Harry Ironside Collection: Ironside, Harry A. - Notes on Esther: 09.2-Esther Chapter 9:20-32 -- Purim

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Harry Ironside Collection: Ironside, Harry A. - Notes on Esther: 09.2-Esther Chapter 9:20-32 -- Purim

TOPIC: Ironside, Harry A. - Notes on Esther (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 09.2-Esther Chapter 9:20-32 -- Purim

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Esther Chapter 9:20-32 -- The Institution Of Purim

From this time, until he disappears from sacred history, Mordecai takes the place of a judge or a deliverer among his brethren. He has proven himself a faithful man in the main, whatever failures he may also have had. In a certain sense his position is very similar to that occupied by Joseph in Egypt. In position being next to the king, he has been the preserver of his people and is afterwards their protector.

He would have them never forget the great deliverance they had known, nor the means whereby it had been accomplished. From the twentieth verse, it has generally been concluded that he himself was the author of this book, and surely no person would be more likely to have been chosen for this service. He also, in conjunction with Esther the queen, established the feast of Purim, or “the lot” as a perpetual commemoration of the overthrowing of Haman’s device.

“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 establish 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” (Est_9:20-22). There is no reason to believe that this was a divinely instituted festival, like the seven feasts of Jehovah in Lev. 23. It was simply the grateful remembrance of a rejoicing people for signal mercy vouchsafed at a time of deepest distress. Naturally the Jews in the land did not as readily observe it as those scattered among the heathen. History tells us that it was some years ere it became a universal season of festivity among the Hebrews, and many more elapsed before a distinctively religious character was given to it.

But, as commanded by Mordecai and Esther, all was in perfect keeping with the times. In full accord with their Lo-ammi condition-God’s name is in no wise connected with it. It has kept, however, the record of their providential deliverance, clearly before their minds. The exact reason for the name of the feast is given in the verses that follow: “And the Jews under- took 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; 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 upon 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” (Est_9:23-28).

How truly had they been made to know that “the lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord” (Pro_16:33). No device of the wicked against the people of the Lord can ever be carried out unless He see fit to permit it. Hence the Christian can exultingly cry, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom_8:31.) But, though His care is over all His saints, it will always be observed that there is not that same direct, manifest interference on their behalf when not walking according to His revealed will, as when they take the place of absolute dependence on Himself in subjection to His Word. Thus also in Christendom generally, it is more this distant Providential oversight that is known.

In an indefinite way saints learn to look for divine interposition; for evidence of the Lord’s concern. But it is only as one walks with God and trembles at His word, manifesting real heart for Himself, that the special supervision and intimate Fatherly care of which Scripture speaks is entered into and enjoyed. This may be seen by turning for a little to that exceedingly striking passage in 2Co_6:14-18. Believers are here counseled to avoid putting their necks into an unequal yoke with those who believe not. This would refer to every concern of life; whether it be in regard to business, marriage, or ecclesiastical associations. No child of God can be linked up with an unconverted man in a business partnership without violating this Scripture. Neither could one enter into an engagement or marriage with an unsaved person and enjoy the approbation of the Lord. An old Puritan once wrote, “If you marry a child of the devil you can expect to have trouble with your father-in-law.” Alas, that so many, despising the Word of truth and the bitter experiences of thousands before them, should, with open eyes, yet venture on such a course, because through their affections they have been ensnared! How many Samsons have been thus shorn of their strength! And how many Solomons have thus had their hearts turned away!

But there are many who see the nature of the business yoke and the family yoke, who seem quite unconcerned as to ecclesiastical association with the world. “What agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God.” Believers, and believers alone, comprise this spiritual house. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1Co_3:16). Of no unregenerate soul could this be said. Of those only who are born again and sealed with the Holy Spirit can it be true. It is therefore of the greatest importance that Christians refuse all association with worldlings in spiritual things. This is beautifully set forth in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, where the faithful remnant, having come up from Babylon and Persia, are found not only separate from the nations, but, when gathered at the place where Jehovah’s name had been set of old, they indignantly refuse the help of the uncircumcised in building the house of God or the walls of the city. For them, despite the fact that the Lo-Ammi sentence remained unrepealed, God could act in a more open and manifest way than when He interfered for the scattered ones of the provinces who separated not from the nations when they had the opportunity presented to them in the imperial decree. For this remnant, He raised up suited ministry. Haggai and Zechariah were able to give with no uncertainty “the Lord’s message.” When failure came in, they were in the place where all could be dealt with according to the Book; while teachers of the law, like Ezra and the Levites, were given to them to instruct them in what was there written.

And so, in the passage we have under consideration, God says to those who “come out from among them,” and who “touch not the unclean thing,” that He will receive them; and He adds, “I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” This is unspeakably precious. God is the Father of all who are born again. All such have life eternal-divine life, and can say by the Spirit, “Abba Father;” but though He is the Father of all, He is not able always to act as a Father unto all.

It is the obedient who know His gracious and special care spoken of in this sense. Leaving all else for Him, they find Him to be more than all else to them, even in regard to temporal matters.

“He knows, and loves, and cares;

Nothing this truth can dim:

He gives the very best to those

Who leave the choice to Him.”

Separated to Himself, dependent alone upon His omnipotent power, they are given to see His hand and to discern His actings in grace as others cannot who “follow afar off,” and fear to leave all that is contrary to His mind, as revealed in His Word.

How blessed is it, on the other hand, that even where there is not this devotion to Himself that should characterize those redeemed at such cost, yet He never forgets His own, nor does He ever neglect them. But it is more in the manner of His actings in the days of Esther that He watches over and cares for them-often unseen and unacknowledged. “His mercy endureth forever,” and He who walked with His unbelieving people for forty years in the wilder- ness never ceases to care for His children now, however little they may realize it. “Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end” (Joh_13:1).

The feast of Purim, then, witnesses the nation’s gratitude, however feebly it may set forth their recognition that it was God Himself who had so wondrously made their affliction the occasion for His acting in grace.

“Then Esther the queen, the daughter of Abihail” (Father of strength), “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” (Est_9:29-31). It is not likely that the name of God was left unmentioned in the publications they thus put forth, for “words of peace and truth” clearly connected the humiliation of the people and their fasting, with the deliverance God gave them at the end. “Their cry” is also mentioned. To whom could it be but to God? Were this narration of it then written by mere man, how natural would it have been to have added the words “to God” or “to the Lord.” But the pen of inspiration never errs. The One whose ways are perfect, is the real author of the book, whether Mordecai or some unknown one was the writer.

“And the decree of Esther confirmed these matters of Purim; and it was written in the book” (Est_9:32). To the present day, and for ages past, it has been the custom of the Hebrews to read this book at the annual observance of the feast; and whenever the name of Haman is uttered, the orthodox Jews hiss, and stamp, and curse his memory.

In the days when our Lord was upon earth, the canon of Old Testament Scripture, as we now know it, had been long since completed, and was composed of “the law, the prophets, and the Psalms.” Esther was always included in the latter division, called in the Greek version “the Hagiographa.” Jesus spoke of all as Scripture. Therefore we cannot question the full inspiration of this book, as He has set His seal upon it. And yet we shall look in vain to find any quotation from or reference to it in the New Testament. It is the unique evidence of God’s unfailing care to a faithless people.

The feast of Purim is never referred to in the Gospels either. It did not properly belong to the people as in the land. While the yearly reminder of unchanging grace, it was also the evidence of their lack of heart for the One who had so acted towards them. At the present time it has degenerated into a season of godless merrymaking, and is more patriotic than devotional in character.