Today is our last sermon in the book of Esther. I think I have covered most everything that I've wanted to cover. And today we are just going to look at the symbolism of the feast of Purim. Colossians 2:17 says that all of the Old Testament feasts and festivals were a shadow of the things to come. What does that mean, that they were a shadow of the things to come"? Hebrews 10:1 says the same thing. It says that the ceremonial laws were a shadow of the good things to come. That passage is saying that we are experiencing the good things in the kingdom, and that those Old Testament ceremonies foreshadowed what we have and even what's future to us.
Last week we saw that there are two historical events in this book which cast a shadow into the future, just like trees 100 feet away might cast a shadow all the way over to where you are standing. When the sun is behind you the shadow moves ahead of you – it is foreshadowing your arrival. If you try to sneak up on somebody with the sun at your back, they will know. Why? Because your shadow gets there before you do. That's foreshadowing. The shadow may not show all of your features, but you can often make out enough in the form that you can even tell who is coming. And that is true of the prophetic pictures in the Old Testament. Last week we saw that there are two pictures in this book that portray Christ's work and His kingdom. The first historical event which casts an encouraging shadow of Christ's victory is the battle with Amalek. Amalek has always stood as a symbol of humanistic opposition to God. And this battle shows that Jesus will win.
The second picture in this book is this feast of Purim that we just read about. You may not have realized it, but all of the festivals in the Old Testament portray a different facet of Christ's work. And even the order in which they were given shows the historical progress of the New Testament era.
Brief overview of the seven biblical festivals tied to the temple (see separate handout)
And I thought that the first thing that I should do is to give you a brief overview of how all of the festivals cast a shadow on our kingdom age from the beginning of the kingdom to the end of the time of the Gentiles. If you pull out the chart that I made on festivals, I think it will help you to follow along. It is called "Broad Overview of the Biblical Festivals." Let me just explain the chart to you first. On the top, very left hand side you will see an "S" and a "C" and the words sacred and civil. Those two columns just show where the months line up on the two calendars that you will find in the Bible. There was a civil calendar that the state followed (and that just dealt with business and civil matters), and there was a sacred calendar that the Biblical festivals followed.
If you want evidence of whether Purim is simply a secular holiday authorized by man (like some people claim) or whether it is a sacred holiday authorized by God, all you have to do is see what calendar the inspired author is using. We gave many other proofs that this was a God-given festival, but this is one that I failed to mention. In chapter 9:1 the month Adar is not called the sixth month (that would have made it part of the civil calendar). It's called the twelfth month. Now in the twelfth month, that is, the month of Adar… He is letting his readers know that this is a religious, sacred calendar that he is talking about. So those two left hand columns are important. If I remember I will refer to their significance when I get to the feast of Trumpets. When you are studying the festivals, you need to understand the interplay of these two calendars because symbolically they say a lot.
The next column over gives the name of the feast. In the middle you will see in large letters a rough summary of four groupings of feasts. For example, the first three belong together, and they all show how Jesus redeems us. He redeems us through His death (Passover), his burial (unleavened bread) and his resurrection (firstfruits). They are given different names, but they are three days in a row with rejoicing continuing until the eighth day.
We won't have time to cover everything in those three days, and even my handout does not cover all the symbolism involved. For example, I have 19 points of symbolism on Passover alone that were fulfilled in Jesus. A lamb had to be set apart for death on the 10th of Abib, and Jesus was anointed for his death on the 10th of Abib or later Scriptures call that month Nisan. The sheep were brought to the temple on the same day that Jesus made His triumphal entry and then cleansed the temple. He would have been walking towards His persecutors in the midst of some 250,000 sheep that were being taken in preparation for slaughter. That was Palm Sunday. It would have been such an emotional time to be seeing the picture of your death all around you. The sheep started to be killed at 3 pm on the 14th of Abib or Nisan, which is exactly when Jesus died on the cross. He died at 3 pm on the 14th of Nisan.
The feast of firstfruits occurs on Nisan 16. This was the day when a token harvest of grain was offered up to the Lord as a symbol of the resurrection of Christ and the saints with Him. But preparation for that began the evening before Jesus was crucified. The elders went out to a field of grain and marked the spot that was to be harvested by binding together some standing grain with a rope before it would be cut down. That was the night that Jesus was bound by the elders of Israel. The grain was bound in a field outside of Jerusalem over the brook Kidron. Guess where Jesus was bound? Outside Jerusalem over the brook Kidron in a Garden called Gethsemane which would have bordered that field. So the grain was bound on the evening that Jesus was bound.
Guess when the grain was cut down? It was the next evening just as the Sabbath was approaching. And that was when Christ was taken off the cross.
Edersheim comments on the irony of the moment as the throng carries this heavy burden of grain away at the very time when Nicodemus and Joseph carry the body to a nearby tomb.
"… a noisy throng followed delegates from the Sanhedrin outside the city and across the brook Kedron. It was a very different procession, and for a different purpose, from the small band of mourners which, just about the same time, carried the body of the dead Savior from the cross to the rock-hewn tomb wherein no man had yet been laid. While the one turned into ‘the garden,' perhaps to one side, the other emerged, amidst loud demonstrations, in a field across Kedron, which had been marked out for that purpose.
The heavy basket containing the sheaves of grain stayed in the basket for three days and three nights just as Christ was in the tomb for three days and three nights. On the 16th of Nisan it was beaten out, ground and purified. And then it was offered up to the Lord as a wave offering. That pictures the resurrection of Jesus and the Old Testament saints with Him. You see, it wasn't just one kernal of grain. It was a bunch that was offered up. And actually, we died, were buried and raised with Him. I'm not giving you all of the symbolism, but I wanted to give you enough so that you could see that these Old Testament feasts were designed to at least in a shadowy way, tell the story of the Gospel and the kingdom that would follow.
If you look at the middle column with the big print you can see then that the first set of three feasts are tied thematically together, and they were all in the same month. They showed that Jesus redeems a people to Himself.
Pentecost is the next one and that occurs 50 days later and it shows that Jesus equips and empowers a people. It's the first feast that uses leaven in the bread. Once Passover does away with all the leaven of sin, the new leaven of the kingdom would grow. And there is the symbol of the two loaves representing the Jews and the Gentiles united together. There is a lot in Pentecost that is neat, but we will have to skip over.
The next three feasts all have their focus on the temple. And I should point out that the very nature of all seven feasts revolves around the temple. Once these feasts were fulfilled, there was no longer a need for the temple. That's important to understand. The feast of trumpets does what you would expect a trumpet to do: it calls the Gentiles to salvation and it warns the Jews that they may be cut off. Yom Kippur declares that Jesus has provided covering or atonement for His people, but judges Israel for willful sin. Hebrews spends a lot of time on this Day of Atonement and how it guaranteed Israel's judgment if they continued to willfully trample underfoot the blood of Jesus. Atonement was the time when there were two goats – one was slain and the other was sent off into the wilderness.
The next feast, Tabernacles declares God's intention to save the nations and to scatter Israel among the nations. And there were many, many details of those feasts that provided symbolism for this. For example, Genesis 10 lists 70 nations as representative of all the nations of the world. At the feast of Tabernacles there were 70 bulls over the course of 7 days that were sacrificed to symbolize the fact that Jesus died for the Gentile nations. They don't all come to Christ at once. There are 13 on the first day, 12 on the second, etc., showing that Gentiles will gradually come over time. But Israel had to live in tabernacles or booths made out of branches to symbolize the fact that Israel would become sojourners and be scattered without a home if they did not repent. Zechariah 14 is one of several passages which indicate that this harvest feast was designed to show a great harvest of the Gentiles and that this harvest would last until the fullness of the Gentiles had come in. But the disconcerting thing about this feast is that the 70 nations for whom these 70 bulls are slain does not include Israel. In fact, the word for nations, goyim, means Gentiles. This was a feast par excellence for the Gentiles that Israel was forced to celebrate. That may explain why through most of Israel's history the Jews refused to celebrate it. Listen to Nehemiah 8:17: So the whole assembly who had returned from the captivity made booths and sat under the booths; for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun until that day the children of Israel had not done so. With so many Gentiles becoming believers, I think it dawned on them the significance of this feast. It was a feast for God's kingdom to extend to the Gentiles. The Jews were supposed to keep it as a warning that they would lose their homes and be scattered if they did not keep covenant.
And that's where the feast of Purim comes in. it answers the question, "What happens to Israel during Christ's kingdom?" If Tabernacles is describing the discipling of the Gentile nations, what about Israel? Will they be forever rejected? And the feast of Purim assured God's people (even when they were in exile) that God would never permanently abandon them. In fact, it foreshadows a time when Israel would be gathered again out of a scattered condition and would be saved. That is still future to us.
Before we look at the symbolism of this feast of Purim, let me have you turn with me to Romans 11. This is a chapter which answers the question of what God's relationship with Israel would be over the whole course of our era. Let's back up a bit and start with Romans 9:30
Romans 9:30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith;
Romans 9:31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.
Romans 9:32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone.
Romans 9:33 As it is written: "Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame."
Romans 10:1 Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.
Which Israel? The ones who are stumbling over the rock of Christ – apostate Israel. In chapter 10 Paul seeks to show that Israel needs the gospel (verses 1-13), but they have largly rejected the Gospel (verse 14-21.] Look at verse 21.
Romans 10:21 But to Israel he says: "All day long I have stretched out My hands To a disobedient and contrary people."
Continuing on in chapter 11 Paul explains in the first 10 verses that Israel's rejection is not total since there is a remnant that God always has of believing Jews. Then in the rest of the chapter Paul says that God's rejection of Israel is not final, even as a nation. Let's start at verse 11:
Romans 11:11 I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles.
Romans 11:12 Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!
The apostle Paul in this chapter contrasts the idea of a remnant with the fullness of Israel. Right now a remanant of Israel is being saved – only a small minority. But there is coming a time in history when believers in Israel will experience fullness or majority status. Verse 15 says,
Romans 11:15 For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
So the very nation that is being cast away will be accepted by God, and that acceptance of Israel will produce such a change in the world that it is like life from the dead. In verses 17 and following Paul says that the unbelieving Jews, even though they are natural branches of the Olive tree (and that's a key phrase – natural branches – they) have been broken off, and we Gentiles, who are unnatural branches have been grafted into Israel. But eventually, God will graft those broken off branches back into the Olive Tree. Look at verse 24
Romans 11:24 For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?
Romans 11:25 For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.
Romans 11:26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
Romans 11:27 For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins."
Romans 11:28 Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.
Romans 11:29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
That's the general pattern. Over the course of this age, more and more Gentiles will be gathered into the kingdom until Christianity becomes the fullness or the majority religion among the Gentiles. Somewhere around that point the Jewish nation will believe. This in turn will usher the world into an unparalleled time of peace, Gospel prosperity and holy living. God's law will govern the nations; God's blueprints and His law will triumph. It is a fantastic picture of kingdom triumph that makes Paul break out into a hymn of praise in verse 33-36:
Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
Romans 11:34 "For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?"
Romans 11:35* "Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?"
Romans 11:36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
The symbolism of Purim (9:1,18-19)
Its place in redemptive history
Everything symbolized by the battle of Gog and Magog (see last week's notes) is memorialized in this feast.
With that understanding of history, let's see how this feast anticipates all of that in a shadowy sort of way. There are many elements of symbolism, but just the place that it has in redemptive history I think beautifully points to the future. I won't go over all the symbolism of the battle last week. But you can add that to this feast and what it memorializes. There is a lot more to the symbolism than what I will be able to cover today.
It was given almost 1000 years after the first seven, but not at the end of Israel's history. (Israel continues to exist half again the amount of time.)
Second, the feast of Purim was given almost 1000 years after the first seven festivals were given, but not at the end of Israel's history. From 1500 BC (when Moses gave those seven festivals) till 510 BC (when this festival was given) true believers in Israel had always been a minority. The phrase that comes up in every generation is "we are left as a remnant" (Ezra 9:15) or "the remnant of Israel" (Is. 10:20), or Isaiah 1:9 "Unless the LORD of hosts had left to us a very small remnant, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been made like Gomorrah,"or "the remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob" (Isa. 10:21) or "For though your people, O Israel, be as the sand of the sea, A remnant of them will return;" (Is. 10:22), or "And the remnant who have escaped of the house of Judah Shall again take root downward, And bear fruit upward" (Is. 37:31). I think you get the point. It is remnant theology. For two thirds of Israel's Old Covenant history there is a remnant of true believers. But following this incredible revival in Israel and return of Jews to Palestine, for the next third of their pre 70 AD history, Israel remains for the most part faithful, and then in the last 100 years Israel apostasizes – there is a great falling away.
Well, that is the pattern for New Testament history for Israel as well. For the last two thousand years the true believers from ethnic Israel have been a small remnant; the rest have been as Sodom and Egypt. But God prophesies that that will change. Israel will be saved and flourish for a long period of time before a falling away at the end of history.
Now just as a side note, if Gary North and the classic postmillenialists like the Puritans, are correct and if God intends this earth to be patterned after the creation week of seven days (in other words, seven thousand years of history), since six thousand years of history have already transpired, it is entirely possible that there may be a literal one thousand years of history left. Well, if you count from this second timke when Israel is sent into captivity, that would make their present remnant status two thirds and the remaining thousand years one third. Whether the 1000 years is literal is another question. That's just speculation. But in any case, the pattern is clear. That may just be an interesting coincidence. I wouldn't base too much on it. But I find it significant.
the first seven feasts are closely connected with the temple. Purim has no connection with the temple.
But the second point shows a parallel too. This is the only feast that is not in any way connected to the temple when it was set up. It was impossible to celebrate the other feasts once the temple was destroyed in 70 AD, but this one was designed by God to never end. It was started without reference to the temple and it points to a period beyond the temple. Esther 9:27 says, The Jews established and imposed it upon themselves and their descendants and all who would join them, that without fail they would celebrate these two days every year, according to the written instructions, and according to the prescribed time. [verse 28] that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city, that these days of Purim should not fail to be observed among the Jews, and that the memory of them should not perish among their descendants. This hints at a relevance for this feast that goes way beyond the destruction of the temple. There is no temple now except the temple of God's people.
Most Jews Still In Exile, And Much Ungodliness Among Those Who Have Returned (Esther occurs between Ezra 6 & 7; cf. Post-exilic prophets: Haggai; Zechariah and Malachi)
The third interesting thing about when this festival was established is that it occurs in a time of great ungodliness among those who had returned to Israel. Zechariah indicates that it would only be after this battle in 510 BC that He would draw their hearts out to Him, renew their zeal for Him and pour out His Spirit upon them. The last verse of the Gog and Magog description on Ezekiel 39 says, And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel," says the LORD GOD. That's a perfect picture of God's plan for the future. Though Zechariah, Haggai and Malachi all speak of Jews who have broken covenant, despised God's feasts, dishonored God, robbed Him of tithes and offerings, etc., God says that He would change that. In Zechariah 8 God tells the Jews then living to stop their four fast days that they had started in the exile, and His reason is this: Peoples shall yet come, inhabitants of many cities; the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, "Let us continue to go and pray before the LORD, and seek the LORD of hosts. I myself will go also." Yes, many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts: "In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, "Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.
So each book of these contemporaries of Esther, starts with a description of indifference to God and backsliddeness, but then it progresses to speak of a revival in their own day (and that is the revival we have described in Esther over the past three Sundays) and then each of those prophets uses that revival as a launching pad to speak of an even more glorious revival that would come after the Messiah came. And so it uses the revival started under Esther to illustrate a future Christianization of the world. It follows the pattern set in Romans 11.
Israel's "Fall" Has Brought "Riches" To Gentiles During The Reigns of Nebuchadnezzar, Amel-Marduk, Neriglissar, Labashi-Marduk, Nabonidas, Cyrus and Cambyses. Now under Darius I, even greater blessings come to the Gentiles. (Esther 8:17ff; cf. Romans 11:12,15,31-32)
A fourth parallel to Romans 11 is that Israel's fall under Nebuchadnezzar where they have been cast out into Babylon, has resulted in blessings or riches to the Gentiles. You can think of Nebuchadnezzar's sound conversion and his testimony to every people in his empire to worship the God of Israel. That's riches to the Gentiles. You can think of the same thing happening to Darius the Mede and to Cyrus God's servant. Though true believers (whether Jewish or Gentile) were still a minority, they were bringing blessing and riches to the Gentiles. But now under Darius, Esther 8:17 says that "many" of the people of the land became Jews. Many, not few; not remnant. This was a revival. So Israel's salvation brought even greater blessings to the Gentiles. All of those are general panoramic features that may or may not be significant. They are significant to me. But let's skip down to the nitty gritty of the text here.
"He will turn away ungodliness from Israel" (Rom. 11:26 with point II below)
"how much more [will] their fullness" bring "riches for the Gentiles" (Rom. 11:12; cf. Esther 8:17; 9:3; 10:2-3; Ezra 7)
The month (9:1,18)
Of the two calendars that Jews followed (sacred and civil) they were following the one which dealt with religious ceremonies (Note that Adar is called "twelfth month" in 9:1)
The twelfth month is near the end of the year – pointing to eschatology.
Chapter 9 verses 1 and 18 indicate that the feast takes place in the last month of the sacred calendar. That indicates that it is the last feast or the last significant event in Israel's history. Several authors have indicated that Purim being in the last month clearly points to eschatology. If the first feast points to the beginning of the times of the Gentiles, then Purim points to the end of the times of the Gentiles.
The month in which the latter rains come.
But another feature of that last month is that the Bible dictionary indicates that this is the month in which the latter rains come. And this is very significant. Proverbs 16:15 says, In the light of the king's face is life, And his favor is like a cloud of the latter rain. Latter rains were considered a great blessing. Hosea 6:3 describes the kingdom of Jesus after the resurrection under the titles of the former and latter rains. Acts 2 quotes Joel 2 as prophecying Pentecost. It speaks of the pouring forth of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh. It speaks of judgment on Israel. But that chapter also describes the former and latter rains. The former rains were at Pentecost and the latter rains I believe are connected to Israel being saved. Psalm 72:6 says about Jesus "He shall come down like rain upon the grass before mowing, Like showers that water the earth." And then he talks about the incredible millennial blessings that the Lord will bring, and all nations bowing down before him. Zechariah 10 calls upon us to ask the Lord for rain in the time of the latter rain. And there are similar verses in Ezekiel and Micah. Every time Purim comes around I think it should be a reminder that we need to pray that God would send forth His Spirit upon Israel and turn them to Himself.
In the Jamieson, Faucett and Brown commentary it says, "Though at Pentecost there was a former rain on the Jewish Church, a latter rain is still to be looked for, when the full harvest of the nation's conversion shall be gathered in to God. The spirit of prayer in the Church is an index at once of her piety, and of the spiritual blessings she may expect from God. When the Church is full of prayer, God pours out a full blessing. bright clouds — rather, "lightnings," the precursors of rain [MAURER]. showers of rain — literally, "rain of heavy rain." Pray for that. Purim anticipates the latter rain of God's Spirit upon Israel and the nations.
Fast day (Adar 13; cf. 9:31)
Another symbol that we see in this feast is that fasting preceeds feasting. Though the feasting is emphasized, verse 31 mandates fasting as well. The fasting occurred on Adar 13, and the feasting occurred on the next two days. And in the same way, the fasting represents both the repentance of Israel for their sins, but also a recognition of their spiritual hunger for God. Unfortunately Purim has turned into a kind of Mardi Gras celebration for the Jews. There is little serious looking to the Lord. But we can pray that God would bring that nation to prayer and fasting and repentance so that they can be ushered into the joy and feasting of God's grace.
The feast days (Adar 14-15)
Reversal of curses (9:1-2)
Gentiles becoming believers (8:17)
Of course, this fasting and feasting also shows the bold reversal that suddenly happens. God prophecies that Israel will be born in a day, will be saved in a day. They will turn from mourning to joy as verse 22 says, and from fasting to feasting.
The gift giving (9:19,22)
Chapter 9 verses 19 and 22 both mention gift giving. Verse 19 says, Therefore the Jews of the villages who dwelt in the unwalled towns celebrated the fourteenth day of the month of Adar with gladness and feasting, as a holiday and for sending presents to one another. Some people denigrate the idea of gift giving as taking the spirit of Christ out of Christmas. It is true that it can be commecrcialized too much, but gift giving has always been a major part of God's celebrations. Even the Sabbath day had the giving of gifts of food and wine for those who didn't have any. It is a symbol of God's grace. It reflects and imitates God's grace and generosity. And of coure, the greatest gift that God has given to us is Jesus. And having given us the Son, He freely gives us all things. We need to pray that the Jews would not be self-reliant in gift giving, but would recognize that we can only give what we have been given by God. Apart from the gift of Jesus, the nation of Israel could not be saved, nor could any Gentile nation.
The purim (dice or - 9:26)
One of the interesting symbols in Purim is the dice. The Persian word is purim. Look at verse 26: So they called these days Purim, after the name Pur. Pur is the Persian word for "lot" or a form of dice. And I think it is so ironic that the very feast which shows that there is no such thing as chance, takes as its name the symbol of chance. I love it. We complain about pagans who take perfectly good words and transform their meaning into something evil. But here is a situation where God is taking something away from the pagan and using it to illustrate His providence over the tiniest events – even the casting of the purim. So the dice is a symbol of God's control over so-called chance events of life. It is the symbol of God's guarantee that He will accomplish all that He has prophecied.
And it may seem like chance events that will lead to Israel's salvation. God frequently uses small things to accomplish big purposes. I think of the sparrow that flew over an electrical station and dropped a twig so that it lodged just perfectly causing a 69,000-volt flashover, destroying three insulators and blowing out two 69,000 volt fuses. Some people might call it a weird fluke that has no meaning. But we have been seeing in this book that no detail of life is accidental. The falling of a sparrow is not accidental; the falling of a hair from your head is not accidental. Sometimes we can see the purpose; sometimes we can't. But we have seen that if God does not control everything, He cannot control anything. What a neat name for this book. Dice. Dice for the Christian should be the symbol of God's complete sovereignty over all, not of chance. You know, there are statistical formulas to anticipate probablities, but if there really were chance, statistical analysis would be useles. It shows God is in control. There is no such thing as luck. God will guarantee the salvation of Israel.
The Sabbath rest (9:16-18)
But this is called a day of rest. It was the last Sabbath day that was instituted. Look at verses 16-18.
Esther 9:16 The remainder of the Jews in the king's provinces gathered together and protected their lives, had rest from their enemies, and killed seventy-five thousand of their enemies; but they did not lay a hand on the plunder.
Esther 9:17 This was on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar. And on the fourteenth day of the month they rested and made it a day of feasting and gladness.
Esther 9:18 But the Jews who were at Shushan assembled together on the thirteenth day, as well as on the fourteenth; and on the fifteenth of the month they rested, and made it a day of feasting and gladness.** Look at verse 22:
Esther 9:22 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.
Jobes points out that this certainly points to an eschatological rest. In other words, a rest that would come in the future. The Jews have not yet entered their Sabbath rest of salvation, but it will come to them as a nation one day. Pray for Israel's peace. Pray for their rest.
The "words of peace and truth" (9:30; cf. 10:3)
And then finally, verse 30 speaks of the words of peace and truth that were sent to all the Jews. Thats Scripture. The scroll of Esther is read every Purim, and as they do so, shakers are rattled loudly in the synagogue to indicate celebration and when Haman's name is mentioned, everyone boos and stamps their foot on the floor and when Mordecai's name is read, everyone cheers. If the Rabbis are correct that the name Mordecai is simply the Aramaic word for "pure myrrh," then there is a certain element of bitterness (since myrrh was bitter) and a certain element of perfume (since it was a perfume). Unfortunately the Jews have stumbled over Jesus. All they can see is the bitterness, but when the blinders are taken off of their eyes, they will recognize the sweetness of perfume in Him.
But this reading of the law is important. The Jews ignore the law of God and have substituted the traditions of the Pharisees – the traditions written down in the Talmud. Listen to what Paul says happens to the Jews when God does not enlighten their eyes. But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is th eSpirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. Pray that Israel would have the veil taken away and enter into the liberty and joy of God's grace.
And so the book of Esther indicates not only that many Gentiles became believers, but in chapter 9:3, And all the officials of the provinces, the satraps, the governors, and all those doing the king's work, helped the Jews, because the fear of Mordecai [who here represents Jesus] fell upon them. We don't know if God will use a Jew in power somewhere to help the Jews. All we know is that somehow, sometime Israel will be saved, will prosper and will bring even greater benefit to the Gentiles. That is how Esther is ended. Chapter 10 says, And King Ahasuerus imposed tribute on the land and on the islands of the sea. [Still a world-wide empire, but now it is benefitting the church. Verse 3 says] For Mordecai the Jew was second to King Ahasuerus, and was great among the Jews and well received by the multitude of his brethren, seeking the good of his people and speaking peace to all his kindred. We are talking about the greatest revival ever in the Old Testament being a faint, feeble, shadowy type of an even greater Reformation in the future. 1 Corinthians 15 says that Christ must reign until every enemy is put under His feet; thrones, and dominions, nations and people groups. This is what the church has been longing and praying for for centuries. How will it be brought about?
What May Be Needed Before Such A Missions Movement Can Occur In Our Day?
Perhaps grave danger and/or difficult providences (Esther 1-9; cf. Zech 14:12-21)
Well let me very quickly rattle off a review of 10 things that were in place before this revival. And it may be an indicator of what God will raise up before Israel is saved. Both Isaiah 19 and Zechariah 14 imply that God will use warfare against Israel as a wakeup call. And both passages predict a kind of warfare that when it backfires will kill many in the surrounding nations and require a healing of the land. So I think there is a connection there.
Stirring up the church to prayer and fasting (4:3,16-17)
The second thing that may be needed is prayer and fasting. This is what all of God's people did in chapter 4. They were in prayer and fasting. Historically God has moved only after He has stirred up the church to prayer and fasting. And so it is an encouragement to me that Christians all over the world are being moved to prayer and fasting.
A remnant looking different than the world (3:8)
A third item that may need to be present is a church that looks different than the world - antithesis. In 3:8 Haman complains, "There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from all other peoples..." Can you honestly say that people can tell that kind of difference about you? Or do you blend into culture so well that your dating, your marriages, your child rearing, your conversations, your entertainment and everything else looks rather normal? Peter says we are to be a peculiar people. We are to stand out, not blend in. The only way that can happen is if you are burning with a desire to be like God; if holiness and obedience to God's law becomes important. Romans 11 says that Israel will become jealous of the Gentiles in their lifestyle. Well, if there is no difference, they can't become jealous.
Leaders with a passion for the welfare of God's people (4:1-17; 8:9-17; 9:20-10:3)
A fourth thing we can pray for is leaders who burn with a passion for the whole body of Christ like Mordecai did. Chapter 10 says that he was seeking the good of his people. The church of Jesus Christ needs leaders who are not just concerned that their own church become holy, but that every church in Omaha and throughout this world become holy; leaders who are concerned for Christians suffering in communist prisons and who seek to do something about the persecution of saints in African, Asian and Middle Eastern prisons. People who weep over the plight of her people like Esther did. She could have put their suffering out of sight and out of mind, but God stirred up her heart so that she could not.
An activist church (9:1-17)
Another thing that we need is people who have faith to believe in the face of attack. Already in 8:16 the Jews rejoiced in victory even though the genocide bill could not be revoked. One of the things that has hindered revival in America is the virus of Last Days Madness. People are so convinced that the church will fail that they have no faith to believe God for great things. Things could not have looked darker for these Jews. If anyone had a reason for pessimism it would have been them, and yet they were united in faith that God would give the victory - that God would be true to His word. Can you believe Christ when He says, I will build My church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it? Can you believe that it will be hell that is cowering behind gates and the church will be battering those gates down? Fill your mind with such Scriptures to give faith, and fill the minds of your friends with such Scriptures so that they can replace discouragement with faith.
A church with integrity (8:11 with 9:10,15)
We need a church with integrity. These Jews could have easily snuck some of the plunder for personal gain, but they did not. They had integrity. Esther could not be bought by Haman's pleading. Mordecai could not be intimidated into compromise. They had integrity.
A church that will never compromise even when it hurts (3:1-6; 5:9; 8:9-9:17 with Exodus 17:8-16; Deut. 25:17-19; 1 Sam. 15; 1 Chron. 5:42-43)
Another example of this is the next point: a church that will never compromise even when it hurts. It would have been so much easier for Mordecai to compromise God's word by bowing to Haman the Amalekite. Maybe he could have even been personally advanced. But if he had, think of all that would have been missed. And we need men and women who will stand up against the false philosophies of today and will not give in.
We have Christians who have mixed Agagite philosophy with Christianity. They have done so by mixing pagan psychology with the Christian religion; they have mixed pagan dating practices with a few Scriptures and a few provisos; they have mixed sinful types of birth control methods with prayer; they have refused to fight against pagan Rock & Roll; they have refused to fight against pornography. They have either taken a non-involvment stance, or they have actually bowed before Haman and honored him. God cannot bless when Christians will not resist. There's a good T-Shirt you can buy that says, Intolerance Is A Beautiful Thing. We need more Mordecais. And we ought not to be embarrassed when other Christians take a stand.
Leaders who will challenge us to die for Christ (4:1-17; 9:18-10:3)
We need leaders like Mordecai who will challenge us to die for Christ. We will all die at one time or another, but it would be an awful thing to die without having accomplished anything for eternity. Mordecai challenged Esther to talk to the king even if it meant her death. He challenged the Jews to defend themselves with boldness.
Followers who are willing to be expendable (4:10-17)
And the followers responded with boldness and a willingness to die for Christ. Esther's words If I perish, I perish need to be our words as we think about our involvement in extending Christ's kingdom. Not if I feel comfortable or if it fits into my schedule, but "I will do it becuase Christ is glorified, becuase it is the right thing to do. We need people who refuse to believe that compromise is the only way to progress."
Believers with boldness (4:16; 5:1-2; 7:6; 9:13)
We need believers with the boldness of Esther and Mordecai. If we are to see world evangelizationin our lifetime we need more people who will take risks and be willing to lose all so that they can gain all for Christ. That is what I want for my life, and I pray that is your desire too. Let's be out and out for Jesus and pray that His kingdom would come in power and glory.
Appendix A: Broad Overview of The Biblical Festivals Chart
by Phillip Kayser
All the Old Testament festivals were pictures which communicated truth about Jesus and our age (Colossians 2:17; Heb. 10:1) and every book of the Old Testament (including Esther) speaks of this era (Luke 24:25-27; Acts 3:24-26; 10:43; 1 Pet 1:10-12; Rev. 19:10). ↩