When I first felt the call to minister and to intercede for my hometown of Walnut Cove in 1996, the story of Queen Esther became very meaningful to me. A close friend of mine, Edith Searcy, kept telling me that I, like Esther, was being asked to step into harm’s way to intercede for Walnut Cove–to pray for a mighty move of the Holy Spirit there that would overpower the darkness, stagnation, corruption and deterioration that prevailed in my little Southern town.
One of my favorite verses quickly became Esther 4:14: “For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
So for me back then, imagining my town transformed both spiritually and physically was like imagining my own Purim–Feast of Lots. This was the feast that the Jews were told to celebrate (not directly by God, but still He was mightily involved) in Esther 9:28: “That 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.”
Purim comes on the 14th and 15th days of the 12th Jewish month, Adar 14-15. But on our calendar, the date varies from year to year–usually from mid-February to mid- to late March. This year Adar 14 began Wednesday night, March 7, at sunset.
Sixteen years after first feeling the call of God to Walnut Cove, I am now the leader of Times of Refreshing, a ministry that intercedes for positive change in our town and strives to provide meetings where the presence of God is real, which is where, according to Acts 3:19, times of refreshing can be found. “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.”
I teach on the Jewish holidays and Feasts of the Lord, with special emphasis on how they relate symbolically to Christianity. And I observe these moedim–appointed times–the best I can–not because “I have to,” but because “I GET to!” This past week, I reserved our local library for two nights: the first night to teach on Purim, the second night to celebrate it. I invited the general public to come.
It ended up being a marvelous time. Come celebrate and learn about Purim through a hodgepodge of our many pictures!
Twenty-five people of different ages, races, genders and Christian denominations came out to our Purim celebration! Some wore simple masks in honor of Queen Esther whose true identity as a Jewess was
As we read the Book of Esther aloud, audience members donned different masks to represent the characters. My son Elijah wore the King Ahasuerus mask. This was technically King Xerxes I who ruled from his palace in the walled city of Shushan in the huge Persian empire in the fifth century B.C.
My daughter Abigail played the role of Queen Vashti, King Ahasuerus’ first queen. He basically kicked her out when she refused to reveal her breathtaking beauty (by stripping naked or simply removing her veil– we don’t know) at a banquet that he and his drunken friends were attending.
So the search was on for a new queen. The most beautiful virgins in the land were prepared with beauty treatments for many months and then brought before the King. An orphaned Jewish girl named Esther (Hadassah in Hebrew for the lovely myrtle tree) won the King’s heart and was chosen as queen. Whenever we read her name in the Purim story, the crowd sighed delightfully in unison memory of this heroic woman.
Esther had been raised by her cousin Mordecai, a Jew who had risen to high positions in the Persian government while the Jews were in captivity in that land. When his name was read aloud at our celebration, we all clapped and shouted hurrah for this hero who urged Esther to go before the King and intercede for the Jewish people once a sinister plot was uncovered that they were going to be killed.
The author of this villainous plot was the King’s prime minister, Haman. Whenever I read aloud his name, we booed and stomped our feet in disapproval and blew our noisemakers. My little son Malachi did not like the noise, but Purim is commanded to be a merry, joyous feast. In fact, the Talmud records that some ancient rabbis said you should get so drunk that you don’t know if you’re saying “Blessed be Mordecai or cursed be Haman!” We decided we’d better remain sober for our gathering!
We reveled in the story of how Queen Esther approached the King at great peril to her life–to beseech for the lives of her Jewish people. In the end, her people were saved when the King allowed them to fight back when they were attacked, and they came forth with a mighty victory. Haman and all of his family were done away with, and Mordecai and Esther sent notices throughout the land for Jews to always remember this time:
“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.” Esther 9:21-22
When our night of merriment was drawing to a close, we enjoyed a potluck snack session, with everything from Krispy Kreme doughnuts to chicken salad croissants. The Jews not only feast at Purim, but they also send portions of goodies to their friends and family. We each brought a treat to share–our portion to our loved ones there.
The Jews also give to the poor at Purim, as they do during most of their holy days. We took up an offering for our local outreach ministry that provides food, clothing, heating fuel and other necessities to the less fortunate.
We have come into the kingdom for such a time as this–to spread the love and Gospel of Jesus Christ, to care for those who may need a helping hand, to love our neighbors as ourselves, to trust God for a mighty deliverance from evil as in the Book of Esther–for our personal lives, towns and cities–yea, even our nation and world.
Below, I have posted a YouTube video of our teaching/Bible study before our Purim celebration. It is very entertaining (I promise!) and extremely educational.
Below that I have the information from the handout that we used during our study of Purim. It accompanies the video and is a real help.
Hope you enjoy this! Start believing God for your own Purim and mighty deliverance where darkness is present anywhere in your life!
PURIM–FEAST OF LOTS
Why is it called Purim?
“Wherefore they called these days Purim after the name of Pur. . .” (Esther 9:26)
–“Pur”– “lot” (“Purim”–the plural “lots”)
–after the lot that was cast to decide the month and day to kill the Jews
–Also known as the “Feast of Esther”
When is Purim?
The last feast of the Jewish year
–held on Adar 14 (late February or March)
–12th and final Jewish month (leap year–Adar II)
–celebrated in Jerusalem and other walled cities in Israel on Adar 15 (called Shushan Purim)
–added much later than the Feasts of the Lord commanded in Lev. 23
–does have historical Biblical background (documented in Esther), unlike Hanukkah
What is the history behind Purim?
–5th century B.C. many Jews in Persia
–became semi–assimilated (mark Esther’s name)
–King Ahasuerus (Xerxes I, 486-465 B.C.)
–Queen Vashti: shamed the king and was dethroned
–Esther (Hadassah–“myrtle”): orphaned and raised by cousin Mordecai; chosen as queen
–Mordecai, high official in the Medo-Persian court
–descendant of Kish, a Benjamite–like King Saul
–Haman: prince promoted to prime minister
–descendant of King Agag, the Amalekite
–Amalek: Esau’s grandson whose people attacked Israel in the wilderness
–hence, Deut. 25:19
–later King Saul was disobedient
–led to what happened at Purim
–setting: Shushan, capital of Persia (just north of Persian Gulf in modern Iran)–Persian Empire had 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia
–chain of events
–Mordecai saved king’s life
–Mordecai refused to idolize Haman
–Haman plotted to kill all Jews because of Mordecai
–cast the lot to find time: Adar 13
–Mordecai begged Esther to intervene at risk of her life (Esther 4:14)
–Esther called a 3-day fast before petitioning king
–invited him and Haman to banquet, then to another
–after the 1st, king ordered chronicles read to him
–meanwhile, Haman sees Mordecai again
–king calls Haman in to find way to honor Mordecai
–at 2nd banquet, Esther petitions king; identifies Haman
–Haman throws himself at Esther’s couch
–king comes in and misunderstands
–orders Haman hanged
–law cannot be repealed
–king gave Jews the right of self-defense
–fought on Adar 13 and won
–longer fighting in Shushan
–Mordecai sent letters to Jews to celebrate Adar 14-15
How is Purim to be celebrated?
Actually the merriest holiday on the Jewish calendar
Adar 13 became known as the “Fast of Esther”
–fast originally near Passover; few keep it today
Main traditions today: Esther 9:22
–no restrictions on working–minor holiday
–reading the Book of Esther (“megillah”–scroll)
–Haman: booing, clapping, stamping feet, noisemakers (groggers), writing his name on shoe bottoms
–taking a collection for the poor
–sending food delicacies (plate of cake, pastries, fruit, nuts) to friends, often delivered by a child
–feasting (usually at the end of Purim)
–hamantashan: triangular pastries w/poppy seed or prune filling (“mohn”–poppy seed, “taschen”–pockets)
–kreplach: noodle-like dish made from triangular pieces of dough, stuffed with a chopped meat and minced-onion filling and served in a thick, steaming soup
–some rabbis even encouraged drinking
–masquerades, costumes, carnivals, parades
What is the symbolism for Christians?
To show that the enemies of God are defeated (Zech. 2:8)
—“The path of anti-Semitism is a well-worn path that always leads to the destruction of its traveler. . .Even as the fate of Pharaoh, Antiochus Epiphanes, Hitler, Nasser, Khomeini (whose name actually was ‘Haman’ in Farsi), so, too, will be the fate of Qadafi, Arafat, Assad, Saddam Hussein, and the host of others who dare to curse Israel and thereby the God of Abraham.” (The Feasts of the Lord by Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal, 1997)
To show that God always delivers His people
To show how God turns things around for His glory
–Gen. 50:20, Esther 8:17, Haman’s gallows