Those who are old enough to remember the Cold War may recall the civil defense sirens that used to go off at noon each day to test the alarm system. The good news was that it worked wonderfully. The bad news was that, after a while, no one paid the slightest attention to it.
This just goes to show that an alarm can only be as effective as the human response that accompanies it. Today, there is an alarm emanating from Iran that is threatening Israel and the world in a way that must not be underrated or wished away. What should be the response of God’s people to this ticking time bomb?
Who Is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and What Does He Want?
Iranian politics are far from simple, and have changed drastically since the relatively Western-friendly reign of the Shah. In those days, we considered Iran to be an emerging modern society on the road to better things. But a backlash was in the making, and it came to full effect in 1979 when the Shah was deposed and replaced by the Ayatollah Khoumeni. From that point on, although moderates may have influenced matters at different times to some degree, Islamic ideology has been a powerful social and political force.
As we shall see, the political and social goals of Iran’s new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, may be traced directly back to Khoumeni. When Ahmadinejad recently declared, “Israel must be wiped off the map,” he was quoting Khoumeni directly.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s rise from relative obscurity to the world stage is something of a mystery. The son of an ironworker, he was born in 1956 and raised in Tehran. An excellent student, he earned a doctorate at the University of Science and Technology in 1987. Active in the Islamic revolution that brought Khoumeni to power, he served in the intelligence and security department of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps and rose rapidly through its ranks.
Over the years, he has held a number of political offices in various Iranian cities and also worked with Ansar-I Hizbullah (Followers of the Party of God), a violent Islamic militia group. In April 2003, he was appointed mayor of Tehran, where he implemented hard-line Islamic policies.
The Rise to Power
As mayor of Tehran, Ahmadinejad came to national attention and was one of the seven candidates for president in 2005. He ran on the promise to roll back hard-won reforms, proclaiming that Iran “did not have a revolution in order to have democracy, but to have an Islamic government.”
Moreover, he portrayed himself as a populist with an appeal to the disadvantaged. His electoral victory came as something of a surprise because some of the candidates he defeated were more experienced, better funded and better positioned.
Like many others before him, he focused upon the long-standing hatred Islamic fundamentalists have cherished against the West-the United States and Israel in particular. Ahmadinejad seems to relish the image of an Iranian David pitting himself against the giant Goliath of the West, and has so far skillfully directed his people’s gaze away from his own shortcomings by whipping up a frenzy of hatred against Israel and its allies.
The Issues at Hand
There are two issues at hand-intertwined with one another-that together create a volatile mix. They are nuclear weapons and anti-Semitism.
On Tuesday, April 11, 2006 the stakes got even higher. On that day, President Ahmadinejad gave an address from the northeastern city of Mashhad in which he declared, “I am officially announcing that Iran has joined the group of those countries which have nuclear technology.”
Although he disavows any intention of developing nuclear weapons, his disclaimers are far from convincing. The world powers and the United Nations are alarmed-but have not yet formulated a coherent response.
Only three days later, Ahmadinejad dropped another verbal bombshell when he stated, “The Zionist regime is an injustice and by its very nature a permanent threat. Whether you like it or not, the Zionist regime is heading toward annihilation. The Zionist regime is a rotten, dried tree that will be eliminated by one storm.”
In response, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert issued a statement that said, in part, “We need to make sure no one has the capability or the power to commit destruction against us…The Jewish people and the very existence of Israel are Iran’s targets, and we don’t see enough of a response from the world.”
The president of Iran and Israel seem headed toward a collision course. Will the world stand by and watch? How should we respond-particularly those who love the Jewish people and support the right of Israel to have its place among the nations?
Faithful Prayer and Godly Action
Followers of Messiah must understand all historical events, including current events, in light of God’s Word. This is what makes our presence in the world such a powerful witness for the Lord’s lasting victory. We therefore must not be swept into the world’s way of thinking. But neither are we permitted to ignore what is going on around us.
We must make our voices known like the prophets of old, speaking the truth and urging those in power to heed the Word of God. In this case, we must remind our own leaders to look beyond self-interest and shortsighted geopolitical gains to a true national and world interest that is based on obedience to the Lord. In this case, the irony is that support for Israel will, in the end, be a blessing to the Iranians and to all the nations whose blessing flows from our Lord Jesus the Messiah.
The prayers of the Lord’s people are able to do much more than we might realize. The Book of James reminds us that “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). How much more, then, when men and women of faith join their prayers together for Israel and for all the nations – including Iran!
We must act, pray and remember the words of the Apostle Paul-as true now as they were in the days of the mighty but now-vanished Roman Empire:
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)