Sunday, February 28, 2010

Purim 2010

Purim was instituted to commemorate how the Jewish people were saved from great harm against incredible odds. While God’s name is not mentioned in the book of Esther, His plans are intricately woven into the people and events that are a part of Purim's legacy. The setting of the spectacle is the Medo-Persian empire. It is 20 years after Zerubbabel has returned to Jerusalem with a few brave exiles. They were in the minority however, for the bulk of the population remained in Persia, including Esther and her uncle Mordecai who were strategically positioned in the palace. The impending doom of the palace politics has a counterpart in the realm of spiritual warfare.  As Daniel reported in Daniel chapter 10: “Then he [Gabriel] said to me, "Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia.”
Esther is the beautiful queen of the King of Persia and the villain is the hateful Haman, a high official in the King’s administration. Mordecai infuriates Haman when he refuses to bow to him, but Haman amplifies his hatred to the level of Gabriel’s nemesis. Satan has always wanted to destroy the Jewish people for through them would come the Messiah. But God turned the tables on Haman’s plan to destroy all the Jews throughout the Persian kingdom by killing and then hanging Haman and all of his 10 sons. 
In this turn of events, God linked the past with the future. In Esther 3:1, we see that Haman was descended from Agag, who was the king of Amalek (1 Sam. 15:8). In Exodus 17:14-16, “Then the LORD said to Moses, "Write this for a memorial in the book and recount it in the hearing of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven...for he said, "Because the LORD has sworn: the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation." Coincidentally, the special Haftarat reading for this week is Shabbat Zachor which in I Samuel 15 covers the story of how Saul failed to carry out God’s command to obliterate Amalek. Rabbi Elijah Solomon, a prominent Lithuanian rabbi of the 18th century known as "the great one of Vilna," held the tradition that the German nation was descended from Amalek.  Whether or not this is true, the German Nazis embodied the spirit of Amalek and God repeated his prescription of punishment.
After the end of World War II, the Allies tried the most notorious Nazi leaders at Nuremburg for war crimes. These trials began on November 20, 1945, for 22 German Nazi leaders.
On October 1, 1946, 12 of the German defendants were sentenced to death by hanging for their part in the atrocities committed against the Jews and others. One of those convicted was Martin Bormann, who was sentenced in absentia. A second was Hermann Goering, who committed suicide in his cell just hours before the executions by taking cyanide poison. The remaining 10 Germans were hanged to death on October 16, 1946.
One of these 10 was Julius Streicher who was the founder and publisher of Der Stürmer newspaper, which became a central element of the Nazi propaganda machine. As the noose was tied around his neck, with burning hatred in his eyes, Streicher looked down at the witnesses and shouted: "Purim Fest 1946!". 
It is Purim 2010 and the enemies of Israel remain, both in the visible and the invisible worlds. We in the Church are called to be Israel’s friend and supporter - and that is the theme of the next series of posts.

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