Festival of Lots
Book of Esther
First Covenant Application:
celebration of God's deliverance of Israel from Haman the Agagite by Esther's appeal to the king and the faithful word of her testimony
New Covenant Application:
promise of deliverance for God's people from their enemies (all who are typified by the spirit of antichrist) by our reliance on God and the word of our testimony
Battle of Armageddon and judgment of the antichrist and false prophet
Purim (Festival of Lots)
mentioned in Tanakh ('Old' Testament)
When one takes a first glance at the costumes of people marching in a Purim parade, one wonders if this is the Jewish version of Mardis Gras. Given the English translation of the name of this Feast (Festival of Lots), it really sounds like New Orleans! But this is a victory celebration, not a fête de la folie. Purim is one of the three festivals (along with Passover and Hanukkah) that celebrate God’s deliverance of His people corporately from a foreign enemy. Theologically speaking, Passover celebrates our delivery from sin through the blood of the Passover Lamb, Jesus; Hanukkah and Purim celebrate our delivery from the devil, who by the spirit of antichrist has been made physically manifest in many forms, including Haman, Antiochus Epiphanes, Hitler, and most recently, radical Islam—in the faces of its poster children like ISIS and the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran. Ultimately, he will take the form of the man of lawlessness depicted in passages like 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 and Daniel 11:36-45. What Purim teaches us specifically through the story of Esther is the power of simple faith, obedience, courage, and the willingness to plead our case with the king while staring in the face of the enemy.
Not long after Judah was exiled to Babylon for seventy years due to idolatry, the Persian Empire conquered Babylon. Thanks to God's protection and influence through the prophet Daniel, the Jews retained favor with both the Babylonians and Persians; even some of the leaders of these nations became impressed with Judaism and served God! After their seventy-year sentence was over, the Persians allowed the Jews to go home and rebuild the Temple. Many Jews went with Ezra and Nehemiah back to Israel; but many more stayed in Persia.
During this time, the descendant of an old enemy of the Jewish people, Haman the Agagite, rose to power in the court of Xerxes the king. He hated the Jews beyond description and sought to exterminate them. Meanwhile, the king became displeased with his queen, Vashti, who disobeyed his orders; and so, he 'held auditions' to choose a new queen. God allowed Esther, a young teenage Jewess, to win the heart of the king and be installed as the new queen.
The queen's cousin, Mordecai, was also a faithful member of the court. He protected the interests of the king and even saved his life on one occasion; but Haman knew Mordecai was Jewish, and wanted Mordecai to worship him. Mordecai refused because as a Jew, he would show honor only to God; and so Haman came up with a plan to destroy all Jews: he maligned their reputation with the king as usurpers and traitors, and suggested that Xerxes issue an edict that all the Jews would be killed by their enemies within the Persian Empire. Xerxes bought the lie, and issued the edict, not knowing that Esther was Jewish. When Mordecai found out about Haman's plan, he pleaded with Esther to go before the king and reveal the plot. The only problem with this idea was that appearing before the king unnanounced could cost one their life--even the queen. But Esther stood fast in her faith and risked her life to save her people. She revealed to Xerxes what Haman had done and that she was Jewish; therefore, she would be condemned to death as well. Xerxes was enraged; he had Haman hanged on the gallows that was prepared for Mordecai, and issued another decree that allowed the Jews to defend themselves against their enemies. As a result, the Jewish elders declared that there would be a new festival called Purim, or 'lots', because Haman had cast lots to decide when the Jews would die, and instead he chose the day of his own death.
An important lesson is learned from the story of Purim: human beings are easily tempted to despair in light of everything that is happens in the world. Because Jesus has not yet returned to finish off the forces of evil, much goes on that is counter to God's kingdom of love and light; in some places, people fear for their lives every day. But we must remember that God is sovereign; he notified us in advance that these kind of events and worse would take place before Jesus returns again to make everything right. We can be encouraged by the fact that, beyond all doubt, the Judeo-Christian faith will endure; the people of God will not be silenced, and in the end, we will reign victorious with Him. In the meantime, we are not to be idle. Like Esther, we must take our position of faith and obedience to the Lord as a witness against the darkness--a beacon of hope to those who are yet to taste the freedom of His love. In this way, the kingdom of God is advanced even now. As the world gets darker and darker, the love of God shining through the citizens of His kingdom gets brighter and brighter. Contrary to the world's philosophy of self-worship, which leads to war, hate, murder, greed, exploitation, and deception in the pursuit of selfish gain, those who worship the God of Israel are called to spread as much love, peace, hope, healing, and justice as we can before Jesus returns. This, like the testimony of Esther, exposes the plans of the enemy, making plain the path of truth.
We could take the coward's path, running and hiding from evil; or like Esther, we can be the antiseptic of Christ that destroys the bonds of sin. As Mordecai asked in Esther 4:14, "...who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”