A DAY FOR GIVING PRESENTS
Lord, thank You for an awareness of the suffering around us.
Read ESTHER 9:18—10:3
18 The Jews in Susa, however, had assembled on the thirteenth and fourteenth, and then on the fifteenth they rested and made it a day of feasting and joy.
19 That is why rural Jews—those living in villages—observe the fourteenth of the month of Adar as a day of joy and feasting, a day for giving presents to each other.
20 Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews throughout the provinces of King Xerxes, near and far, 21 to have them celebrate annually the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar 22 as the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration. He wrote them to observe the days as days of feasting and joy and giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor.
23 So the Jews agreed to continue the celebration they had begun, doing what Mordecai had written to them. 24 For Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to destroy them and had cast the pur (that is, the lot) for their ruin and destruction. 25 But when the plot came to the king’s attention,[a] he issued written orders that the evil scheme Haman had devised against the Jews should come back onto his own head, and that he and his sons should be impaled on poles. 26 (Therefore these days were called Purim, from the word pur.) Because of everything written in this letter and because of what they had seen and what had happened to them, 27 the Jews took it on themselves to establish the custom that they and their descendants and all who join them should without fail observe these two days every year, in the way prescribed and at the time appointed. 28 These days should be remembered and observed in every generation by every family, and in every province and in every city. And these days of Purim should never fail to be celebrated by the Jews—nor should the memory of these days die out among their descendants.
29 So Queen Esther, daughter of Abihail, along with Mordecai the Jew, wrote with full authority to confirm this second letter concerning Purim. 30 And Mordecai sent letters to all the Jews in the 127 provinces of Xerxes’ kingdom—words of goodwill and assurance— 31 to establish these days of Purim at their designated times, as Mordecai the Jew and Queen Esther had decreed for them, and as they had established for themselves and their descendants in regard to their times of fasting and lamentation. 32 Esther’s decree confirmed these regulations about Purim, and it was written down in the records.
The Greatness of Mordecai
10 King Xerxes imposed tribute throughout the empire, to its distant shores. 2 And all his acts of power and might, together with a full account of the greatness of Mordecai, whom the king had promoted, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Media and Persia? 3 Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Xerxes, preeminent among the Jews, and held in high esteem by his many fellow Jews, because he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews.
a Esther 9:25 Or when Esther came before the king
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself” (Matt. 6:33,34).
Ethical questions raised in Esther continue to the end, where Mordecai, now wielding considerable power and influence, uses this entirely for the good of his own ethnic group. My experience of living in Ethiopia, where authority has been misused over the years for the benefit of the tribal group in power at the time, has perhaps made me somewhat cynical on issues like this. There is a striking difference between the ways in which Mordecai and Daniel use their considerable power and influence when each is serving a pagan king. At the end of the book of Esther, it is hard to see either Mordecai or indeed Esther having much in common with those portrayed as legitimate heroes or heroines in other biblical accounts.
Having noted the challenges of understanding the ethics connected with the book of Esther, the emphasis in this section is on celebration and rejoicing in prosperity. We can’t shut our eyes to injustice or unrighteousness, but sometimes it is good to let thankfulness and rejoicing take over. I attend harvest services each year, which are primarily times of thanksgiving. It is possible to recognize the dire situation of those in some places, to understand the desperation connected to harvests having failed with no sign of any relief, but still being thankful for the things we have been given. God may not be referenced in Esther, and yes, there may be no mention of prayer or covenant or any service of God. Yet, God remains our provider, and we should rejoice in the knowledge that, even in a world full of corruption and injustice and one in which those who should walk uprightly refuse, he nevertheless remains sovereign.
Lord, when the situation in our life, society or world seems clearly to reflect evil, not good, help us focus not on the circumstances but on You and Your presence.
Lord, Your people are and remain grateful. Give us an even more grateful heart as we help those who have considerably fewer blessings than we have.
Book and Author Intros
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