This past week has seen the collapse of central U.S. strategies in the Middle East. Ayatollah Khomeini’s fateful plane ride from Paris to Tehran in 1979 generated a spiritual earthquake in the region. Current events in Iraq are a similar major shock.
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS – a group spiritually connected with al Qa’eda) have taken over Iraq’s second largest city Mosul, as well as Tiqrit, Saddam Hussein’s ancestral town. They have stampeded over a half million mostly Muslim refugees who have fled from before the black flags of jihad, The jihadi convoys of captured American Humvees leave bloody trails of decapitated opponents in their wake. Nineveh, once ancient Assyria’s proud capital city, has witnessed Christians fleeing for their lives and shari’a law being imposed with much savagery.
The ISIS now controls vast swaths of territory in both Syria and Iraq. Its goal is to establish a jihadi caliphate in both countries and then to spread al Qa’eda influence further across the entire Middle East.
The U.S. invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan had different original goals originally – the establishment of a threefold cord – Western democracy, a solid economy and a pro-Western military power. This week all three of those pillars have shattered.
Rather than Iraq turning to Americans for military support, they have invited Iran’s top Shi’ite Major General Qassem Suleimani (the head of the Quds Force arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards) who touched down in Baghdad this week. His job – to help oversee the defense of Iraq’s Shi’ite government from the Sunni jihad forces of ISIS.
Iraq is shuddering in the gory throes of a religious and civil war, one which pits jihadi (Iran’s Shi’ites) against jihadi (al Qa’eda’s Sunnis). Western dreams of peace, prosperity and economic windfall have vanished like a desert scirocco. The 2003 military defeat of Saddam Hussein has fatefully led to this writhing Middle Eastern can of worms – one that threatens to engulf the entire region is flames.
Asleep at the wheel
Yet on Wednesday on this same week, just hours before this news broke, U.S. President Obama spoke to David Karp, CEO of Tumblr at a White House interview:
“And if there’s one message I want to deliver to young people like a Tumblr audience is, don’t get cynical. Guard against cynicism. I mean, the truth of the matter is that for all the challenges we face, all the problems that we have, if you had to be – if you had to choose any moment to be born in human history, not knowing what your position was going to be, who you were going to be, you’d choose this time. The world is less violent than it has ever been. It is healthier than it has ever been. It is more tolerant than it has ever been. It is better fed then it’s ever been. It is more educated than it’s ever been”
One is reminded of the quiet observation of William Ralph Inge, former Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, “It is useless for the sheep to pass resolutions in favor of vegetarianism, while the wolf remains of a different opinion.”
The Scriptures are full of references to being asleep while on duty. Jonah slept during the storm (Jonah 1:5), while the shepherds of Assyria (to whom Jonah was sent) were also lost in slumber (Nahum 3:18).
Israel’s leaders were sometimes caught snoring in the middle of crisis: “For the Lord has poured over you a spirit of deep sleep, He has shut your eyes, the prophets; And He has covered your heads, the seers” (Isaiah 29:10). “His watchmen are blind, all of them know nothing. All of them are mute dogs unable to bark, dreamers lying down, who love to slumber” (Isaiah 56:10).
Nahum and Nineveh
Though Assyria was once the world’s greatest superpower, a God’s-eye view shows that this mighty nation was being weighed in the balances and found wanting. The prophet Nahum pronounced judgment upon Nineveh and Assyria for ignoring Israel, and for weakening and harming His chosen Jewish people. In God’s foreign policy department dissing the Jews is a big no-no.
Nahum described Nineveh’s heart as prideful and boastful, and declared that even its military prowess would not protect Assyria when it violated God’s prophetic ways. The judgment of YHVH, the Day of the Lord, was on its way.
Today the nations of the world still “mock the words of God, despise His words and scoff at the prophetic message” (Jeremiah 28:8). This is especially true concerning scriptural teaching concerning the chosenness of the Jewish people, their restoration to their Promised land, and their salvation. God informs us that His prophetic word still has supreme relevance. The words of God are not only targeted at those who congregate within ‘holy buildings.’ They are also aimed at the hearts of the world’s political and religious leaders.
God’s prophetic perspectives on world events have been around for a long time – “from ancient times…(prophetic words have been directed) against many lands and against great kingdoms, regarding war and of calamity and of pestilence” (Jeremiah 28:8).
The Bible has great relevance to us in these challenging days. It offers us clarity, perspective and strategy – for individuals and governments. It is very important to wake up and take hold of what the word of God is saying about current events and those soon-coming down the turnpike.
When you gonna wake up?
Bob Dylan once said, “When you gonna wake up and strengthen the things that remain?” These words remind us of two scriptures:
“Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God” (Revelation 3:2).
“But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. For this reason it says, ‘Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Messiah will shine on you.’ Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:13-17).
Yeshua said to His disciples “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Luke 22:46).
As the enemy rages in Iraq, Syria and Iran, and as terror raises its ugly head again in Israel,
- we need to fight off spiritual slumber (Mark 13:36)
- we need to be on the alert (1 Thessalonians 5:6)
- we need to devote ourselves to prayer (Colossians 4:2) with thanksgiving in our hearts.
“On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen. All day and all night they will never keep silent. You who remind the Lord, take no rest for yourselves, until He establishes and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth” (Isaiah 62:6).
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do!