If you are married, it’s not likely that you came together like Aaron and Helene or King Xerxes and Queen Esther, but I bet many of you still marvel at the events that led to your marriage, prompting you to believe that you are “a match made in heaven.”

The show began a couple of months ago with a handsome bachelor being introduced to 25 beautiful women. Each week the show ended with the bachelor eliminating several of the women, all competing for his love and affection

The show ended with the 28-year-old investment banker from Springfield, Mo., proposing to Helene Eksterowtcz, a 27-year-old psychologist from New Jersey. Both have agreed to a long engagement period.

I know that some of you are appalled by the thought of a man being able to choose a potential mate from what essentially amounted to a harem. What good and decent thing could possibly come from such a relationship?

You will find a surprising answer in a surprising place: the biblical book of Esther. The book of Esther does not mention the name “God.” It is included in the canon of Scripture to tell the story of the origin of Purim, a joyous Jewish festival celebrating the saving of the Jewish people from destruction.

The Holocaust is not the only time that the Jews were faced with extermination. If a man named Haman had had his way, the genocide of the exiled Jews would have occurred long before Hitler ever came onto the scene.

Haman was an arrogant, egotistical noble of King Xerxes, who enjoyed his elevated status under the king. However, Mordecai, a displaced Jew exiled from Jerusalem who often sat by the king’s gate, refused to give Haman any respect. Haman was infuriated by Mordecai’s irreverence. He was so angry that he wanted to kill not only Mordecai, but all Jews.

Haman used his position as an advisor to King Xerxes to get a “blank check” in dealing with the Jews. He came before the king and said, “There is a certain people dispersed and scattered among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom whose customs are different from those of all other people and who do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them, and I will put ten thousand talents of silver into the royal treasury for the men who carry out this business” (Esth 3:8). Without asking any questions, the king granted Haman’s request.

Meanwhile, after deposing Queen Vashti for defiantly ignoring his wishes, King Xerxes began to search the province for a new queen. Beautiful young virgins were chosen from among the population. For 12 months, the women had to complete beauty treatments prescribed for them, “six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics.” And you thought the Miss America pageant was demanding.

Among these women was a young Jewish woman named Esther, who was “lovely in form and features.” After the death of her parents, she had been raised by Mordecai, her uncle. Mordecai became her coach and advisor as she vowed to become the next queen. They agreed to keep her Jewish heritage a secret. In the end, it was Esther who attracted the eye of the king. He set a crown on her head, gave a great banquet in her honor, proclaimed a holiday throughout the provinces and liberally gave out gifts.

Meanwhile, the date set by Haman for extermination of the Jews drew near. Mordecai persuaded Esther to speak to the king on behalf of their people. “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esth 4:14).

Even though Esther was the queen, she could have been put to death for going to the king without being invited. Yet she was willing to take the risk. She fasted for three days before going to the king. He received her and asked what was on her mind. After her explanation to the king that she and her people had been sold for slaughter and annihilation, the king was angered. He wanted to know who was responsible for arranging such a terrible thing. Through a clever plan, Esther implicated Haman. The king ordered Haman’s death. He was hanged on a gallows 75 feet high that he had built beside his house to hang Mordecai.

This is how the exiled Jewish people were saved from annihilation. News spread among the people of how Esther and Mordecai had saved them. It sparked a celebration that continues yearly to this day among Jewish people. It is called Purim, which means “lots,” referring to the lottery that Haman used to choose the day for the massacre. On Purim, the Jews tell the story of Esther. People send gifts of food and drink. It is a festive time of celebration. Some have referred to this day as the Jewish Mardi Gras. The next Purim is March 18, 2003.

So you see, ABC hasn’t thought of some new idea for a bachelor to pick out a bride. King Xerxes went through this process long before Aaron Buerge chose Helene Eksterowicz.

I’m not suggesting that just because this story is in the Bible, this method of choosing a bride ought to be condoned. I am suggesting that the way a man and a woman meet is not nearly as important as whether or not God is involved in the process. God works in all kinds of ways, even ways that are flawed or in those that we might call “chance” or “coincidence.”

If you are married, it’s not likely that you came together like Aaron and Helene or King Xerxes and Queen Esther, but I bet many of you still marvel at the events that led to your marriage, prompting you to believe that you are “a match made in heaven.”

Perhaps you are. May your numbers increase.

Michael Helms is pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Moultrie, Ga. A version of this column first appeared in The Moultrie Observer.

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