Call to mind anyone for whose life you are thankful. What is (or was) it about them that causes you to give thanks? What would you like to be remembered for?
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 that they should 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 to 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, he issued written orders that the evil scheme Haman had devised against the Jews should come back on to 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’s 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, pre-eminent 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.
Our final reading in Esther summarises the story succinctly, and leads to the festival of Purim, which was established by Mordecai and Esther to commemorate the events we have explored in the last couple of weeks (vs 23–32). It is not surprising to discover that Purim is still widely celebrated, in Israel especially. Considering the history of the Jews contains so much persecution, from their origins onwards, enjoying a festival which recalls a great victory over their enemies is unsurprising.
The acknowledgement of Mordecai’s achievements in chapter 10 is clear. He is great, second only to the king, pre-eminent amongst the Jews, and highly esteemed. Why? The closing sentence couches Mordecai’s achievements for his people in glowing terms (10:3). The way they were achieved involved violence and vengeance, but also courage, commitment and loyalty. It is what those deeds accomplished for God’s people that is the focus. Their good – their welfare. Mordecai’s greatness is assured, but the reason for it, in that final verse, is written in bold and underlines it.
Pray about opportunities you have to work for the good of others – in your own family, God’s family, your local community. Ask God to help you if circumstances are difficult, to give you his resources as you serve him, and to follow in the pattern Christ laid down for us.
Deeper Bible study
‘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.’1
Ethical questions raised in Esther continue to the end, where Mordecai, now with huge power and influence, uses this entirely for the good of his own ethnic group. My experience of living in Ethiopia, where there is clear evidence of power misused over the years for the benefit of the tribal group of those in ascendancy 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 used their considerable power and influence, when each was working on behalf of a pagan king. Coming to the end of the book of Esther, it is hard to see either Mordecai or indeed Esther having much in common with those clearly portrayed as heroes or heroines in other biblical histories.
Having noted the challenges 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 recognise the desperate situation of those in some places, to have our eyes open to the needs of those living where harvests have failed and there is no sign of any prosperity, but still to take time to be thankful for the things we have been given. God may not be referenced in Esther and there may be no mention of prayer or covenant or any service of God, but God remains the one who provides and we can only rejoice in the knowledge that, even in a world full of corruption and injustice and where those who should be following his ways do not do so, nevertheless he 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.
Bible in a year
Read Bible in a year: Jeremiah 32,33; John 12 25
Pray for Scripture Union
The Director of Sports Ministry for local mission partner PSALMS is meeting with contacts across the Gloucester Diocese to discuss plans for an initiative to develop churches for people who don’t engage with traditional forms of church. Pray that they will know God’s leading and that the way forward will become clear.