Mar 18, 2008

God and the Gallows

By David Brickner

This Friday is a day of two gallows. It marks an unusual convergence of Good Friday and Purim. We know that Good Friday is a time to remember the crucifixion of our Messiah Jesus. Purim commemorates the rescue of the Jewish people from Haman's murderous plot as recorded in the book of Esther. Rarely do these days converge on the exact same date but because of the differences between the Jewish calendar (lunar) and the Roman or Christian calendar (solar), this year presents us with a strange and thought provoking confluence.

Both historical events involve God and the gallows. I wanted to compare and contrast these two days and God's work in history as recorded by sacred Scripture.

-Both events took place in the Middle East, one in Persia the other in Israel.
-Both were preceded by a hero's triumphant procession through the streets of the city.
-Both gallows were made of wood. We know that Haman's gallows stood 75 feet tall. We know that the Roman gallows, or cross, was made of two pieces of wood, the top piece weighing about 100 pounds.
-Death on a Persian gallows resulted from a broken neck or strangulation. Death on a Roman gallows resulted from suffocation or the trauma of blood loss.

In both the two historical events we are examining, the gallows were built to execute innocent Jews. In the Purim narrative, Haman plotted against Mordechai because of his (Haman's) wounded pride. In the Gospel accounts, certain Jewish leaders plotted against Jesus because He exposed their hypocrisy.

-In both instances, those who plotted the death of the innocents sought to make weak rulers complicit in their plot: the Persian King Ahashueras and the Roman Governor Pilate.
-Executing Mordechai was part of Haman's plot to destroy the Jewish people. Executing Jesus was part of the devil's plot to destroy humanity.
-Haman's plot was thwarted when he and his sons were hanged on the gallows in place of Mordechai.
-The devil's plot was thwarted when the planned execution took place, and Jesus hung on the cross in the place of sinners.
-On Purim, God worked behind the scenes; there is no mention of His name in the book of Esther.
-On Good Friday, God's work was evident through signs and wonders so that even a Roman centurion recognized Jesus as the Son of God.
-On Purim, the Jewish people were saved from destruction.
-On Good Friday, God brought salvation to the whole world, to all who would receive it.

No doubt other comparisons and contrasts may be drawn between Good Friday and Purim. Both days attest to the fact that God remains consistent throughout all of history. He never changes. Whether His activity is apparent to all or hidden from our sight we can be sure that our God is a God who saves. He desires to save those who call upon Him and He delights to do so in unexpected ways.

In the end, God will always overthrow the plots of the wicked and establish His justice and His righteousness on the earth. No matter how fierce the threat, no matter how high the gallows, no matter how bleak the circumstances or dark the hour, God's salvation will always win out; His plan will never be thwarted and His victory is always sure.

People may place their confidence with those in authority, with the rulers, with the wealthy and the powerful. But "He who sits in the heavens shall laugh." He does not leave the weak and downtrodden to the mercy of heartless men and women, or abandon poor souls to the adversary.

We who would heed the lessons of history should "Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. . . . Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him" (Psalm 2:11-12).

Throughout history God invites us to make comparisons, to remember how He has acted in the past so that we may have faith and confidence in Him for the future. You may be staring at a bleak set of circumstances in your life right now, discouraged and doubting how it is all going to turn out.

These are dark days in many ways for the world in general and certainly for servants of the Lord. They may also be trying times for you with the economic and political uncertainties of the times. Still, the confluence of God's work in history and His finished work in Jesus Christ can surely come together in your life to bring hope and salvation. When we understand how God so consistently weaves together the strands of history and our own lives to accomplish His purposes, we can gladly say with the apostle Paul that "we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us" (
2 Corinthians 1:8-10).