PRAYER UPDATE FROM ISRAEL –MARCH 6, 2017
200-year old Megilat-Esther (Scroll of Esther) on Parchment, passed
down from Norma Sarvis’s ancestors in Belarus.
Next Sunday, March 12, 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 favor 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).
–Martin and Norma Sarvis
* In most of the world, Purim is celebrated on the 14th of Adar (March 12 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).