In the previous post Paul modelled for us the intercession of the Church, and before that we had considered the woman of Revelation 12 as being the image of Israel via Jacob’s prayerful battle. We are now coming to our last and final foray into this mysterious sign.
Faithful mother’s have founded history and the story of the people of God.
Right from the beginning we encounter Eve as she receives the painful covenant of child-birth. Like many of my wonderful Pygmy friends who live in the heart of the Equatorial forest, she is closely associated with the beautiful garden of creation. The woman of revelation is also in harmony with creation as “the earth” helps the woman escape the Satanic deluge. Most scholars see this as referring to the foundational crossing of the Red Sea in Exodus, but it also shows the close link between our intercessory cries and those of the natural world:
“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
Mother nature is also crying out!
Earlier, I ventured to mention that the woman of Revelation 12 is also very much:
“the vital seed bearing “Mother” figure representing all the courageous women from Eve, Sarah, Rebekah, Leah, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and many anonymous others, who birthed the line of the Messiah through the ages, culminating in the glorious fulfillment of it all through mother Mary’s miraculous birthing of the Messiah in the flesh.”
The seed of the Messiah has always been viciously contested, almost devoured, throughout history and Sarah had to hang on and fight the battle of faith to receive Isaac. Isaac himself had to intercede for his sterile wife – like we need to intercede for our so often sterile church, so that she could carry on the chosen line.
“Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant.” Genesis 25:21
The patriarch Jacob instinctively understood the importance of the Messianic geneology – the appearing of God in human line and human flesh, when he prophesied over his son Judah.
“The sceptre will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs – the Shiloh, and the obedience of the nations is his.” Genesis 49:10
This suddenly fast forwards us into the realms of the male child born with a sceptre in our chosen passage. Jacob almost invents a word, Shiloh, to express his prophetic longing. Shiloh can have roots in Shalom, the Prince of Peace, or Siloam, the Sent One. The NIV chooses to express the Messianic ownership of the rule and reign.
Let’s take a look at this emerging Shiloh as he is carried through history in the womb of intercession. The opening chapter of Matthew gives us some beautiful insight into all of this as it describes the genealogy of Jesus. As you read it, why not do as the French say and “Cherchez la femme!”
In the male dominated society which brought the Bible to us women do not have a place in most accounts. This makes it all the more extraordinary to find five women listed here.
Did you find them?
“Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar…Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife… and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.” Matthew 1:3,5-6,16
The first four ladies are wounded heroines owning life’s more difficult stories.
The Canaanite wife, Tamar, after double widowhood to abusive men had to resort to prostitution with her Father in law in order to save the line of Judah. She saved Israel as much as Joseph did in between whose story she is sandwiched.
Rahab, a pagan prostitute holed up in Jericho, and yet recognising God’s hand and risking life and limb to help anointed strangers.
The Moabite Ruth – the fruit of Lot’s daughter’s incest and famine stricken widow. Her hard work and faithful support of her mother in law coupled with her obedient reverence to Boaz saw her birthing King David’s granddad.
Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, victim of a royal stalker and adulterer. Her faithful husband was cynically murdered and her first child died. Through her beauty courage and perseverance she ended up birthing him that was loved of the Lord, Jedidiah, Solomon.
To think that the Son of Man’s earthly history should pass through such imperfect people and situations. Some use this to denigrate Christ, but, on the contrary it elevates Him all the more as He was willing to gracefully step into fallen human history – He identified with life’s difficult stories…he understands your story too.
What a struggle to uphold the “male child”, God’s purpose hanging on such a slender thread with that “ancient serpent” constantly looking to devour.
The genealogy is crowned and bought to wonderful fulfilment by Mary, known as Myriam to her Jewish friends and husband! Here stands a true virgin daughter of Israel. Her story is full of Shalom. She is Holy, Kadosh, a pure virgin bride loved by her husband.
Does she stand apart from the other stories in holy separation? Quite the opposite. Not holy separation but holy penetration of the damaged line with her promise of Shalom – Hail Mary – Shalom Myriam!
Mary’s virginity is not just some attribute in itself to give her “goddess” standing. It is far more profound and beautiful. At the end of a long line of weakness, impurity and pain she stands as a portent of hope and redeemed wholeness. Her very miraculous virginity pours back pristine purity into the past, healing the victimized womb of humanity as the Christ flows into the world with glorious healing in His wings – a truly immaculate conception…and redemption!
It is fitting that she too, Myriam the humble Jewish intercessor, should identify suffer and pray for her beloved boy. Simeon, who was waiting to see the revelation of the “male child” Messiah, spoke prophetically over Mary as well, recognising her unique role and gift of intercession.
“It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ…Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Luke 2:26,34-35
A sword piercing a soul. What a compelling description of intercessory prayer. The final sword of curse on King David’s line was to fall on this child at the cross, and his mum would carry her pain too. Not the redemptive pain and authority that is reserved for Christ alone, but the pain that all mum’s carry for their families, the pain the Church can still carry for the world and the pain of the daily swords we all have to bear. Let it be…
So, we come to the end of our own journey into intercession. Have we discovered who the woman of Revelation 12 really is? I’m sure there is much more to say, and greater scholars than me have put their minds and prayers to the task. These devotionals are my simple contribution to the debate – to be felt and practised with passion rather than dissected in the cold operating theatre of dispensationalist theology.
To conclude, she is the heavenly Jerusalem, the Mother of us all.
“But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written: Be glad, O barren woman, who bears no children; break forth and cry aloud, you who have no labour pains; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.” Galatians 4:26-27
She is the people of God, both Israel and the Church, beautifully free, in harmony with the longings of Creation and the Holy Spirit, beautifully, redemptively pure yet birthing the reign of Christ – your Kingdom come, into the world, overcoming the ancient serpent and fulfilling the ancient promise.
“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.” Genesis 3:15
She is still crying out in you and me as we choose to take on our inherited mantle of intercession. Apocalypse, is not just some future speculation, it is “Apocalypse Now.”
Find your own rhythm and life style in the longings. Choose to overcome. Be courageous. Follow Christ!
“They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” Revelation 12:11