By Eitan Shishkoff
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
One Woman Rescued a Nation
In that same spirit of self-sacrifice, the courageous intercession of one
woman rescued the Jewish nation. It's ironic that Purim is
celebrated as a light-hearted party, while at the core of the story is one
woman willing to give up her life to save her people from certain
death. I offer no criticism of our gaiety in commemorating victory over
genocide in ancient Persia. It should not escape our notice, however, that
certain descendants of those same Persians (today known as Iran) still want
to erase Israel from the map. Could it be that Esther's intercessory
response contains a clue for a modern day rescue?
Queen Esther by Edwin Long (1878)
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
Moses said, "forgive their sin - but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your
book which You have written" (Exodus 32:32).
Tomb of Esther and Modechai
Hamadan - Western Iran
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)