"I am the vine, you are the branches"
The Story of Esther
The 14th day of Adar is the Feast of Purim. It is not one of God's Appointed Feasts, but one of Israel's. Purim is a lesser-rated feast these days, but one that should never be forgotten. So we are going to take a closer look at Purim to see the true meaning that should not be forgotten.
The Story of Queen Esther
Hadassah was a young Jewish girl living during the reign of King Ahasuerus in Hebrew, Xerxes in Greek, and his Persian name was Khshayarsha. Xerxes was the king of Persia and his kingdom went from India to Ethiopia, which included Jerusalem. He ruled from 486-465 BC. We must remember that Persia conquered the Babylonians in the days of Daniel. Xerxes one day gave a party in which the queen, Queen Vashti, did not attend so Xerxes banished the queen. Xerxes began looking for another queen. So all the young girls were gathered together from around the kingdom and one of those girls was Hadassah. Hadassah, who became Esther, was most likely named after the Babylonian goddess named Ishtar, which we get the name Easter from. Esther found favor with Hegai, who was in charge of all the women gathered and she was placed with the choice, with the best, of the harem. For 12 months, she went through a beautification program and when she was done she was brought in before the king. The king loved Esther more than all the women and she was made the new queen.
Now Esther was in the care of her cousin Mordecai because her parents had died, and he instructed Esther not to tell anyone that she was Jewish. Mordecai, who lived in Susa, the capital of Persia, worked in the king's palace. One day Mordecai heard of a plot to kill the king. So he told Esther all about it and she went to the king in Mordecai's name and saved the king's life. Now the king had it all recorded in the Book of the Chronicles in his presence.
So we see that so far Esther is becoming quite the "apple of the king's eye."
Now there was a man named Haman. He was a descendant of the Agagites. Agag was the king of the Amalekites as shown in 1 Samuel 15. Haman was promoted to the position of prime minister by the king. He was in authority over all the princes who were with him and all the servants who were at the king's gate bowed down to him and paid him homage, for this is what the king had commanded. But Mordecai, who was a devout Jew and loved God, would not. So all those at the gate asked Mordecai why he would not bow down and pay homage to Haman and Mordecai told them that he was a Jew and only the one true God would he bow down and pay homage to. Now the servants at the king's gate went to Haman about this and they told Haman that Mordecai was a Jew and that he was not going to bow down and pay him homage because Mordecai only paid homage to his God. When Haman went to Mordecai and he would not bow down to him and pay him homage, he was very angry and he sought to destroy Mordecai and all of his people.
Let's stop here and take a closer look.
Haman the Enemy of God
All throughout history there has been one enemy of God and that enemy is the devil. He has shown himself in many different people. Paul tells us that we do not struggle against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. There have been those who, because they love darkness, have subjected themselves to the evil plots of the devil. Since Adam and Eve, the devil has lured people to follow his evil plans and they have tried to abolish what belongs to God. But I would like to think that the cup is half full rather than half empty. When the devil killed Yeshua, he gave the people of God their greatest victory. When the Nazis killed 6 million Jews, it caused those who survived to rise up and return back to the land of their forefathers and they formed the new state of Israel. Now Jews from all over the world are returning to the land that God had given them. When the devil used the Roman Empire to persecute the early church, the people scattered and the gospel was preached all across the known world and many people came to the saving knowledge of Yeshua.
So we see here that the wicked Haman was out to destroy once again the people of God.
Mordecai the Man of God
Mordecai was a devout Jew and he was not going to bow down to Haman or anyone or anything else. He, like so many others of his day, was righteous and faithful to the one true God, the God of Israel. We see this also with the three Hebrew children; they too refused to bow down to the idol in Nebuchadnezzar's day and were thrown into the fiery furnace. But there was God, faithful and true, and the king said, "Did we not throw three into the furnace? But I see a fourth and he appears to be the Son of God." And when the three came out of the furnace, not even their clothes smelled like smoke.
So we see here with Mordecai that as Haman was planning to rid of the kingdom of Mordecai's family, the king suddenly remembers Mordecai and has Haman leading him on the king's horse and parading him around town saying, "This is one whom the king favors." You have got to love God's sense of humor. Mordecai, when he learns about Haman's plot, weeps and puts on sackcloth and ashes. Mordecai, when he hears of the trouble coming, simply repents before God and not just Mordecai, but all the Jews. How important is that? God will never turn away a humble and contrite heart but a proud heart He will turn from. If we want our prayers to be heard, we must humbly come before God. Even when Esther sent her maidens with clothes for Mordecai, he did not put them on because Mordecai was not ashamed of his behavior. Mordecai was a man of faith and he also knew that God's hand was on Esther. Mordecai sent a message to Esther that she needed to appear before the king and tell him of Haman's plot.
Esther the Servant of the Lord
So often we see that when we are asked of God to do something, our first response is one of doubt. When Esther replies to Mordecai's request, it was simply impossible! For the penalty for anyone entering into the king's presence without permission was automatic death. But Mordecai's reply was, "You will not be able to escape what is coming." I think so many times people think that if they just act like the world or maybe if they don't talk like a Christian that they can escape persecution or verbal ridicule; but true Christians will not escape because the devil makes it his business to know who belongs to God. There is this thing called the spiritual realm and there the conflict between good and evil begins. Mordecai tells Esther that if she will not go to the king, that deliverance will come from another place but her and her family will perish.
How often people turn God down and they don't obey Him and they close their ears and hearts to Him and go another way. I'm sure on judgement day we will see the blessings that we passed up because we did not listen to the voice of God and we will see clearly the results of that decision and how it played out in our lives. But we must remember that God has a purpose for our lives and we too must always recall those words of Mordecai in our lives, that we are where we are because of such a time as this. God is in control and He brings all this together for His purpose and if we are in the middle of something He is doing, then it is because we were brought to that point for such a time as this.
So, we see next the true heart of Esther. She requests that all the Jews who are in Susa fast and pray for three days: no eating, no drinking, and she and her maidens would do the same. Truly Esther was made for leadership. She was not going to have the people do something that she herself was not going to do. Esther knew the power of prayer. She also knew her God! Like the Hebrew children, she took a stand that she would go to the king and if she perished, she perished. So I'm sure in her prayer time, God revealed His plan and so she put on her royal robes and entered the king's presence. She took the step of faith and the waters parted, the walls fell down, the earth shook, and God's hand touched the king's heart and he extended the golden scepter to her. The king asked her what was troubling her. Now, God always goes above and beyond when you humble yourself; He lifts you up, and so too here, the king not only invites her in, but asks her what is the matter and tells her she can have up to half of the kingdom.
Now if you ask me, I think Esther was amazed at the king's reaction to her. She invited the king and Haman to a banquet and they have a very nice evening, eating and drinking and talking when the king says to Esther, "What is your petition, for it shall be granted to you. And what is your request? Even to half of the kingdom it shall be done." So with such favor from the king, why not continue being hospitable? So she requests that the king and Haman come back the next day to do it again. So as Haman was preparing the gallows, Esther was preparing her next banquet. Evening came and Esther knew that it was now time to tell the king. So the king repeats his offer of favor to Esther, and she now replies with an urgent plea for her life and her people's lives. Esther, who was humble, not like Haman with all his pride, tells the king that they have been sold as slaves and if that was not enough, they were to be destroyed and annihilated. Well, you can imagine how this news affected the king that someone was out to kill his queen. The king asks, "Who is this that wants to do such a thing?" And Esther says, "A foe and an enemy," as she points her finger to Haman and says, "It is this wicked Haman!" The king jumps up in anger and goes toward the palace and Haman begs for his life with the queen. The king's eunuchs tell the king of the gallows that awaited Mordecai, but now they awaited Haman and his sons. Mordecai is now promoted to Haman's position and the king decrees that all the Jews can defend themselves in every city where they live against anyone who may attack them.
God's Faithfulness to His People
Once again we see in God's Word the faithfulness of God toward His people, and who should know better than David as he fled from Saul and all those who pursued him. The Psalmist writes repeatedly about the wicked persecuting the righteous. Over and over again you read, "I cried out to the Lord and He heard my voice . . . He is a very present help in the time of trouble . . . God is our refuge and our strength," and so many more. But David knew just like Esther and Mordecai that when you come before the Lord with your whole heart and seek His face that you can say, "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread? When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, my adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. Though a host encamp against me, my heart will not fear: though war arise against me, in spite of this I shall be confident. One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to meditate in His temple. For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; in the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock, and now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me; and I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing, yes I will sing praises to the Lord. Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice, and be gracious to me and answer me. When Thou didst say, 'Seek My face,' my heart said to thee, 'Thy face, 0 Lord, I shall seek'" (Psalm 27:1-8).
In these days of uncertainty, as trials and tribulations increase, we too must do as those who went before us as an example that we can look to God; we too must come before Him with our whole heart and strength, humbly, seeking His face with confidence that He is our refuge, our salvation, our hope and our champion in our fight against evil. We too can say like the Psalmist, "I will sing of the loving-kindness of the Lord forever. To all generations I will make known Thy faithfulness with my mouth."
So, Mordecai recorded all these events and he sent out letters to all the Jews near and far obligating them to celebrate the fourteenth and fifteenth day of the month of Adar annually. So the holiday of Purim began, a time of celebration and remembrance of the faithfulness of God.