It Happened One Night

A Purim Devotional

By Tara Kieschnick, MJBI Media and Communications Manager
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Posted in Jewish HolidaysPurim on December 2, 2017

“On that night, the king could not sleep; and he ordered that the book of memorable deeds, the chronicles, be brought, and they were read before the king…” Esther 6:1

For most of my life I’ve been a night owl. My inner clock seems to tick better, and my energy and creativity seem to peak later in the day and evening. Whether by choice or by insomnia, quiet late-night sessions of inspiration or solitude still occasionally lure me, whether I’m working on projects or working on myself.

It’s understandable, then, why scriptural references to late night activity grab my attention. Jacob’s life and name were changed because he wrestled with God (Gen 32:28). Samuel, even as a child, heard the voice of God and entrusted with His message (I Sam 3:10). David wrote many Psalms of pain turned to praise, anger turned to hope, and fear turned to trust (Ps 16:7). Even Jesus communed with His Father and walked on water (Matt 14:25), all in the night season.

The sixth chapter of Esther also has such a reference. The very first sentence of verse one reads “on that night, the king could not sleep.” Some versions translate this as “sleep deserted the king” or “the sleep of the king fled.” What initially disturbed King Xerxes’ rest is not explained. But what we do know is that God was involved, for a key element in the story of Purim hinged on what happened next.

With sleep elusive, the king tried reading, and then decided to get some work done. Xerxes discovered an oversight in his record books while pulling this all-nighter: his loyal servant, Mordecai, was never rewarded for preventing an assassination attempt against him. Filled with gratitude, the king ordered immediate public recognition for this deed. Mordecai received the king’s timely favor through the hand of his very own enemy, Haman, who was hung from his own gallows. Just think: the annihilation of an entire race was prevented in part because Xerxes couldn’t sleep.

I’ve conducted some major late-night heart-to-heart business with God, much like Jacob, Samuel, and the psalm-writing King David. If I cry out in fear, pain or anger, the Lord never condemns, flinches, or yawns. He always listens and comforts. While He doesn’t always stop my tears, He always hands me hope (if I’ll take it), which is admittedly better than handing me a tissue.

While the Lord created the day, He also created the night—primarily for sleep, of course, but let’s not put God in a box. Important stuff can happen in the middle of the night. His watchful eye over the Jewish people through the story of Purim reflects that “He that keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” (Ps 121:4) I’m grateful a dream can be given, a name changed, a prayer prayed, or a destiny determined through an encounter with God in the night season…and I’m sure Mordecai would agree.