Think for a minute about the holidays people celebrate: Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, New Year’s Day, Passover, Independence Day. What do they all have in common? They all commemorate the beginning of a new era. To varying degrees, they all celebrate surviving the past and anticipating better days to come.
This word, holiday, is a simplifying of “holy day.” Holy days are days when we stand together before God and thank Him for His faithfulness. They are days when we take stock of the gravity of what we survived, and look ahead with hopeful eyes to a better future.
The book of Esther ends with the institution of a holiday called Purim. On Purim the Jewish people celebrated that Haman did not wipe them out. They remembered how God turned the tables on evil, and blessed them with peace. Jewish people still celebrate Purim today. Purim celebrations include reading Esther, giving to the poor, sharing a meal, and exchanging gifts. One common gift is a noisemaker called a “grager,” which is used to block out the name “Haman.”
The whole idea of this holiday is for the Jewish people to proclaim, “We’re still here!” Haman tried to blot them out, but he failed. Still, he tried. Tragically, this has been the Jewish people’s plight more than once. Both Pharaoh and Hitler sought to exterminate the Jews from the face of the earth. And they both failed too.
Purim belongs in a similar category to Passover, the holiday when the Jewish people celebrate their deliverance from slavery in Egypt, and the more recent Jewish holiday Yom Ha’Shoah, the Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust, which carries the mantra “Never forget.”
These holidays are more than victory laps. They are serious business. Remembering is important to survival, to knowing where we come from, and to preventing atrocities from visiting later generations. Holy days remind us of just how fragile we are, and how hopeless we would be without God’s intervening hand.
What happens in Esther foreshadows the cross. The possible extermination of the Jewish people is a dark part of Esther’s story. It is not something any of us should forget. We need to remember that great rescue follows great peril. As people who have been saved by grace through faith in Christ, Christians do well to remember what we have been saved from—death and eternal separation from God.
Our salvation in Christ is no small thing. Just as the Jews in Esther’s time celebrated their deliverance from destruction, so do believers in Christ. We have not been delivered from the unjust lunacy of a tyrant. We have been delivered from the perfectly just wrath of a holy God. This is a heavy thought, I know. But it is also the point of the cross, by which we have been fully and forever set free.
Celebrate your freedom in Christ by remembering what you have been saved from, and Who has saved you from it.
Written by Russ Ramsey