Make no mistake, the Gospel message is universal but the God of the Gospel is a Tribal God, El Elohaiy Yisrael.
This past week was named Israel Apartheid Week at university campuses throughout the world. Jews who attended these places of higher learning during the past week have been verbally and physically abused by both insidious terrorist supporters and ill-informed (so called) social justice campaigners. This week also marked a world day of remembrance called Woman’s Day. However, rather than honour the cause of women (As Purim does), a New York based feminist organization invited a Palestinian terrorist, responsible for the murder of two young Israeli men, to be a spokeswoman for women’s’ rights at their Day Without Women gathering in New York. It is for a time such as this that God has called all who follow His Son Yeshua to speak out. With the righteous I proclaim, “Y’mach sh’mo!” may the evil that drives these organizations and movements be obliterated! “Am Yisrael Chai!” The people of Israel live, because the God of Israel is One. Make no mistake, the Gospel message is universal but the God of the Gospel is a Tribal God, El Elohaiy Yisrael.
Purim, like Christmas, is not a festival explicitly commanded by HaShem, However, it is a festival that celebrates the goodness and deliverance that HaShem affords His people. For this reason it was included by the ancient rabbis in the cycle of Israel's feasts of remembrance and is as valid today as any of the feasts of HaShem. Perhaps the most famous aspect of Purim, theologically speaking, is the fact that God's name is not mentioned even once within the Hebrew text. This means that the p’shat (straight, literal meaning) is one of chutzpah and determination on the part of the hero Mordechai and the heroin Hadasah (Esther). There are however many hints (remez) at the working of the hand of HaShem and more than that, the observant Jew understands that all things exist in Him.
Because the Jewish reader presumes God's present role in all things he is therefore not surprised by the absence of HaShem's name. This brief article will present both a p’shat (literal, straight) interpretation, and a remez (a hint alluding to an allegorical) interpretation. The former will be for the purpose of sober judgement and the latter for the conviction of the Ecclessia (Body of believers).
Shamor v’Zakhor (Observe & Remember)
Every Jewish Festival starts with the lighting of two candles, one for observance and one for remembrance. These candles form a unity of belief that result in halakhah (the way we walk).
By observing the festival we:
• We remember what God has done
• We remember what God is doing
• We remember what God will do
HaShem was and is and is to come.
We observe the feast and act on our remembrance because as the scripture says:
“Obey God's message! Don't fool yourselves by just listening to it. If you hear the message and don't obey it, you are like people who stare at themselves in a mirror and forget what they look like as soon as they leave.” –Yaakov/James 1:22-24
Why Observe Purim?
Observing the positive tradition of the Purim festival ritual is one of the ways we are reminded of the truths of God. When we participate in tactile, kinetic and visual symbolism all learning styles in the community are catered for:
• Visual learners
• Kinetic Learners
• Process Learners
The practice of festival observance is one of the many ways we can pass on our faith l’dor v’dor, from generation to generation.
Reading Megillat Ester (The scroll of Esther)
We celebrate our deliverance from Haman, the descendant of our ancient enemy the Amalekites and we obliterate his name with the curse, “Y’mach shmo!” This phrase literally translates, “obliterate his name!”
Some may find this contrary to the chesed (grace) of HaShem, however when it’s understood that Amalek is symbolic of rebellion against God and that Haman is a figure for the Adversary Ha-Satan, it makes perfect sense. It’s as though we were saying of cancer, “obliterate its name!”
“Resist the devil and he will flee from you” –Yaakov/James 4:7
We resist, we don’t attack, God is our strength and our protector. Yeshua (Jesus) is the ultimate example of this.
The book of Esther was written as a reminder to the Jewish people of God’s deliverance, even when He seems absent. It remains a beacon of hope for the Jewish people of today.
The book of Esther is also written to the Ecclessia of Messiah as an Allegory of our role in God’s plan for His people Israel (empirical, ethnic). We the community of believers are adopted through Messiah into the commonwealth of Israel (empirical, ethnic) (Romans 11:17-18) Just as Esther (The body of Messiah) was adopted by a Jewish Cousin Mordecai (Ethnic Israel). We have been called to such a time as this to be a voice for the protection of ethnic Israel, because in a very real sense we are her brothers and sisters.
The book of Esther is written to the individual – For such a time as this. We who follow the God of Israel in Messiah have been called to be light to the nations in Messiah, alongside believing ethnic Israel. As we seek Him we will find our place in God’s Story for all Human kind and be challenged to act for His Kingdom in our time.
When we disobey God we will suffer the physical and spiritual consequences of our actions. See Esther re: 1 Sam 15 - Agag and Shaul, Hamman and Mordechai. This will not only affect our lives and the lives of those around us but also the generations to come.
“Later, King Xerxes promoted Haman the son of Hamedatha to the highest position in his kingdom. Haman was a descendant of Agag, and the king had given orders for his officials at the royal gate to honour Haman by kneeling down to him. All of them obeyed except Mordechai. When the other officials asked Mordechai why he disobeyed the king's command, he said, ‘Because I am a Jew.’ They spoke to him for several days about kneeling down, but he still refused to obey. Finally, they reported this to Haman, to find out if he would let Mordechai get away with it. Haman was furious to learn that Mordechai refused to kneel down and honour him. And when he found out that Mordecai was a Jew, he knew that killing only Mordechai was not enough. Every Jew in the whole kingdom had to be killed.” –Haddasah/Esther 3:1-6
As a consequence of Shaul’s failure to obliterate the Amalekites as God had commanded him, a descendant of Amalek arose to wipe out Israel.
“There was a certain Jew in Shushan the palace, whose name was Mordechai, the son of Yair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite. – Shaul’s descendant.” –Haddasah/ Esther 2:5
Here, Mordechai is given the opportunity to obey God and complete the task Shaul the king of Israel had failed to do in 1 Samuel 15. This is another example of the unrelenting chesed (grace, mercy and loving kindness) of God.
When we seek God, He will direct our path. (If you draw near to me, I will draw near to you. We may not always like the direction (Esther was hesitant to do as Mordechai suggested.) But we must remember that God is all knowing and we are not.
When we obey God we will always reap spiritual victory and sometimes we will also reap physical victory. This will positively affect those around us, not only in this generation but also in the generations to come. Esther not only saved the Jews of the Diaspora, she also saved the Jews who were living in Israel and had been rebuilding their spiritual observance with the prophet Ezra. The Persian Empire included the entire known world of which Israel proper was a part. If Esther had not acted the entire Jewish Nation would have been wiped out. This is echoed in modern history by the actions of Christians like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Corrie Ten Boon, who resisted Hitler and the Nazi’s. People like this will be called upon again in our time to resist the Hamman’s of today. Leaders who still desire the destruction of God’s Chosen people Israel. Men like Mahumoud Amadinojad – the former Iranian (Persian) Prime Minister who shares his views with the Ayatollah (spiritual/political) leader of Iran:
"A new Middle East will prevail without the existence of Israel.”
“Today, they [Europeans] have created a myth in the name of Holocaust.”
"Israel must be wiped off the map … ”
(Quotes made from 2005 - 2009)
These same views are, today, perpetuated by the current Iranian government and spiritual leaders.
We have not come to a time such as this so as to pursue our own wellbeing. We have come to this time to pursue our Father and His purposes in Messiah Yeshua (Christ Jesus). Anything less, will result in spiritual and physical disaster.
Much worse than physical death is spiritual death. We celebrate today because our names have been written in the Lamb’s book of life. Messiah has delivered us from spiritual death. Knowing this how can we remain silent? Satan, would see the whole of humanity suffer eternal punishment. In the same way Esther resisted Hamman, we must resist the devil. In the same way Esther acted to free the Jewish people, we must act to free Humanity with the Good News of Yeshua (Jesus the Christ).
Verse to remember:
“When Esther’s words were reported to Mordechai, he sent back this answer: ‘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 royal position for such a time as this?” –Hadasah/Esther 4:12-14
© 2017 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.