History does indeed repeat itself.
I toured the Jewish concentration camp Dachau while on a mission trip in 1992. I read a sign on a particular display that I’ve never forgotten. Even in the moment, it impacted me enough that I took a picture of it.
It’s a well-known expression but I find it appropriate that I first learned it in a concentration camp. In English it reads, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (George Santayana).
I took a picture of another sign that day 23 years ago. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reminded me of it today when he addressed holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel during a speech to the US Congress. He reminded all of us that the horror experienced by Mr. Wiesel and the powerful life he has lived since those atrocities is a testimony to why we must all proclaim, “Never Again.”
Approximately 2,500 years ago, a man named Mordecai refused to bow to Haman, the chief minister under King Ahasuerus in Persia. Rage enflamed Haman; when he discovered Mordecai was a Jew, he decided to destroy the entire Jewish race rather than execute only Mordecai. Haman manipulated King Ahasuerus to bring about the Jewish people’s annihilation. He wrote a decree “to destroy, kill, and annihilate all the Jewish people – young and old, women and children – and plunder their possessions on a single day” (Esther 3:13, emphasis mine).
Queen Esther, a Jew who had until that point concealed her ethnicity, stepped up in a phenomenal act of bravery. At the urging of her cousin and guardian, Mordecai, she approached King Ahasuerus to plead the case of the Jewish people. Esther’s life was in danger the moment she stepped into the king’s presence unannounced as he could have had her executed for doing so. After a series of acts which displayed her humility, the King asked her to reveal the desire of her heart. She boldly yet humbly petitioned, “If I have obtained your approval, my king, and if the king is pleased, spare my life – this is my request; and spare my people – this is my desire. For I and my people have been sold out to destruction, death, and extermination” (Esther 7:3-4).
In the end, the king ordered Haman executed on the gallows Haman had built to execute Mordecai. The king gave the Jewish people the freedom to defend themselves, sparing the genocide of their race.
Despite the passing of 25 centuries since Esther’s act of bravery, the Jewish people still celebrate her every year on Purim. This year, Purim falls on March 4-5 on our calendar.
25 centuries later, Persian leadership once again threatens Israel’s existence in the form of Iranian nuclear capabilities. They likewise could destroy the Jewish people in a single day once their weapons are complete. The leader of the Jewish state of Israel, PM Netanyahu, spoke to the US Congress on March 3rd, the eve of Purim. Similar to Queen Esther in the past, his petition went against all established protocol of the time. Similar to Queen Esther, he made the request to stop the promised annihilation of the Jewish people. And like Queen Esther, I believe PM Netanyahu came forward in humility but also knowing that if he didn’t speak, massive death would come upon his nation and his people.
The timing of this event reminds me of one more correlation with the ancient Queen Esther. God has promised an eternal destiny for His chosen people, Israel. They will survive and indeed have done so through multiple persecutions throughout history. But for PM Netanyahu, as was the case with Queen Esther, “If you keep silent at this time, liberation and deliverance will come to the Jewish people from another place, but you and your father’s house will be destroyed. Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).
PM Netanyahu submitted to his call for such a time as this as he declared to the world, “The days when the Jewish people remain passive in the face of genocidal enemies – those days are over.”
I’ll leave all the political ramifications of this speech to the political pundits.
Here’s what I see, though. The Obama administration has deteriorated our relationship with Israel – a country of freedom and democracy. They also have validated relationships with terrorist regimes such as Iran – a country of “death, tyranny, and the pursuit of jihad,” as PM Netanyahu shared.
Lines are being drawn in the sands of the Middle East; on which side of the line will we stand?
I think now is the time for us to individually consider this question. We tend to think all of this is over there – thousands of miles away – and doesn’t matter to us. Our jobs and activities keep us from taking time to educate ourselves as to the multiple crises occurring throughout the Middle East.
But here’s the deal. A time is coming when the world’s attention will focus quite intently on the Middle East. The Bible prophesies many earth changing events still to happen in that region of the world. We need to know what’s going on, how situations might fit in with prophesied events, and discern which side of the line we will choose.
We have different priorities by which we choose which side of the line we prefer. Democracy, freedom, rights for different races, religions, and genders, economic resources, and social standards are among the criteria we naturally consider. However, biased reporting and dishonest leadership can make those areas very difficult to accurately assess.
Let me give you one key criteria that’s very simple and won’t let you down – side with Israel. As events occur, deals are negotiated, and wars and rumors of wars come – side with Israel.
God made it very simple when He said thousands of years ago to the Jewish patriarch Abraham, “Go out from your land, … to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, … I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who treat you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:1-3).