“Pack your bags honey, we’re going to Israel!”
My wife Barbara and I were ecstatic to hear that once again we would be making our way to Israel—only this time we would be working with a group of volunteers participating in The Friends Of Israel’s Hesed Project.
One of the things on our packing list was a costume. I thought we should go as Saskatchewan Roughrider fans. Maybe you’re wondering to yourself, “What in the world is a Saskatchewan Roughrider fan, and why would you want to dress up as one, especially in Israel?”
Saskatchewan, Canada, our hometown, only has two professional sports teams, one of which is this football team. We fans tend to be a little overzealous as a result. We dress up on game day in the team’s colors of green and white. We wear green capes, sport wild-looking green hair, paint half our bodies in green, and don an actual carved out watermelon on our heads—all of which is considered completely normal.
Although this may seem crazy to some, one thing is for certain: Fans enjoy a robust atmosphere as they cheer their football team on. So I thought it would make for a great costume. But why would we dress up as Rider fans in Israel? Are the Roughriders playing there? Is green becoming the new color in Israel? Has Halloween come early? Not quite! We just wanted to celebrate with our Jewish friends the happiest day on their calendar: Purim.
Purim is a time (Adar 14, February-March) when Jewish people and Gentiles around the world who love Israel celebrate God’s faithfulness to His people. It’s a time when the Jewish people remember how God delivered them from an evil, wicked man named Haman. Although it is not one of God’s seven prescribed feasts as found in Leviticus 23, it is nonetheless a festival that celebrates the decrees of Mordecai and Queen Esther found in the latter part of chapter 9.
Last year I attended a Purim Party at Beth Jacob Synagogue in Regina, Saskatchewan. I saw all the hype and excitement as children and adults came dressed up in costumes to celebrate this wonderful holiday. Every time the name of Haman was mentioned as the Megillah (Scroll of Esther) was read, it was immediatly followed with boos, stomping of feet, and noises coming from spinning greggers (musical instruments). Contrary to that, every time Mordecai’s name was mentioned, the room was filled with cheers, clapping, and rejoicing. When you understand why they celebrate the way they do and that they’re just as zealous as any Rider fan, you’ll likely want to join them in the festivities, too.
God’s Unmistakable Work in Esther
The historical account in the book of Esther tells us of God’s faithfulness to His people. Although His name is not mentioned in the book, God’s presence throughout it is overwhelming.
The account took place in Shushan (located in modern day Iran) during the reign of the Persian King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) sometime around 483–471 B.C. Haman the Agagite, filled with evil, wicked hatred for Mordecai and his people, lured the king into making a decree to kill and destroy all Jewish people in his land. Haman also had gallows built towering 75 feet high just so he could have the pleasure of seeing Mordecai hanged.
But God! Yes, God intervened providentially in the account, as He worked through Mordecai and Queen Esther, saving the Jewish people and reversing the expected outcome. Haman was hanged instead of Mordecai, and a new decree was made instructing the Jewish people to defend themselves against anyone who would try and harm them. If you’ve never read the story of Esther, I encourage you to read it and see for yourself God’s mighty hand at work.
The threat that came against God’s people during the time of Queen Esther was nothing new, nor is it today. Ever since the fall in the Garden of Eden and God’s promise that the Seed (Messiah Jesus) of the woman would crush the head of the serpent, Satan has been on the defensive.
Think about it. Satan and his fallen demons tried to corrupt the human race in Genesis 6 so that the Seed of the woman could not come forth, but Satan failed. He tried through Pharoah to destroy all the baby boys of Israel and failed. He tried again and again through Israel’s enemies—King Herod, General Titus, Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein, and others— to destroy God’s people but failed. If Satan could thwart God’s plan in any way so that God’s Word can not come to pass, God would be made a liar and Satan couldn’t be judged. Satan will never stop until Messiah finally crushes his head and casts him into the Lake of Fire for all eternity.
God promises over and over in His Word that He will never forsake the Jewish people and that he who touches them touches the apple of His eye.
Today we see Satan’s continued strategy as he continues working in the children of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2). The Iraninan leadership today has vowed to wipe Israel off the face of the map while most of the world remains silent. We also see anti-Semitism on the rise all over the world, as this satanic Haman-like hatred rears its ugly head once again.
The good news is we know how the story ends, and it doesn’t spell victory for Satan, his demons, nor Israel’s enemies of yesterday, today, and in the future. God promises over and over in His Word that He will never forsake the Jewish people (Jeremiah 30:11, 31:35–36, Isaiah 49:14–16) and that he who touches them touches the apple of His eye (Zechariah 2:8).
As you read the account of Esther, you can clearly see God’s protective hand on His people. A miracle happened then, but it is also a miracle today that the Jewish people, making up less than one tenth of one percent of the world’s population, have survived all the hatred that has come upon them.
Not only has God preserved them as a national identity forever (Jeremiah 30:11), but we also see that He is gathering His people back to the land of Israel (Isaiah 43:5–6, Jeremiah 23:8, 31:8–10, Ezekiel 11:16–17) that He promised to them as an everlasting possession (Genesis 12:1, 48:4, Psalm 105:6–11).
This regathering today of the Jewish people is setting the stage for further biblical prophecies to be fulfilled when God will one day enter into judgment with all the nations who come up against His people (Joel 3:2, Zechariah 14:2–3). God will not allow this Haman-like hatred to go on forever, for His Word tells us that one day the pre-eminence will shift from the Gentiles to the Jewish people (Isaiah 49:22–23, Zephaniah 3:19–20, Zechariah 8:23, 14:16–17). No longer will they be persecuted, ridiculed, and abused. Instead they will be saved physically and spiritually (Zechariah 14, Jeremiah 31:31–34, Romans 11:26). God is indeed faithful to His people, and we can trust Him and His Word with all our hearts!
As for us, we’re off to Israel again, where this year, green is the color, but Purim is the game. Happy Purim, everyone!