TODAY'S SPECIAL: Esther 9:20-10:3
TO CHEW ON:
"And Mordecai wrote these things and sent letters to all the Jews, near and far, who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, to establish among them that they should celebrate yearly the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar, as the days on which the Jews had rest from their enemies, as the month which was turned from sorrow to joy for them, and from mourning to a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and joy, of sending presents to one another and gifts to the poor." - Esther 9:20-22
Every time I log onto Facebook I get a little reminder of whom among my friends is celebrating a birthday on this day. Sending people greets and having parties on birthdays is one way we celebrate individuals in our culture.
We also celebrate special days: love on Valentine's Day, all things Irish on St. Patrick's Day, Mothers and Fathers on their respective days, our country on our national holiday...
God is a great believer in celebrations. The Old Testament is full of parties (called "Feasts") that He instituted for the Israelites to celebrate. In some ways they were a lot like our holidays. The Israelites were to take time off work and they often ate special food.
But these feasts were also different. Most of our celebrations are only a day or a weekend long. Some of the Israelites' feasts lasted a whole week or longer. And while our celebrations are often all about us–what gifts we’ll get, what we’ll eat, how much fun we’ll have–the Israelites’ holidays helped them focus on God.
Some of them, like the Passover, helped them remember how God had helped in the past. Others, like the Feast of First fruits, were times they gave God the first things they harvested. The Feast of Purim (instituted by Mordecai here) reminded them of the miraculous turn of events that began when Queen Esther took her life in her hands to approach the king and beg for the life of her people.
In addition to helping the people remember what God had done, celebrations were also one way the Israelites were to fulfill God's command to teach His ways to their children. Moses instructed them on this in Deuteronomy 6. Not only were parents to explain God's laws to their children in the course of everyday life (Deuteronomy 6:6-9) but they were also to explain God's miracle interventions in the context of His testimonies, statutes and judgements (which included observing the special feasts - Deuteronomy 6:20-22).
Perhaps it wouldn't be a bad idea to add some spiritual celebrations to our secular ones—having parties, for example, commemorating the day we were born again, the day we were baptized, or the day God answered a significant prayer for us or our family. Because we also need to keep these memories strong and pass the stories on to our kids!
PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for reasons to celebrate and times of celebration. Help me to take time to recall and retell the stories of how You have worked in my life and the life of my family. Amen.
The Jewish people still celebrate the Feast of Purim. Here are some things they do on that day:
1. They read the story of Esther from the Hegillah (the Scroll). They cheer whenever Esther’s name is mentioned, boo at Haman’s name and wave graggers or noisemakers. They also act out the story in plays.
2. They wear costumes, disguises and masks to remind them of how Esther had to hide the fact that she was Jewish.
3. They send gifts to each other and the poor. They also invite people to join them in a special Purim meal.
4. They make special food. One treat is called Hamantaschen (Haman’s Hat). It is a three-cornered pastry filled with poppy seeds or prunes.
(Adapted from the Bible Drive-Thru devotion "From Sadness to Celebration")
The Feast of Purim is celebrated on the 14th of Adar (Hebrew calendar), which changes from year to year on the secular calendar.
2015 - March 3 & 4;
2016 - March 23 & 24;
2017 - March 9 & 12.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.