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Remember That God Is In Control
Know That You Have A Purpose
Be Slow To Judge Others
Beware Of The Boomerang Effect
Be Faithful To God
Trust God To Turn Sorrow Into Joy
Respect Those In Authority Over You

The Story Of Purim Is In The Book Of Esther. Most readers are familiar with the story. However, before we look at the seven lessons, let us first look at a brief summary of the story for the benefit of readers who are not familiar with it.

Babylon had fallen to the Medes and Persians, and a remnant of the Jews in Babylon returned to Israel. Esther, a young Jewish orphan who had been raised by her cousin Mordecai, was among the Jews who stayed in the land of Medes and Persians under the reign of King Ahasuerus. Queen Vashti, the wife of Ahasuerus, was deposed from her throne for insubordination, and King Ahasuerus was seeking a new bride to be his queen. The king ended up choosing Esther to be his queen. He did not know that Esther was Jewish, and she did not tell him, because Mordecai had told her not to tell.

Mordecai worked in the king's palace and happened to overhear two men plotting to kill the king. Mordecai told Queen Esther, and she told king Ahasuerus. The two men were executed, and the matter was recorded in the royal records.

After this, Haman the Agagite was promoted to a high position of authority, and the king ordered all the other servants in the palace to bow to Haman. Mordecai refused to bow, which infuriated Haman. When Haman found out Mordecai was a Jew, he decided to find a way to kill all the Jews. Being a superstitious pagan, Haman wanted to know when would be the luckiest time to put his plan in motion. This was determined by casting lots, called Purim.

Haman told the king that there was a certain group of people in the kingdom who refused to obey the king's laws. These people needed to be put to death, Haman said. Of course Haman did not mention that he was talking about Mordecai's people, the Jews. The king trusted Haman and, probably without realizing what he was doing, signed a decree authorizing the extermination of all the Jews, including little children and women, to take place on the 13th day of Adar.

The Jews went into mourning and fasting, weeping and wailing, and put on sackcloth and ashes. Queen Esther sent a message to Mordecai to find out what was going on. Mordecai sent word back to Esther telling her that she had to go to the king and persuade him to do something to prevent the genocide that was soon to take place. Esther sent a message to Mordecai explaining that no one, not even the queen, was allowed to approach the king uninvited. It was a crime that was punishable by death. If the king held out his golden scepter to a person who approached uninvited, that person would be pardoned. Otherwise the uninvited person would be executed.

Mordecai's response to Esther was as follows: “Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king's house, more than all the Jews. For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Esther told Mordecai to ask all the Jews to join her in three days of fasting, and she would go into the king. “And if I perish, I perish,” she said.

When Esther approached the king, he held out his scepter and asked her what she wanted. “If it seems good unto the king, let the king and Haman come this day unto the banquet that I have prepared for him,” she said.

At the banquet, Esther invited the king and Haman to join her again the following day. After the first banquet, Haman went home and bragged to his wife and friends about how great and important he was. “Yet all this availeth me nothing,” he fumed, “so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate.”

Haman's wife and friends urged him to build a gallows and ask the king for permission to hang Mordecai on it. Why wait until the 13th of Adar? So Haman ordered the gallows to be built and then went to talk to the king about hanging Mordecai.

The king was already in bed but was having trouble sleeping, so he called for someone to read to him from the royal records. The reader happened to read the section that told about Mordecai's exposing of the two men who had plotted to kill the king.

“What honor and dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this?” the king asked. “Nothing,” the servant answered.

Haman was outside the room waiting to speak to the king about hanging Mordecai. The king called Haman in. Before Haman could say anything about Mordecai, the king asked him, “What shall be done unto the man who the king delighteth to honor?”

Haman naturally thought that the king wanted to honor him, so he suggested a pompous parade with a noble crier going ahead of the honored man, crying, “Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honor!”

“Great idea!” the king said to Haman, “Get my royal robes and crown, put them on Mordecai the Jew, and mount him on my royal horse. And you be the crier to go before him, Haman!”

So instead of hanging Mordecai, Haman was forced to exalt him. Then Haman went to Esther's second banquet, and this time Esther told the king about Haman's plans to slaughter all her people, the Jews. The king had Haman hanged on the gallows he had built for Mordecai. Then the king wrote letters giving the Jews permission to defend themselves against the attacks that were planned for the 13th of Adar. He also promoted Mordecai the Jew to a high position. The Jews rejoiced. The non-Jews got scared. “And many of the people of the land became Jews;for the fear of the Jews fell upon them”(Est.8:17). The people who still dared to attack the Jews were defeated. Afterwards, the Jews decided to have an annual celebration of this deliverance. They agreed to “keep the fourteenth day of the month of Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same, yearly, as the days wherein the Jews rested from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning into a good day: that they should make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor…

And that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city; and these days of Purim should not fail from among the Jews, nor the memorial of the perish from their seed” (Est.9:21-28). Now let us look at seven lessons from Purim.

1. Remember That God Is In Control:

God is not mentioned anywhere at all in the entire Book of Esther. Yet it is obvious that He was quietly at work behind the scenes, setting up the downfall of Haman and the deliverance of His people. We can see how He orchestrated all the events which were necessary for the fulfilling of His plan-the removal of Queen Vashti, the king's choice of Esther, Mordecai's discovery of the assassination plot, the king's insomnia, the servant's choice of what to read the king that night, and the timing of Haman's arrival.

The story of Purim reminds us that God is sovereign and often works in ways that are not apparent to the natural eye. Sometimes we look at a situation and it seems as though God is not at work at all: it seems like He is entirely absent and totally indifferent. Years later we may come to realize that God was indeed at work. He was just doing His work behind the scenes, in ways that we could not see at the time. Let me share an example.

About a year or so after I became a disciple of Jesus, a Christian friend and I ran into an old friend of ours from our high school days. We sat at a restaurant and talked with him a while, and told him how we had found the Lord. He listened politely, but did not seem very interested or impressed. A few years later I saw him again, and this time he was a believer. He told me that he had come under terrible conviction when we spoke to him at the restaurant that night. The fear of God was gripping his heart. He was terribly shaken by our testimony and tormented by the knowledge that he was not right with the Lord. This brief, chance encounter set “the hound of heaven,” the Holy Spirit on him. The hound of heaven soon caught up to him and brought the quarry home.

Proverbs 21:1 says “ The king's heart is in the hand of Yahweh, as the rivers of water: He turneth it withersoever He will.” Just as the gardener uses trenches, barriers, and walls of earth to make water flow the direction he desires, so Yahweh uses Divinely-appointed circumstances to turn people's hearts the direction He desires them to go. This truth is clearly seen in the way He turned the heart of King Ahasuerus. We have to trust that Yahweh is at work in people's hearts even when we see no immediate outward evidence.

2. Be Slow To Judge Others:

It would be easy for us to criticize Esther and Mordecai's behavior. After all, King Ahasuerus was a heathen and had a harem of concubines. What was a nice Jewish girl like Esther doing marrying someone like him? And why did Mordecai tell her to assimilate and keep her Jewish identity a secret?

Under normal circumstances it would have been wrong for Esther to do what she did. However, we do not know all the details about the situation. The scripture does not say that Esther married the king of her own free will. As a matter of fact, the Talmud claims that Esther was taken against her will (Sanh. 74b). If this is true, it would explain why Mordecai told her to keep her Jewish identity a secret. If the king found out she was Jewish, it could make a bad situation worse.

We need to be very careful about judging the actions of others, especially when we do not know all the details. Sometimes actions appear to be wrong only because we jump to conclusions. Assuming the worst, and judge according to appearance. For example, Pastor Pureheart is seen entering a sleazy bar, and Gertie the Gossip gets on the phone to tell everyone about it. She doesn't know that the pastor was just going in there to get change for the parking meter.

We need to be careful about judging people even when their actions are wrong. Actions have reasons behind them. Reasons do not always justify or excuse actions, but they can explain why people do the wrong things. In one sense it was wrong for Esther to marry a heathen king, but apparently God brought Esther to the throne “for such a time as this.” This situation was very similar to Sampson's marriage to a Philistine woman. Sampson's parents rightly opposed this marriage. “But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the Lord, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines”(Jdg. 14:4).

Judgment of others is in the hand of the Lord. There are times when we need to confront people about their sins, but after we have confronted them, we have to leave their judgment in the hand of God. He is the One who knows the reasons, the motives, and the thoughts and intents of peoples’ hearts.

3. Be Faithful To God:

Mordecai told Esther to hide her Jewish identity, but he made no effort to hide his own identity. On the contrary, he told his co-workers in the palace that he was a Jew, and he risked his life by refusing to bow to Haman according to the king's commandment. (The Torah does not forbid bowing to a king or king's official. Jewish commentators believe that Mordecai's refusal to bow was possibly because Haman had declared himself Divine and/or because Haman had idolatrous images on his clothing.)

Mordecai's faithfulness to God got him into trouble and brought the threat of annihilation to all the Jews. However, it was also Mordecai's faithfulness that ultimately caused God to act. This same pattern can be seen in other situations, such as the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace and Daniel in the lion's den. The New Testament tells us that the saints of old “stopped the mouths of lions (and) quenched the violence of fire” (Heb.11:33). The New Testament writer of this passage goes on to point out, though, that other faith-filled saints were not delivered. They were tortured and killed in spite of their faith and their faithfulness. And in the post-Biblical centuries, God did not stop the mouths of the lions that were loosed on the faithful Christians in the Roman Coliseum, nor did He quench the fires that the Roman Catholics lit beneath Protestants tied to the stake.

So the lesson from Mordecai's faithfulness is two-fold. First, it teaches us that being true to our faith will probably get us into trouble at some point in our lives. The second lesson is to be faithful to God, whether we get deliverance in this life or die as a martyr. Either way, we win in the end.

4. Know That You Have A Purpose:

When Esther was reluctant to go to the king, Mordecai told her that if she did not do it, then deliverance would come “from another place.” Then he asked the rhetorical question, “And who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

In a general sense, we each need to realize that we have been brought into the world at this point in history “for such a time as this.” God was the One who decided when you would be born. It was His will that you be alive in this present generation, not in the generation of a hundred years ago or a hundred years from now. He put you into this current period of history, and He has a destiny for you to fulfill. Whether you fill a major or minor role in the big picture, you have a role to play. Whether you are small or great, you have a purpose, just as every part of the human body has a purpose, whether small or great.

In a more specific sense, we need to realize that God often brings us into specific situations “for such a time as this.” The situations may or may not be dangerous to us, and they may or may not be of major historical importance in the eyes of the world. They may be situations as simple as an opportunity to help a brother in need or an opportunity to point a lost soul to the Lord. If God brings you to such situations “for such a time as this” and you refuse to do your part, then “deliverance will arise from another place.” In other words, God will use someone else to do the job, and that person will receive the eternal and temporal rewards that could have been yours.

5. Respect Those In Authority Over You:

Esther was under the authority of the king as both a wife and a subject of the kingdom. The fact that she was the king's wife did not remove or diminish the need for her to submit to the king's authority as a subject. If anything, her position as the king's wife made it especially important that she submit to the king as an example to all the other subjects in the kingdom. Pastor's wives, take note!

Pastor's wives are not the only ones who can learn something from Esther's attitude toward authority. We can all learn a lesson from her example of respect, humility, and submission. Esther was going before the king to make an appeal. There is a proper way to make an appeal to people who are in authority over us, whether we are talking about a king, a husband, a pastor, or an employer. Bill Gothard wrote an excellent study about making a proper appeal to people in authority. Gothard listed: Seven Basic Requirements For an Effective Appeal.” They are as follows:

1. We must be in right standing with God.

2. We must have the right motives.

3. We must appeal at the appropriate time.

4. We must give accurate information.

5. We must have the right attitudes (reverence, loyalty, gratefulness; not rebellion and resignation).

6. We must use the appropriate words.

7. We must display the right response if our appeal is rejected.

These seven requirements can be seen in Esther. If people had Esther's attitude toward authority and followed her example, it would prevent a lot of unnecessary trouble.

6. Beware Of The Boomerang Effect:

Haman was hanged on the very gallows that he had built for Mordecai. The Bible teaches that when the wicked try to harm the righteous, the plan often boomerangs, and the wicked end up suffering the exact same harm, which they had intended to inflict on the righteous. “He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made. His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate (crown)” (Ps.7:15).

Haman is a perfect example of this, as are the men who had Daniel cast into the den of lions. After Daniel's deliverance, those men, along with their wives and children, were cast into the same den of lions, “and the lions had the mastery of them, and broke all their bones in pieces or ever they came at the bottom of the den” (Dan. 6:24).

We need to beware of harming other people, in word as well as in deed, because we will reap whatever we sow. If you gossip about someone, someone else will gossip about you. If you insult people, other people will insult you. If you betray a friend or loved one, a friend or loved one will someday betray you. “With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matt. 7:2).

We need to beware of the boomerang effect. We also need to remember that the boomerang effect will work to our advantage when we have been unjustly attacked or harmed. Knowing about the boomerang effect makes it easier to not seek revenge, but to wait for God to avenge us and vindicate us.

7. Trust God To Turn Sorrow Into Joy:

If Haman had succeeded, the 14th and 15th of Adar would have been days of mourning for the Jews—if any Jews had survived. Instead, these days became days of joy and feasting and gift-giving. Approximately 2,500 years have passed since the first Purim, and Jews still celebrate their deliverance from Haman every year. If Haman had not tried to kill the Jews, there would be no festival of Purim. The irony of this is expressed in a Purim song that says of Haman: “And don't forget we owe him thanks for this jolly Feast of Purim.”

If we trust God and are faithful to Him, He will eventually turn our sorrow into joy-if not in this age, then in the age to come, when we will have all eternity to rejoice. In the meantime, we can rejoice as much as possible under the circumstances in which we presently happen to be. We can celebrate Purim to commemorate God's past deliverance of His people and to express our faith that He will ultimately deliver us from all future Hamans.

Celebrating the Lord's deliverance of His people usually includes feasting, and Purim is no exception. As someone once remarked, “Most Jewish holidays can be summed up in just three sentences: They tried to kill us. We won. Let's eat!”


Read more about The Holiday Of Purim.


Written by Dr. Dan Botkin with Gates of Eden Congregation.

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