The last full day in Israel has arrived! This is also the day that Israel celebrates the birth of the State of Israel.
We began the day outside Be’er Sheva (Beersheba) in the desert – a place where shepherd’s lived. Be’er Sheva literally means ‘Well (Be’er) of Oath (Sheva)’ and refers to the oath made between Abimelech and Abraham concerning the well that Abraham had dug (referred to in Gen 21:22 – 31). Here we prayed through scriptures concerning Israel until the commemorative alarm sounded and we stood prayerfully in a minute silence.
Abraham was someone who moved around the entire Promised Land. He came into the land from the North and then he moved down the central mountain range. He called upon the name of the Lord in four places; Shechem (Gen 12) then he moved to the next place where he camped just south of Shechem in a place called Be’el and called upon the Lord for a second time and made a second altar. He then moved southward to Hebron to the oak of Mamre where he made the third altar where he called upon the name of the Lord. The fourth altar is in Jerusalem at Mount Moriah when he offered up his son Isaac and the Lord provided a ram instead.
Sarah and Hagar
When we think of Abraham, we think of his beautiful wife Sarah. She was astonishingly beautiful even into her 60s. This brought fear to Abraham as he thought other men would kill him because of his wife. Sarah was barren but God had given Abraham a promise of descendants numbering the sand on the sea shore. Sarah was getting older and never pregnant and so in her earthly wisdom decided to give God some help. She therefore gave her housemaid Hagar to Abraham.
Hagar became pregnant immediately. Pride grew in Hagar and she began to disrespect Sarah. Hagar fled as Sarah dealt with her harshly, however she was persuaded to return and humble herself by an angel of the Lord, who also gave her a promise concerning her son who was to be called Ishmael. Hagar returned and her child was born.
But God! He did not leave the situation like that. When God speaks a word, that word may take years, decades even to be fulfilled. God re-iterated his promise to Abraham and confirmed that Sarah would be the mother of this promised child and in her old age Sarah gave birth to Isaac.
To this day there is still the jealousy and fighting between the children of Isaac and that of Ishmael. So we pray for both the Jews and the Arabs as it is not God’s will that any should perish but that all should become one new man in Christ Jesus.
Rebekah and the Camels
We walked through the desert, the remnant of ancient houses and buildings around us. With our hardhats on, we descended down an old cistern. People who lived in the desert had ingenious ways of keeping water nearby. One way was to create large reservoirs, like the cistern we were standing in. The walls of the cistern were made of a plaster which kept the water disinfected, keeping it hygienically clean.
Eliezar was sent by the family to find a wife for Isaac. So he went with 10 camels laden with dowry to do so. Camels do not have to drink everyday only once a week. But when a camel drinks it takes 100 litres in 10 minutes! Imagine the strength of the woman who would have to be drawing water for 10 camels. Lowering the bucket, bringing it back up, throwing the water in the trough… Well Rebekah did that and Eliezar must have been impressed. We all laughed when Pamela said “So girls to be a good Israelite housewife you have to be physically fit and stay that way”
We had lots of fun at Be’er Sheva but it was definitely approaching time to have lunch.
Knowing when to Stop
After lunch we travelled to the beautiful Judean Hills to a place called Yad Hashmonah. In Deuteronomy 8: 7 – 8 we get a picture of what the land looked like in the time that these biblical women lived in. “7For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey;” This area that we were standing in was like this scripture and the perfect backdrop to learn of Delilah.
Delilah was a calculating woman, who used her sexuality to get what she wanted. She pushed and pushed Samson to reveal the source of his strength. She pushed him so much that Samson’s ‘soul was vexed unto death’ by her persistence. After being worn down and despite numerous signs of her intentions, Samson revealed the source of his strength.
Samson had made a Nazarite vow and because of this a razor had never touched his head. If his head were shorn then his great strength would depart. Delilah caused Samson to fall asleep on her knees, got a man to cut of Samson’s locks then called his enemies, the Philistines to come and take him. They dug out his eyes and bound him in the prison house.
Samson’s life serves as a warning. We will lose our empowerment when we step outside of fellowship with God. Samson was a Nazarite unto God. It was not the shaving of his head that caused him to lose his strength but the breaking of his vow to God.
As women we have to be so careful not to force our own agendas. We must certainly not use our sexuality to do so. Sex was given by God for marriage and when we engage in it outside of marriage we damage ourselves as well as others. We must also be conscious of pestering people within our fellowships in our families and even our friends. We must give our loved ones the place and the space that they can be before God. Maybe we should be vexing and pressing the Lord like the importunate widow in Luke 18.
When do we stop speaking? When do we turn to the Lord? We must know when. These are questions we should ask ourselves. As women we want to build up not crush down. We want to see people free to be released in the Lord and fulfil their purpose.
A Heart’s Cry
Judges 21:19 – 23 says “19Then they said ‘in fact, there is a yearly feast of the Lord in Shiloh, which is north of Bethel, on the east side of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah. 20Therefore they instructed the children of Benjamin saying ‘Go lie in wait in the vineyards 21and watch and just when the daughters of Shiloh come out to perform their dances, then come out from the vineyard, and every man catch a wife for himself from the daughters of Shiloh; then go to the land of Benjamin. 22 Then it shall be when their fathers or their brothers come to us to complain, that we will say to them ‘Be kind to them for our sakes, because we did not take a wife for any of them in the war; for it is not as though you have given the women to them at this time, making yourselves guilty of your oath’”. 23 And the children of Benjamin did so; they took enough wives for their number from those who danced, whom they caught. Then they went and returned to their inheritance, and they rebuilt the cities and dwelt in them.
This passage is all about the restoration of the tribe of Benjamin. It takes place in Shiloh about the time of the grape harvest in August. It is a wonderful picture of Shiloh; the vineyards, the grapes, the wine press… This is also the landscape of the next biblical woman.
Hannah was married to a man called Elkanah who also had another wife Penninah. Hannah desperately wanted a child and although favoured by her husband, the teasing and provocation from Penninah who had children, plus her strong desire for her own child made her barrenness unbearable.
Hannah’s life changed when she surrendered what she wanted most to the Lord. In 1 Samuel 1:11, Hannah is in Shiloh and goes up to the place of worship where she cries out to God, asks for a son and promises that she will give him back to the Lord. Eli the priest sees her but thinks that she is drunk. When she corrects him, Eli says ‘Go in Peace and may the God of Israel grant your petition’.
Sometime our petitions to God can be misunderstood by people even religious people, especially if they are not in the right place with God. God did grant Hannah’s petition. She bore a son called Samuel, she weaned her son then as promised she gave him to the Lord, where he served as one of the great men of faith in the bible.
Hannah did not withhold her beautiful son. This is a great example to us and is what Jesus said we should do ‘deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him’. Hannah denied herself by surrendering that which she desired so much to God.
Hannah also portrays that whilst suffering can cause great pain, we can also get joy in giving all to the Lord. Setting our hearts on something we don’t have can rob us of the Joy of a relationship with the Lord.
Hannah praises the Lord (1 Sam 2) and she also ends up having more children. Therefore reader, what is it that you desire so much that is hindering your relationship with the Lord? I encourage you to give it to Jesus. He wants to give you more than you could desire for yourself.
It has been a wonderful and life changing experience in Israel. It has been energetic, reflectional, intimate, full of revelation, fun, sober, encouraging and most of all purposeful.
Tomorrow we return to England, refreshed, changed and ready to be all that God has purposed so that lives can be saved and others will come to know Him, in whose footsteps we have walked in the Promised Land.
I hope this blog has encouraged both men and women. I especially hope for all the women readers that God has revealed to you your strengths and weaknesses, through looking at the women in the bible, so that a transforming work can be done in your life.