Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Persian Protests, Prophecy and Proverbs

Roland Clarke

Mass protests across Iran ignited by the death of a Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, (16 Sept. 2022) have triggered a vicious crackdown by the theocratic Iranian regime resulting in thousands of arrests and the killing of more than 200 protesters. It is no secret that this regime has been perpetrating gross human rights violations against minority groups for decades including the brutal murder of many who follow Jesus. So how are Christians responding in the midst of this chaotic crisis?

One Iranian Christian leader, as quoted in a recent article by Alex Pollock, underscores trusting in the sovereignty of God as revealed in a Bible prophecy.

In Jeremiah 49:34-39, the Lord says seven times that He will take action to ruin Iran’s cruel leaders but will rescue Iranians. So, the Lord has a plan for Iran. He is very clear that He is going to lead the course of events and do whatever He has said since He is the sovereign leader of history. These verses in Jeremiah are saying that several things will happen to Iran in the latter days. Verse 39 is particular about “days to come”: 1) God will cause Persians to be scattered around the world, 2) Bringing calamities upon Iran, 3) God will set up his throne in Iran. … Christ is going to be widely accepted as the Prince of Peace. Already … this has started. ...

Pollock continues to explain the role believers are playing in the current climate by quoting another Iranian Christian leader.

“We are discipling the people in the riots. We are not participating but discipling these rioters in the midst of danger and persecution. As the Word says, we pray for the leaders of the country, and we love our enemies … this is where the Gospel intersects with the riots and the rioters. … Pray for wisdom, knowledge and discernment as we are outside bringing people into the Kingdom by showing them what can eternally change them rather than temporarily (change them).” (bold font added for emphasis)

Proverbial wisdom

These last few weeks I've given much thought to two Persian proverbs which correspond to some wise sayings of Solomon and Jesus.

Every man goes down to his death bearing in his hands only that which he has given away.” Similarly Jesus said, “whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. ... unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (Mark 8:35; John 12:24-25)

Another Persian proverb says: “When you were born you cried and the world rejoiced … Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.” This is not unlike a proverbial saying of King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 7:1 (cf 2-8), “the day you die is better than the day you are born.” Speaking of the afterlife, the prophet Isaiah provides some insight in chapter 57:1-2; “Good people pass away; the godly often die before their time. But no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come. For those who follow godly paths will rest in peace when they die.”

Jesus expanded on the hereafter in a famous parable in Luke 16:19-31 which tells about a rich man who oppressed a poor neighbor named Lazarus. Notice what happens after both of them die. Verse 25 explains how Abraham said to the rich man, “Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here [in paradise] being comforted, and you are in anguish.”

Jesus further underscores Ecclesiastes 7:1 while he was enduring an agonizing death on the cross; “Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” (Hebrews 12:2, bold added) Notice how Jesus was enabled to face the ordeal of death by joyously anticipating a place of honor beside God's throne, not unlike the joy which is mentioned in the Persian proverb!

We see further confirmation of Ecclesiastes 7:1 in Philippians 1:21-23 where the apostle Paul spoke confidently of the hereafter as 'better by far' than life on earth. He wrote words of encouragement to Christians while he was under house arrest, awaiting trial before Caesar. In fact, Paul was facing life-threatening slanderous charges for which he could possibly have been executed. He expressed his dilemma as follows, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.” (bold added)


In conclusion let's consider how two criminals who were crucified on either side of Jesus met their death. We read in Luke 23:39-43,

One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!” But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

The criminal who humbly repented died in peace, knowing that he would soon be ushered into a better place – paradise with Jesus Christ. The Bible plainly declares, “Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20; cf. Isaiah 53:6; Romans 3:23) Every son of Adam is a sinner having broken God's law and accordingly we deserve the death penalty. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) I urge you, therefore, to humble yourself and believe that Jesus died to take away your sin. Accept God's invitation, “Today is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2)

All Bible quotations are from the New Living Translation.

If you have accepted this invitation please email me as I would love to encourage you.

End note: Worldwide Proverbial Wisdom

I recently celebrated my 70th birthday. One gift I received was a book titled, 'Proverbs from around the world' which reminded me of some fascinating riddles and proverbs composed by Solomon such as, “Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything.” My curiosity was stimulated to
explore similar sayings in other cultures like the following:

“Giving is not losing; it is keeping for tomorrow.” (Lozi, Zambia) “If you do charity your house will always be rich.” (Arabic) “To give is to save.” (Ndonga, Namibia) “What you give away you keep.” (Kurdish) “Every man goes down to his death bearing in his hands only that which he has given away.” (Persian) “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” (Jim Elliot) “Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me ... will save it.” (Jesus)

Another saying goes like this: “Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do!” (Solomon) “Pearls don't lie on the seashore. You must dive for them.” (China) So I took the plunge in search of true treasure and ended up writing a meditation, Pondering a Paradoxical Proverb.