NETANYAHU GIVES OBAMA “ESTHER” SCROLL: Biblical story tells of a Persian tyrant who wanted to “annihilate” the Jews.

The biblical story of Esther became part of the Oval Office dialogue today. (photo by Doug Mills, NYT)One critical issue not clear after the two-hour Oval Office meeting today between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu: Has the Israeli leader already made the decision to hit Iran, or not? One headline says yes: Israel’s Channel 2: U.S. Officials Believe Netanyahu Has Already Decided to Strike Iran. Another headline says no: Israel’s Prime Minister told President Obama on Monday that he has not made a final decision on whether to hit Iran.

After the Oval Office meeting, Netanyahu met with Defense Secretary Panetta to discuss military and intelligence coordination.Reuters is reporting that “Obama appealed to Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday to give sanctions time to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but the Israeli prime minister offered no sign of backing away from possible military action, saying his country must be the ‘master of its fate.'” It’s not clear yet how hard Mr. Obama pressed Israel not to hit Iran. That may take a few days — or longer — to become clear. The NYT is reporting that “Mr. Netanyahu, sitting next to the president, declared that ‘Israel must have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat.’ He thanked Mr. Obama for affirming, in a speech to a pro-Israel lobbying group on Sunday, that, as Mr. Netanyahu put it, ‘Israel has the sovereign right to make its own decisions.’ Israeli officials interpreted this to mean that the United States would not try to block a preemptive Israeli strike.” We’ll see if that interpretation holds up, but it would be a good development if true.

That said, the most interesting moment of the day to me was when Netanyahu gave a gift to Obama, a decorated scroll telling the biblical story of the Book of Esther.  The story from the Old Testament will be read this week at Jewish services commemorating Purim all over the world.  The story focuses on Persian king known as Ahasuerus and wicked Persian president, Haman, and their plot to annihilate the Jewish people on a date certain. ‘Then, too, they wanted to wipe us out,’ Netanyahu told the president.” Through the prayer and fasting of the believers at the time, God supernaturally intervened in the situation and saved the Jewish people, though they still had to fight the Persian enemy. Ultimately, the Jewish people were saved by God’s amazing grace. What encourages me about Netanyahu giving the scroll to the President is that is reveals yet again the Prime Minister’s growing interest in the Bible and even his desire to make the Scriptures part of today’s Oval Office discussion. You may recall that a few months ago, Mr. Netanyahu announced that he was starting a Bible study in his personal residence. Please continue praying for each of these world leaders and their advisors that they would turn to the God of Israel and the Bible for wisdom, discernment and courage during these critical times.

Last year, I recorded a video blog for The Joshua Fund explaining the story and it’s meaning — “Iran, Israel and the Threat of Annihilation: Modern Day Lessons From The Book of Esther.” I hope you’ll find it helpful, and share it with others. God bless you.

(photo credit: Doug Mills, NYT)


>> Please register now for the “Israel, The Church and the Middle East Crisis Conference” at Biola University in southern California on March 23-24 — Joel will be speaking several times, including on the geopolitical and prophetic implications of the Russian-Iranian alliance.