THE TRIALS

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 A GOOD START FOR A BAD DAY

So, Israel has seen the hope that comes in hard times.  They can stand when their enemies want them to fall.  What if there is no enemy to be found?  What if it seems like God may be the source of your problems? 

There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.  And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters.  His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.  And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them.  And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.  Job 1:1-5

The faithful do keep their children in prayer, especially when they are sure the children are missing the way.  As a God fearing man Job has been prosperous, but he knows that God is his source.  He has prayer to cover his household in spite of their shortcomings.

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them.  And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.  And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?  Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?  Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.  But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.  Job 1:6-11

So the accuser of the brethren, Satan can bring charges against the innocent.  But God is confident to allow the righteous to endure a trial to prove his worth.  Still God does not himself deliver a curse against Job.  He leaves that to the enemy.

And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.  And there was a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house:  And there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them:  And the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.  Job 1:12-15

Under the rules of engagement Satan may not harm Job himself.  But he has an open season on everything else in job’s life.  He uses the Sabeans to do the violence required.  We often see men who are willing to serve darkness willingly.  We should remember to pray, targeting the spirits behind our enemies actions.  We war against this evil spirit by prayer.

While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.  While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away, yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.  While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house:  And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee Job 1:16-19

The fire of God makes me wonder if they had volcanoes in the area, or if lightning could cause wild fires as it does in the American west.  Raiding bands of warriors may be more common, but adding a tornado or other wind storm is getting to be a bit much.  To be content with a little is godly, but Job is left to be content with nearly nothing.  What he still has may prove to be less than comforting in the days ahead.

Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped,  And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.  In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly. Job 1:20-22

There is a time and a season for every purpose, and for Job it is a time to mourn.  In grief he tears his garment and shaves his head.  Orthodox Jews and other religions value the beard and hair, but Job is removed from all pride now.  Today we see many people being stripped of some of their material strength, but few losing as much as Job here. 

Can you contain your temper at all times?  I struggle with computers because I know that some smug but clueless programmer is ruining my life with half tested malware intended to make my life better.  I have been known to suggest that all programmers submit to an annual caning as a reminder of the users out here.  Job has given all to God before he lost it.  He knows and trusts his provider.

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THE LIGHT OF PUR

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A PLACE OF DARKNESS

DARKNESS ERASED

Ancient Persia, like it’s modern counterpart Iran had some who hated the Jews.  There were also some who did not hate the Jews, as there are a few now.  In the days of Esther the enemies of Israel were waiting or a chance to slaughter them per the plan of Haman.  When Haman was hanged the enemies of Israel found themselves on the other side of the law.

Now in the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when the king’s commandment and his decree drew near to be put in execution, in the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped to have power over them, (though it was turned to the contrary, that the Jews had rule over them that hated them;)  The Jews gathered themselves together in their cities throughout all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, to lay hand on such as sought their hurt: and no man could withstand them; for the fear of them fell upon all people.  And all the rulers of the provinces, and the lieutenants, and the deputies, and officers of the king, helped the Jews; because the fear of Mordecai fell upon them.  For Mordecai was great in the king’s house, and his fame went out throughout all the provinces: for this man Mordecai waxed greater and greater.  Esther 9:1-4

When God gave the Promised Land to Israel he made them slay all of the people of some nations.  They were not even allowed to claim the goods of their enemies.  Again in Persia when God delivers their enemies, Israel chose to avoid taking their spoils.  They chose to honor God by avoiding unclean things.

Thus the Jews smote all their enemies with the stroke of the sword, and slaughter, and destruction, and did what they would unto those that hated them.  And in Shushan the palace the Jews slew and destroyed five hundred men.  And Parshandatha, and Dalphon, and Aspatha,  And Poratha, and Adalia, and Aridatha,  And Parmashta, and Arisai, and Aridai, and Vajezatha,  The ten sons of Haman the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews, slew they; but on the spoil laid they not their hand.  Esther 9:5-10

These headlines were not the end of the story.  There were more enemies, and Israel could not sleep if they were still armed and dangerous.

On that day the number of those that were slain in Shushan the palace was brought before the king.  And the king said unto Esther the queen, The Jews have slain and destroyed five hundred men in Shushan the palace, and the ten sons of Haman; what have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces? now what is thy petition? and it shall be granted thee: or what is thy request further? and it shall be done.  Then said Esther, If it please the king, let it be granted to the Jews which are in Shushan to do to morrow also according unto this day’s decree, and let Haman’s ten sons be hanged upon the gallows.  And the king commanded it so to be done: and the decree was given at Shushan; and they together on the fourteenth day also of the month Adar, and slew three hundred men at Shushan; but on the prey they laid not their hand.  Esther 9:11-15

As when Israel was given their lands in Canaan, God expected them to destroy their enemies.  Some of those ancient enemies are still part of the problems they are having today.  The name Palestinian is essentially the same as Philistine.  These Jews in Persia have just been delivered from certain assassination, so they are motivated to relentless pursuit of these enemies.  Esther requested to have the bodies of Haman’s sons hanged as a public display as well.

But the other Jews that were in the king’s provinces gathered themselves together, and stood for their lives, and had rest from their enemies, and slew of their foes seventy and five thousand, but they laid not their hands on the prey,  On the thirteenth day of the month Adar; and on the fourteenth day of the same rested they, and made it a day of feasting and gladness.  But the Jews that were at Shushan assembled together on the thirteenth day thereof, and on the fourteenth thereof; and on the fifteenth day of the same they rested, and made it a day of feasting and gladness.  Therefore the Jews of the villages, that dwelt in the unwalled towns, made the fourteenth day of the month Adar a day of gladness and feasting, and a good day, and of sending portions one to another. Esther 9:16-19

We may not have to indulge in this kind of physical war against violent enemies today.  Our warfare is not against flesh and blood if we engage in spiritual warfare.  There are spirits working behind the scenes through men who produce the sins that threaten our world.  If we will be free of their violence we do have to war against those dark spirits.  We need the same resolve that the warriors of the Old Testament lived to win that warfare.  God provided miraculous deliverance by working behind the scenes against Haman.  He still does this today in response to the prayers of his followers.  He has trained us to pray as Israel did in Persia.  He leaves this celebration of joy for our rememberance.

And Mordecai wrote these things, and sent letters unto all the Jews that were in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, both nigh and far,  To stablish this among them, that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same, yearly,  As the days wherein the Jews rested from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning into a good day: that they should make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.  And the Jews undertook to do as they had begun, and as Mordecai had written unto them;  Because Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had devised against the Jews to destroy them, and had cast Pur, that is, the lot, to consume them, and to destroy them; Esther 9:20-24

A feast was established by Mordecai to be a memorial of the responsibility to resist darkness.  The name of a game of chance has become the name of rememberance.

But when Esther came before the king, he commanded by letters that his wicked device, which he devised against the Jews, should return upon his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows.  Wherefore they called these days Purim after the name of Pur. Therefore for all the words of this letter, and of that which they had seen concerning this matter, and which had come unto them,  The Jews ordained, and took upon them, and upon their seed, and upon all such as joined themselves unto them, so as it should not fail, that they would keep these two days according to their writing, and according to their appointed time every year;  And that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city; and that these days of Purim should not fail from among the Jews, nor the memorial of them perish from their seed. Esther 9:25-28

Purim is a light in the darkest season of winter.  When the light seems to be weakest, a spiritual warmth is provided as a feast of joy and celebration.  God has been the master of the chess board of life.  He has positioned us to provide the victory over the cold darkness of human nature.  We will not be taken to destruction by the prince of darkness or his servants.

Then Esther the queen, the daughter of Abihail, and Mordecai the Jew, wrote with all authority, to confirm this second letter of Purim.  And he sent the letters unto all the Jews, to the hundred twenty and seven provinces of the kingdom of Ahasuerus, with words of peace and truth,  To confirm these days of Purim in their times appointed, according as Mordecai the Jew and Esther the queen had enjoined them, and as they had decreed for themselves and for their seed, the matters of the fastings and their cry.  And the decree of Esther confirmed these matters of Purim; and it was written in the book. Esther 9:29-32

And the king Ahasuerus laid a tribute upon the land, and upon the isles of the sea.  And all the acts of his power and of his might, and the declaration of the greatness of Mordecai, whereunto the king advanced him, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia?  For Mordecai the Jew was next unto king Ahasuerus, and great among the Jews, and accepted of the multitude of his brethren, seeking the wealth of his people, and speaking peace to all his seed.  Esther 10:1-3

The purpose of Purim is a memorial against the potential destruction of all Jews.  In the last century the Nazis of Germany attempted to do this again.  Today the modern Iranians are inclined to do what their ancestors failed to do by finishing the Jews.  We have trouble imagining the hatred that fuels this recurring nightmare.

Human behavior has been changed since one Jew proposed that men could have love for their enemies.  Thousands of years have allowed followers of that Messiah to show that love as martyrs and as world leaders.  God did not require us to fight carnal warfare alone since he demonstrated the greater power of spiritual warfare.  He ended the need for animal sacrifice by sacrificing that messiah, his son, in our place.  He promised to bring the rest of Israel to that Messiah in the future.  They are coming in greater numbers today to this Yeshua Ha Meschia who fulfilled all the requirements of Torah and the Old Testament. 

Outside of that hope the futility of religion is still producing raging hatred.  No other religion proposes that we should love our neighbor.  Many religions still hope that an animal may be sacrificed as an appeasement to their gods.  When that fails to satisfy their nagging doubts, they consider sacrificing their enemies.  This is the curse of Cain, whose sacrifice was rejected by God.  His response was to kill his brother.

You don’t need to think this only happens in distant nations.  This week I found two chickens that had been sacrificed minutes from a major American city.  I am not shocked by the killing of a chicken because we do this for food regularly.  But I am saddened by the idea that someone thinks this will make them stronger.  Killing a helpless animal is as futile as killing your brother.  The Lamb of God offered himself as the final sacrifice to give us power to be free of fear.  We may share his triumph over death, and pass through the veil of death to eternal life.

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Today Purim is enforced by promises that God left for Israel.  The peace of Jerusalem is assured by the only name by which men may be saved.  It is pronounced “Hay-suess” in some nations, Jesus in some, and Yeshua or Joshua in Hebrew.  I pray for the peace of Jerusalem which will come only when Israel recognizes the one who they have pierced, as promised by Zechariah.  The peace of Jerusalem is Yeshua of Nazareth.

TURNABOUT

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 REVERSAL

The king of Persia has learned how one man had used the king for an evil plan.  He is also learning who his friends really are.

On that day did the king Ahasuerus give the house of Haman the Jews’ enemy unto Esther the queen. And Mordecai came before the king; for Esther had told what he was unto her.  And the king took off his ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it unto Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman.  And Esther spake yet again before the king, and fell down at his feet, and besought him with tears to put away the mischief of Haman the Agagite, and his device that he had devised against the Jews.  Then the king held out the golden sceptre toward Esther. So Esther arose, and stood before the king,  Esther 8:1-4

The king gives the house and wealth of Haman to Esther.  Esther reveals how Mordecai is related to her and Mordecai receives the ring that signifies the king’s authority.  It still remains to stop the decree against the Jews, so Esther pleas for their lives.

And said, If it please the king, and if I have favour in his sight, and the thing seem right before the king, and I be pleasing in his eyes, let it be written to reverse the letters devised by Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, which he wrote to destroy the Jews which are in all the king’s provinces:  For how can I endure to see the evil that shall come unto my people? or how can I endure to see the destruction of my kindred?  Then the king Ahasuerus said unto Esther the queen and to Mordecai the Jew, Behold, I have given Esther the house of Haman, and him they have hanged upon the gallows, because he laid his hand upon the Jews.  Write ye also for the Jews, as it liketh you, in the king’s name, and seal it with the king’s ring: for the writing which is written in the king’s name, and sealed with the king’s ring, may no man reverse.  Esther 8:5-8

Mordecai has permission to re-write the curse of Haman as he pleases.  Not every Persian was inclined to participate in the murder of the Jews, but some were ready to act per the king’s first order.  A revision was prepared.

Then were the king’s scribes called at that time in the third month, that is, the month Sivan, on the three and twentieth day thereof; and it was written according to all that Mordecai commanded unto the Jews, and to the lieutenants, and the deputies and rulers of the provinces which are from India unto Ethiopia, an hundred twenty and seven provinces, unto every province according to the writing thereof, and unto every people after their language, and to the Jews according to their writing, and according to their language.  And he wrote in the king Ahasuerus’ name, and sealed it with the king’s ring, and sent letters by posts on horseback, and riders on mules, camels, and young dromedaries:  Wherein the king granted the Jews which were in every city to gather themselves together, and to stand for their life, to destroy, to slay and to cause to perish, all the power of the people and province that would assault them, both little ones and women, and to take the spoil of them for a prey,  Upon one day in all the provinces of king Ahasuerus, namely, upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar.  The copy of the writing for a commandment to be given in every province was published unto all people, and that the Jews should be ready against that day to avenge themselves on their enemies.  So the posts that rode upon mules and camels went out, being hastened and pressed on by the king’s commandment. And the decree was given at Shushan the palace.  Esther 8:9-14

The orders were issued and delivered.  Mordecai wrote to reverse the condemnation against all who planned to act against the Jews.  The greedy souls who had planned to gain at the Jew’s expense were now themselves targeted.  Israel would not be forced to live with neighbors who had planned to exterminate them.

And Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, and with a great crown of gold, and with a garment of fine linen and purple: and the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad.  The Jews had light, and gladness, and joy, and honour.  And in every province, and in every city, whithersoever the king’s commandment and his decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a good day. And many of the people of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews fell upon them.  Esther 8:15-17

The city of Shushan was celebrating with the Jews.  Some still had a conscience and knew that a great evil had been prevented.  Gentiles converted to the God of Israel after witnessing a powerful deliverance.  The reputation of the Jews and their God was alive and well after many generations of evidence.  In this season of Purim even today Gentiles are coming to God, and Jews are coming to Yeshua.  Evidence will continue to gather a portrait of the deliverance that Israel may expect to come.