POSTED 22 OCTOBER, 2017
The holiday of Purim is a relatively minor festival in the Tanach (Old Testament), yet it portrays a very important story that all of God’s people need to understand. Having been dispersed into Babylonian exile in 585 B.C.E., the Jewish people now find themselves under Persian rule. While many find their new Persian rulers more tolerant than the Babylonians, the Jews are still a minority and often find themselves subject to harassment and persecution. In the Book of Esther, King Ahasuerus’ (or Xerxes’) grand vizier, the evil Haman, devises a plot to kill the Jews when he is not worshipped by Mordecai. But Ahasuerus’ new wife, the Jewess Esther, is placed in just the right position at just the right time to see that this scheme does not come to pass. Instead, Haman is executed using the very means that he intended to use against the Jews.
As can be imagined, a great sense of relief engulfed the Jewish people in Persia when Haman’s plans were thwarted. God’s people were preserved from mass genocide. Esther 9:20-28 summarizes how the festival of Purim was instituted by Mordecai to celebrate the Jews’ deliverance from Haman:
“Then Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, obliging them to celebrate the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same month, annually, because on those days the Jews rid themselves of their enemies, and it was a month which was turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and rejoicing and sending portions of food to one another and gifts to the poor. Thus the Jews undertook what they had started to do, and what Mordecai had written to them. For Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the adversary of all the Jews, had schemed against the Jews to destroy them and had cast Pur, that is the lot, to disturb them and destroy them. But when it came to the king’s attention, he commanded by letter that his wicked scheme which he had devised against the Jews, should return on his own head and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows. Therefore they called these days Purim after the name of Pur. And because of the instructions in this letter, both what they had seen in this regard and what had happened to them, the Jews established and made a custom for themselves and for their descendants and for all those who allied themselves with them, so that they would not fail to celebrate these two days according to their regulation and according to their appointed time annually. So these days were to be remembered and celebrated throughout every generation, every family, every province and every city; and these days of Purim were not to fail from among the Jews, or their memory fade from their descendants.”
Concerning the observance of Purim, v. 22 is most significant: “They were to observe them as days of feasting and merrymaking, and as an occasion for sending gifts to one another and presents to the poor” (NJPS). Purim was to be a time of rejoicing and doing good to one another, as God’s faithfulness was revealed to the Jewish people through the actions of His followers. Even though “God” or “the Lord” is not mentioned specifically in the Book of Esther, one undoubtedly sees Him work through individuals who are committed to Him.
The Spring holiday season is a very busy time for those in today’s Messianic movement, beginning with Purim, continuing to the week of Passover and Unleavened Bread, and then culminating with Shavuot or Pentecost. This broad season is one of the most demanding for Messianic Believers, not only as it concerns the many things to celebrate and reflect upon, but also as we strive to exhibit a positive testimony to both the Jewish and Christian communities: to Jewish people remembering the Passover and deliverance of Ancient Israel from Egypt, and to Christians memorializing the death and resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ).
The Messianic Spring Holiday Helper is a valuable compilation of resources designed to assist you, your family, and your Messianic fellowship for this season. We have included a wide selection of articles discussing the different salvation historical themes from the Spring season. The significance of Purim is addressed. The role that the Passover and the Exodus play, and how they relate to our redemption in the Messiah, is described. We go into great detail discussing the Last Supper, and the death and resurrection of the Messiah. We consider what it means to observe Shavuot as a time for both the giving of the Torah (Law) and the Holy Spirit. We offer a fair-minded and loving way to communicate to those who observe an Easter holiday often separated from anything in the Tanach or Old Testament. A selection of FAQs on the Spring holidays has been provided, as are some delicious recipes, and an educational Passover haggadah you can use for your home or congregation.
Let the Messianic Spring Holiday Helper be a resource of great blessing to you during this sacred season!