Jewish people around the globe will celebrate the Jewish holiday of Purim for two days beginning Saturday evening 11th March and concluding Sunday evening 12th March.
This is one of my favourite holidays as it focuses on God’s faithfulness and the preservation of the Jewish people during a difficult and dark season. The original story, found in the Book of Esther, describes the ways in which Queen Esther and her “smart as a fox” uncle, Mordecai, outwitted the evil Haman and shifted the balance of Persian power, enabling the Jewish people to survive an attempt to destroy them.
Purim is a joyous festival and loved by young and old. We put on plays, children dress up as Esther, Mordecai, and even Haman, and we eat what is called “hamantaschen,” a delicious cookie filled with fruit and supposedly shaped like either Haman’s hat or ears! Please use the recipe included in this letter, make a batch or two and enjoy. Jewish traditions are often delicious!
Along with these joyous expressions of deliverance and hope, the message of accountability for how Israel and the Jewish people are treated should be sobering to us all, but especially for those who love the Lord and take the Scriptures seriously.
I believe the most stunning and bone-chilling line in the inspired story is when the fate of evil Haman, who had tried desperately to destroy the Jewish people, is described.
Then Harbonah, one of the eunuchs who were before the king said, “Behold indeed, the gallows standing at Haman’s house fifty cubits high, which Haman made for Mordecai who spoke good on behalf of the king!” And the king said, “Hang him on it.” So they hanged Haman on the gallows which he had prepared for Mordecai, and the king’s anger subsided. (Esther 7:9-10)
Haman dies on the very gallows he had built for Mordecai. This is an epic end to the life of a man who had made himself an enemy of God by becoming an enemy of the Jewish people.
Poppy Seed Filling:
- ½ cup milk, ½ cup orange juice
- ½ cup sugar, zest of 1 orange, zest of 1 lemon
- 1 cup poppy seeds, ½ cup raisins
- 2 oz. lemon juice, 1 oz. vanilla
- ½ teaspoon cardamom, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon nutmeg
Method for filling:
Put the milk, orange juice, sugar, and zest in a saucepan and cook over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Take the poppy seeds and grind them in a coffee grinder until the seeds are a powder. Take the poppy seed powder and raisins and simmer in the milk mixture for 15 minutes making sure to stir the mixture frequently. Add the lemon juice and seasonings and mix thoroughly. Remove the mixture from the saucepan and place in a bowl and let cool in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours.
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1 cup sugar
- 8 ounces unsalted butter (softened)
- zest of 1 lemon
- 3 cups plain flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs (for the egg wash)
Preheat oven to 180°.
Place the egg yolks and sugar in a food mixer and beat well. Add the butter, lemon zest and salt and mix gently. Add the flour, baking soda and salt slowly while you pulsate the processor until it forms a ball.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Take the dough and cut in half and place it on a floured surface. Roll the dough to a ¼ inch thickness. Take a round cutter (3 inches in diameter) and cut out your Hamantaschen cookie and place on parchment paper on baking sheet. Place a tablespoon of the poppy seed mixture in the middle of the cookie dough and fold the sides to form a tri-fold cookie. Brush the top of each cookie with the beaten eggs.
Bake until golden brown, about 14-18 minutes, being careful not to burn the edges. Place the cookies on a cooling rack.
This is a timeless principle attached to a covenant that has never been rescinded or changed (Genesis 12:1-3)! When individuals or nations curse the Jewish people they are cursed with the very same judgments brought upon the children of Israel for their disobedience (Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 28).
I am not suggesting that judgment will fall upon those who disagree with Israel’s leaders over an aspect of policy. This is expected and since Israel is a democratic nation, dissent is woven into the very fabric of the modern state. I am referring to something deeper. We are expected to have a fundamental respect and love for Israel and the Jewish people. Perhaps the Apostle Paul expressed the rationale for this heartfelt attitude when he wrote,
From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Romans 11:28-29)
This means that we must reject the idea that God no longer has a plan for His chosen people, and practically speaking we must reject any suggestion that the Jewish people do not have a biblical right to the Land of Israel. As the spiritual sons and daughters of Abraham, we cannot affirm one part of our inheritance while denying another.
We must also withstand any hint of anti-Semitism, which is making an unfortunate comeback in our present day. In fact, the Jewish people are still threatened by Persia, as modern Iran is the new face of ancient Persia. Unfortunately, the threats to Israel and the Jewish people do not end with Iran as almost every fundamentalist and radical Islamic movement in the world today, from ISIS to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, are intent on seeking the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people. The potential danger to the Jewish community and Israel extends to the West as countries like France, England and even the United States are also afflicted by the rise of a new grass-roots anti-Semitism that has Israel in its cross hairs.
Yet, the same God who hung Haman on his own gallows is the God who will be faithful to His chosen people and make those who despise His people accountable to the Jewish Judge who is Lord over all things in both heaven and earth.
I do see some immediate hope for the future as the European Parliament finally produced a statement condemning modern day Iranian anti-Semitism. According to a report in the Jerusalem Post,
With 590 in favour, 67 against and 36 abstentions, lawmakers at a plenary in Strasbourg, France, on Tuesday overwhelmingly backed the amendment, put forward by Dutch Liberal parliamentarian Marietje Schaake, that the house “Strongly condemns the Iranian regime’s repeated calls for the destruction of Israel and the regime’s policy of denying the Holocaust.”
European Jewish Congress President, Dr. Moshe Kantor, expressed great enthusiasm over the statement saying, “We welcome this amendment, as it is essential to couple Iran’s extremism, Holocaust denial and call for genocide with its nuclear program and relations with the international community,” he said. “It is vital that Iran is pressured to improve its human rights record and belligerency towards Israel and the region before the European Union resets its relations with the Islamic Republic.”
We live in perilous times and yet we also live in times of great opportunity. Jesus told us what to do in a world that is far from its Creator and in need of redemption. He calls us to be a light to the nations beginning with the Jew first and also to the Gentile (Romans 1:16).
GOD IS WORKING POWERFULLY AMONG THE JEWISH PEOPLE TODAY
We are reaching out to elderly Holocaust survivors, secular Israelis through our online campaigns, and to young adults and families through our new Tel Aviv Messianic Centre. We are reaching Israelis who are backpacking their way around the world after their military service. We sponsor trips to India, New Zealand, and Latin America where Israelis are traveling. We meet them with love and the Gospel message!
We are now in 18 countries and 25 cities in North America and we are officially 123 years old as a ministry. I know…we do not look that old!
Would you pray for the peace of Jerusalem and the work of Chosen People Ministries? We could not continue this ministry among the Jewish people without your prayers, partnership, and financial support. You are our true God-given helpers – working behind the scenes, enabling us to bring the Gospel to the Jewish people.
Again, we live in perilous and difficult times…just like the days of Queen Esther and Mordecai. But, we adore an all-powerful God who gives us a message of forgiveness and hope for His ancient people.
Thank you for your help in bringing this message of hope during difficult days for Israel through your prayers and generosity. Your gift goes a long way in reaching Jewish people for Messiah!
Your brother in the Messiah,