What is Purim?

This month, Jewish people around the world will celebrate Purim, a fun-filled holiday based on the Book of Esther. Festivities include carnivals, pageants, practical jokes, and dramatic readings of the whole Megillah (the Book of Esther). That last one is marked by exuberant audience participation, as audiences stomp their feet and boo at each mention of the villain Haman, while loudly cheering for our heroes, Mordecai and Esther.

“Purim” comes from the word pur or “lot” (Esther 3:7 and Esther 9:24–26). This refers to Haman’s decision to cast a lot to determine the best day to destroy the Jewish people. He found out there is no good time to hate what God loves!

God is not mentioned in the Book of Esther

Of course, the real hero of Purim is the Lord, the God of Israel who will not allow His people to be destroyed or His purpose to be thwarted. And yet, neither His name nor His words are found anywhere in the book.

I don’t think it was an oversight that God is not mentioned in the Book of Esther. I think it is His sense of humor, as well as a revelation that His providence sometimes works through unexpected circumstances and seeming coincidences.

First, who would imagine God orchestrating the results of a beauty pageant to accomplish His plans? Yet that’s what happened – because God is perfectly capable of using less than perfect situations to accomplish His perfect will.

The king of Persia had been goaded into deposing his queen and sponsoring a beauty contest to find a replacement. Enter Mordecai, a godly man who had raised his cousin/niece, Esther, to be a godly woman. The strange thing is, we have no record of him trying to prevent Esther from being drafted into this beauty contest, in which she became vulnerable to the whims of this temperamental ruler.

Such a circumstance might not seem like “God’s style,” but is there any doubt that God gave Esther favor in the king’s eyes, and that this favor was critical to the survival of the Jewish people?

Mordecai could have said, “Not my problem”

Then there’s the interesting “coincidence” where Mordecai “happens” to overhear two villains plotting to assassinate the king. Mordecai could have told himself, “Not my king, not my problem.” After all, the Jewish people were not exactly privileged citizens of Persia! Yet Mordecai does the honorable thing out of loyalty to God, if not to the king. He informs Esther, who makes sure the king is warned in time. Mordecai’s good deed is duly recorded, if not immediately rewarded.

Like Mordecai, we are called to do what is right despite circumstances. The perils of those around us are not just “someone else’s problem.” And like Mordecai, our good deeds may seem to go unnoticed, but God can and will use them, sometimes even drawing attention to them for His purposes. That’s exactly what happened in the “coincidental” case of insomnia.

One night, the king can’t get to sleep. He “happens” to command that his royal journals be read to him, and “happens” to be reminded that Mordecai saved his life. At which point, Haman just “happens” to walk in. When the king asks for advice on how to honor a man, Haman believes himself to be the man the king wishes to honor, and becomes the divine means of bringing honor to Mordecai, whom he despises. Why does he despise Mordecai? For honoring God by not bowing down to a man! What a divine setup!

Haman grits his teeth and obeys the king’s command to honor Mordecai, never mentioning that he has already put in place a plot to destroy not only Mordecai, but the entire Jewish people.

When a “crazy coincidence” is God’s timing

Which brings us back to Esther. If we didn’t know God, we might think it was some kind of crazy coincidence that she finds herself in a position to speak out against Haman’s evil plot. But Mordecai sees the timing. He understands that she has been brought to this position “for such a time as this.” If she was brought for a purpose, there had to be an all-knowing Bringer – God.

And yet Esther must violate royal protocol and risk her life in order to act on behalf of her God and her people. This had to be terrifying for her, yet she accepts her “lot in life” with remarkable courage. She asks for prayer, then steps out in a combination of faith and resignation saying, “If I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16).

Like Esther, many of us have found ourselves in unpleasant, painful, or difficult circumstances due to events beyond our control. Don’t believe for one minute that the circumstances of your life are mere coincidence or that life is just “happening” to you. God does not approve of every situation and circumstance, but we know that He can and does use them to bring about His great purposes (See Romans 8:28). While we may not always see His hand at work, we have good reason to take courage and to look for Him to accomplish His purposes through us – even when the situations are strange, and yes, somewhat scary.

God uses small acts of obedience in big ways

Whatever you are facing, you can ask in prayer for the courage to trust and obey God. When you do, His sovereignty will eventually become apparent and so will His watch care over you! It might not be anything of epic proportions. But then, most of what we do for God are small acts of obedience that He can use in big ways.

In Jews for Jesus, we talk about divine appointments, and it’s amazing how often they pop up when we are facing a difficult task. We go out to do street evangelism, and we just “happen” to meet someone who was thinking about the Lord that very day. Or we work up courage to call someone we haven’t been in touch with for a while because they indicated they were no longer interested in studying the Bible. To our surprise and delight, we discover that something has happened that very week to open their hearts to the truth, and they are eager to visit with us. They see our “out of the blue” call as a sign that God cares for them.

What about your circumstances?

What about the circumstances in your life? Are “coincidences” cropping up? What kinds of things test your courage? Witnessing to a co-worker or a neighbor? Don’t dismiss the small things. God is giving you opportunities to accomplish His divine purposes. Whether He uses you to help just one person understand their need for Jesus, or whether He chooses you to change the course of history for a whole group of people, He will bless you for making the most of the opportunities He offers you.

This piece was adapted from David Brickner’s original “No Coincidence” article, first published in our newsletter in 1998.

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