Hannah, wife of Elkanah, a Kohathite of the tribe of Levi, must have felt a great sense of despair when, month after month, she remained barren. Hannah might have felt that by not bearing a child with Elkanah, she lacked status and merit in his eyes. Author and professor Dr. Noreen Jacks wrote of the stigma of barrenness: “Barren women were habitually taunted and ridiculed, made to feel like second class citizens, and were considered a public embarrassment to their husbands. The shame of barrenness was always on the minds of infertile couples. In some societies, husbands were free to acquire secondary wives or concubines to fulfill their need for progeny, preferably a male heir.”
A childless couple faced an uncertain future with no offspring to work the fields, tend the herds, and assist with the daily chores in the home. Even worse, who would care for the couple in old age, mourn their passing, bury them with dignity, memorialize them annually, and carry the family name to the next generation and beyond? Such were the time-honored duties of one’s loyal children. With critical needs of this magnitude, it is not surprising that desperate people in the ancient world were obsessed with reproduction of the species.
It must have been emotionally draining for both Hannah and her husband that she had failed to present him with a child from their union. Being from the tribe of Levi, Elkanah was likely among those responsible for leading praise and worship in the tabernacle at Shiloh. Each year he was summoned for several weeks to serve Jehovah. As a faithful and devout wife, Hannah often accompanied him. While Elkanah fulfilled his duties in the tabernacle, Hannah would slip away to a quiet place in the tabernacle to petition for Jehovah’s favor and for an end to her infertility.
One day as she prayed fervently, she was in such despair that her lips moved silently as tears rained unchecked down her cheeks. Only a barren woman can totally understand Hannah’s sense of frustration and unhappiness and her petition for a son in her despair. When Eli, the high priest, saw her he came to the erroneous conclusion that the woman was drunk and had no place in the vicinity of the tabernacle. He marched over to where Hannah bowed beneath her burden of hopelessness, reprimanded her, and then shamed her drunken state.
Aghast at his rebuke, Hannah responded: “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:15, ESV). Eli then blessed her and sent her on her way with the inexplicable sense of peace and hope that Jehovah had heard her prayer. Assuredly He had; soon Hannah was able to reveal to Elkanah that she was with child, and not many months later, she presented Elkanah with a child that she had named Samuel, which means “God heard.”
If you understand what is taking place in our world today, you know what motivates the enemies of Israel, what unites anti-Semites across the globe, and even confuses the loyalties of some evangelical leaders—it is the single word Zionism.
ZIONISM is a belief in God’s promise of the land (Eretz Israel) to His Chosen People.
Numbers 34:1-2: “And the LORD spake unto Moses … this is the land that shall fall unto you for an inheritance, even the land of Canaan with the coasts thereof…”
Standard history records Theodor Herzl as the founder of Zionism, but that is not correct. Zionism was declared and decreed by God Almighty, El Shaddai, the God of Abraham.
Thus said the Lord God: …you, O mountains of Israel, shall yield your produce and bear your fruit for My people Israel, for their return is near. For I will care for you: I will turn to you, and you shall be tilled and sown. I will settle a large population on you, the whole House of Israel; the towns shall be resettled, and the ruined sites rebuilt. I will multiply men and beasts upon you, and they shall increase and be fertile, and I will resettle you as you were formerly, and will make you more prosperous than you were at first. And you shall know that I am the Lord. I will lead… My people Israel to you, and they shall possess you. You shall be their heritage, and you shall not again cause them to be bereaved. (Ezekiel 36:7-12).
Mount Zion is where Abraham offered up Isaac as God directed. The word Zion occurs over 150 times in the Bible. It essentially means “fortification” and has the idea of something that is “raised up” as a “monument.” Zion is described both as the city of David and the city of God. As the Bible progresses, the word Zion expands in scope and takes on an additional, spiritual meaning.
The word Zion is also used in a theological or spiritual sense in Scripture. In the Old Testament, Zion refers figuratively to Israel as the people of God (Isaiah 60:14). In the New Testament, Zion refers to God’s spiritual kingdom. We have not come to Mount Sinai, says the apostle, but “to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Hebrews 12:22). Peter, quoting Isaiah 28:16, refers to Christ as the Cornerstone of Zion: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame” (1 Peter 2:6).
Zionism is God’s prophetic plan for the future of our world.
The time has come for Christians everywhere to stand up and “Blow the trumpet in Zion, consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly” (Joel 2:15). There is a gap, a breach to be filled, and a price to be paid. Dedicated watchmen are needed on every wall. God’s Word is rife with examples of intercessors who prevailed against the Enemy, the prayer warriors of Hebrews 11 who subdued kingdoms, shut the mouths of lions, set armies to flight, raised the dead, and secured the promises of God—all through faith in God and prayer!
Daniel put his life on the line by praying three times a day despite the king’s order to abstain. Prayer is a priority we cannot and must not overlook. Israel’s, and indeed America’s, future hope lies in the hands of prayer warriors, those who will take up the banner and commit to prayer. Prayer is not the last resort; it is the first step in winning the battle against the evil that stalks this world today.
If Daniel prayed and mighty angels were sent to do battle against demon spirits, so can you and I. Since Daniel lived in the Babylonian Empire, it is quite possible that the prince of Persia he fought in the spirit realm was one of the same spirits at work today to bring death and destruction. Regardless of which spirits are now involved or how many there are, the clarion call goes out to God-fearing people everywhere to man the battle stations and fight the war in prayer.
Just as America has been forced to take the war on terrorism to the battlefields of the nations that sponsor it, we must take our fight to the battlefield in the spiritual realm to defeat the demons that sponsor it. We must take the battle to the Enemy and defeat them through prayer in the name of Jesus! Prayer is the only exploit that takes hold of eternity. It is the action that touches heaven and moves earth.
Prayer pierces the heart of God, turns the head of God, and moves the hand of God. It’s worth repeating again: for a Christian, prayer is not the last resort. Prayer must always be the first line of defense! Through prayer, we must do everything possible to overthrow kingdoms of darkness, shut the mouths of the lions of terror, and quench the flames of hell by the power of almighty God! How you and I respond to God’s call to pray will determine whether we succeed or fail. The people of God have been called to intercede for our world. Will you accept the call?
Prayer is as essential as air and water if we are to maintain a spiritual life of constant contact with God. If we don’t make that connection, no matter how sincere our intentions, we will not see a change in the circumstances of our life. We must pray! James 4:2 tells us: “You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.”
During a dark hour of Israel’s history, the Assyrians demanded heavy tribute from King Hezekiah. In response, Hezekiah stripped the Temple of its gold and silver in order to meet that demand. Still, that was not enough; the Assyrians mounted an attack against the city of Jerusalem. When King Hezekiah was informed in a letter from the king of Assyria that Israel would be destroyed if the demands were not met, he took the letter to the Temple.
There, in the presence of God, he spread the letter on the altar and prayed: “O Lord God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Incline Your ear, O Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God. . . . Now therefore, O Lord our God, I pray, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord God, You alone” (2 Kings 19:15–16, 19).
God answered the king’s prayer with an overwhelming victory! The Bible says the angel of the Lord killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night. In great gratitude for God’s mercy, Hezekiah cleansed, repaired, and reopened the Temple of God. Worship to Jehovah was restored, daily sacrifices were resumed, and the Passover Feast was again celebrated by the nation of Israel.
Years earlier, when King Solomon had prayed at the dedication of the Temple, God revealed himself and His plan to Solomon with great power: “Then the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said to him: “I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place.For now I have chosen and sanctified this house, that My name may be there forever; and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually” (2 Chronicles 7:12–16).
Isaiah encouraged the Israelites with: “Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am’” (Isaiah 58:9). God hears when we call on Him.
Why does an all-powerful God permit pain and injustice in our lives? Mankind has struggled with this tough question since time began. For those who have been victimized and traumatized, the question becomes far more than just a stimulating topic for discussion. Driven by a desperate search to find truth and meaning, we eventually resolve the question one way or another. For some of us, the search leads to trust and faith. Others, too angry or anguished in spirit to continue the search, walk away empty.
The Old Testament Book of Genesis contains a story that rivals any current bestseller or famous classic for its suspense and attention-gripping plot. It is the incredible story of Joseph, a young man who victoriously overcame one injustice after another, any one of which would be enough to embitter or break the average person. It is also the story of Joseph’s incredible God and how He turned Joseph’s pain into preparation for promotion.
For years Joseph was the target of his brothers’ vicious jealousy, hatred, and rejection. Their father, Jacob, had never disguised the fact that Joseph was the favorite of his twelve sons. Because of their father’s partiality, his ten older brothers hated Joseph so much that they couldn’t speak a kind word to him.
When Joseph was seventeen, his brothers’ malevolent feelings reached the boiling point. Genesis 37 records the ugly scene. Instead of killing Joseph as they had originally planned, they threw him into a well in the wilderness and then sold him to a band of traders whose caravan passed by. In Egypt, the traders sold Joseph to Potiphar, a high-ranking officer and chief executioner of the royal guard for Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Jacob’s favored son was now a slave.
Things went from bad to worse, and Joseph ended up in prison on false charges. Then one day everything changed. He went from the prison to the palace. Thirteen years of some of the longest, darkest trials imaginable had neither embittered nor broken Joseph. His life serves as a strong reminder that it is not suffering itself, but our reaction to the suffering, that makes or breaks us.
In the final analysis, it was a powerful, sovereign God, not Joseph’s brothers, who sent Joseph to Egypt. But the Bible puts the responsibility for all the agony Joseph endured exactly where it belongs—not upon God, but upon the people whose offenses against Joseph caused his unjust pain and suffering. The Bible also clearly reveals that God took the wicked injustices intended for Joseph’s destruction and reversed them, making the offenses work together for Joseph’s development and deliverance instead.
In the middle of your darkest trial, keep seeking development as did Joseph. He learned to forgive. He learned to resist sin and serve God in a pagan society. He learned to defeat bitterness, loneliness, and hopelessness and to persevere in faith and prayer. Like Joseph, you will discover that as you seek development, deliverance will come in God’s appointed time, and the pain you have endured will become a necessary step on your pathway to promotion.