Read: Esther 9:1-10:3
“That is why this celebration is called Purim, because it is the ancient word for casting lots.” Esther 9:26
Ahhh; another easy to understand and easy to read chapter in Esther. Well, maybe not. Just so it doesn’t seem like I’m ignoring the obvious from this reading, I’ll get it out of the way upfront – over a two day period, 75,000 enemies of the Jews were killed throughout Persia and Haman’s 10 sons were impaled.
As we read accounts like this, it can be easy to focus on the realities of how brutal life could be in ancient times and miss what God has for us in the reading. Before I start each of these devotionals (actually before I read the Bible), I pause and ask God to open my heart to His message and to give me the wisdom to understand what He has for me in it. For the devotionals, I also ask Him to guide my thinking and writing so I can accurately convey sound meaning and context for the reader.
The author of Esther (who some claim to be Mordecai) wrote Esther as a historical narrative for Jews. Because of their culture, upbringing, and background, it can safely be assumed that Jews reading this account would have easily seen the hand of God throughout this book. While God’s name wasn’t mentioned, the theological principles of Judaism are interwoven throughout the text.
The concept of purim (casting of lots or die) shows up throughout the Old Testament and in ancient Jewish writings. I think Proverbs 16:33 summarizes Jewish thought on purim: “We may throw the dice, but the LORD determines how they fall.” This concept is seen not only in Esther but also throughout the entire Bible. Humans were (and are) responsible for our actions (free will); however, God’s will and plans are supreme, and He will ultimately prevail. In Esther 4:14, Mordecai is telling Esther she has the free will to act as God’s agent in saving the Jews. If she chooses not to act, God’s plan will still prevail; He’ll just choose another way to make it happen: “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place… And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
So when the Jews celebrate the Festival of Purim, it’s not the slaughter of 75,000 of their enemies that they are celebrating, it’s the fact that they were redeemed by the God of the universe. Humans took action, but God worked through them in such a way as to make His will be done.
During their annual Purim celebration, Jews recite three blessings before reading the Megillah (the book of Esther) aloud:
Blessing 1: Blessed are You Lord, our God, Ruler of the world, Who sanctified us through His commandments and commanded us concerning the reading of the Megillah. Amen
Blessing 2: Blessed are You Lord, our God, Ruler of the world, Who wrought miracles for our ancestors in those days at this season. Amen
Blessing 3: Blessed are You Lord, our God, Ruler of the world, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season. Amen
Blessed are You Lord, our God, Ruler of the world, Who sent His Son, Jesus, to live a sinless life on earth and to give Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. Just as You delivered Your people again and again throughout the Old Testament, You provide for the ultimate salvation for Your people of the new covenant through our belief in Jesus as our Lord and Savior. It’s in His name I pray… Amen.