God’s Redemptive Plans and Purim

John 5: 1-15 records that Jesus went up to Jerusalem during a “feast of the Jews” to the Pool of Bethesda to heal a certain man who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. The Bible does not specify which feast, but many scholars believe it was the Feast of Purim which is celebrated every year in remembrance of Esther’s intercession on behalf of the Jewish people before the Persian King Ahasuerus which saved them from annihilation. King Ahasuerus reigned over 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia – a large amount of territory. Had Haman’s wicked plot succeeded all Jews under the King’s rule would have been killed and Jesus could not have been born. It is always the enemy’s goal to stop God’s redemptive plans.

This blog is dealing with two examples of how God showed Himself to be more powerful than the enemy and all false gods, bringing deliverance to an individual and to His people as a nation.

The first example is of Jesus at the Pool of Bethesda.

The Pool of Bethesda was a pagan shrine to a counterfeit healing god (either the Greek god Asclepius or the Semitic healing god Eshmun). It doesn’t really matter the name of the god. Suffice it to say the god was NOT the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The “angel” mentioned was a demon. By going to the Pool of Bethesda Jesus was confronting the worship of false healing gods. He healed the man instantly, delivering him from a thirty-eight year long infirmity! Jesus showed Himself to be the Great Physician! This is an example of how Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).

The second example is how God uses people even in unbelief to bring about deliverance for His covenant people. The Book of Esther does not mention God, nor prayer. It does mention fasting but fasting is not an exclusive practice of Jews and Christians. So while Mordecai and Esther were obviously Jewish, could they have been of a more secular kind, rather than practicing and keeping the statues and ordinances of God? Mordecai and Esther were living in Persia, which today is modern day Iran, far from Jerusalem. They chose not to return to Jerusalem although free to do so. King Cyrus’ decree (Ezra 1:1) to allow the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple happened about 50 years earlier. They and many other Jews had decided to stay in a foreign land that did not worship God. Ever wonder why?

Regardless, God is all over the Book of Esther although He is not mentioned. He raised up Mordecai and Esther on behalf of His people to save their lives! Just as God stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus (a Gentile) in the Book of Ezra, He stirred up the spirit of Mordecai and Esther (both Jewish). He gave Esther much favor before King Ahasuerus so that he reversed Haman’s evil antisemitic plot to commit genocide. Haman hung on the gallows he had built for Mordecai. The Feast of Purim was instituted and is still kept today.

The spirit of Haman is alive and well today. Haman was jealous of Mordecai. Haman was an Agagite and Agag was the King of the Amalekites who hated and warred against God’s people. We see this spirit operating throughout history against the Jews. It wants to annihilate the Jews. This is the spirit that operates through Hamas and other terrorist groups today. Please hear and believe what they openly say. It is their agenda to kill Jews and drive them off the land of Israel.

There is at time for peace and a time for war Ecclesiastes tells us. This is a time that Israel is at war, and it is a war she must win. There is no choice really. If a cease-fire happens before Hamas is eliminated, it means Israel loses because Hamas will rearm and will strike again and again. Hamas, Hizbollah, Palestinian Authority, Fatah, Houthis, and every other terrorist group (all backed by Iran) are for war, not peace. The only reason they want a cease-fire is so they have time to rearm and up their game against Israel.

For those of us who live in the West, it may be difficult to understand that a people group is so bent on destruction and death. After all, aren’t they like us? Surely they want peace, we think. Surely, they want their children to live. NO, they do not! They applaud those that kill Jews! They had parties in the streets of Gaza on October 7th celebrating the slaughter of innocent people and the capture of hostages, most of whom, by the way, are still in captivity after almost six months! Our western mindset needs a paradigm shift so we understand what we, not only the Jews, are up against. The Jihadist agenda is first the killing of Jews and then the killing of Christians. In their minds, “Israel is the little satan” and “America (which represents the West) is the big satan.” Do not be fooled! They are coming for us also. It’s just a matter of time unless we fight and win!

As disciples of Jesus we should make it a priority to stand with the Jewish people at this time. Pray for them. Send help. Advocate for them. Do not allow the extremely biased media and political agendas to be the only voices people hear. Do your homework. Study the history and know what the Bible says! Do not be silent! Speak up! We do not want to be like the majority of the Church during the Holocaust and look the other way.

Let us remember WHO our God is! He is greater! He is healer! He is deliverer! His purposes are always redemptive. He has shown Himself to be faithful over and over and over again, not just to individuals but also to a nation! He will come to the rescue of Israel and to our rescue, but it is our job to stand on the walls and pray and act!! Be a restorer and join God in His plan of redemption of individuals and the nations!

“Those from among you shall build the old waste places; You shall raise up the foundations of many generations. And you shall be called the Repairer of the breach, the Restorer of streets to dwell in.” Isaiah 58:12 (NKJV)

Betsy Roy is the Director of Women of the Word and has been traveling to Israel on a regular basis since 2005. She leads prayer and ministry trips as well as tours.

Betsy and her husband Jim have three married daughters and five grandchildren and live in Massachusetts.

A Clash of Two Festivals

March 16, 2022, marks the convergence of two festivals: The Feast or Festival of Purim and the Festival of Fire (Chaharshanbe Suri which means “the scarlet Wednesday”). Both began in ancient Persia, now modern-day Iran. The exact date on the Gregorian calendar is different each year. Purim is celebrated on the 14th and 15th day of the Hebrew month of Adar (normally late Feb/early March). The Fire Festival is on the last Wednesday of the last month of the Iranian calendar before the start of their New Year at the Spring equinox (late March). Celebrations for both begin on the “eve” before. 

Why should we as modern-day people care about these two festivals? 

Both festivals are “spiritual”. Many people today are seeking out spiritual things and think that as long as it’s “spiritual” it’s good. This is not true. The question we need to ask is “Of what spirit is each festival?” 

The Feast of Purim is found in the biblical book of Esther. It tells the story of a Jewish girl named Esther who became Queen of Persia. The King of Persia, now modern-day Iran, reigned over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces stretching from India to Ethiopia (Esther 1:1). The King’s advisor Haman had devised a wicked plot to annihilate the Jewish people because they were different. The King agreed! 

The Persian King did not know that Esther was Jewish. She kept it a secret.

Her cousin Mordecai heard of the plot to annihilate the Jewish people and implored Esther to intercede on behalf of her people. Esther was afraid knowing that if she went to the King without being summoned, she would be killed unless he extended his scepter of favor to her. Mordecai pointed out that Esther would not escape the decree just because she lived in the King’s palace. She would be found out and die also. 

The Jewish people in the City of Susa fasted for three days at Esther’s request. She then went bravely to the King who did extend his royal scepter of favor to her. Esther invited the King and Haman to two banquets.  At the banquets the King offered Esther whatever she would want, up to the half of his kingdom! At the second banquet, Esther pleaded for the life of her people, exposing Haman’s plot to annihilate them. Now knowing that his Queen was Jewish, the King became angry at Haman which resulted in Haman’s death. Another decree was written. Hallelujah!  So, instead of being annihilated on the set day of the 13th of Adar, the Jewish people were able to defend themselves and overcome their enemies. The original decree’s intent was reversed. A great celebration happened on the 14th and 15th of Adar. From that time on, the Feast of Purim has been celebrated by the Jewish people commemorating the courage of Queen Esther and the deliverance of her people from death to life! Gifts are traditionally given, especially to the poor and needy. 

In contrast, the Festival of Fire is in honor of the spirits of the dead. It includes such things as “fire jumping,” which is meant to purify those jumping over the fire. Fortune telling and eating “wish granting” snacks are among some of the other practices during the festival. Does that sound at all superstitious and even occultic? It is!! 

It’s a spiritual war between satan and God. 

Both festivals are celebrated today all over the world wherever Jewish and Iranian people live. Many people of other cultures participate not even knowing what they are doing.  Some modern-day Jews and Iranians don’t know the whole story either. 

These festivals are not just meaningless “let’s have some fun” celebrations. They are rooted in an ancient conflict between death and life, between satan and God. While Purim celebrates the life and the victory brought by our covenant-keeping God, the Festival of Fire celebrates death!  The powers of darkness try to entice us with “fun and games”.  This is true with the Festival of Fire. After all we just want to have fun, right??  It’s all a disguise to entrap people, to get them to open a door in their hearts allowing the enemy of our souls an entrance into lives which will only lead to torment and destruction.

God, on the other hand, does require us to stand in faith and sometimes even risk our lives to be part of His eternal plan of redemption just like He did in the book of Esther. He promises to always be with us and to lead us in paths of righteousness and peace. 

Right now and right here in 2022 the power of satan is trying to defeat the power of God! We see this not only in the celebration of death, but wars and rumors of wars are growing daily. Our world is in great turmoil on every level. The Bible tells us there is a path that leads to life and a path that “seems right to man” but leads to destruction. Which path will you choose?  

The path of life!

When we choose the path of life in Christ Jesus we have favor with God because of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. We have access to the throne room of grace to ask for help in time of need. What a comfort! What an assurance! Though the earth is shaking, we have an unshakeable God. We can ask Him to reverse the wicked decrees of the “kings” of the earth bent on war. May God give us the grace and courage to be a modern day Mordecai or Esther. Our world surely needs us!

Believers in Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew) also have the privilege of co-laboring with him in prayer and intercession through the power of the Holy Spirit! So let’s pray right now….

Father, in the name of Jesus we thank you that we have access to the throne of grace to find help in time of need because of the atoning work of Jesus on the cross. We can come to you knowing that we will receive favor as we join together in Spirit led prayer. The earth is shaking but you remain steadfast and faithful. We trust you Lord and we do not lean on our own understanding. We ask you to shed light into the darkness. Reveal the plans of the evil one and deliver us from his schemes. Strengthen us to stand strong and be your instruments of peace. May your kingdom come and your will be done. Maranatha!

Betsy Roy is the Director of Women of the Word, an inter-generational ministry dedicated to helping women grow as disciples of Jesus by applying God’s Word through the power of the Holy Spirit. WOW holds conferences, retreats, Bible seminars and trips to Israel