[I’d like to give credit to the author of the following Purim message, but I can’t remember who originally gave it! Whoever he is, I ask that he not be offended that it’s reprinted for the visitors on the Shema website, so that more people can benefit from his insights. They are too good not to be more widely circulated!]
The Megillah (Scroll) of Esther recounts the story of the salvation of the Jewish people in the time of the Persians in a most unique way, because there is no mention of God in the story! You will not find His name anywhere in this book of the Bible! Although the Persian king Ahasuerus is mentioned 190 times in the 167 verses of the Megillah, God is not mentioned even once! Further, although the Book of Esther is full of crises and danger for Israel, there are no references to Jerusalem, the Temple, the sacrifices, the Torah, the Covenant, prayer, love, or forgiveness. The lack of any reference to God, His institutions of worship, or almost any religious activity, has led many Jewish and Christian thinkers to question whether the Megillah of Esther should have been included in the Bible. But God is there! His presence is discerned through a series of “coincidences,” alleged “random events” that come together to form a grand design that could only have come from a Grand Designer. In fact, Purim is named for one of these seemingly random events. The word Purim comes from the word, pur, or lot. The holiday derives its name from the fact that Haman cast lots to determine when he should destroy the Jewish people. He found out, as have so many other, that there is no good time to hate those whom God loves!
Unfortunately, there are many people who believe, as Haman did, that life is determined by luck, by chance, by the force of human will, or through some combination of them all. They wish one another “good luck,” or speak of the “luck of the draw,” or good fortune “smiling down” on them. But the Holy Scriptures teach that the circumstances of life are not a product of luck or fortune. Rather, they teach that the God of Israel is in control of everything, even the seemingly random events of life. Proverb 16:33 expresses this truth when it says: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.”
There is no room in a Biblical world view for the “pagan” ideas of chance, fortune, accident or luck. Whatever happens to any individual comes to us by divine appointment. Even those events which seem to be random or haphazard are in reality directed and determined by the will, counsel, plan and purpose of God. Nothing comes to pass by chance, nor is any event determined by blind fortune or accident.
Was it really coincidence that Esther, an intermarried Jewish beauty queen who concealed her Jewish identity from everyone, including her own Gentile husband, was in the unique position to help foil an evil plot to destroy her people? Her cousin Mordecai’s question hints at the answer: “Who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” It clearly is no coincidence that an unknown Jewish girl should become the queen of Persia, the most powerful empire on Earth, and at just the right time. God orchestrated her very unusual circumstances, and in the critical moment she accepted her difficult situation with remarkable courage and was willing to reveal her Jewish identity and risk her life in order to effect the reversal of Israel’s fate. Like Esther, some of us have found ourselves in unpleasant, painful or difficult circumstances beyond our control. But unlike good Queen Esther, often our natural inclination is to try and find a way out of those circumstances. Sometimes when that is not possible, we become angry or bitter. The story of Purim challenges us to respond differently. Don’t believe for one minute that the circumstances of your life are mere coincidence, or that life is just “happening” to you. It may well be that the all-knowing God has ordained those very circumstances to bring about His great purposes. Though we may not see His hand at work, we must be faithful and courageous and look for Him to accomplish His purposes through us.
Another example of a seeming coincidence that is no coincidence involves a case of royal insomnia. The night before prime minister Haman was to kill Mordecai, the king of Persia couldn’t sleep. He had the royal records read to him, and “happened” to come across the section describing how some time earlier, Mordecai saved the king’s life by foiling an assassination plot by some of the king’s officials. When Mordecai had found out about the plot to kill the king, he could have said, “This is not my problem. Why should I stick out my neck for this goy? I don’t particularly like or respect this king. This isn’t my problem.” Yet Mordecai did the honorable, loyal and courageous thing. He revealed the conspiracy and the life of the king was saved. However, Mordecai had gone unrewarded for this good deed. But at the critical time, the very night before Haman planned to kill Mordecai, the king’s attention was drawn to just the right entry in the royal records, and that night Mordecai’s courage was rewarded. The king promoted Mordecai, and the next day, the very day on which Haman had planned to kill Mordecai, he was instead forced to honor Mordecai as he led him through the streets of the capital as a hero. Coincidence? No! While Mordecai’s good deed seemed to have gone unrewarded at first, that was part of God’s plan to deliver not only Mordecai, but all of the Jewish people!
Like Mordecai, we must choose to do what is right in every circumstance. We can never justify indifference to the perils of those around us or dismiss them as “someone else’s problem.” It was precisely that kind of thinking that enabled Hitler to perpetrate his horrible crimes in Nazi Germany and throughout Europe. When you find yourself facing a difficult situation, one of life’s trials, don’t believe for one second that God is not in control – He is in control. Even when we don’t see God’s hand at work in obvious ways, we can still be assured of His subtle sovereignty. We understand that He is the Lord of everything, with all authority in Heaven and on Earth, and we can trust Him to work out His perfect will in our lives.
Remember that the Almighty used a beautiful but timid Jewish girl who married a Gentile, who hid her identity, to bring about the salvation of His people. The All-Wise One also orchestrated a case of insomnia to bring about the deliverance of Israel and the destruction of His enemies. Who knows what circumstances God may use in our lives? Sometimes our lives seem like a giant jigsaw puzzle. Sometimes the pieces come together excruciatingly slowly, and we don’t have a sense of the big picture – yet. Sometimes we are tempted to rid ourselves of the pieces that don’t seem to fit into the kind of picture that we would design for ourselves. But it may be those seemingly undesirable pieces that present us with God’s greatest opportunities for us that will complete our lives, and bring together the all the pieces of the puzzle. Rather than dismissing events as coincidence, by knowing who the God of our salvation is, and by having confidence in Him and His Word, we can recognize His designs. Instead of despising our difficult circumstances, we can look for the unique opportunities these difficulties may present us to fulfill God’s purposes.
Purim teaches us that whatever we may face, if we ask for the courage to trust and obey God, no matter what the circumstance, His Lordship, His sovereignty, His control of all things, His plan and purposes to cause all things to work together for our good, will become apparent. We will be able to rejoice in the love and care of the workings of the invisible God, whom no man has seen, but who now has been revealed through Yeshua the Messiah! The real hero in the Megillah is not Esther or Mordecai, but the invisible God, who was working behind the scenes, and using ordinary but willing men and women like these to preserve the Jewish people against all “odds.” Throughout the generations, individuals like Haman, Herod, Hitler and Hussein have harbored satanically-inspired hopes of annihilating the Jewish people. But the sovereign Lord of the universe has worked behind the scenes and proven His faithfulness time and time again. He will not allow His people to be destroyed, His plans thwarted, nor His counsels overturned. And that is no coincidence!