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Summary: Heroes come in unexpected ways and as unexpected people. Mordecai and Esther become great heroes for God in an unusual way.

1. Heroes

If you have been keeping up with the 2014 Winter Olympics you probably know who T.J. Oshie is. After the St. Louis Blues forward scored the clinch goal for Team USA in an Olympic hockey match against Russia in a never-ending shootout, Oshie has quickly become everyone's new favorite player. He even gained nearly 50,000 new Twitter followers after leading his team to victory. But, he's not only talented. He's humble. Here's what Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Dejan Kovacevic posted on Twitter following the exciting game:

Just had good talk with America's newest hero. Only don't call T.J. Oshie that. "The American heroes are wearing camo. That's not me."

2. Esther

You've probably heard the adage, "behind every good man is a good woman." Maybe a better one is, "Behind every good man is a surprised mother-in-law."

Today we will study a case in which it could be said, "Behind a great man (who was not a good man) was a great woman (who was a good woman) who changed the course of history." She was a heroine to the people of God.

3. Background -- Map

a. The Jews are returning to Jerusalem in waves, not all at once.

* Zerubbabel led the first group

* Ezra the second

* In the midst of this, there are still many Jews in what is now the Persian Empire

b. The major characters in this story...

* Xerxes; is the 5th king of the Persian Empire and he is in the 3rd year of his reign which began in 486 BC after the death of his father Darius the First. He is a man focused on power, money and sex. He had a pretty violent temper and often acted without thinking.

* Vashti; is the Queen of Persia she is a woman of character and conviction, we see her only in the opening scene.

* Esther; is an orphan girl who is being raised by Mordeci, she is a woman of both inner and outer beauty.

* Mordecai; is a Jewish man whose family was exiled when Jerusalem fell. He is a cousin of Esther and has been raising her ever since her parents died. He is a man of integrity and faith.

* Haman; is the villain of the story. He is the second in command of Persian Empire. He is a man consumed with himself and full of hatred. He is a descendant of the Amalekites (Saul was told to utterly destroy them centuries before).

c. During the time of the return, Xerxes takes the throne of Persia.

* All but a few thousand of God's people -Israel - were in the Persian provinces. The King had the leaders of 127 provinces come to his impressive palace for a celebration to lasted 187 days -- more than six months.

* It was common for the Persians to put on a feast before launching an invasion. In this case they were planning to invade Greece. The invasion would end up with a victory for the Persians at Thermopylae and a crushing defeat for Xerxes at Salamis in 480BC.

* It was a feast of drinking, of sin, etc. At the end of a week-long drunken feast, the King sent for Vashti to come and display her beauty. History suggests that she was pregnant with the Son who would later replace Xerxes. She refused. The King accepted the suggestion to reject her and choose another to be queen in her stead.

* Esther was chosen. She was a young, beautiful Jewish girl. Her cousin Mordecai had offended a vain official named Haman, who by trickery got a decree signed that all the Jews should be put to death. The decree was unalterable.

* God stepped in and in a providential way delivered His people from the decree that Christ might come of their seed as promised. Gen. 12:1-3).

o Xerxes discovers that Mordecai had uncovered a plot against the King and had never been rewarded

o Haman was trying to eradicate the Jews but in a twist of events becomes the means of blessing Mordecai

o The decree against the Jews stood, but Xerxes decreed that the Jews would be allowed to defend themselves and do so with victory

o Mordecai becomes second in charge of the empire (Haman's pervious position) -- he establishes an annual commemoration of the delivery of the Jews (Purim)

4. The Jewish Feast of Purim commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire where a plot had been formed to destroy them.

Based on the conclusions of the Scroll of Esther, Esther 9:22): "[...] that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor" Purim is therefore celebrated by:

1. Exchanging reciprocal gifts of food and drink known as mishloach manot.

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