We ended last week’s post with the above question. Who is this dramatic “sign” in heaven? Many scholars and theologians have addressed this question over the years. I even read recently that some people interpret her as the zodiac sign of Virgo who awaits the time to have a certain configuration of moon and stars around her.
However, the main explanations that have emerged from various ecclesial traditions ask these three questions:
Is she the Church ?
Is she the Virgin Mary ?
Is she Israel ?
Now, as a fairly ecumenical Protestant, I cannot fully accept the Mary solution. However, so as not to throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water, I prefer to redefine this explanation as the woman representing the “Mother” figure and essentially 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 vulnerable child, born it seems in hopeless weakness to be devoured before the dragon’s gruesome mouth, is in fact born with an innate Messianic promise. He holds the “ancient” sceptre, to fulfill the “ancient” promise of the garden (Genesis 3:15) to overcome the “ancient” serpent.
“He said to me, You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron sceptre; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.” Psalm 2:7-8
The “male child” is neither crucified nor devoured but lifted up to heaven echoing the prayer that the Lord Jesus gave his people in Matthew 6:10: “…your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
This is a great encouragement to us. So often our ministry and its vulnerable fruits seem ready to be devoured by persecution and strife…but what is born out of intercession and promise carries innate authority and will always survive against all the odds!
I’ll come back to this “Mother figure maintaining the line of the Messiah” later in the study, so let’s move on.
The classic interpretation is that she represents Israel with the miraculous salvation from the waters reminding us of the crossing of the Red Sea in the famous Exodus story and the forty-year “desert” period wandering. The twelve stars might speak of the twelve tribes and the sun and moon are images used by Joseph in his dream to emphasise the family, and hence the roots back to Abraham – and even beyond to the early garden creation. Israel gave us Christ. Other commentators would emphasise that in the “new alliance” she represents the Church who has been grafted in to the aged root. In this, and the next study or two we will cast a brief glance over these three options in the light of intercession.
She is Israel
We need to go back to Genesis 32 :22 to find the beginnings of Israel’s name. We find Jacob wrestling with “the man”. For an excellent study of this “man” and the passage click on Allen Ross’ paper here. The prophet Hosea comments this passage by stating that:
“In the womb he grasped his brother’s heel; as a man he struggled with God. He struggled with the angel and overcame him; he wept and begged for his favour.” Hosea 12:3-4
It is a story about struggle and transformation.
” I will not let you go unless you bless me. “ v :26
This is the language and posture of intercession.
His own physical and soulish strength is broken in the process: “…he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.” v :25
True men and women of God, those trained in the school of life and intercession, do not walk with a swagger but a limp. “The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.” v :31
He “overcame” an all-powerful God through his faith to hold on in weakness and vulnerable love, refusing to let God go. Pain and suffering often tempt us to push God away, but we can be transformed as we “overcome ourselves” and hang on. The Father’s righteous wrath was “overcome” on the cross as Jesus hung on for a blessing to all mankind. “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and man and have overcome.” v :28
Israel means “he struggles with God.”, and Israel, with the great prayers of Abraham, Moses, David and the prophets have always been an intercessory people. It is the key to understanding their persecution by the dragon throughout history.
With the blessing he received, leaning on his staff, Jacob went on to bless Pharaoh (Genesis 47:10.) Our intercession can bless the world. He also had a prophetic blessing to pray over his sons, the next generation to carry the blessing.
“All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him.” Genesis 49:28
Our intercession must also prophetically rally and bless the emerging generation of pioneers.
Go and bless your world and family today!
Having seen the woman as the “fighting, praying, suffering, and broken” Israel we will move on to look at the “praying” Church in our next post.