth of the month of Adar. On that day, everyone in the empire is free to massacre the Jews and despoil their property. When Mordecai finds out about the plans he and all Jews mourn and fast. Mordecai informs Esther what has happened and tells her to intercede with the King. She is afraid to break the law and go to the King unsummoned. This action would incur the death penalty. Mordecai tells her that she must. She orders Mordecai to have all Jews fast for three days together with her, and on the third day she goes to Ahasuerus, who stretches out his sceptre to her which shows that she is not to be punished. She invites him to a feast in the company of Haman. During the feast, she asks them to attend a further feast the next evening. Meanwhile, Haman is again offended by Mordecai and consults with his friends. At his wife’s suggestion, he builds a gallows for Mordecai.

That night, Ahasuerus suffers from insomnia, and when the court records are read to him to help him sleep, he learns of the services rendered by Mordecai in the previous plot against his life. Ahasuerus is told that Mordecai has not received any recognition for saving the king’s life. Just then, Haman appears, to ask the King to hang Mordecai, but before he can make this request, King Ahasuerus asks Haman what should be done for the man that the king wishes to honor. Thinking that the man that the king is referring to is himself, Haman says that the man should be dressed in the king’s royal robes and led around on the king’s royal horse, while a herald calls: “See how the king honours a man he wishes to reward!” To his horror and surprise, the king instructs Haman to do so to Mordecai. After leading Mordecai’s parade, he returns in mourning to his wife and friends, who suggest his downfall has begun.

Immediately after, Ahasuerus and Haman attend Esther’s second banquet, at which she reveals that she is Jewish and that Haman is planning to exterminate her people, including her. Overcome by rage, Ahasuerus leaves the room; meanwhile Haman stays behind and begs Esther for his life, falling upon her in desperation. The king comes back in at this moment and thinks Haman is assaulting the queen; this makes him angrier than before and he orders Haman hanged on the gallows that Haman had prepared for Mordecai. The previous decree against the Jews cannot be annulled, but the king allows the Jews to defend themselves during attacks. As a result, on 13 Adar, 500 attackers and Haman’s ten sons are killed in Shushan, followed by a Jewish slaughter of 75,000 Persians, although they took no plunder. Esther sends a letter instituting an annual commemoration of the Jewish people’s redemption, in a holiday called Purim (lots). Ahasuerus remains very powerful and continues reigning, with Mordecai assuming a prominent position in his court (quote source here).

The story of Esther is truly one of the most inspiring stories in the Old Testament, and while the name of God is not mentioned in the Book of Esther, God is all over every page and circumstance that happens in this book. It is about a courageous young Jewish woman and her relative, Mordecai, whose faith and courage remained unwavering in the midst of a plot to destroy all of the Jewish people in Persia. And the plot was not only foiled, but the man behind the plot fell victim to the very plans that he laid out for the destruction of Mordecai.

For such a time as thisFaith has nothing to do with how we look on Sunday morning or who we know at church or in the community-at-large. It is a total dependence on God in the midst of circumstances we cannot control. It is not looking out to the larger world to find answers, but relying on God to supply them as they are needed. It is a laying down of any personal agendas; indeed, of one’s own pride and self-sufficiency, and humbly submitting our lives to the will of God. Without this, faith is meaningless. It becomes nothing more than depending on our own resources or people we know to get us out of our trials and circumstances.

True faith leaves the circumstances and the results up to God. True faith doesn’t try to manipulate; it doesn’t fabricate; it doesn’t deceive others to get our own way. In fact, true faith isn’t about us and what we want; it’s about God and how He is working in this world of ours. And it’s about giving Him total control of the situation and following His lead and not one of our own making.

Far too often we view faith as something we want to manipulate in our own small world, yet God is at work in the entire world weaving a large and dynamic story of the history of humankind, and each of us has a role in it. It’s not about selfishly seeking for our own gain, but living daily under God’s control so that His will is accomplished through us. Second Peter 3:8-9 summarized God’s mission on this earth:

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

If we take seriously the stories in the Old and New Testaments, God is not into giving us everything we want in this life so that we can have “the good life.” That is an American ideal that has no basis in Scripture. Whether as Kings or paupers, Biblical characters from Abraham, Moses, Esther, Job, David, Solomon, the Prophets, John the Baptist, Mary and Joseph, Jesus Christ (the Son of God), Nicodemus, the Disciples, Paul (and the list goes on and on), the one thing they all had in common was total submission to God and His will, not their own will. They weren’t always perfect at it but God looks at the heart attitude. And a selfish and self-centered heart attitude doesn’t know God, nor does it care about His will.

God’s will is done in each and every one of our lives on this planet of ours, make no mistake about that. Whether we acknowledge Him or not, He is still in ultimate control. Whether we submit to that control determines which way our lives will go–either self-serving or serving God. In the story of Esther, there came a point when she was Queen where she had to make a choice, and it was clear that even if she didn’t make the right choice, God would still find someone else to bring about the redemption needed to save the Jews at that time. When the plot by Haman became known throughout Persia to kill all the Jews, Mordecai sent this message to Esther (Esther 4:13-14):

Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?

We make choices daily that indicate who we really serve–God or ourselves. It shows in the way we treat others, including those we don’t like or view as our enemies. It shows in how we spend our time and our money, and what is truly important to us (e.g., status, careers, money, possessions, etc.) Every decision we make is either self-center or God-centered. We live in a society that is constantly telling us to put the focus on ourselves and what we want, and that attitude has invaded the Church-at-large. And if we are focusing on what we want all the time, we will eventually drown out the voice of God in our lives as to what He wants us to do, and He will look elsewhere to accomplish His will, just as Mordecai stated to Esther.

Esther chose right because she had a heart for God and for her people, the Jews. She wasn’t focused on being Queen, but on being God’s servant in the role He had given to her. How much do we miss today because we focus on ourselves and what we want more than we focus on truly getting to know God and what He wants? Mostly likely far too often.

The celebration of Purim stands as a monument to us down through the ages as to what one person can accomplish who is truly sold out to God and His will. Through her obedience to God, Esther’s actions saved her people, the Jews living in Persia, from total destruction.

Our challenge today is to take our eyes off of everything our society offers to us and what we want, and to spend time understanding what God would have us to do in this world of ours. We never know what circumstances might be coming our way–for example, I never dreamed I’d spend five years late in life unemployed through no fault of my own. Yet if that had not happened, my life would have still been focused on me trying to find “my best life now” and asking God to bless it instead of getting to know God through Jesus Christ and what He would have me do with my life in serving Him.

While most of us may not ever have to make a decision on the scale of Esther’s, we have no idea what the impact on others might be even in the smallest decisions we make if they are God-focused and not self-focused. God’s focus is on the redemption of humankind. And that should be our focus, too.

I challenge all of us to take some time in the next few days to consider the story of Esther and how it applies to our own life, even in the small decisions we make. Are our lives God-focused or self-focused?

Now is the time . . .

Before it’s too late . . .

Don’t wait . . . .

YouTube Video: “High and Lifted Up” sung by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name

Water and FireA 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.

SandcastleWeekend @ www.movetoassurance.comWe 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 powerpower 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.

Hello?

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:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

A Month of Happiness

"My Cup Runneth Over"Artist: Yitzchok Moully

“My Cup Runneth Over”
Artist: Yitzchok Moully

Wouldn’t we all love to have one whole month of happiness? I know I sure could use one right about now after searching for a job for almost four years. On the Jewish calendar, the month of Adar is just such a month. The month of AdarAdar 1, 5773 to Adar 29, 5773–correlates to the same time frame this year on our calendar as February 11, 2013 to March 11, 2013. For more information on the Jewish calendar click here.

All days on the Jewish calendar start and end at sundownAnd as I am looking out my window right at this moment it is now sundown on February 11, 2013 . . . so let a month of happiness” begin!!!

Okay, I can hear you asking, “What is a month of happiness?” I’m glad you asked! 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). The story of Esther is one of my favorite stories from the Old Testament.

There are five main characters in the Book of Esther: Xerxes (the Hebrew rendering of the name is Ahashuerus), who was the King of the Persian Empire; Vashti, the Queen, who at the opening of the Book of Esther was deposed when she refused to come before the King on the final day of a lavish party he threw “eager to flaunt her beauty to his guests.” When she refused, the King was “filled with anger” and “he deposed Queen Vashti, forever removing her from his presence” (quote source here). Esther (her Hebrew name was “Hadassah), a young Jewish orphan who had an older cousin named Mordecai who raised her as his own daughter and she was described as being “lovely in form and features” (Esther 2:7). Mordecai, a Jew and Esther’s older cousin who “became a minor official in the Persian government of Susa” (quote course here); and Haman (an Agagite in the royal line of the Amalekite people which God commanded Saul to exterminate; however, he didn’t), who was the King’s highest official and described as “a wicked man. He hated the Jews and he especially hated Mordecai, who had refused to bow down to him” (quote source here). And he plotted to have all the Jews killed.

Now that you know the cast of characters, here a brief account of the story (you can read the entire account in the Bible/Old Testament in Esther 1-10). For those who are unfamiliar with the true story of Esther, the story unfolds from the time Queen Vashti was deposed and a search for a new queen began. The time frame for the events start when Esther was chosen from that search and taken to the King’s palace in 362 BC through the celebration of Purim in 356 BC, and were recorded in 355 BC which instituted the celebration of Purim for all future generations (source here). An excellent synopsis of the story has been written by Mary Fairchild at Christianity.about.com and is quoted below (source here):

To find his new queen, Xerxes hosted a royal beauty pageant and Esther was chosen for the throne. Her cousin Mordecai became a minor official in the Persian government of Susa.

Soon after, Mordecai uncovered a plot to assassinate the king. He told Esther about the conspiracy, and she reported it to Xerxes, giving credit to Mordecai. The plot was thwarted and Mordecai’s act of kindness was preserved in the chronicles of the king.

At this same time, the king’s highest official was a wicked man named Haman. He hated the Jews and he especially hated Mordecai, who had refused to bow down to him.

So, Haman devised a scheme to have every Jew in Persia killed. The king bought into the plot and agreed to annihilate the Jewish people on a specific day. Meanwhile, Mordecai learned of the plan and shared it with Esther, challenging her with these famous words:

“Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14).

Esther urged all of the Jews to fast and pray for deliverance. Then risking her own life, brave young Esther approached the king with a plan of her own.

She invited Xerxes and Haman to a banquet where eventually she revealed her Jewish heritage to the king, as well as Haman’s diabolical plot to have her and her people killed. In a rage, the king ordered Haman to be hung on the gallows–the very same gallows Haman had built for Mordecai. (Some translations read “impaled on a pole” rather than “hung on the gallows.” In ancient Persia the precursor to Roman crucifixion was done by impaling the body and hanging it on a wooden pole or stake.)

Mordecai was promoted to Haman’s high position and Jews were granted protection throughout the land. As the people celebrated God’s tremendous deliverance, the joyous festival of Purim was instituted.

Haman’s plan to have all the Jews anniliated was decreed by Persian law and set to take place on the 13th of Adar. This decree could not be revoked even by the King; however, since Mordecai was promoted to Haman’s high position, the King told Queen Esther and Mordecai, “Now write another decree in the king’s name in behalf of the Jews as seems best to you, and seal it with the king’s signet ring—for no document written in the king’s name and sealed with his ring can be revoked” (Esther 8:8). This new edict “granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate any armed force of any nationality or province that might attack them and their women and children; and to plunder the property of their enemies” on the 13th of Adar (Esther 8:11).

The rest of the story is quite exciting, and is taken directly from Esther 9:1-22:

“On the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, the edict commanded by the king was to be carried out. On this day the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, but now the tables were turned and the Jews got the upper hand over those who hated them. The Jews assembled in their cities in all the provinces of King Xerxes to attack those seeking their destruction. No one could stand against them, because the people of all the other nationalities were afraid of them. And all the nobles of the provinces, the satraps, the governors and the king’s administrators helped the Jews, because fear of Mordecai had seized them. Mordecai was prominent in the palace; his reputation spread throughout the provinces, and he became more and more powerful.

“The Jews struck down all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying them, and they did what they pleased to those who hated them. In the citadel of Susa, the Jews killed and destroyed five hundred men. They also killed Parshandatha, Dalphon, Aspatha, Poratha, Adalia, Aridatha, Parmashta, Arisai, Aridai and Vaizatha, the ten sons of Haman son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews. But they did not lay their hands on the plunder.

“The number of those slain in the citadel of Susa was reported to the king that same day. The king said to Queen Esther, ‘The Jews have killed and destroyed five hundred men and the ten sons of Haman in the citadel of Susa. What have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces? Now what is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? It will also be granted.’

“‘If it pleases the king,’ Esther answered, ‘give the Jews in Susa permission to carry out this day’s edict tomorrow also, and let Haman’s ten sons be hanged on gallows.’

“So the king commanded that this be done. An edict was issued in Susa, and they hanged the ten sons of Haman. The Jews in Susa came together on the fourteenth day of the month of Adar, and they put to death in Susa three hundred men, but they did not lay their hands on the plunder.

“Meanwhile, the remainder of the Jews who were in the king’s provinces also assembled to protect themselves and get relief from their enemies. They killed seventy-five thousand of them but did not lay their hands on the plunder. This happened on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar, and on the fourteenth they rested and made it a day of feasting and joy.

“The Jews in Susa, however, had assembled on the thirteenth and fourteenth, and then on the fifteenth they rested and made it a day of feasting and joy.

“That is why rural Jews—those living in villages—observe the fourteenth of the month of Adar as a day of joy and feasting, a day for giving presents to each other.

“Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews throughout the provinces of King Xerxes, near and far, to have them celebrate annually the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar as the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration. He wrote them to observe the days as days of feasting and joy and giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor.”

joy to the worldIsn’t that outcome exciting to read? The fierce enemy of the Jews, Haman, along with his ten sons, actually received the punishment Haman meant for Mordecai to receive, and the edict he issued to annihilate all of the rest of the Jews backfired in the Jews’ favor. And to this very day the Jewish people celebrate this victory every year.

This celebration is known as Purim and is celebrated in the Jewish community world-wide on the 14th day of Adar every year. “In certain cities in Israel, Purim is observed on the 15th of Adar and is known as Shushan Purim (quote source here). So if the celebration of Purim is primarily one day in the month of Adar, why do they celebrate all month long? An article at Chabad.org titled, A Month of Happiness by Naftali Silberberg gives us that information:

. . . Perhaps a comprehension of the unique nature of Purim will allow us to understand why its joy extends throughout the entire month of Adar.

Haman successfully pinpointed the moment when the Jews were at their lowest point.  After nearly a millennium of freedom, independence, and constant reliance on miracles, they were now banished from their land, helpless and seemingly at the mercy of the laws of nature. This was a completely new experience for the Jewish nation . . . .

“The timing has never been better,” Haman thought. “Surely the Chosen People have lost their exalted status. Now is the perfect moment to implement the Final Solution.”

Haman, however, was not yet satisfied. He needed one more sign indicating the Jews’ vulnerability. The lottery would have the final say. And indeed, the lottery provided the exact sign he anxiously awaited. The lottery designated Adar to be the month when his nefarious plan would be put into motion. The Talmud tells us that Haman was overjoyed by this favorable omen. “My lottery fell on the month when Moses died,” he exclaimed. The demise of Moses, the “head” of the Jewish nation, was surely a metaphor for the demise of the entire nation!

Haman successfully pinpointed the moment when the Jews were at their lowest point – historically as well as calendar-wise – to implement his plan… But his plan still did not succeed.

Why?

The history of our nation is very much compared to the human lifespan. Through the course of a lifetime every person undergoes drastic changes; fluctuation being the most consistent feature of life. The helpless newborn has virtually nothing in common with the independent, talented personality which will emerge years down the line. Adulthood, too, has ups and downs, happy days and depressing days, fulfilling days and seemingly wasted days. There is, however, one constant: the very identity and essence of the person. John Doe remains John Doe from the day he is born until the day he dies.

The same is true with our nation. We have ups and downs, both spiritually and materially, but our very identity, the fact that we are G-d’s chosen nation, is never affected.

It can actually be argued that, in a certain sense, our perpetual relationship with G-d is more evident when we are exiled and downtrodden due to our sins, and G-d still interferes on our behalf, as was demonstrated by the Purim miracle. This phenomenon demonstrates the durability of our relationship; the ability of our essential identity to survive no matter our external state.

All other holidays celebrate the “highs” of our nation. And therefore their joy is limited, because highs don’t last. Purim celebrates a time when we were at a low point in our history – but our relationship with G-d remained intact. Its joy is therefore greater than the joy of any other holiday, because it demonstrates the essential nature of our relationship with G-d — and that is a constant.

The month of Adar, the month which Haman understood to be the most inauspicious month for the Jews, is the happiest month of the year—the month when we bear in mind that “inauspicious” has absolutely no bearing on our relationship with G-d (article and quote source here).

The nation and people of Israel are God’s chosen people, but through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary the apostle Paul states that those of us who are Gentile (non-Jewish) and believe in Him, “though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root” (Roman 11:17).

The story of Esther is an amazing story of how God intervenes for His people in their time of need. And just like He intervened in a miraculous way back then and throughout so many accounts in the Old and New Testaments, He intervenes in the lives of His people today. As I read through this entire account the excitement I felt, not only for the Jewish people, but for all of us who have been “grafted in” exploded with an excitement I haven’t felt in quite a long time.

I don’t know about you, but I intend to celebrate the entire month of Adar along with the Jewish people. Suddenly, it makes looking for a job after almost four years seem like small potatoes compared to what God is capable of doing, and yet He knows the needs of each one of us in our particular circumstances and no need is too small for Him to take care of if we put our faith in Him and not in ourselves or our circumstances.

“A month of happiness” has just begun. Let’s start anticipating that miracle God wants to bring into our circumstances . . . .

So what are you waiting for?

YouTube Video: The following song is usually sung at Christmas but I think you will agree that it is a wonderful rendition for this particular blog post–“Joy to the World” sung by Whitney Houston in the movie, “The Preacher’s Wife” (1996):

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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