All mums display the three essential ingredients of intercession that we mentioned in the previous article. They fully identify with the growing baby in their womb, they suffer in that identification through the initial birth and permanent care of the child and they have their own motherly authority of love over their offspring.
The Bible is full of this “Motherhood factor”, – the literal or spiritual birthing of significant children, the birthing even unto Christ through intercession; the power and the pain. Let’s consider a few key verses :
” All these are the beginning of birth-pains. ” Matthew 24 :8
“To the woman” he said, ” I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing ; with pain you will give birth to children.” Genesis 3 :16
The world had been lost through sin. God began his redemptive strategy by giving prayer and work to mankind. Adam was to sweat it out labouring the fields, getting rid of the thorns and thistles while Eve was to cry out in labour giving birth to new lives. It is interesting that the monastic movement founded by Benedict in the middle ages which transformed Europe had these two principles as its founding credo: “Orare Laborare” – Prayer and Work. Eve, our ancient mother, began redeeming the fall through the “gift “ of labour pains, suffering – intercession. The previous verses of Genesis 3 :15, which speak prophetically of Christ’s intercessory victory over Satan, emphasise the warfare context of such labour.
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
The ancient battle and enmity between Eve and Satan traverses history, stretches into the future and finds ultimate incarnation in the fruit of Mary’s womb.
“But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever ; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1 :30-33
Even the natural world of “Mother Nature” seems to be flowing in this ancient rhythm of intercession inherited from the first fallen creation.
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time…In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray , but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. ” Romans 8 :22,26
The natural world, frustrated by decay, is our ally in intercession.
“Sing, O barren woman,
you who never bore a child ;
burst into song, shout for joy,
you who were never in labour ;
because more are the children of the
than of her who has a husband. “ Isaiah 54 :1
The great pioneer Paul, also took up Eve’s spirit as his entire life was consumed with the birthing and nurturing of churches through his apostolic intercession.
” My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you,.. ” Galatians 4 :19
In the same breath he mixes a number of metaphors – as does John in Revelation where a Bride interchanges with the Heavenly Jerusalem, pointing to a heavenly principle which echoes the redemptive birthing of the early garden and brings it to fulfillment:
“But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.” Galatians 4 :26
The veil is mysteriously drawn back in John’s Revelation of the Church and Christ and their ultimate victory and consummation is described from a variety of colourful, metaphorical and gloriously sacramental viewpoints.
At the beginning of Revelation 12, the scene shifts into showing some of the hidden spiritual rhythms and realities lurking behind history and reaching through our present into the future:
“A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven : a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth…The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron sceptre.” Revelation 12 :1-5
What does this breathtaking sign mean? Who is this woman of Revelation 12?
Let your mind and spirit do some creative thinking for a few days until I come back with the next article to add a few more thoughts to the exciting debate.