Jesus said it, we believe it, and that settles it. Jonah thought his life was over. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Salvation belongs to the LORD! Jonah is in serious trouble, about to drown. And he could not do that as a dead man. So, first and foremost, God sent a great fish to rescue Jonah to keep him alive. God was not finished with him yet.
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Jonah was running as fast as he could from Nineveh—and from God. He thought he had himself covered when he ended up in the ocean, then in the belly of a giant fish, then on a sandy beach. Same song, second verse. God picked up the conversation exactly where he left it before Jonah started running. When God has a purpose for us, He will get that purpose accomplished.
I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope — Jeremiah God knows what is best for our lives, and it was best for Jonah—and for the Assyrians—that Jonah go to Nineveh. What are some reasons you can think of why God would rescue a believer out of a difficult situation in life? God is not above designing classrooms for His students that are attention-getting to say the least.
What is the most difficult situation that God ever rescued you from? What indications has He given you concerning His direction for you? What has been your response to His leading? Have you been tempted to go in a different direction? Why or why not? About the only thing one can do is respond to God, otherwise known as prayer. Jonah had passed up numerous opportunities to pray before now. In fact, everyone on the ship was praying but Jonah. First, the sailors on the ship prayed to their gods. Then the captain asked Jonah to pray which we have no record of his doing.
Then the sailors started praying to the true God, and then they sacrificed and made vows to God. So that God and Judaism are hinted at, but nowhere are they spelled out clearly. Thus, insofar as the apparent story of the Megillah is concerned, Ahashverosh is at the center, whereas Judaism is deemphasized and peripheral. It is an apologetic document calculated to satisfy any third-rate Persian super-patriot.
Still, the Jews knew the real meaning of the Megillah.
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They saw the emet despite the attempt at shalom. They did not need an interpreter. For the real story of the Megillah is the one that is concealed, not the superficial tale. And here there is no need to mention the Name of God, for the whole story is Godly, providential, and holy. The real story, the emet of the story of the Megillat Esther , is, as in all of the Torah — especially the story of Joseph — that every individual lives and acts on two levels On the lower, conscious, human level, he makes free-will decisions for which he is fully responsible.
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But they appear out of context, seemingly as if man is the true sovereign of the universe and there is no God Who has larger designs. Yet on a higher level, all these free, single, individual decisions and acts fall into an overall pattern determined and predestined by God Himself.
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Here man acts out the role already written by God. The true story, therefore, is that man is both puppet and puppeteer, master and servant of his fate, molder of and molded by his destiny. This is the inner, real story of the Megillah. It tells us to look at the grandiose figure cut by Ahashverosh, the Persian potentate. In reality he is a weakling, a despicably ineffectual piece of putty in the hands of his underlings and especially the hands of his Creator.
He thinks he directs the current of events when in fact he is swept along the mighty tides and swift streams of history like driftwood on a raging river. But put them together, and you have the marvelous unfolding of the will of the Hashgahah — Divine Providence. No individual detail seems to make too much sense in and of itself. But when you finish the reading of the story, they all fit into their places and assume a meaning that surpasses what the individual actors could possibly have known at the time they were performing their normal deeds.
And throughout the story, the king who might otherwise — insofar as shalom is concerned — appear as the Great Man, appears to us, in emet , as a pawn and a puppet. He plays only a minor role in which there are greater actors, and in which the director and producer is the Almighty. The name of Esther is etymologically related to the word hastir , to hide or conceal. The story of Esther is a story that is concealed within the book. Behind the veil of mundane events, in which man arrogantly assumes that he is the sole master of his own destiny and that all that counts is power and might, God smilingly, but in His mysterious way, guides His universe and directs the flow of history.
The Book of Esther is, indeed, the story of hastir.
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Megillat Esther , the document of divrei shalom ve-emet , words of peace and truth, is most appropriate to our own day. For we, not only one day a year, but throughout the twelve months, live a life of Purim. They are, first, that we must seek to accommodate the principles of shalom and emet ; that it is possible for them to co-exist, to maintain the integrity of emet , or truth, and at the same time live a life of shalom , or peacefulness, as we have explained. But even more important is the story of emet as such, the real, inner, concealed story of the Megillah.
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It is that, despite all appearances, nothing we do is insignificant or inconsequential in the eyes of God. The Separation, Part 1.
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