1. PRAYING FOR RAIN…
“Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; sing praises to our God on the lyre. Who covers the heavens with clouds, Who provides rain for the earth, Who makes grass to grow on the mountains…” (Psalm 147: 7).
On Thursday, December 28th , at the request of Israel’s Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, several thousand Israelis gathered at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem for a special session of prayer. They were praying for rain.
The “former rains,” which normally begin in late September or October, still had not come; in fact, only one or two short days of rainfall had occurred since the previous April. The extended drought in Israel soon will be entering its fifth year. Hardest hit has been the Galilee, the fertile belt stretching from the Carmel mountain range on the coast eastward to the lake which bears its name, an area within which a majority of Israel’s crops are grown. Today the Sea of Galilee (or Kinneret as it is known Israel) is at the lowest level on record. While by this time of year the lake’s level would normally have begun to rise, it has actually gone down. The streams which feed it are themselves dry. The Israel Water Authority recently cautioned farmers against planting new crops which will require as much water as they have been allowed in previous years, warning them, “We have no water left for you.” Israel’s immediate drinking-water needs are being met by the desalinization centers which became operable a few years back, but they cannot produce nearly enough to cover the irrigation required for crops.
And so, the nation’s Agriculture Minister, who is an Orthodox Jew, sought to appeal to a Higher Power. “Israeli Minister turns to Prayer to help Relieve Drought” read a news story in Reuters the following day. Commentary in other papers was skeptical, criticizing the minister for not putting his efforts to more practical use. “Prayer is not a bad thing,” observed one commentator, “but the minister has the ability to influence (matters) in slightly more earthly ways.” A notorious atheist in the far-left paper HaAretz actually headed his article, “Anyone who prays for rain is an idiot.” Yet four days later, the English edition of one of those papers was running the headline, “Torrential downpour Leads to Floods in Multiple Regions.” Monday the first of January saw heavy rainfall in the north and central regions of Israel.
The following Wednesday afternoon, January 3rd, the Chief Rabbi led a group north to the Sea of Galilee. Due to the drought, little “islands” have appeared in the middle of the lake. The group, joined by the head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council and many farmers and students, made their way by boat to one of these islands. In the midst of it they stood and prayed corporately for rains to come to the Sea of Galilee.
On Thursday night the storms returned, this time dumping rain throughout the north, central and south, and heavy snow on Mount Hermon. Over 100 mm of rain fell in parts of the north, and in less than 24 hours the Sea of Galilee rose by three centimeters. The steady rains continued until late Saturday.
We have still a long way to go; Israel and our neighbor Jordan desperately need many days of rain. But we are grateful for what has come. And we are grateful for leaders in our government with the courage and humility to publicly do as their Scriptures have taught them, and call on Heaven for mercy:
When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against You, and they pray toward this place and confess Your name, and turn from their sin when You afflict them; then hear in heaven and forgive the sin of Your sevants and Your people Israel, indeed, teach them the good way in which they should walk. (II Chronicles 6:26-27)
* That God’s mercies would rest on Israel this year—that there would be abundant rains throughout the nation.
* That there would be those within the land both within the government and among the people who will call out to Him for this mercy. That He will “teach them the good way in which they should walk”
* The “latter rains” usually come to an end in late April or early May. This year that will coincide with the time when Israel is celebrating 70 years as a reborn nation. The final paragraph of the Declaration of Independence signed on that day, 14 May 1948, begins, “Placing our trust in the ‘Rock of Israel’…” Pray that in this special year, Israel will truly place her trust in that Rock, which followed her forefathers through the desert. In I Corinthians 10:4 Rav Shaul (Paul) clarifies for us—“they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Messiah!”
2. THE UPRISING IN IRAN.
On December 28th, for the first time since 2009 Iranians took to the streets in large protests. Although the unrest was at first widely reported as being directed primarily against economic hardships, it soon became clear that the primary focus was against the present fundamentalist Islamic government. Unlike previous times of unrest, these demonstrations were not restricted to large cities (where demonstrators might more easily escape recognition in the crowds), but quickly spread out into small towns and burroughs. As we write, the Iranian government is claiming that the rioting has been contained and is dieing out. With the restrictions on communications systems such as e-mail, Facebook and Twitter, there is no way of knowing for sure. Public news media in the west appear for the most part to have now left it behind. After the outbreak of protests, the silence of governments in the free world in offering support for the protestors was deafening. US President Donald Trump was an exception, repeatedly tweeting support and encouragement to those rising up on behalf of freedom. And in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a short video with the following message:
I heard today Iran’s President Rouhani’s claim that Israel is behind the protests in Iran. It’s not only false, it’s laughable. And unlike Rouhani, I will not insult the Iranian people. They deserve better. Brave Iranians are pouring into the streets. They seek freedom. They seek justice. They seek the basic liberties that have been denied to them for decades. Iran’s cruel regime wastes tens of billions of dollars spreading hate. This money could have built schools and hospitals. No wonder mothers and fathers are marching in the streets. The regime is terrified of them, of their own people. That’s why they jail students. That’s why they ban social media. But I’m sure that fear will not triumph, because the Iranian people are smart; they are sophisticated; they are proud. Today they risk everything for freedom. Sadly, many European governments watch in silence, as heroic young Iranians are beaten in the streets. That’s just not right. And I for one will not stay silent. This regime tries desperately to sow hate between us, but they won’t succeed. And when this regime finally falls, and one day it will, Iranians and Israelis will be great friends once again. I wish the Iranian people success in their noble quest for freedom.
The video quickly went viral. The Prime Minister’s office reports that it is already the most widely-watched video he has ever posted on Twitter, receiving more than two million views. 1) There have reportedly been thousands of responses, many of them in Farsi (the language spoken in Iran), and many friendly towards the Prime Minister and towards Israel. Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, himself a former human rights activist and prisoner under an authoritarian regime, explained in a Jerusalem Post interview why he believes it so crucial for the international community to speak out in support of an uprising such as this:
In authoritarian regimes, like the one in Iran, there are three classes of people…There are the “true believers”—those who buy into the ideology of the regime. There are those whom [he] dubbed “double-thinkers”—those who don’t believe in the regime’s ideology, or are skeptical about it, but who are afraid to speak out. And then there is a very small group of dissidents who speak up publicly. “The stronger and more frightening the regime, the longer the regime lasts, the number of the double-thinkers grow,” Sharansky said. But being a double-thinker is an uncomfortable duality in which to live…“People are skeptical of the regime but afraid to speak, and they live an uncomfortable double life.” Revolutions take place…when masses cross the line from double- thinkers to dissidents, when somehow they think that it is less risky to take to the streets, or because they feel comfortable enough to do so because they are part of a huge crowd and a larger movement. This, he said, is the revolutionary moment currently taking place in Iran: People are making the decision whether it is time to jump off the fence from double-thinkers to dissidents. And it is exactly at this junction, when that decision is being made, that support from the free world is so critical. 2)
We believe it to be equally critical that at this juncture believers from free nations be joining with the millions of believers in Iran in praying in agreement for the release of God’s redemptive purposes over that land and people. We agree with Mr. Netanyahu that the current hateful and genocidal regime will finally fall, and that there will be a day when Iranians and Israelis will be “friends again.” As Israel moves into her 70th year as a nation, we remember that in ancient times, it was after 70 years in captivity that God, through His people’s intercession, brought down an evil principality over Persia (ancient Iran), friendship was restored, and He used that nation to restore His Israel to their land (Daniel 10:12-14; II Chronicles 36:22-23).
* That God release His spirit of Freedom and Truth over Iran.
* That sparks of revolution and change which have been ignited by God will not go out, but burn brighter. That “double-thinkers” will see a direction which is right, get off the fence, and move that way.
* That, as in Daniel’s day, angelic forces will be released to war over God’s redemptive purposes for that region. That the present leadership system of Iran which, by continually cursing Israel, has brought the land and people under a curse, would be thrown off.
* That the underground Church in Iran would be strengthened, encouraged, and granted spiritual insight into what is happening and what they are to do (Daniel 11:33; 12:3, 10 NASB) . That our brothers and sisters in Persia/Iran will “speak God’s Word with confidence while He extends His hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of His holy servant Jesus.”
* For faithfulness in the Body in Israel in praying for and blessing this “arch-enemy” which was once a friend—that a way for friendship be restored, and a way of blessing (Gen. 12:2).
– Martin and Norma Sarvis
1) The video may be watched by Googling, “Natanyahu’s video in support of Iranian protesters is his most viral yet The Jerusalem Post”
2) “Sharansky: Vocal Western support critical to Iranian protesters”: The Jerusalem Post, 01/05/2018.