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Learning from the Jewish holiday of Purim

Tomorrow, Friday, March 19, after midnight marks the beginning of Purim, going through March 20. Purim is the most joyous holiday on the Jewish calendar, celebrated to commemorate the events found in the book of Esther when God delivered the Jews from complete destruction, using Queen Esther (a Jew) to save her own people.  Queen Esther is one of my favorite characters in the Bible. She was a great woman of faith, prayer, and courage.

What does Purim have to do with us as Christians?

Although Chrisitans typically don’t celebrate Purim, we can remember how God delivered the Jews – and how¬†He has delivered us from our enemy¬†satan –¬†and celebrate in our hearts with them.¬†So many believers don’t get that God’s heart burns with passion toward Israel, and that¬† as believers we are intimately connected with Israel.

Ray and I have always celebrated Jewish holidays from a Messianic viewpoint, knowing that we’re connected with the Jews. I have¬† a special love in my heart for them. Years ago Ray and I went to Israel on a missions/pleasure trip – a huge dream of mine that God made come true.¬†¬† Also, our Savior Jesus is Jewish, and Jesus celebrated the Jewish holidays. Ray and I have done a Messianic Passover each year, and while we may not go “full out” on the other holidays, we do try to remember them in some way.

¬†The Jews also gave us our Bible. Gentiles (non-Jews) are tied with the Jews by virtue of God’s covenant to all mankind that He would provide a Messiah(Genesis 3:15). The difference is that the Jews are still waiting for their Messiah, but Christians know the Messiah – Jesus – has already come, and will return soon.

What do Jews do to celebrate Purim?

It’s interesting to study how the Jews celebrate this holiday of Purim, that we can apply in our own lives anytime to demonstrate the love of Christ. There are four “requirements” for Jews to participate:

  • Bible reading and study – They go to a synagogue to listen to the miraculous events of the Megillah (Scroll of¬†Esther) once during the day and once at night. They listen to the entire reading, which usually takes about 25 minutes. During the reading, they use noisemakers called graggers to show their displeasure and “stomp him out” when Haman’s name is mentioned during the reading. We can thank God that Jesus “stomped out” satan’s power¬†on the cross!
  • Charity – They give to at least two needy people.
  • Help others – They prepare two¬†ready-to-eat¬†foods for at least one person.
  • Celebrate life – They sit down to a royal feast.

Purim and prayer

As Christians we know the importance of prayer.¬† The Jews say the Al Hanissim prayer at Purim: “And [we thank You] for the miracles, for the redemption, for the mighty deeds, for the saving acts, and for the wonders which You have wrought for our ancestors in those days, at this time -”

“In the days of Mordechai and Esther, in Shushan the capital, when the wicked Haman rose up against them, and sought to destroy, slaughter, and annihilate all the Jews,¬†young and old, infants and women, in one day, on the thirteenth day¬†of the twelth month, the month of Adar, and to take their spoil for plunder. But You, in Your abounding mercies, foiled his counsel and frustrated his intention and caused the evil he planned – to recoil on his own head, and they hanged him and his sons upon the gallows.”

We as believers can praise God every day, too, for the miracles and great things He has done in our lives. We can thank God¬†how He has frustrated satan’s intentions of destruction¬†in our lives, destroying him through Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection.

Foods and fun at Purim

Special foods are made, like the traditional hamantashen cookies, made with strawberry or apricot preserves. They have hidden fillings, which relates to the hidden mystery of God in the story.

While Christians have varying beliefs about the use of alcohol, the Jews also drink to celebrate God’s deliverance of His people¬†on this day, “imbibing more than usual” – the only day of the year they are allowed to drink more than is their custom.¬†Whatever your stance is on drinking, their celebration isn’t a drunken party, but it¬†has an atmosphere of great joy. (I could do an entire teaching on the use of alcohol. There are always extremes on both sides of the coin.)

One fun custom of Purim is for children to dress up in costumes and masks, an allusion to the fact that the miracle of Purim was disguised in natural garments. While God isn’t specifically mentioned anywhere in the book of Esther, His Divine Hand is seen clearly behind the scenes. Kids also play games, do crafts, put together puzzles, and sing songs.

How we can pray for the Jews and Israel

As the Jews celebrate Purim, we can pray for their eyes to be opened to the truth of Jesus Christ and for their salvation, and for the continued protection of Israel. We can also read the book of Esther and model her example of faith, courage, and trust in God, no matter what we may face ahead. As we trust in God, we can have confidence He has us in His hands as He did Queen Esther and the Jews.

Queen Esther

Here were Esther’s brave words of faith and love for her people¬†that she spoke when she learned of Haman’s evil plans to kill all the Jews. ¬†It is why God chose her to be the new queen, to be used as a mighty weapon of warfare against the enemy intending to destroy the Jews. May we cultivate that same believing, faith-filled heart of love for God and others.

“”Assemble all the Jews in Susa. Fast for me: Do not eat or drink at all for three entire days. My servants and I will also fast. After that, I will go to the king, even if it is against a royal decree. If I die, I die.” – Esther 4:16, God’s Word Translation

Video of Queen Esther coming before the king, facing possible death because he hadn’t summoned her (One Night With The King movie)



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