At a recent Ken Boa Bible Study, we discussed Ezra 5-7 and Nehemiah, which detail the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, along with the city itself, at the end of the Babylonian Exile from 521 to 435 BC.
There are many interesting truths in these passages, but what I want to focus on here, given the terrible events in the Middle East since Hamas launched its brutal attacks against Israel on October 7th, is that Israel’s return to the Promised Land from Babylon and the rebuilding of the Temple were made possible and financed by the decrees of three Persian Kings across almost one hundred years: Cyrus, Darius and Xerxes.
And of course Persia is now modern Iran. So Israel might well not exist as it does today except for the intervention of three friendly Persian/Iranian monarchs. And they did not just allow the Israelis to return and to rebuild. These Persian/Iranians returned the gold and silver originally taken from the Temple by the Babylonians, and they actually paid for the rebuilding out of the Persian treasury!
These chapters make fascinating reading, as do Ken Boa’s videos, and I recommend them.
How did this happen? Ezra declares that the God of Israel turned the hearts of the Persian Kings to help His people. Obviously He can do that again; hopefully He will, and soon. But there is one extra, very difficult barrier to overcome for that miracle to be repeated today: Islam, which swept through the Middle East over a thousand years after these three kings helped Israel.
While God was worknig a miracle in the Persian Kings’ hearts, in their minds perhaps they weighed various nation-state factors for helping to rebuild Israel in its current—and historic—location.
I imagine, without knowing for sure, that those sorts of factors have been weighing on the minds of Israel’s modern Arab neighbors, as they have slowly but consistently moved from open hostility toward Israel 70 years ago to embracing this technically advanced, productive Western democracy as at least a partner, if not a best friend, today.
But before Israel’s modern neighbors can take the same steps as those three Persian monarchs did to help create a thriving partnership with Israel, their leaders must deal with the overriding hate espoused by many of their country’s citizens because of how some Muslims live out the teaching ofIslam: Hate all Jews and destroy Israel. And those who defend Israel, like America.
Yes, that is some of what Islam teaches. And much of Sharia Law is incompatible with the basic concepts of liberal Western societies, including our Constitution, individual freedom, particularly for women, and liberty. Those are simply indisputable facts about many pronouncements in The Koran.
I also believe that Islam is one of Satan’s most efficient lies, helping him keep nearly two billion people from considering the truth of God’s grace and forgiveness offered through faith in God’s Son, our Savior.
That said, let me rush to add that Islam, like most religions and identity groups, is not a monolith. The Muslims I know here in the U.S. are Americans first and Muslims second. They forcefully support America’s freedoms and Constitution over Sharia Law. They acknowledge that our common nation was founded on Judeo-Christian principles. They defend those freedoms in our military and typically support more conservative social values.
In my latest novel, Nation On The Edge, two of the heroes are a Muslim-American couple who help stop a radical Jihadist. I can imagine that this is no different from German-Americans helping to thwart a Nazi sabotage plot on American soil during World War II.
Here is my takeaway on this facet of today’s discussion: As Americans, we have to believe, until proven otherwise, that our fellow citizens are Americans first, and Muslims or Catholics or Blacks or Gays or Asians or Jews or Latinos or Whites or Evangelicals or Socialists or Whatever second. And that they abide by our common American core values of free speech, non-violence and defense of diverse ideas in the Public Square. Sometimes the grace and courage to believe that about others is difficult. But we have to start there—again, until proven wrong by specific people—or else we will simply disintegrate into those same separate identity groups and be destroyed as a nation of diverse individuals woven together by our common belief in unfettered opportunity and a better future—which has always been our strength.
So my plea to all of us is to begin any relationship or interaction in good faith that the other person may not agree with us, but also does not hate us, or wish us ill. Hopefully with an honest exchange of views, hearts and minds may be changed.
But I also recognize that there are Americans who do not agree with these principles. From the most radical Jihadists who espouse violence towards all non-Muslims to our nation’s useful academic idiots who shout down free speech and demand lock-step intolerance in the name of “Diversity,” we must push back appropriately against all such hostility, from the southern border madness to our universities and school boards.
And I hesitate to speculate what America might be like if and when Muslims gain majority control in more than local areas, as is happening in Europe. Will our Constitution still be the supreme law of the land? Perhaps a subject for another day.
Returning to Israel, Iran and Iran’s proxies, the ancient Persian Precedent gives me hope.
God rarely moves in exactly the same way twice. Just like all other nations and identity groups, Iran is not a monolith. I know several Iranians who detest their nation’s theocratic/repressive regime and want it gone. Obviously there have been popular uprisings over the years which have threatened the regime’s authority.
And people in Iran, put off by the regime’s inhumanity, are taking a fresh look at Jesus, even though to do so is dangerous. See Iran’s Christian Boom | Opinion (newsweek.com) and No Place For Converts: Iran’s Persecuted Christians Struggle To Keep The Faith (rferl.org).
If God unexpectedly turned the hearts of three Persian kings in succession to help Israel’s remnant return to and rebuild their Promised Land, then I have faith that He can turn the hearts of enough Persian/Iranians today to have a significant impact on their nation’s leaders and policies. Few expect that to happen, which is another way God likes to work—some call those acts miracles.
I realize that building either domestic or foreign policies on the expectation of a miracle is both presumptive and humanly unwise. On the other hand, particularly given this clear, otherwise inexplicable Iranian-Israeli history of friendship, to discount the possibility of His intervention is small-minded and limiting.
So what are we, as American believers, to do? As always and in all things, both for our domestic issues and for Israel’s future, we must speak and defend truth, in love, while also praying for God’s intervention.
Speaking truth is not always easy or popular. But we have to do it, as believers, as Americans, and as rational people.
In the Washington Free Beacon Matthew Continetti gives an accurate summary of the truths and the lies surrounding Hamas’ attack and Israel’s response. I hope you will read the entire article. Here is an excerpt:
“This interpretation of the situation is entirely backward. Hamas could end all this tomorrow if it released the hostages, put down its arms, and surrendered. Hamas, not Israel, is the aggressor. Hamas, not Israel, is the “occupier” of the Gaza Strip. Hamas, not Israel, rejects international law. Hamas, not Israel, steals food, fuel, and water from civilians. And the fact that these words need to be written at all is evidence that the culture-producing institutions of the West—the media, the universities, cultural and political celebrities—are irreparably broken.”
In recent posts I’ve recounted how difficult the truth appears to be for many of us today, particularly for many of our nation’s leaders, which is tragic, disappointing, and dangerous. Here are some additional truths that we should speak, as I see them:
- Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, Isis and their fellow-travelers who call for the destruction of Israel and the annihilation of all Jews are pure evil and must be engaged and defeated, with words and with actions, as appropriate.
- A coalition of Sunni Muslim nations should offer to work with Israel and the non-Hamas people of Gaza to provide a real government for Gaza which is focused on helping the Palestinian people in partnership with Israel, and not on attacking Israel.
- In America, the current wave of antisemitism is the logical outcome of decades of Identity Politics, which is also evil, because it permanently defines a person’s character by a marker—skin color, gender, background, income, faith—rather than by that person’s words and actions.
- Our emphasis on DEI—Diversity, Equity and Inclusion—in every aspect of academia, business and the military—is actually Divisive, Extreme and Incomplete. DEI stokes antisemitism and other forms of hate. It is destroying the foundations of our nation, by pitting each permanently segregated group against all the others.
Speaking truth at all times, and calling out lies whenever we see or hear them, that’s our part. Whether easy, popular, or difficult.
Miracles, like changing the hearts of Iran’s leadership, that’s God’s part. He has done it before, and He can do it again.
As the old saying testifies, “Work like it depends on you, because it does. And pray like it depends on God, because it does.”
And if you need a quick review of the truth about Israel’s history, I recommend Gary Hamrick’s concise message from a week after Hamas’ first attack.