Summary: Four lessons about God
From Sorrow to Joy
Woodlawn Baptist Church
October 3, 2004
There is a holiday that is celebrated in our world today that is characterized by great joy and celebration, a festival rich with spiritual meaning, rest from work, feasting, exchanging gifts, and giving to the poor. What holiday am I talking about? Most of you are thinking about Christmas, but the one I’m describing for you is the Feast of Purim that is introduced to us in our text this morning, initiated by Esther and Mordecai, allowed by God, thought to have been celebrated by Christ , and still celebrated by Jews around the world today.
You should remember that in Esther 8, King Ahasuerus allowed Mordecai and Esther to counter Haman’s wicked decree throughout the land. Haman had put into an irreversible law that the Persians would be permitted to kill the Jews on the 13th day of the month Adar. Since Haman’s decree could not be reversed, Mordecai was allowed to write a “counter-law” if you will. According to the new decree, the Jews would be able to defend themselves on that same day. In fact, in chapter 9, we are told that the Jews armed themselves, and rather than waiting on the enemy Persians to attack, they went on the offensive and decided to attack their enemies first. The Bible says that the Jews killed 500 people in the palace city of Shushan, and another 75,000 people throughout the 127 provinces of the kingdom. At the end of the day, Esther even asked the king for an extension of time, so the Jews in Shushan continued the fighting throughout the second day as well.
Since the extra day of fighting could not be communicated throughout the provinces, everyone outside the palace city rested and celebrated their great victory on the 14th day of Adar, but the people inside the city were still fighting. They did not rest and celebrate until the 15th day. Rather than try to get everyone to recognize one day or the other as a day of celebration, Mordecai and Esther decided to allow both days to be days of celebration, and as we are about to read, those two days became what we know to be the Feast of Purim.
“And Mordecai wrote these things, and sent letters unto all the Jews that were in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, both nigh and far, to stablish this among them, that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month 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 the Jews undertook to do as they had begun, and as Mordecai had written unto them; Because Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had devised against the Jews to destroy them, and had cast Pur, that is, the lot, to consume them, and to destroy them; But when Esther came before the king, he commanded by letters that his wicked device, which he devised against the Jews, should return upon his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows. Wherefore they called these days Purim after the name of Pur. Therefore for all the words of this letter, and of that which they had seen concerning this matter, and which had come unto them, The Jews ordained, and took upon them, and upon their seed, and upon all such as joined themselves unto them, so as it should not fail, that they would keep these two days according to their writing, and according to their appointed time every year; and that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city; and that these days of Purim should not fail from among the Jews, nor the memorial of them perish from their seed.”
Of the various feasts that the Jews observed and are mentioned in the Old Testament, the Feast of Purim is one that was not instituted by God. It was however initiated by His people and appears to have been blessed by God. While you and I don’t celebrate it, the Feast of Purim is an annual reminder to the Jews of several lessons they learned about God during their time of great sorrow and grief. It is these lessons that I want to share with you today, because as you will see, although we are not part of the Jewish nation, we as God’s people share a special relationship to Him, and because of this special relationship, we enjoy many blessings that are common to all who call on the name of the Lord.