Jonathan Bernis - Purim
This entire week we're celebrating an important Jewish observance. It's called Purim, and it's a celebration of the story that we read about in the Book of Esther. This is a great opportunity to gather your friends and your family, read the Book of Esther, and celebrate God's goodness in our lives. He is watching, and answers prayer.
Jonathan Bernis: Shalom and welcome to Jewish Voice, and thank you for joining us. I'm Jonathan Bernis, and today I'm joined again by my co-host, Ezra Benjamin. Well, this week we're celebrating Purim. It's the story of God's deliverance from an evil man named Haman. Boo, Haman!
Ezra Benjamin: Boo!
Jonathan Bernis: I'll be explaining more about it as time goes on and what we're doing here. Ezra, this is an incredible story from the Book of Esther. I don't know how many of you have read the Book of Esther, but the amazing thing about Purim, which is based on the book, or the book is, rather, based on, is that God is never mentioned in the entire book.
Ezra Benjamin: Exactly.
Jonathan Bernis: And yet, he's behind the scenes throughout the entire story.
Ezra Benjamin: That's exactly right. The only book of the Bible, correct, Jonathan, where the name of God, the name of the Lord is absent, and yet we see his deliverance woven throughout the story.
Jonathan Bernis: We sure do.
Ezra Benjamin: Yeah. Jonathan, you know, it's really an obscure holiday in a way. It's kind of an obscure book in the Bible. Maybe you haven't even read it in detail, and yet, I feel like it's one of the most relevant holidays for us to understand, for you at home to understand, in looking at what's happening in the world today.
Jonathan Bernis: Ezra, I think what's so unique about Purim it's a book about the future, and it's a story that keeps reoccurring over and over again throughout history. What I'm talking about is anti-semitism. The book is a story of anti-semitism - an anti-semitic, evil man, an antichrist, a type of antichrist. You know, we talk about the antichrist, the son of perdition that's going to emerge on the scene, but in fact there's been antichrists throughout history.
Ezra Benjamin: Interesting.
Jonathan Bernis: Examples - Herod was an antichrist. Before him, Pharaoh was an antichrist. What did Pharaoh do? He killed the firstborn male of all the Hebrews to keep the redeemer from coming, to keep Moses... Ultimately, Moses from coming. Herod tried to keep the Messiah from coming - an antichrist. Antiochus Epiphanes iv desecrated the temple and made the Jewish people bow down to a statue of Zeus - an antichrist. Hitler was an antichrist, and we've been discussing what we believe is the reason for that. The story of anti-semitism is an age old story since the time of Abraham, and it's the story of Purim. Now, that's the bad news. The good news is, and this has reoccurred also, is that God has brought deliverance. The only reason that the Jewish people have survived, that the Israelites remain, and the Amalekites, the Jebusites, the Hittites - all of the -ites of history are gone, but the Israelites remain. Why? Because although the enemy has sought to destroy the people of Israel, God declares in Jeremiah 31, "As long as the sun shines by day and the moon and stars shine by night, God will sovereignly preserve the Jewish people as a nation before him".
Ezra Benjamin: That they will not cease to be a nation before me forever. And we know, and you know at home, when God says forever, he means it.
Jonathan Bernis: Right, so that's the story of Purim. It's the story of antichrists, an antichrist that tries to destroy the Jewish people, that hates the Jewish people because he hates the God of the Jewish people, the God of Israel. And yet, God, although his name is not mentioned in the book, prevails and delivers the children of Israel.
Ezra Benjamin: That's right, and I think, you know, Jonathan, in looking at everything that's on the news every night, it's easy to forget the Lord, right? And we hear, you know, even today, modern day Persia, Iran, has leaders that are saying we vow to destroy the Jewish people, and we can get depressed, we can become overwhelmed, but we have to remember that the Lord's working in history, even in places like secular media where his name is being not mentioned.
Jonathan Bernis: Absolutely, and here's where history is repeating itself now, Ezra. The story of Purim takes place in Persia. It's the king of Persia is sort of neutral in the beginning, but he has given authority to the second in command, this evil Haman, who wants to destroy the Jewish people because he hates a specific Jewish person named Mordecai. Today, the greatest threat that Israel faces is Iran.
Ezra Benjamin: Right.
Jonathan Bernis: The threat of a nuclear armed Iran that has already declared that the first recipient of a nuclear weapon will be Israel. As soon as one is created, it's launched against Israel.
Ezra Benjamin: Right, using language and the leaders of Iran won't even say the word, "Israel". They say, "The enemy". That's how it's spoken in farsi, in Persian, "The enemy," and we'll drive the enemy, meaning the Jewish people, the state of Israel, into the heart of the sea.
Jonathan Bernis: Right, and I'll just throw this in, that it's a lie that if the Jewish people, or Israel in particular is no longer supported by the United States, then Israel will fall. Israel will not. It's also a deception that if the United States drops their support of Israel that the Islamic threat will disappear. That's nonsense. It's not our support of Israel. They're the little Satan, America's the great Satan, and we stand in the way of that agenda.
Ezra Benjamin: Right, we're in the bullseye no matter what, whether we stand with Israel or not, and I hope we never stop standing with Israel. So, Jonathan, the Book of Esther and the story of Haman, just another example of an antichrist, what's the setting here? The Jewish people are kicked out of Israel. They're living in the Persian empire, and things are okay until Haman shows up on the scene.
Jonathan Bernis: Right, which has always been the history of the Jewish people. It was the history of the Jewish people in Poland before World War II when Hitler... they enjoyed relative peace and prosperity. It's the story of the Jewish people as they wandered through the nations of Europe.
Ezra Benjamin: Right, through Spain and Portugal.
Jonathan Bernis: Being banished, the Spanish Inquisition, right? Is focused on killing Jewish people and banishing Jewish people. This has been the history of the Jewish people. Praise God, he has kept us as a nation to prove that he's alive and well. God is alive and well. Ezra, this is prophetic. This is a prophetic story, and it's as relevant or more relevant today than it was back in the day that it happened.
Ezra Benjamin: It is prophetic, Jonathan, and I think, you know, because the holocaust happened in the 20th century, you know, in some of our lifetimes, or at least in my parents' lifetime, my grandparents' lifetime, we tend to focus on that like it was this... I mean, of course it was horrific. May it never happen again. But, we talk about it like it was this isolated, unprecedented incident in history, but in fact, the Book of Esther, the story of Purim, tells us this is something that happens again and again and again throughout Israel's history. The holocaust wasn't an isolated event.
Jonathan Bernis: If you put the Book of Esther into its historical context, chronological context, it takes place right before this massive return back to Israel.
Ezra Benjamin: Under Ezra and Nehemiah.
Jonathan Bernis: Yes, under Ezra and Nehemiah. They're rebuilding the temple. They're preparing the way for the Messiah. This is a critical juncture in history, and we've had many of them. Remember? Let's go back again to the Exodus. The children of Israel are crying out for deliverance, and after 400 or 430 years, depending on where you read it, God provides a deliverer named Moses. What happens immediately before Moses comes on the scene? Pharaoh decides to have all male Hebrews killed, all male children are killed. Why? Because there is a prophetic moment in history and the enemy knows those prophetic realities.
Ezra Benjamin: That's exactly right.
Jonathan Bernis: We see the same story being repeated by Herod with the coming of the Messiah. It's in the air. Redemption is in the air. The Messiah is about to come, and Herod gets a sense of this and calls the sages of Israel to ask where. Not when - he knows when, in the immediate future. Where? Finds out it's Bethlehem and sends his soldiers to kill all male children under the age of two, because they may be the Messiah.
Ezra Benjamin: Over and over again. So important. We can't stress enough how important it is for you to see this connection in history between a pending deliverance or restoration of the Jewish people, even the coming of Jesus, and the destruction of Jewish lives, the intention to annihilate.
Jonathan Bernis: And here's why it's so relevant. Anti-semitism is back on the rise again. It's back on the rise again. It's at the highest level of any time since World War II. We're back to 1939 again, Ezra, in some places of the world. In Europe, this is an epidemic.
Ezra Benjamin: Right.
Jonathan Bernis: This is Jews are leaving France. Jews have left Argentina. Why? Because anti-semitism has grown so much. Incidents all over the United States now where synagogues are being targeted, where Jewish people in New York are being targeted by anti-semites.
Ezra Benjamin: It's terrible, and governments of the world, national leaders, like we talked about - the Iranian leadership, the Lebanese leadership, others in Syria, all around the Middle East are rising up, I mean brazenly, and saying we are committing, as a national governmental priority, to the destruction of Israel.
Jonathan Bernis: And here's why it's important to every person listening right now - it's right out of the Book of Esther. Here's what Mordecai, Esther's uncle says. "Do not think in your soul that you will escape in the king's household more than all of the Jews, for if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place. Who knows whether you have attained royal status for such a time as this"? Every one of you watching, you have attained royal status and you have a responsibility to the Jewish people. The Messiah, Jesus, was a Jew. He died for you and you have a debt of responsibility back to them. Hey, we have to take a break as our announcer comes to tell you about some special resources that we want to sow into your life this week. Ezra and I will be back with much more as we continue our discussion about Purim, and explain to you what this is all about. So, don't go away. We'll be right back after this.
Jonathan Bernis: Ezra, let's jump back into the story of Purim. It is the Book of Esther. The Book of Esther is the story of Purim, and we're actually commanded to remember this story. To retell it to our children.
Ezra Benjamin: A story of certain destruction of our people, but for the promise of God to always preserve a remnant in Israel.
Jonathan Bernis: Absolutely. Ezra, the verse that I want to read again is from Book of Esther, chapter 4, verse 13. Mordecai, who is the uncle of Esther. Esther, "Hadassah" in Hebrew, has now been implored to go to the king, and by the way, this is prophetic. Each person, each character represents, I believe, a last days... Is part of the last days scenario. So, each character represents someone.
Ezra Benjamin: Interesting.
Jonathan Bernis: Mordecai represents the Jewish people, and it says that Mordecai is standing at the gate. He can't go in to the king. And then you have Haman, and by the way, that's why we have these noisemakers, because we read the Book of Esther, and when the name of Haman is mentioned, we drown out his name!
Ezra Benjamin: Right.
Jonathan Bernis: We drown out the antichrist. We drown out the works of Satan, because, "Greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world". We have the king, who represents God, right? He's the one that is making the decrees. And then, we have Esther - Esther, the queen. She has a Jewish uncle. She has not yet been discovered, or her Jewish identity has not yet been discovered. She's the one with access to the king. She represents the church. She represents you, and here's the verse again. I didn't forget. It's Esther 4:13, Mordecai imploring Esther and says this. "Mordecai told them to reply to Esther with this answer". Here's the challenge. "Do not think in your soul that you will escape in the king's household more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Who knows whether you have attained royal status for such a time as this"? Here's the connection. Ezra, here's the connection. All of you that are watching - those that want to destroy the sabbath keepers, those that want to destroy the Jewish people, if they succeed, the Sunday keepers will follow. It's been said repeatedly, the warning has come. They may be after the Jewish people now, but ultimately they'll go for Christians as well, because we're related. The Jewish people and the Christian people are connected together, and don't think that you will escape what's ahead if you don't stand with the Jewish people. That's the challenge of Mordecai. That's the exhortation of Mordecai to Esther, and I believe that's the exhortation of the living God, the God of Israel, to you, the follower of Yeshua, Jesus. The roots of your faith are Jewish. Esther, you are Esther, and you have access to the king. You have royal status, but do not forget the important role that you call as an intercessor to go before the king on behalf of the children of Mordecai, the Jewish people.
Ezra Benjamin: That's absolutely right, Jonathan, and like you said, Mordecai couldn't go in the city gates. Esther could go right to the king. You have access, through the blood of Jesus, the blood of Yeshua, to go right to the king. Jewish people around the world can't. There's that wall that remains because we don't have sin that's atoned for. Jonathan, the role of the church, the role of believers, sons and daughters of God, we can't overstress it enough. You have a role that Jewish people can't play.
Jonathan Bernis: Ezra, that's really why we're on the air. We've been on the air since the 1980s to tell the story of a faithful God who has preserved the Jewish people for a reason, who's restored the Jewish people back to their land to let the world know the times we live in, and it's a wakeup call to Christians to stand in the gap and to fulfill your role, and to grab ahold of the roots of your faith. They're Jewish. Your Messiah, your Savior, Jesus, his Hebrew name is Yeshua, died for you and has brought you into a heritage that includes the inheritance as a son or daughter of Abraham, and guess what? You've been called for such a time as this.
Ezra Benjamin: Yeah, amen. It's so important. Like you said, Jonathan, and the scripture says it - don't think, Esther, that you'll escape. And it's dangerous theology to our viewers watching at home. It's dangerous theology to say that's the Jews' problem, it'll never happen to us in the church. God has rejected the Jews. They're destined for punishment. They're destined for destruction. Not so. There's gonna come a day when anyone who calls on the name of the Lord, Jewish, gentile, is going to be in that bullseye of destruction.
Jonathan Bernis: And why is this important to you? For every reason is the answer. Why should this matter? Because it matters to God. It matters to God. I also love this story, Ezra, and we've said this before. Although the name of God is never mentioned, he's at work behind the scenes.
Ezra Benjamin: Absolutely.
Jonathan Bernis: You may feel like God isn't paying attention to your need, that he's abandoned you. You pray and you don't see any change, but I want to tell you, God is on the scene. He loves you. He cares about you. He's at work in your life. You may not see it. It may not be the answer you're looking for, but God is real and cares.
Ezra Benjamin: Amen. Amen.
Jonathan Bernis: And so, how do we celebrate Purim? How do we observe the feast of Purim? We read the Book of Esther every year. There's actually a scroll, the megillat. We read the Book of Esther, and we cheer when we hear, "Esther," and we boo when we hear, "Haman," and boo Haman, because, "Greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world".
Ezra Benjamin: And Jonathan, there's another theme in this story. You know, if you go to Israel during the week of Purim - you should do that sometime - it's the wildest, craziest party on the Jewish calendar, because everybody's intentionally celebrating a big victory.
Jonathan Bernis: It's a giant celebration, it's a victory, and it's fun. It's a lot of fun to gather together all of the kids. I did this as a kid myself. But with our kids, we gather together with a group and we hand out the groggers. Grab yours, Ezra. And we read through the Book of Esther, and it's fun to cheer for Esther.
Ezra Benjamin: Cheer for the good guy, for the good girl, yeah.
Jonathan Bernis: She's the heroine, and it's fun to boo Haman and say, "Boo! Boo, Haman," because the enemy's been defeated, and we celebrate. The command is to celebrate every year. Now, here's what's interesting, and you can read the Book of Esther for yourself. Read it this week. But, the interesting thing is that the deliverance comes by human agency, and what I mean by that is that the decree that Mordecai has asked for has been approved by the king. The signet ring of the king has been placed on this decree to take up arms against the Jewish people.
Ezra Benjamin: Exactly.
Jonathan Bernis: So, the king says, "I can't reverse that decree". There's something about that that's really important, because it's a spiritual truth that God has decreed things that come to pass. But then when Esther implores the king, the king says, "Well, I can't reverse that. I will issue a new decree for the Jewish people to take up weapons against those that come to harm them," and they win. They have this incredible victory. Why? God brings them the victory. It's the same as the story of the six day war, when after six days, the Jewish people, outnumbered 60 to 1, prevail. It's the same story as '73, the yom kippur war, where they were destined to be wiped out, and they survived and won a great victory in 1973. And Israel has prevailed - not only survived, but prospered, the same story. Well, the story of the Book of Esther is that the Jewish people in the end prevail. They take up weapons. They're outnumbered, but they win, and we're commanded to celebrate!
Ezra Benjamin: That's absolutely right, Jonathan.
Jonathan Bernis: You know, when you celebrate, something changes in the spirit. When you're thankful and you go before the Lord with a spirit of thanksgiving, something changes. Some of you have been crying out for something, and God's saying just rejoice at the finished work. Just rejoice and believe that it's been accomplished. And when we come with thanksgiving, our prayers are answered.
Ezra Benjamin: Amen.
Jonathan Bernis: When we come with rejoicing. Another thing we do is eat.
Ezra Benjamin: Right! These are some of my favorite ways to celebrate Purim right here on this plate. Jonathan, these are called, "Hamentaschen". What does that mean?
Jonathan Bernis: Well, there's a few traditions. Just hold one up, 'cause it's a triangle and it's filled with... It's a dough that's filled with, that's probably apricot, and then there's other fruits, and there's my favorite. Hold up the poppy seed one, but carefully, because I'm taking that one home.
Ezra Benjamin: This is the golden ticket right here.
Jonathan Bernis: That's the golden ticket, and some say that it's the shape of Haman's hat, that he had a triangular hat. Others say that it's the shape of his ear. So, if he had an ear like that, it was a pretty strange ear.
Ezra Benjamin: Right.
Jonathan Bernis: A triangular ear. I don't know if you've heard anything else.
Ezra Benjamin: No, those are the two, the ears and the hats. But we eat these, Jonathan, and we celebrate. Through delicious sweet things we celebrate the sweetness of God's deliverance.
Jonathan Bernis: Yeah, because they tried to kill us and by the grace of God, who's not even mentioned in the book, we won. Let's celebrate. So, celebrate this week. This is a week of deliverance for you, for your family, for your loved ones. This is a week of restoration. Ezra, we have to take a short break so our announcer can share some information about the resources that we're making available this Purim week. Please, consider supporting Jewish Voice this week.