As we drove north from our moshav (village) to Tiberius (Batya, Liat, Avi & me) in our little red Clio rental car, it began to rain – halleluyah! And then pour!! And then the rain was coming down so hard that I couldn’t even see the road!!! Everyone was driving slowly with their back blinkers on (except the meshugenas (crazies) who kept driving fast as usual.) We kept praying and asking for God’s supernatural protection over us and everyone on the road through this rain that we would somehow get through it safely - thanking God for the blessing of rain in northern Israel; and at the same time completely terrified by the flooding.
Somehow we made it through, dropped Avi off at the Aliyah Return Center and drove to our hotel – the Leonardo Tiberius. We registered and went to settle in before the first meeting. The room was so spacious we were in awe!
Ahh.. for a girls’ weekend away. So excited…. looking forward to what the Lord would do in our midst. I felt that the pouring rain held a prophetic significance – the Ruach Hakodesh (Holy Spirit) was about to be poured out upon us like a spiritual flood.
Our first meeting was held in an underground bomb shelter. Figures… only in Israel :) Over 150 women of all ages, locations, shapes, sizes, personalities and backgrounds crowded into this room to worship the God of Israel together in unity. One of the songs we sang was ‘Kadosh’ (holy – set apart) which was composed by one of the pioneer Messianic musicians in Israel – Elisheva Shomron. And here she was sitting in our midst! Completely humble, totally inconspicuous, as if it is nothing whatsoever that one of her songs is being sung in Messianic congregations all around the world! No, she sat there together with all of us women as one – knowing how desperately we all are in need of the refreshing and healing of the living God in our hearts.
Interesting that right next to us happened to be the hotel synagogue where the religious Jews were chanting their own prayers. While we were worshiping in the Spirit; they were praying in Da’at (knowledge) of Truth. These are the worshipers God desires – those who will worship Him in Spirit AND Truth. Oh – if only we could get these two blending together in perfect harmony and unity! What a power would be poured out!
Chaya Mizrachi got up to welcome us and introduce the conference. She lit the Sabbath candles. Her husband, Avi Mizrachi (Adonai Roi congregation, Dugit Messianic bookstore, Tel Aviv) got up to lead us in kabbalat Shabbat – the welcoming of the Sabbath with wine & challah. He spoke of this week’s parashah being ‘Shabbat Shira’ (Sabbath of songs) since Moses led Israel out of the Red Sea on dry land and Miriam danced and sang with tambourines, rejoicing over the great victory they had just received over the Egyptians. Avi prayed that new prophetic songs would be released through women in the Body of Messiah. Amen!
“Again I will build you so that you will be rebuilt, Virgin Israel. You will take up your tambourines again and go out in joyful dancing.” (Jeremiah 31:4)
Chaya then introduced our speaker for the evening – Norma Sarvis – a pioneer of the Messianic movement in Israel and a great ‘eshet chayil’ (Woman of Valor) (Proverbs 31). This word, ‘eshet chayil’, however, literally means ‘soldier woman’ in Hebrew. A ‘chayil’ is a soldier. God desires for us women to be strong and courageous for His Kingdom.
Norma has been a true soldier in the army of the Lord. She had a burden for the youth in Israel; so she started ‘Katzir’ youth camps (which my own kids went to as teens). She also had a burden for children and started children’s programming in Israel and now, having a burden for women, was instrumental in organizing this first Messianic Women’s conference in Israel.
Norma got up and spoke about ‘barren women’ and relayed her personal grief over being physically barren and unable to conceive or bear children. Just before coming to Israel, someone gave her an unusual ‘word’:
"Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who is married," says the LORD.” (Isaiah 54:1)
Norma considered this a strange word since she was not married at the time and could not bear children. However, since starting Katsir, Norma now has hundreds of spiritual children! Halleluyah!
Here are some notes from Norna’s message (with my interpretation and additions):
It is easy in Israel (and I would add perhaps everywhere else too) for women to feel barren – as if we have no fruit to show for our lives. And that even if we do have fruit – we can find no place for it in the Land. Where is our place to be fruitful??
And yet God wants to do amazing things in and through ‘barren women’. The women who proclaim the gospel are a great female army of chayalim (soldiers).
“The Lord gives the command; and the women who proclaim the good tidings are a great army:” (Psalm 68:11)
God birthed the nation of Israel out of barren women. He chose Sarai, a barren, dried up, old woman, and changed her name to Sarah, in order to birth the nation of Israel. Amazing! (In order to change her name to Sarah, God needed to add the Hebrew letter ‘hei’ ה , which is an actual abbreviation used for the name of God Himself. Sarai, together in union with God, became Sarah, fruitful, mother of a nation.) When we come into intimate union with the God of the Universe we will see miracles birthed through us.
“And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to conceive seed because she considered him faithful who had made the promise.” (Hebrews 11:11)
The Hebrew word for seed is ‘zerah’. Is it just a coincidence that the place where we dropped off Avi & would stay at (aliyah return centre) is in a place called Beit Zerah (House of Seed)? Hmm…
Norma spoke of her emotional pain upon discovering that she was barren. She thought God had made a mistake – as if an essential part of what it means to be a woman had been simply ‘missed’ when God created her. For so long she went around thinking, “There is something wrong with me. I am a mistake. God made a terrible mistake when He created me.” But eventually, God showed Norma that He wanted to change the way she thought about herself and so she repeated hundreds of times, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Many of us women have a poor self image. We see ourselves as somehow defective; but God wants to change our name - our very identity. Rachel in the Torah also struggled with fertility issues. “Rachel, realizing she was barren, became envious of her sister. “Give me children or I’ll die,” she exclaimed to Jacob.” (Genesis 31:1)
But once she bore Joseph, then her husband was free to return to his homeland. When we ‘get over our barren state'; then we also set our husbands and others free to fulfill their destiny as well. We will no longer be clinging to them out of our desperation or emptiness; but releasing them to their calling out of our fullness in the Lord.
How to get Free?
The theme of this conference is hope – how do we deal with our barrenness and be transformed into Women of Hope?
Worship: “Sing o barren woman…”
Speak the Word: “I am fearfully and wonderfully made…”
Give: Plant a seed (Zera) “You won’t have a garden unless you plant some seeds.”
After the meeting, we fairly gorged ourselves at a delicious buffet dinner at the hotel. Liat & I remembered, how, while living in Israel we would often be invited to meet tourists or friends at their hotels; but rarely were we invited to join them for dinner. When we saw these lavish buffets, our mouths would literally drool; and we so longed to feast ourselves at the table. Tonight our time had come! :)
The delicious buffet dinner at the Leonardo Hotel
After dinner, a bus took us from the hotel in Tiberius to a nearby church in Magdala where we enjoyed a time of beautiful worship and a very special experience. I thought it significant that, because of the flooding, no one was able to drive to this place in their individual cars. We had to come together in the bus. What does this mean in a prophetic sense?
In the days to come, when God pours out the fullness of His Spirit upon the earth – as light to Goshen and darkness to Egypt (blessings to His covenant Bride and judgment upon the unrepentant of the world) – we will no longer be able to exist as little isolated individual units. It will be a time of coming together in unity and community.
Ruach-Filled Community Life.
"Now the whole group of those who believed was one in heart and mind. No one would say anything he owned was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 With great power the emissaries were giving witness to the resurrection of the Lord Yeshua, and abundant favor was upon them all. 34 No one among them was needy, for all who were owners of lands or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds 35 and set them at the feet of the emissaries. And the proceeds were distributed according to the need each one had.” (Acts 4:32 – 36)
This is our hope and our vision. Come Adonai Yeshua. Cause us to bear much fruit for our Father’s glory.
Post conference personal notes:
We returned from the conference after a few more days in the Galilee feeling refreshed and renewed. I hope to share more about this conference and another life-changing message in another blog post.
I had thought that God was finished with this topic of barren women; but it seems He had more to share. I thought about my own sense of ‘barrenness’: my struggles with unresolved health issues that have left me with chronic pain, house-bound much of the time and walking only with great difficulty. This has not stopped me; but has considerably slowed me down from all the ‘fruit’ that I had hoped to bear for the Lord in ministry and service.
CHOSEN AND APPOINTED TO BEAR FRUIT
I think of Yeshua’s words that we are actually chosen & appointed to bear ‘much fruit’ for our Father’s glory.
“You did not choose me; I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures. And so the Father will give you whatever you ask of him in my name. “ (Jonn 15:16)
"My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” (Jonn 15:8)
I wonder – how can my Father be glorified by my disability? How may I be Yeshua’s disciple (femaie - talmidah) if I am no longer bearing much fruit for Him? At times, I have felt that I must be a dreadful disappointment to my Abba Father.
In 2 Samuel 1:4-7, we see a woman named Hannah who was barren but loved by her husband, Elkanah (which means God is jealous). Yes, God is jealous for our love and devotion and desires our faithfulness. He does not want us chasing after other ‘gods’ or ‘lovers’; but to return to Him – our first love. Hannah was desperate for a child. Elkanah’s other wife ridiculed her for her barrenness.
EARNING BROWNIE POINTS
Sometimes we feel we must ‘produce’ in order to prove our worth or value. Perhaps we come from a family background where we felt we had to ‘earn’ our father’s approval. We tried desperately to be ‘good enough’ for our fathers to love us. If our report cards showed all ‘A’’s and 1 B then it was ‘Why did you get a B in this subject? You must try harder."
So we try harder and harder…. But it is never good enough to win a smile or a hug. This may carry over into our relationship with our Heavenly Father where we feel we have to earn enough ‘brownie points’ in order for Him to be pleased with us. In our heads we know this is not true; but the heart of a wounded little child is not easily convinced – even when it resides in the body of a ‘grownup’.
In order to heal this wound, God may allow us to pass through a season of barrenness – until we truly understand the height and depth and breadth and width of His love for us in Messiah Yeshua – by grace and not through works.
Like a mother who loves her infant child, even though he or she cannot yet do one single thing for her; so does God, El Shaddai, love us with this fierce, maternal, unconditional love. "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! (Isaiah 49:15)
We can only produce that which is life-giving when we are not working ‘for’ God; but also ‘with Him’ – in and through His strength and Spirit and not in our own flesh. Yeshua said, ‘Apart from Me you can do nothing.”
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
BUILDING A TOWER OF BABEL
During our season of barrenness, we are forced to examine our motives. Why are we trying to build what we are trying to build? Is it so we will feel better about ourselves? So that we will receive honor, glory, acclaim and praise of men? To receive the love and attention that we feel is missing in our lives? Is it to make a name for ourselves? Ouch! This is what they attempted to do in the Tower of Babel – and it is why God had to bring confusion to destroy the whole thing. The very name Bavel means confusion. Whenever we are trying to build something with wrong motives in the flesh it will bring all kinds of frustration, strife and confusion.
“For where envy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every kind of evil. “ (James 3:16)
Do we compare ourselves to others? See that their ministries seem to be producing more fruit? Does this make us envious? We must be very careful. God has placed us in position and we are not to envy or covet the position of one we see as being in a higher or more prestigious position. This is what happened in the rebellion of Korah.
“Moses also said to Korah, “Listen now, sons of Levi! 9 Isn’t it enough that the God of Israel has set you apart from the community of Israel to bring you near to Him to do the work of the Tabernacle of Adonai and to stand before the community to minister to them? 10 So He brought you close, along with all your fellow sons of Levi. But you are seeking the priesthood, too! “ (Numbers 16:8-10)
Out of our woundings and insecurities, we may seek for a position where we may bear fruit that we are not even called to! But God knows this open door for the enemy in our hearts; and seeks to give us deeper revelation of the knowledge that our righteousness is based on the finished works of Yeshua and not our own righteousness which is like ‘filthy rags’ in comparison.
We cannot blame all of our trials and afflictions on ‘the devil’. It was God (and not the enemy) who closed Hannah’s womb. What, in our eyes, has caused us to become barren? Is it through a financial disaster? A relationship breakup or divorce? A devastating health crisis? Could it be the hand of God in allowing these trials in order to create in us a hunger or desperation to know Him in a deeper way?
DIVINE LOVE HOLDS THE KNIFE
Yeshua tell us that even a branch that is actually bearing fruit will be pruned – in order that it may bear even more fruit.
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the gardener. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He trims so that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:1-2)
The pruning process is often not a pretty one. I recall one day when the peace and quiet of our Judean Hills village was disturbed by the jarring sounds of a chain saw. They had come to ‘prune’ the trees which lined our street. When they had finished I was horrified! They looked terrible – chopped and shorn of all their beauty.
“How could they have done this terrible thing to our trees?!” I exclaimed. And yet, after a little while, these trees came back even more lush, green, and beautiful than before.
So too, when we are being pruned by the Master Gardener’s hand, do we look bare and barren for a time. We may think we didn’t look that bad before; and wonder, “WHAT could God have been thinking in doing this to me?! I’ll never be the same again.” It is true, we will never be the same after the pruning - we will be better, stronger, wiser, more compassionate and more beautiful in holiness and purity.
We must remember that it is Divine Love who holds the knife and even when the wound bleeds and causes us pain; it will be for our good in the end. After we have suffered for a little while, He will strengthen and establish us.
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Messiah, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you." (1 Peter 5:10) English Standard Version (ESV)
The only thing worse than being pruned is for God to just leave us to our own way and stop dealing with us at all. The only vine that the vinedresser does not prune is one that no longer has the capacity to produce any fruit. Therefore let us be glad and rejoice that the Lord, in pruning us, knows that there is still much good fruit to be produced in and through us. Halleluyah!
INTO THE WILDERNESS TO TEST US
Photo by Liat Nesher www.liatnesher.com
Years (or even decades) of barrenness can cause a desperation of the soul that no husband, no child, no material blessing can fill. It is a hunger for God Himself. No husband (no matter how wonderful) can become our source of life. No child (no matter how clever, beautiful or delightful) can become the source of life for us. This is something we need to find out- and it may only come through brokenness.
God may lead us into a dry, barren, wilderness season of life in order to humble us and test us – to see what is in our heart – if we will obey Him or not – just like the Israelites.
“You are to remember all the way that Adonai your God has led you these 40 years in the wilderness—in order to humble you, to test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His mitzvot (commandments) or not.” (Deuteronomy 8:2)
But God, in His mercy, does not just leave us to wander in the thirsty desert forever. If we will remain in faith and walk in humility and obedience He will bring us out into a ‘good land’ – a land flowing with milk and honey, and of abundance (shefa). He will cause rivers of living water to flow on barren places and turn the parched desert of our life into pools of life-giving water to refresh the dry, weary souls of others wilderness sojourners.
The Jordan River
“I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs.” (Isaiah 41:18)
Israel had to go through a tortuously long season of exile and banishment. For almost 2000 years the Jewish people wandered the foreign lands, weeping by the rivers of Babylon, enduring persecution and Antisemitism in the lands of their exile: pogroms, inquisitions, crusades, forced expulsions…. Ending in the worst expression of Antisemitism – the ‘shoah’ (destruction) of the Holocaust. All this God allowed before bringing to birth the nation of Israel which stands today as a ‘banner to the nations’ of God’s mercy.
We may also go through a long wilderness season – of trials, tribulations, pain, sorrows and temptations – even ending in our own personal holocaust – before God brings us back into our ‘Promised Land’.
When my eldest son passed away at the age of 36 after his own 'shoah' - a long, long, nightmare of illness, agony, pain and destruction, I experienced this terrible ‘holocaust’ of the soul. “Why God? Why didn’t You answer our prayers? Why didn’t You heal my son?” I don’t have the answers to these questions; and yet, here, in the Land of Israel, God is ministering His comfort to me.
God is giving me His assurance that – just as He birthed this beautiful nation of Israel out of the ashes of the Holocaust; so too will He bring beauty out of the ashes of my life.
Besorah (gospel) for the Brokenhearted
The Ruach of Adonai Elohim is on me, because Adonai has anointed me to proclaim Good News to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound, to proclaim the year of Adonai’s favor and the day of our God’s vengeance, to comfort all who mourn to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they might be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of Adonai, that He may be glorified. (Isaiah 61:1-4)
"You will be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, a royal diadem in the hand of your God." (Isaiah 62:3)
Barren women, like Hannah, cry out for more! But God answers our prayers when our cries of desperation are to give back to Him that which is the desire of our hearts.
“While her soul was bitter, she prayed to Adonai and wept. So she made a vow and said, “Adonai-Tzva’ot, if You will indeed look upon the affliction of Your handmaid, remember me and not forget Your handmaid, but grant Your handmaid a son, then I will give him to Adonai all the days of his life and no razor will ever touch his head.” (1 Samuel 1:10-11)
No longer do we hunger and cry out for something to fill the emptiness of our hearts; we ask for something that we can give back to God – that He may be glorified and not ourselves. The very crowns that God places upon our heads, we cast down before Him who is seated on the throne, worshiping him who lives forever and ever, saying:
“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for You created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.” (Rev. 4:10-11)
May we be women who sing and rejoice, even in our barren states, knowing we are not just a ‘wife’ (like Peninah); but a beloved Bride (like Hannah).
"Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband," says the LORD.” (Isaiah 54:1)
God is calling us back to Him, our first love. Whether we are married or not in this world; we may know that we are eternally betrothed – for Adonai our maker is our husband. And He, the Holy One of Israel, is faithful to His Bride.
“For your Maker is your husband —Adonai-Tzva’ot is His Name— the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer. He will be called God of all the earth. “For Adonai has called you back … (Isaiah 54:5-6)
And here is the most amazing thing – and with this I will close: not only does God desire to change our name – from azuvah and shmamah (forsaken and desolate) to heftzibah and Beulah (My delight is in her and married); but God also desires for us to change His name!
God no longer wants us to call Him Baali (my Lord, master-husband); but to call Him ‘Ishi’ – ‘my man’ – a term of intimate endearment from a bride to her beloved bridegroom.
“When that day comes," says the LORD, "you will call me 'ishi' instead of ‘baali.' (Hosea 2:16)
Even more than He desires to ‘use us’ to serve Him and bear much fruit; God wants us to ‘know Him and love Him ’ just as He knows and loves us. May we let go of our frantic, self-righteous, sell-pitying Martha ways; and be content with a time of simply sitting at Yeshua’s feet – listening to His voice and soaking in His love. Amen v’Amen.
"And as the man to be married finds joy in his bride, so your God will find joy in you." (Isaiah 62:5)