Next Sunday 12 March the 14th of Adar * (beginning sundown the evening before) is Purim—the day, as described in the Book of Esther, when Jews celebrate their remarkable deliverance from a plot in Persia in 483 B.C. to annihilate them as a people.
Celebration and Feasting
It is a joyous occasion. The Scroll (Book) of Esther will be read. This is the only book of the Hebrew Bible which has from ancient times been copied out onto small parchment scrolls for use in the Jewish home (see picture above). It is a time for celebration! “Feast” or “feasting” are mentioned at least eighteen times in the Book of Esther. The traditional Hebrew word for holiday yom tov appears only here (Esther 8:17) in the Bible. There will be Purim plays and costume parties; special pastries (Oznei-Haman—“Haman’s Ears”, small tri-folded butter cookies with sweet fillings), desserts and wine.
Although these are meant to be days for rejoicing and feasting (Esther 9:18-19)—for the observant, they are preceded by days of soberness of spirit and fasting. Esther 9:31 relates how, following the great deliverance, Mordechai and Queen Esther also prescribed annual times for fasting and lamentation, in remembrance of those which the Queen had called for her Jewish subjects as she was preparing herself to go in and seek the favour of the King.
Since this year Purim begins at the close of Shabbat, an “Esther Fast” will be observed by many Jews from dawn to sundown Thursday March 9th.
Purim is a season when we are made especially aware of the Spirit of Amalek. In fact, this coming Sabbath is often referred to as Shabbat Zachor—“Sabbath of Remembrance”—because on that Saturday preceding Purim we will add to the Parasha readings in the Synagogues Deuteronomy 25:17-19:
Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you were coming out of Egypt…when YHVH your God has given you rest from your enemies all around, in the land which YHVH your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance, that you will blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. You shall not forget!
“Amalek” in Scripture and down through Jewish history typifies a covenant-hating spirit—at war with the covenants of life which God has made on behalf of all humankind, but often specifically focused upon the covenant-people Israel. It is noteworthy that “Haman, the enemy of all the Jews, who plotted against the Jews to annihilate them, was the son of Hammedatha the Agagite” (Esther 9:24); this ancestor Agag was an Amalekite king (See I Samuel 15:2-34, this week’s Haftarah).
We see this spirit rising again in our own day—with the sharp increase in anti-Semitism, especially in Europe, and in a startling way, over the past six weeks, in the United States. Since January there have been at least 122 bomb threats made against Jewish centers in the US, and hundreds of Jewish graves have been desecrated in New York, St. Louis, Philadelphia, St. Louis and elsewhere. Meanwhile, the religious leaders of Iran (ancient Persia) continue to issue threats for Israel’s annihilation. And ISIS has pointedly begun to level threats, not only against the “covenant-people” Israel—but against those under the “New Covenant” in the blood of Yeshua—Christians.
Although the verse quoted above makes clear that Israel (and those who serve Israel’s God) will continually find themselves at war with this spirit, God has made clear that we are not alone in the battle! Today, as in Esther and Mordechai’s day, and before that during the day of Moses and Joshua, Yehovah-NISSI, the LORD’s banner-promise is flying over us—the promise that we are not alone, but HE is Himself at war with Amelek until its very memory is finally blotted out from under heaven! (Exodus 17:14-16).
It is unfortunate that Purim has come to be regarded in Israel primarily as a minor holiday for children (often adorned in Halloween costumes from America). We bless the children, certainly—but for their very sake we believe it important that Israel take seriously all of the message of this season. We encourage you to join with us in doing so!
As an act of Intercession read through the Book of Esther. Ask the Lord to illumine its message for today. Perhaps He will lead you to join together with us in the fast. And then, rejoice and celebrate the God who watches over all who care for and guard His covenants—to guide them in the way of His kindness and truth (Psalm 25:10).
PLEASE PRAY: that Jews and God’s covenant people around the world would come under the protection of the banner and promise of their God!
We find the following prayer points, written some years back during this season by our friend Rick Ridings to be still timely and applicable today:
1. That the Mordecais and Esthers of our time will hear the call of the Holy Spirit concerning the urgency of the hour, and will not be distracted or lulled into slumber by a false sense of security.
2. For continued success of the covert war against Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon. Let us believe for much confusion and division upon the demonic powers bent on destroying Israel (2 Chron. 20:1-30).
3. For a clear understanding to come to the decision-makers in Jerusalem and Washington, DC to do the right thing at the right time. (Esther 7:3-6)
4. Let us proclaim a reversal of every satanic decree to destroy Israel, and that “Haman” will be hung upon his own gallows. (Esther 7:9-10; Ps. 33:10-12)
5. For Iran (Persia), let us pray for the Lord to bring shame upon His enemies in such a way that they will begin to seek the Name of the Lord, to know Who is the True and Living God (See Psalm 83, especially verse 16).
* In most of the world, Purim is celebrated on the 14th of Adar (12 March this year). However, Jerusalem and other “walled cities” celebrate “Sushan Purim” a day later on the 15th of Adar—as was done in ancient Shushan (Susa: Esther 9:18-19).
THIS WEEK’S TORAH PORTION:
From ancient times there has been a weekly portion (Parashah) from the first five books of Moses (The Torah) and an ending (Haftarah) from the Prophets read on the Sabbath in synagogues around the world. This portion is given a Hebrew name drawn from the opening words of the Torah passage. An illustration of this practice appears to have been recorded in Luke 4:16 where Yeshua (Jesus) arrived in the synagogue in Nazareth and was asked to read the portion (Isaiah 61) from the Prophets. We have found that in perusing these weekly readings, not only are we provided opportunity to identify in the context of God’s Word with millions of Jewish people around the world, but very often the Holy Spirit will illumine specific passages pertinent that week in our intercession for the Land and people of Israel. The Haftarah, unless otherwise noted, will be that read in Ashkenazy synagogues around the world. The references for all texts are those found in English translations of the Scriptures.
The readings for this week 6 March 2017 are called Tetsaveh—“Command/Charge”.
TORAH: Exodus 27:20—30:10 (+Deuteronomy 25:17-19 Shabbat Zachor)
HAFTARAH: I Samuel 15:2-34
Note: This is one of four special Shabbats before Passover having additional Torah and replacement Haftarah readings. Because this Shabbat comes just before Purim, it is called Shabbat-Zachor—“Remember! (what Amalek did to you).” It contains an additional Torah reading (see above); and the usual Haftarah (Ezekiel 43:10-27) is replaced by the reading from I Samuel 15.
Lights and Illumination
This week’s Torah reading begins and ends (Exodus 27:20-21; 30:7-8) with Light and Illumination (and in the middle are “Lights and Perfections”—See Urim & Thumim below).
Moses is told to command the Children of Israel to bring to him “clear oil of beaten olives for the light, to raise up a lamp perpetually.” Near the close, the High Priest’s duties will include servicing the wicks and flames each morning and evening, at which time he will also be burning incense before the LORD.
Chapter 28 contains instructions related to the holy garments for Aaron the High Priest and his sons, with special instructions regarding the clothing of the High Priest: the ‘breastplate’, the ‘ephod’, the robe, tunic, turban, and sash.
Chapter 29 addresses the consecration and ordination of priests, the altar at which they would be serving and the sacrifices required.
Ch. 30:1-10 describes the Alter of Incense, which would be placed before the veil.
All of this is “Holy Ground” indeed. Ask the Lord to “illumine” your reading! We would also recommend reading Zechariah 3 along with this, where the LORD Himself is revealed as standing against our enemy, and supplying the purification truly necessary for priests in ministering righteously before Him.
*Exodus 27:20; 30:7,8: “And you shall command the children of Israel that they bring you clear, pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to cause the lamp to burn continually…And he shall burn it [fragrant incense] every morning when he trims the lamps. When Aaron lights the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense…”
Plain olive oil doesn’t burn well if at all. It needs to be zach—refined, pristine, transparent, pure, clear. The Light from the Menorah illuminated the Holy Place; its lamps were also positioned so as to shine onto the table bearing the Bread of His Presence. Pray that we keep the lamps of our spirits trimmed, and fueled with the Holy Spirit, so that the truth of His Word and Presence will be illuminated.
“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning . . .” (Luke 12:35 NIV);
“You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light” (Psalm 18:28 NIV).
“For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Yeshua the Messiah” (II Corinthians 4:6).
*Exodus 28:3: “So you shall speak to all who are gifted artisans (Heb: “wise-hearts”), whom I have filled with the spirit (wind) of wisdom, that they may make Aaron’s garments, to consecrate him, that he may minister to Me as priest.”
Pray for those whom God has especially gifted in the Body of Messiah as ‘craftsmen’, that they realize their talent and grace in developing their artistic skills have been breathed into them by the Holy Spirit—and that they will devote their creativity to that which is holy. In Israel as in other countries, there is a ‘thief’ waiting to divert the artistic giftings of God’s people away to the adulation of the world.
Urim and Thumim
*Exodus 28: 29-30. “Aaron shall carry the names of the sons of Israel in the breastplate of judgment over his heart when he enters the holy place, for a memorial before the LORD continually. You shall put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be over Aaron’s heart when he goes in before the LORD; and Aaron shall carry the judgment of the sons of Israel over his heart before the LORD continually.”
The exact nature of the Urim and Thumim and how they were used is no longer known to us. But we may assume this: they were a divine means used by the High Priest in making ‘wise judgment’ for Israel (Num. 27:21; Nehemiah 7:65). Urim is a special superlative for “Light”—as it were, “Light of Lights” – and Thumim a superlative for “Perfection”—as it were, “Perfection of Perfections”. Light (Hebrew: or) is related to “revelation and illumination”, while (tome) the Hebrew root for the word perfection is often translated “integrity” (cf: Psalm 25:21—“Let integrity (tome) and uprightness preserve me, for I wait in hope for You.”). Righteous judgments for His people is near to God’s Heart, and He desired it to be near to the hearts of His priests. This required supreme Illumination and Integrity—from beyond the wisdom of man.
Finally, Urim begins with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet ALEPH, while Thumim begins with the last TAV. Aleph and Tav (Hebrew) / A and Z (English)/ Alpha and Omega (Greek). In the Hebrew translation of Revelation 22:18, Yeshua (Jesus) declares,
“I am the Aleph and the Tav, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last”.
PLEASE PRAY that intercessors in Israel would be guided by a longing for righteous judgment, a plea for revelation and integrity to the One who is the “FIRST and the LAST,” the “Righteous Judge” (II Tim. 4:8)—the true Light shining in Darkness, who illumines everyone who comes into the world (John 1:9).
*Exodus 29:43-46. “I will meet there with the sons of Israel, and it shall be consecrated by My glory. I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar; I will also consecrate Aaron and his sons to minister as priests to Me. I will dwell among the sons of Israel and will be their God. They shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among them; I am YHVH their God” (Emphases ours).
Last week we called attention to God’s desire to “dwell with”, to “neighbor closely”, to shokhen with His people. PLEASE PRAY: for a longing among the sons and daughters of Israel after the presence of our LORD—for an awakened desire to be “consecrated” by HIS glory.
In the Synagogues there is an oft-recited prayer for the Shekinah (manifest presence of His glory) to return to Zion. He longs to “dwell among the children of Israel and to be their God”—but there must be a purification and consecration to prepare the way (Malachi 3:2-3).
Martin & Norma Sarvis
[The Parasha for next week 12-18 March will be TORAH: Exodus 30:11-34:35 (+Numbers 19:1-22); HAFTARAH: Ezekiel 36:16-38. As with last week, this is one of four special Shabbats before Passover having additional Torah and replacement Haftarah readings. This one is called Parah (Cow) and recalls the ritual involving the ashes of a red heifer for purification from defilement by death. It contains an additional Torah reading (see above); and the usual Haftarah (I Kings 18:1-39) is replaced by the reading from Ezekiel.]