Purim—which will be celebrated tomorrow—is a wonderful reminder of the sovereignty of God and an appropriate feast to be observed and understood in these difficult times.
During the festival, the scroll of Esther is read twice. A fast leads the event, and it is followed by big party time. The feast of Purim is marked by joyous celebration, with a few interesting traditions.
This is one celebration that allows some ‘rules’ to be broken. Revelers can drink to the point of being so drunk that they can’t tell the difference between ‘blessed is Mordecai’ and ‘cursed be Haman.’ Costumes are worn to Purim parties. This is one time when it is acceptable to cross dress and men can dress up as Esther! Today, people go to these festivities dressed in Darth Vader and Power Rangers.
It is said that if a person only grasps the sovereignty of God when one reaches the end of the book of Esther, he has missed out the blessing of the book. The point is to see that God’s hand is in what happened throughout the book. This is the only book in the Bible that does not mention God at all. Why was it chosen to be part of holy scripture?
This points out that for those who are not seeking God, the world and all its events can just be seen as a series of coincidences or haphazard list of events caused by man. But for those of us who know who God is, then it is very clear that irregardless of what circumstances we are in, God is not only very much in the picture, he is the artist that is painting the scenes as life, and history, move on.
How easy it is—and it has happened to me—to look back at what we have gone through in life and in trials to finally recognize how God was the one who led us to where have arrived. But the one who recognize it from the start is all the more greatly blessed. True faith is marked by one who has absolute confidence that even the hard times, the crises in our lives, are destined by God.
Certainly the pits that we are in sometimes are dug by ourselves, but there are many situations where the suffering that we undergo are through no fault of ours. Life is hard—it is so obvious in today’s scenario—and it does not mean that the LORD has fed up with us, or forgotten us, or forsaken us.
As we walk in faith and in faithfulness, I have come to the conclusion that we need to confront the new realities in our lives not with the question, “Why God, why me?” although he is perfectly capable of accepting our beating his chest about the dire situations we are in. Rather, perhaps, we need to ask, “I wonder what the Lord has in store.”
Do we not take the bad and not the good that God has apportioned to us, Job asked. This is the prayer I offer the Lord when facing anxiety on what has come upon many of us, all over the world. I need to remember Hebrews 11’s people of faith who suffered and never saw the fruition of their faith. I am trying to receive and accept that chapter 11 spiritual truth when things don’t work out well (well, as I understand it). God has a purpose.
What IS the Lord doing in such as time as this? When tempted to think that he has left the scene, the book of Esther convinces me otherwise. He is the invisible hand that is still sovereign and very much in control. He may be hidden but if we put on the godly lenses, we can not only recognize his hand but can seek his guidance and know how he wants us to respond.
I believe that it is in times like these that in fact he is closer than ever, closer than it appears.
Why the drinking? This has been argued and debated on for as long as the feast has been instituted. In the book of Esther, there are many instances of feasting and drinking. Today discussions include the precautions that one has to take in today’s world with drinking and driving and how to balance that while following the ‘commandment’.
It is the tradition of costume wearing I find very interesting. Clothes masquerade who we are. They hide the real us, a façade that portrays only the image we want others to see. Interesting, when you consider in the ideal state, Adam and Eve are naked and were only covered after they sinned. How appropriate then it is to accentuate it with costume parties illustrating how true identity can be masked. It hints of what reality in this world is.
This takes on even more significance when we look deeper into the meaning of the word, Esther. It means “reveal the hidden.”
Just as costumes do not show who the real person is underneath it, God is hidden in the façade of what the world appears to be. We can take comfort in that. That is, if we look and seek the hidden.