What do an Israeli prime minister's speech, a celebrity mind reader, and jugglers performing at a half-marathon have in common? The Jewish holiday of Purim.
The festival of Purim is celebrated by Jewish people worldwide every year on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar. It commemorates the story in the Book of Esther of Jewish deliverance in the land of Persia (modern-day Iran). Haman, the Persian prime minister, hatched a plot to exterminate the Jewish people. Think of him as an ancient Hitler planning a holocaust. A Jewish maiden named Esther had become queen of the land, and risked her life to seek the king's intervention. As a result, the Jewish people were saved.
Every year, the Jews remember their deliverance in a two-day festival. In Jerusalem, Purim was observed yesterday and continues today.
The irony of Purim is especially rich this year. As you know, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently addressed a joint session of Congress on the threat to his people posed by Iran. Judaism's ancient battle with Persia came to life in his words and warnings. In other Purim news, Eric Dittelman, a semifinalist on "America's Got Talent," brought his mind-reading act to Ohio State University to help a Jewish group celebrate the holiday.
Meanwhile, a half-marathon will be run today through parts of the southern West Bank. Entertainment stations will line the route, where clowns, jugglers, and other artists will perform. Children are dressing in costumes while their parents eat cake and other desserts. One favorite is a triangular pastry known as Hamantaschen (named for the triangular hat Haman is said to have worn).
A remarkable feature of the Book of Esther is that the name of God nowhere appears in its text. However, the sovereignty of God is clear on every page. Dittelman noted that his act points to this "hidden" aspect of God's providence by revealing what is hidden in the mind. The parties of Purim celebrate the providence and protection of an unseen God over his people.
Christians today can feel as though we're enslaved in ancient Persia. The Islamic State and its sympathizers seek to murder believers in the Middle East and around the world. According to John Allen's study, The Global War on Christians, 90 percent of all religious martyrs today are followers of Christ. Western culture increasingly rejects biblical morality and ridicules us for our beliefs. But Peter's word to persecuted believers is still God's word to us: "if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name" (1 Peter 4:16). When we suffer faithfully and joyfully for our Lord, we reveal our unseen God to our unbelieving world. (Tweet this)
Then it will be true for us as it was for our spiritual ancestors: "When they saw the boldness of Peter and John . . . they recognized that they had been with Jesus" (Acts 4:13). Who will know that you have been with Jesus today?
Publication date: March 6, 2015
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