One of the most amazing things about the Bible is its ability to speak in different voices depending on how you ask a specific question. In this current study, the question we are exploring concerns our responsibility for the least, the lost, and the lonely in our community. When I started the journey, I was looking for a list of mandates to support the reason why we should care for the poor, but what I’m finding is the answers are much more profound. The Holy Spirit has thus far humored me by speaking in terms that I quickly understood while at the same time introducing me to those who our society has labeled outcasts.
As I reflect on my recent experiences, I’m beginning to understand Father Boyle’s appeal and learning to stand in awe of what the poor have to carry. My heart is continuously breaking for the lonely who one day will lead the choir rather than stand beneath a sign hastily painted with words such as burden, difficulty, homeless, poor, and more. Welcome to the deep end of the pool. This is not for the casual observer.
While I have discovered many references that support the assertion that we should care for the poor, widows, orphans, imprisoned, etc., what I’m beginning to see is God is reminding us that he cares about those we would otherwise choose to forget. Do you know the difference? Yes, there are hundreds of references to those mentioned above, but enumerating the list is the shallow end. The deep waters that call us suggest that we should consider the character of the Holy Spirit when we read these thoughts. Is our goal focused on learning Bible references or becoming more like Christ? If this present journey is the narrow way to becoming more like Yeshua, then our investigation should focus more on understanding why than where.
The example I propose today comes from the story of Esther and Mordecai. Though the story is written in the 17th book of the Bible, the events take place toward the end of Jewish history captured in the Old Testament. I hope you’ll read this short story and see how God shows up even when he is not mentioned directly–perhaps this is the perfect seeker-friendly text to share with someone curious about our faith.
The conclusion of Esther provided in chapter 9 (chapter 10 is just three verses long), contains the big reveal and turning of the tables in favor of our Jewish ancestors. The celebration is meant to be an annual event for us to pause and remember the great deliverance by God for his people.
Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews throughout the provinces of King Xerxes, near and far, to have them celebrate annually the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar as the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration. He wrote them to observe the days as days of feasting and joy and giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor. Ester 9:20-22
Two specific phrases caught my attention this morning: giving presents of food and gifts to the poor; thus, the title of this post. As I sit here this morning, I can’t help but think about those who struggle during the holiday season. We know of one particular family with a dad that just lost his job and of his struggling family. Faces of many come to mind that fills the local shelters. While I’m warm in my home, many are cold and uncomfortable.
When I reflect on the story of Esther, and I read how we should observe the Feast of Purim, I’m amazed to see how God never forgets the poor. In this fantastic celebration of liberty from the oppressor, the Jews celebrate with a feast like never before. At the last minute, death and sorrow became joy and celebration. Just when they knew it was over, God showed up through a few faithful people, and the tables were turned.
The significant series of events ends with food and gifts to the poor. This is our God. This is our reminder today.
There are many traditions from the Jewish community that we should not forget. This isn’t my idea, here’s what the author of Esther wrote:
And these days of Purim should never fail to be celebrated by the Jews—nor should the memory of these days die out among their descendants. Esther 9:28
The events of Esther and Mordecai foreshadow the ultimate victory in Christ Jesus. He came and shattered the illusion that bound the captives. He came to preach good news to the poor. Jesus came to remind us of that which we should not forget and modeled the behavior we should imitate.
Lord, as we celebrate our freedom, our salvation, our escape from the evils this world has to entice and trap, please help us to remember to give gifts to the poor. Help us to be more like you.