by Eitan Shiskoff, Executive Director, Tents of Mercy Network
The Battle of Dunkirk was fought between the German army and the Allies on the French coast from May 26 to June 4, 1940. The German troops outnumbered the Allies by 800,000 to 400,000.The combined French and British forces were caught from both sides and pinned to the Dunkirk seaport. For some mysterious reason that historians still debate, Hitler and his high command did not immediately "finish off" the Allied armies in their helpless condition. On May 29 a dangerous, massive sea evacuation began under low cloud cover - conducted by ships of all sizes, many of them small private vessels. More than 338,000 men were rescued from certain slaughter.
Throughout the Battle of Dunkirk, Rees Howells and his Bible College of Wales were engaged in focused, unrelenting prayer. Regarding Dunkirk, Howells wrote in his prayer journal: "From a worldly standpoint there is no hope of victory (survival)."
Norman Grubbs, author of Rees Howells: Intercessor, recalls the "... terror of those days ... the miracle of Dunkirk, acknowledged by various leaders to be an intervention from God - the calm sea allowing the smallest boats to cross ... how thankful we are that God had this company of hidden intercessors whose lives were on the altar day after day as they stood in the gap for the deliverance of Britain."
Was it coincidence that on the very days the Allied troops had their backs to the sea, waves of intercession were going up from Howells and his dedicated students? The irrational pull back of German forces and massive provision of sea craft came to be known in British history as "The Miracle of Dunkirk". Of what are miracles made?
Intercession played an undeniable role in the outcome of Dunkirk. How does intercession influence events? Just what does this now commonplace word mean? For Rees Howells, intercession meant "... identification, agony, and authority." The Englishman's tearful passion in prayer, both for individuals and for nations, reflected Yeshua's intimate identification with us. The Messiah was "numbered with the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:12). He tasted death for everyone (Hebrews 2:9). The Intercessor's authority in interceding for all mankind was gained by humbling Himself and becoming obedient unto death (Philippians 2:7-11).
One Woman Rescued a Nation
Clearly, the key moment was Esther's appearance before the King. Of what did her intercession consist? She literally positioned herself between the King - who had unknowingly authorized the wholesale destruction of his queen's people - and the potential victims of destruction. That is what intercession is. Derived from the Latin, the word means to "go between". At the risk of her life ("If I perish, I perish"), she appeared in Ahashuerus's court to plead for deliverance. She was not obligated to reveal her identity. Her own life was secure, guaranteed. But, challenged by Mordechai to respond with her conscience, Esther fasted three days, emptying herself of human strength. She allowed herself to be burdened by the plight of the Jews across the huge empire, and stood as their representative. Esther subjected herself to potential execution and exposed her own true identity. The King granted her entrance to his court and released the Jews from death.
Will I Intercede?
I have a confession to make. I don't always want to pray for the people of Israel - my country, my neighbors. I don't always like them. Some Israeli cultural and behavioral traits even turn me off. But that's not the issue: It's not about whether I like my people or approve of what they do. It's about God's eternal covenant. It's about His sure promises. It's about the salvation that Yeshua purchased. And it's about the necessity of end-time, impassioned intercession that will bring the Kingdom of God to all the earth.
Paul declared his willingness to be "accursed from Messiah for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh" (Romans 9:3).
To arrive at anything close to the intercessory passion and commitment of Esther, Moses, or Paul we must lose ourselves. My personal likes and dislikes are not significant. In fact they tend to get in the way. The question is: Am I willing to lose my life for the salvation of my people? It is this heart alone that generates travailing, prevailing, history-changing prayer. It will cost a lot, but the outcome will be of unequalled worth. May we learn to enter in, to stand between the destruction of our people, and the King who alone can stop it. He is waiting for us to take our place.
"Blow a shofar in Zion, consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly; gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders ... Let the priests who minister to the Lord [with the burden of Israel's iniquity on their hearts--Exodus 28:29,30], weep between the porch and the altar; Let them say 'Spare your people, O LORD ...' Then the LORD will be zealous for His land, and pity His people." (Joel 2:15-17)
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