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Divine Design in the Book of Esther (part 2)

Why the Irrational Hatred of Israel?

I want to address the evil of antisemitism that we see awakening in the book of Esther. What becomes evident is that hatred of Jewish people and things Jewish is not just a phenomenon in modern society. It is manifest from of old and in every generation.

Notice in Esther 3, Haman is not content to harm Mordecai only, he must annihilate the entire people. "But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone. So, as they had made known to him the people of Mordecai, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus." (Esther 3:6-8) Think about it; Haman's behavior is madness, insanity, compulsion. Hitler was losing the war and desperately needed German trains to transport equipment to troops. Yet he refused to use them for that because he insisted—up until the very last days of the war—on shipping more Jews to the death camps, to the gas chambers. We saw Amalek in Exodus, now Haman in Esther, 300 years later in the Second Temple Period there was Antiochus Epiphanes and the events memorialized in the feast of Hanukkah. In more recent years there is a Hitler, a Saddam Hussein, and the Arab populations within and surrounding Israel. What is going on? How do you explain this irrationally compulsive hatred of the Jews? Listen to Haman's accusations. They are the very same ones used historically against the Jews, even by Martin Luther. The charge, for example, that they are a scattered and dispersed people. The contention that Jews are alien to the host nation. "They have different customs and laws," says Haman. "They have their own separate cultures. They keep to themselves. They do strange things. They do not obey the king's laws." Jewish people are often been charged with being disloyal and unpatriotic, of being subversive. This kind of propaganda continues even to this day. How can it be explained? Psychologists say that we fear the unknown and we resent the different. Sociologists say it is ethnic prejudice, a scapegoat mentality. Every society needs someone to blame for their problems. Holocaust survivor and personal friend Shony Alex Braun came to our conference in Austin, Texas in 1985 to speak about his experiences. Do you know why? He was watching farmers in the Midwest on television talking about losing their homes to the banks, they were being repossessed causing great anger and frustration. One farmer, with a rifle in his arms, said to the reporter, "It's those damn Jews. Jewish bankers are manipulating the economy to destroy us and steal our lands. We're getting prepared." Shony couldn't believe what he was hearing! These were the very same words he heard as a little boy back in Hungary in 1942 and 1943, some forty years before. And he knew firsthand where this kind of antisemitic hate speech can lead. How do we explain this? I think there is a more profound explanation of antisemitism, a theological explanation if you will. And it is of critical importance for the church to know this, for you and me to understand what is going on. The ultimate explanation of antisemitism is that it is satanic. It is beyond rationality, beyond psychosis or neurosis; it is demonic. The Adversary opposes divine purposes. If he destroys the Jews in Haman's time, he destroys the possibility of a Messiah who will come and bruise his head. When you disparage God's chosen people you are, in effect, disparaging the God who chooses. By attacking the Jew, you are really attacking God and saying, "you made a mistake in choosing these people." Jewish people today very much dislike being called God's chosen. Why? History reveals the heavy price they've paid amidst the nations for being chosen. For better or for worse, they know they represent God's presence and his authority over this earth, to the world. Anybody who would be God must first destroy the Jews. They are witnesses to the divine presence, they are the reminder that a final judgment is coming. The reality of the Jews reminds us that only the God of Israel is absolute, all else is relative. And make no mistake about it, the forces of darkness in our secular age, like in every age, detest that statement. Antisemitism is a demonic rebellion to the rule of the God of Israel, the one and only true God. The book of Esther and the annual festival of Purim speaks to the reality of antisemitism. It also shows how vulnerable Jewish people have been in the diaspora. One minute they are prospering and influential, the next they are on their way to destruction. But to the eyes of faith and with deeds of courage, the seemingly invisible and absent God can be seen to be at work. That is the gloriously deeper message of Esther. Though our lives are deeply vulnerable, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is at work in his world. Our lives are not dependent on chance but on providence. Every act can be sacred with that recognition. God is at work in history, and yet he uses flawed human agents. This should encourage you greatly. God sometimes works miraculously in parting the Red Sea, but many times he works in the seemingly coincidental and incidental through you and through me. Esther and Mordecai were not spiritual giants. They were assimilated into the culture and yet, at a decisive moment, God uses their decisions and their actions to bring deliverance to His people. The way he works through human agents in the seemingly ordinary is just as miraculous as when he works through extraordinary, supernatural events. If God can use someone like the pagan king Xerxes to accomplish his providential design, he can use the United Nations for the same purpose. He can use Harry Truman to cast the deciding vote, though all of his counselors advised him against voting for the State of Israel in the UN Security Council. The vote was deadlocked. His advisors said, "no," Truman said, "yes." Later when asked why he said, "I remembered when I went to Sunday school, my teacher always told me how much God loves the Jews." Ladies and gentlemen, because of her faithfulness there is the State of Israel. Many Orthodox Jews inside and outside of Israel say, "This can't possibly be God's prophetic activity because these are secular Jews. Zionism was a political, even anti-religious movement. How can this possibly be part of prophecy?" Interestingly enough, there are Christians who say the same thing. Why? Because if Israel is still part of God's providential and prophetic design, their theology is wrong because they believe he has rejected, scattered, and forsaken them. Purim is an example to us of how God can be, and I believe, is at work in the State of Israel today, through flawed humans who are oblivious to the designs of God. He is taking small events and using them for his providential purposes. In your own life, it is the same. This should give you great courage to recognize that even the incidental aspects of your life can somehow be part of God's tapestry for redeeming this world. You and I are partners with Him and His redemptive activities in this world. Purim should also remind us that every act is significant, every deed has potential importance. We can act with courage and commitment because even though we may not see it, even though God may seem to have His face hidden, things are not working out, our vulnerability is exposed and we are in danger—there is a divine design. If you act with the courage of faith, God will take that and use it to further the purposes of His kingdom. You, my friends, have been called to the service of the King of kings for a time such as this. You may not be spiritual giants. You may have assimilated to this world but it is never too late to take a courageous stand, to act in the obedience of faith. God will honor it because ultimately, it is all going to be revealed like a mighty tapestry. You are going to look and say, "There is my thread." Little things become great in the hand of God. Have courage; be bold, be strong, because Jesus the Messiah reigns to the glory of God our Father.

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This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.

Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.

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