Friday, 24 October 2014

The tradition of Purim is established

"And they did it."

What? Celebrated - in style. Huge parties of relief and exultation at having escaped certain death.

 What started then became a tradition, continuing the practice of what Mordecai had written to them.

Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the archenemy of all Jews, had schemed to destroy all Jews. He had cast the pur (the lot) to throw them into a panic and destroy them. But when Queen Esther intervened with the king, he gave written orders that the evil scheme that Haman had worked out should boomerang back on his own head. He and his sons were hanged on the gallows. That’s why these days are called “Purim,” from the word pur or “lot.”

Therefore, because of everything written in this letter and because of all that they had been through, the Jews agreed to continue. It became a tradition for them, their children, and all future converts to remember these two days every year on the specified dates set down in the letter. These days are to be remembered and kept by every single generation, every last family, every province and city. These days of Purim must never be neglected among the Jews; the memory of them must never die out among their descendants.

Queen Esther, the daughter of Abihail, backed Mordecai the Jew, using her full queenly authority in this second Purim letter to endorse and ratify what he wrote. Calming and reassuring letters went out to all the Jews throughout the 127 provinces of Xerxes’ kingdom to fix these days of Purim their assigned place on the calendar, dates set by Mordecai the Jew—what they had agreed to for themselves and their descendants regarding their fasting and mourning. Esther’s word confirmed the tradition of Purim and was written in the book.

And so the Jews, thousands of years later, still celebrate with joyous abandon: dressing up (disguising themselves, as Esther disguised her identity), feasting, even intentionally getting drunk! They remember, with tremendous gladness, how they were saved.

We Christians remember how WE were saved from eternal death every Sunday. But do we - do I - do it with tremendous gladness? To my shame, I often take Sundays for granted. I do not live in the immediacy of my imagination to feel that huge sense of relief and excitement.

In so doing, I diminish my life in my own eyes. My actions cannot diminish the sacrifice Jesus made, but they do not adequately praise and glorify Him for what He did.

Purim can be my example.

Psalm 71:17-24 (NIV) shows me how:

Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvellous deeds.
Even when I am old and gray,  do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.

Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens, you who have done great things.
Who is like you, God?
Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again;
from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.
You will increase my honour and comfort me once more.

I will praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, my God;
I will sing praise to you with the lyre, Holy One of Israel.
My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you - I whom you have delivered.
My tongue will tell of your righteous acts all day long,
for those who wanted to harm me have been put to shame and confusion.

King Xerxes imposed taxes from one end of his empire to the other. For the rest of it, King Xerxes’ extensive accomplishments, along with a detailed account of the brilliance of Mordecai, whom the king had promoted, that’s all written in The Chronicles of the Kings of Media and Persia.

Mordecai the Jew ranked second in command to King Xerxes. He was popular among the Jews and greatly respected by them. He worked hard for the good of his people; he cared for the peace and prosperity of his race.
Esther 9:123 - 10:3

And so the story ends with happily ever after. The beautiful queen is safe; her uncle, under threat for his life, is spared and rises to a high position.

Once again, as with Joseph and his family, God has redeemed His people. The story of Esther is a glimpse of God's Ultimate Plan to save his people. The Jews' desperate situation is turned around by Esther's willingness to sacrifice her life. Our desperate situation of a life of sin is turned around by the sacrifice of Jesus.

Love has triumphed.

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