With the war raging in Ukraine, we ask you to join us in two ways that bring hope: through PRAYER and ACTION. And in this season, Queen Esther might just be the inspiration we need.
War in Ukraine
Many of us are watching the events of the war in Ukraine unfold from afar. Although we may feel grateful to be safe, majority of us will also feel greatly distraught yet helpless. The people of Israel also refuse to stay indifferent. What can each one of us do from miles away?
Over the past couple of weeks, FIRM has turned to two strategies that we want to share with you and ask you to join. First, we are pressing on in fasting and prayer. And second, we are supporting FIRM ministry partners in Israel to provide aid and care for refugees.
In Israel, the Hebrew calendar draws our attention to the festival of Purim this week. Recorded in the Book of Esther, the story should encourage us to pray and to act, because our efforts do not go unnoticed.
A Time of Prayer and Fasting
The story of Purim is about how God allowed a situation intended for evil to be turned around for good. When all the Jewish people in Persia were in grave danger, God used Mordecai and Esther to prevent bloodshed.
Motivated by Mordecai, Queen Esther boldly stood before her king to ask for mercy. Her plea was heard, and she changed the course of Jewish history.
That is the story in a nutshell. But as such, it omits a very significant part of its buildup. Before any risk-taking took place, prior to any mediations or negotiations, the nation was already standing before their God.
“In every province where the king’s command and decree arrived, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping, and wailing…” (Es 4:3)
Prepare Like Esther
Esther was scared of accepting the mission that Mordecai gave her. She said that everyone knows that “any man or woman who goes into the inner court to the king, who has not been called, he has but one law: put all to death…” (Esther 4:11)
But Mordecai’s response to Esther was stern: “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews… who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14)
Esther realized that the issue at hand might seem distant in the moment, but it could eventually reach her doorstep. What is more, she finally fathomed what great power already belonged to her.
“Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: Go, gather all the Jews… and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!” (Esther 4:16)
We may not be kings and queens, but God already taught us how to shift the scales in this world. Jesus gave us permission and access to come before the highest Throne. We are positioned to mediate between heaven and earth. And it starts with prayer and fasting.
Taking Action While War Rages in Ukraine
God has been prompting individuals on the ground to move with compassion from day one of the Russian invasion. We have seen humanitarian operations go into action immediately in countries bordering Ukraine. Poland, Romania, Moldova and others have been receiving thousands of refugees every day.
While the powers that be discussed policies and diplomacies, believers in Israel were strategizing how to help the suffering. FIRM is honored to partner with ministries in this land that are quick to put their words into action. For example:
Kehilat HaCarmel is already hosting Ukrainian refugees at one of their locations near Haifa. Home of Jesus the King in Nazareth is collecting blankets, medicine and baby care items that are shipped directly to Ukraine.
Vision for Israel is purchasing and organizing supplies like food, hygiene products and basic necessities for incoming families. Beit Hallel is preparing welcome kits for immigrant families, that will include bedding as well as kitchenware and other essentials.
Many more ministries are sending their volunteers, collecting gifts, and preparing new homes for refugees that are already arriving in the land. The needs are far greater than the government can meet, but the people are ready to step in. And the believers are at the frontlines, armed with the message of the Gospel.
How Israel Relates to Ukraine
You may wonder, why would Israelis care so deeply about an eastern European country? After all, Ukraine has not been a big player on the international scene, all the more in the Middle East.
Primarily, it is important to mention that practically 1 in 20 Israelis has relatives in Ukraine. This largest European country has about 43,300 people who self-identify as Jews. On top of that, about 200,000 people are eligible to immigrate to Israel under its Law of Return, as reported by Times of Israel.
With long history but fairly short period of sovereignty (since 1991), many Ukrainians are very inspired by the Jewish State. And they also share a love and admiration for one powerful woman, named Golda Meir.
The world’s first “Iron Lady”, Golda Meir was born in Kyiv, which today is the capital of Ukraine. She emigrated to the United States, before she finally settled in Israel, where she became the country’s first female Prime Minister. In 2018, Ukraine proudly declared Meir as “a true daughter of Kyiv” and a symbol of heroic fighting for freedom and nation building.
Can Israel Take on the Role of Esther?
Times of Israel reported that on the 17th day since Russia invaded his country, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy turned to his Jewish friends for help. The Ukrainian leader who is Jewish himself said peace talks between Ukraine and Russia should be held in Jerusalem.
“We generally support mediation by anyone,” Zelenskyy said. “But I wouldn’t call Prime Minister [Naftali] Bennett ‘anyone.’ You can play an important role because Israel is a country with a rich history.”
Bennett and Zelenskyy are the world’s only Jewish heads of state.
Israel understands possibly unlike any country what it means to live under threat of attacks, all meant to annihilate. As the Jewish people commemorate the victory of Purim this week, many will think of their Ukrainian brothers and sisters.
We don’t want to assume that the Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett sees himself as taking on the role of Esther. But our role as people is straightforward – and the invitation is open to everyone. In Persia, prayers arose with great mourning and fasting and wailing.
And they set the ground for a breakthrough.
Purim for Ukraine
The Book of Esther says that provinces from India to Ethiopia received a decree of the king that protected the Jewish people. After days of dread and uncertainty, “the Jews had light and gladness, joy and honor” (Esther 8:16).
Today, we are praying for gladness and honor for the people of Ukraine. Details of Israel’s mediation efforts have remained obscure, but our faith is hooked much higher than any politician’s desk.
Meanwhile, you can also help be a catalyst to multiply the impact of local ministries. Israel is a light to the nations as local believers show Ukrainian families the love of Jesus through meeting practical, emotional, and spiritual needs.
Support FIRM local partners in responding as the hands and feet of Jesus in this moment of great need today!
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