God wants us to celebrate. The Old Testament is full of festivals and celebrations by God’s people. We’re not bound by Jewish law, yet there are great reasons why Christians should celebrate Purim and other Jewish festivals.
The Israelites celebrated to remember the great and amazing things God has done. But how does this translate for Jesus followers? Why should Christians celebrate Purim?
In Romans 11, we see that Gentile believers (all of us who aren’t ethnically Jewish) have been grafted into the Jewish family and inheritance through Christ.
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree,
We see this echoed in Paul’s letter to the Galatians.
for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.
And extended to assure us that not only does God graft us into His family as sons and daughters of the Lord through faith, but because of those truths, we also receive God’s promises. All of them.
For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him [Jesus] that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. 2 Corinthians 1:20
God’s People Celebrated Purim
We share in the nourishment God gives His people. If we share in His promises and blessings and love, shouldn’t we also share in His celebrations?
There is great purpose in setting aside time to remember and reflect on all God has done. And great blessing.
The Lord who rescued His people time and time again is the Lord who has rescued us from death. We celebrate His birth, life, death, and resurrection. But lest we forget a portion of ALL His mighty works, we also want to celebrate His intervening for His people before He walked on earth in flesh.
And that brings us to Purim, the first Jewish celebration of the new year.
Purim - A Special Celebration
Of all the celebrations ever, this is one of my most favorite.
Why? Because it teaches our children and grandchildren how God works. How He worked in the past and how He works today.
Purim has traditionally been a time of tremendous joy and celebration for the Jewish people and can be so for us today.
Let’s forget the meaningless holidays of St. Patrick’s Day and Halloween and have fun with this Biblical holiday.
Every story in God’s Word is about how He’s at work. The story of Esther is no different. It’s about God’s victory and His protection of His people.
I’ll never leave you nor forsake you.
This verse is the culmination of Esther. And it’s written for us today.
Purim is a story of victory.
Without this victory and the working of God, the Jewish people would have been annihilated. Thus the line of Jesus wouldn’t exist.
The Events Behind Purim
When we read the Bible, teach Bible stories to our children, or see cartoon renditions of Bible stories, we don’t always connect with the people and events in an in depth way.
However, by celebrating festivals like Purim helps bring the story home. We can relate more to the individuals involved in the historical events.
So, what is the history behind Purim?
Purim means “lots.” Not like “lots” of food or belongings or people, but as in casting “lots” to make a decision.
This part of the story is very relevant, but actually comes a bit further in the narrative.
We find the story behind the celebration of Purim in the book of Esther, located about halfway through the Old Testament.
Esther is a unique book focusing on a specific series of events that involved a Jewish woman named Esther, her husband who happened to be the king of Persia, a handful of other specific people, and the entire population of Jewish people.
It’s a fascinating, engaging story and I highly recommend you read the whole thing in one sitting. The short ten chapters are an easy read and could be done with a small sacrifice of giving up some social media browsing time.
Or, put it on play while commuting to work, taking a walk, or cooking dinner.
However you can squeeze it in, hear the whole story!
As an overview, however (since you probably won’t pause reading this post to go read it now), here are the basics.
From Hebrew Orphan to Persian Queen
Esther had been captured by the powerful ancient Persian Empire along with many members of the Israelite nation, . An orphan, her uncle Mordecai raised her.
However, the book of Esther doesn’t start with her bio. The opening scene introduces readers to the Persian King Ahasuerus (sometimes translated Xerxes). The king is pleased with his conquests and celebrates with great opulence to show off in front of other dignitaries, royalty, and his military from all over the Persian Empire.
It was a long feast, lasting a full six months. (Can you imagine a party lasting half a year?)
King Ahasuerus had a beautiful wife, Queen Vashti, whom he wanted to put on display. Yet she responded in a way unthinkable at that time. She refused his request.
His response wasn’t quite “off with her head,” but she was banished.
Which is where Esther enters the story.
The king needs a new queen. He sets up a beauty contest where the contestants don't have a choice about participating. However his people give them riches in clothes, jewels, food, and beauty treatments.
Then the king requested the women one by one. A gross practice we can’t imagine today, and one that surely the Lord abhorred. But, God used even this for good.
Esther found favor with King Ahasuerus and became queen.
A lovely Cinderella story. Well, not really. Because the real Prince has yet to show His power and purpose.
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From Highly Honored to Designated for Death
We’ll skip a few details that follow (but you’re going to read them before the celebration) and skip to the part that matters for Purim.
Mordecai kept close to the palace, often sitting at the gates. He loved the Lord, which brought him trouble.
The king’s second hand man, Haman, rode out often and puffed himself up, demanding people honor and bow to him. Mordecai refused.
Haman became so incensed that destroying Mordecai wasn’t enough, but he wanted to annihilate Mordecai’s people: the Israelites.
Additional events occur which stoke Haman’s hatred for Mordecai and the Jews, causing him to trick the king into signing a decree to have them put to death.
All of them.
He cast lots to pick the date. This is where the name Purim originates.
At the revelation, Mordecai felt anguish and sought help from Esther. Nervous, as she could approach the king only if requested or he offered pardon for showing up uninvited, she hesitated.
This is where the famous, “such a time as this” speech occurs.
Convinced, Esther pleads with the king and eventually reveals Haman’s plot. (Again, more happens you’ll find in the reading of the whole book.)
King Ahasuerus rages and has Haman put to death. He decrees the Israelites have the right to defend themselves and the nation is rescued.
Through the king of the Persian Empire, the God of Israel rescues the people of Israel.
What a whirlwind!
God's Provision Leads to Worship
Of course, the events occurred over months and years, not a few minutes like we read them. And although the story never mentions the Lord outright, His might, power, and love for His people - the people of Israel - is woven throughout.
This incredible drama, which played out in real life and impacted real people, serves as a wonderful story to remember, celebrate, and recreate in worship of God.
We, as Jesus followers should celebrate the feast of Purim for 2 reasons:
1. Purim teaches how God works in a fun, lively way
Stories of God’s power, love, and miracles aren’t for entertainment. They’re to remind us of God's character and His hand and provision in the past. They also serve as reminders that He still works today.
Children love to read engaging stories. They love to act out fun stories. They also love stories with queens and princesses.
Children love parties.
When children learn the Bible in fun, engaging, and thought-provoking ways, they’ll always remember it.
I know many non-believers who know the story of Daniel in the lion's den. Or the saying “the handwriting is on the wall.”
That’s because these scenarios stick in our mind. They’re vivid, exciting, and captivating.
The same is true of Esther and Haman: another fascinating tale of good versus evil.
All children from the ages of 2 to 22 will enjoy celebrating the victory of Esther.
They’ll remember the story forever.
And most importantly, they’ll learn deeper lessons about the God who saved Esther and her family, who is the same today.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Hebrews 13:8
This is a promise our children and grandchildren need to hold in their hearts. One they’ll never forget.
The Impact of Purim
The birth of our Savior is important and holds great meaning to a Christian. Yet the record of the events of Esther’s life is also powerful. It shows how God works and how our children can call on Him at any time and see him in their lives.
Purim is a story of God’s love and might.
So tell me, does this make sense?
Do you want your children to know how God works? Then it’s time we celebrate the biblical holiday of Purim every year!
It’s time to remind our children through our own lives that we too know how to…
- seek the Lord.
- fast and pray.
- wait on the Lord for his direction.
In the days ahead, knowing how to fast and pray will be vital for our walk with the Lord.
Let’s join together and teach our children.
The celebration of Purim also includes giving gifts to friends and those in need. Two additional fantastic reasons to celebrate this feast with our family:
- To teach our children to care for others.
- To bless friends, family, and strangers
2. Jesus Celebrated these Festivals
Purim is not specifically mentioned in the New Testament, but it’s most likely the feast John mentions when Jesus healed the man at the pool of Bethesda.
The text reads:
After this there was a feast of the Jews and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
The next verses (2-15) tell about Jesus healing a man suffering from a 38-year-long illness. (Whew! I bet he was sick and tired of being sick and tired!)
The reason we understand this to be Purim is because it takes place before Passover, which is mentioned in the next chapter of John. Both are called a feast of the Jews.
Jews celebrate Purim on the Gentile calendar in February or March, followed by Passover in either March or April. (This year, Purim is February 26 and Passover begins March 27)
Even though Purim wasn’t one of the biblical feasts of the Lord, Jesus was in Jerusalem celebrating the feast.
If Jesus considered these festivals important enough for Him to celebrate and invited non-Jews to join with them, it seems that Christians should accept the invitation and find ways to participate while honoring Jesus.
What do the people represent in the story of Esther?
I love the teaching of Dr Booker in his book Celebrating Jesus in the Biblical Feasts. He shared this insight:
“Looking deeper into the story of Purim, Haman prefigures Satan and the man of sin known as the antichrist.”
Haman sought to kill God’s ancient people. Annihilate them.
Likewise, Jesus speaks of Satan as a thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. (John 10:10)
In Hebrews 2:14, God’s Word tells us that Satan has the power of death. Satan inspired Haman's plot to kill the Jewish people, just as today he inspires people to kill believers around the globe.
Hamans heart was filled with pride. Haman served as a devil-motivated enemy of the Jews.
Haman devised and plotted destruction. Yet, like Haman the false messiah is also doomed.
Like Mordecai, Jesus will be exalted and honored. He will wear the king's clothes and a crown on his head. He’ll ride a white horse, the symbol of victory.
Every knee will bow and every tongue confesses that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)
Every one of us is under the sentence of death.
For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
Yet God has not left us defenseless. He wrote a new decree. It‘s been carried to all the provinces of the world by God’s covenant.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him has everlasting life. For God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world, but that world through him might be saved.
Watch this video where I talk about the reasons why Christians should celebrate Purim:
Esther - A Messenger of Deliverance to Come
As Esther interceded for her people, Jesus has intercede for us. He not only fulfilled the role of Esther, but He also took on the curse of Haman as He was hanged on a tree: punishment meant for us.
That tree of the cross has been lifted high for the entire world to see.
Jesus interceded for us on the cross by taking the curse of sin for us.
But while Esther presented herself on the third day to an immoral, unstable king, Jesus rose from the grave at the end of three days and three complete nights and presented Himself to a holy God as atonement for sin.
And living forevermore, He continues to intercede for us.
Therefore, He is able to save the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
See that word “uttermost?” It means completely and at all times. There is nothing that He can’t save us from. Anyone can be saved by His grace through faith.
What an amazing testimony of His great love for us!
Purim - The Impact of this Biblical Celebration Today
Christians today - that is you and me - can learn from this. Yes, let’s celebrate our God and how He redeems us today. But let us also learn to live like Esther and Mordecai.
- To fast and pray when the world exalts wicked people.
- To fight the spiritual powers seeking to exalt the wicked and destroy the righteous.
Not only that, let’s teach our children to live like those who stayed strong in the Lord despite dire, dangerous, and demoralizing circumstances.
We don’t want to raise our children to be happy, wealthy, fun adults. We want to raise them to be the next generation of people who follow God like Esther, Mordecai, Daniel, and a host of other faithful individuals we read about in scripture
God has brought us here at this time. Yes, as many are saying, for such a time as this.
God designated you and me for this exact moment in history. God loves you that much.
Celebrate Victory Today!
Remember, victory has a name: Jesus.
Never forget. We must rely on the Lord’s for strength, engage in the battle, and arm ourselves with fasting and prayer.
He is faithful to bring about the salvation and protection of His people as He did in this magnificent drama.
Sometimes it won’t look so neat and seamless.
Sometimes it will seem like God isn’t listening.
Often, God holds us in a waiting period - as Mordecai waited before receiving his reward for saving the king’s life (another tidbit you’ll find in the full reading of the book) and as Esther waited in bringing her request to the king.
Purim is a time of abundant joy and celebration of God’s goodness and provision. His people eat and drink, exchange presents, don costumes, and bless others, including the poor.
What great rejoicing the Israelites must have commenced when the town criers revealed their rescue! God has also rescued us. Let us celebrate.
Join the celebration in your own home this Monday, March 6. Don’t miss this post overflowing with ideas on how to make the most of Purim even today.
Thank you for this unfolding of the story of Purim and Esther. I have read and studied the story many times, but the Holy Spirit illuminated new truths through this explanation.
I am so glad to hear it!
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