“ON EAGLES’ WINGS MINISTRIES”
“Did God create a man’s world?” Part 12—October 2010
“Three women who helped to shape the destiny of a nation and the world!”
This is likely to be the last in this series on the role of women in what is commonly called “a man’s world.” From the scriptures we made every effort to see what were God’s intent, design, and plan, for women in our world. I have personally benefited from the research that this endeavor required, and I have gotten some thankful letters from some of our readers who were edified and enlightened by this work. This study will cover our history in three different time frames; two of these time frames will feature one outstanding woman each, whose contribution had a tremendous effect upon the nation of Israel and upon the world at large. The first woman I am going to feature is Sarah, but not from the perspective of her duel and family feud with Hagar and her son both of whom were cast out of the family home and made to wander in the desert.
Allow me to share an experience with you before I proceed any further in our study. Sometime around 1967-68 in the City of Baltimore, Maryland, the presiding bishop of the Organization that I later joined, that finally sponsored my family and I into the United States, was preaching from the Lord’s message in his letter to the Church at Ephesus, that they had left their first love, and that they needed to repent and do their first work over. I am told that as the sermon built up momentum, folks began walking to the side of the baptismal pool to be baptized again. Ministers joined the line and at that point the Lord spoke to the bishop’s heart, saying, “These are your people and they are stepping forward to do their first works over, how can you lead them if you stand on the sidelines?” He stepped in the line and got baptized also. At this particular juncture there was no name for this unusual movement of the Spirit, but it did spread to all the other affiliated churches in the United States, Canada, England, and Jamaica. Finally the move was called “Endtime Revival” and young people from Howard University in Washington DC and from Morgan State University (at that time it was still a college) were swept into the Church in large numbers with a burning fire that seemingly set cities aflame.
About the same time period, (1967 to 1968) in London, England, I began to be impressed with Sarah who gave birth in her old age, and produced a son in whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed. I did not have a name for what I felt in my spirit so I simply spoke of what I saw and felt in my spirit. In December 1968 in Kingston, Jamaica, for the first time I met Bishop Monroe Saunders, Sr. presiding bishop of the “United Churches of Jesus Christ, Apostolic” headquartered in the City of Baltimore, Maryland, and immediately we felt a connection and a union in the Spirit. He invited me to the United States early the next year, and since what I felt did not have a name, when I arrived in Baltimore and began ministering in the local Assembly, I simply adopted the term “Endtime Revival.” To put it in a nutshell, I would have to borrow the phrase, “the rest is history.” This particular revival swept over lives and saturated hearts up and down the Eastern Seaboard, from Miami and Fort Lauderdale, through Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and into Boston. The unique aspect of this revival is that it seemed to have symbolized Sarah after her rejuvenation enough to enable her to bring forth Isaac in spite of her old age. Likewise, even though the Church was now old and seemingly had become too weak to produce children in the family of God, like Sarah, this “Endtime Revival” brought back sparks of life not simply to the outer limbs of the body, but to the reproductive organs that resulted in a massive harvest of young people who came into the body of Christ, seemingly on fire for God with an immense infusion of zeal and vision. The hearts of young people in many cities were set on fire that fanned the flames of revival here in the United States, Canada, England and Jamaica. “The Voice of Holiness” broadcast on Sunday nights in Jamaica had folks transfixed around their radios as the presiding bishop heralded the message of hour from the head quarters church in Baltimore, Maryland.
Our three subjects for this study are Sarah, Hannah, and Mary. Sarah occupied the year 1911 B.C. and Hannah arrived on the scene about 1171 B.C. putting 740 years between both women. From Hannah to Mary covers from 1171 B.C. to the birth of Christ. The core issue that we will attempt to analyze is the age of these fine ladies, and what they accomplished in spite of it. When we examine more closely the biblical account that catalogued the life of Sarah and Abraham, we should be left in awe, totally flabbergasted by the acts of God on their behalf. It reflects how far God will go and what he will do in order to perform his predestinated will among men, irrespective of our idiosyncrasies, our inherent nature to be stubborn, rebellious, and even vile.
The part of the Abraham/Sarah miracle that always seemed to be overlooked is the change that Abraham went through along with that of his wife. God dealt with Mary, but he had a work to do with Joseph also! We are told in scripture: “Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.” Genesis 18:11. It was not possible for her to conceive a child because her monthly cycles had ceased. This is the verse that got a hold of me in London in 1968! I saw the Church as an old lady that was past the age of child bearing; meaning that souls were not being born in the Church anymore; people were simply “joining Church.” So in the bigger picture, when we baptized people who were not dead (dead to sin and alive unto righteousness) and they rise as it were from the dead as Paul said to the Romans to walk in newness of life, what we had instead were “mummies.” Their walk became one of obstruction and as uncanny as they come! The story of Sarah and Abraham has been told over and over again, but another visit and closer scrutiny is likely to unearth even more truths that we can masticate and finally digest.
I find the following narrative to the Romans must profound and effective in bringing us directly into the center of this real life drama that enveloped the lives of two ordinary people. “As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations, before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb; He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promise, he was also able to perform.” Romans 4:17-21. Paul’s message to the Romans was well spoken and the eloquence he applied was compelling to say the least. But if we were to go back to olden times when Abraham entertained three men who were on their way to Sodom, we would stand by as innocent spectators and hear the Lord say, “I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son.” Genesis 18:10. Notice that the Lord did not introduce the Holy Spirit as the chief agent who will over shadow Sarah to trigger conception in her, and more over, the Lord did not announce; “Therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be the Son of God” or in this case, “A very special child, called to fulfill the purposes of God.” So by all the evidences we can muster, Isaac was to be fathered by Abraham, and Sarah had to once again become physically able to conceive and to nurture the embryo for nine months, that would result in a normal birth.
We will be well within the bounds of safety to conclude that within the space of a year something unique transpired; they both experienced a complete metamorphosis in a most miraculous way. The scripture does not chronicle details of this unspeakable event, but as we read forward and backward through this story we eventually discover exactly what happened. Listen to this account! “And Abraham journeyed from thence (from the plains of Mamre) toward the south country, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar. And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah.” Genesis 20:1,2. What can we learn from this account? In Mamre, Sarah was old and well stricken in age and when Isaac was born, Abraham was a hundred years old. But now they are gone south to Gerar and king Abimelech although surrounded by wives and concubines looked from his palace window and saw a spritely and amazingly beautiful woman approaching and was so enthralled by what he saw that he sent and took her for wife. In Abraham’s account to the king when called upon to explain his trickery, he said: “Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife’s sake.” Verse11. Seemingly, this statement by Abraham alluded to a fact that was too compelling for him to ignore for his own well being. Why was he so afraid that men would kill him and snatch his wife? She was not old and stricken in age anymore!
Are we to suppose that it was the same old lady, well stricken in age that stirred up such immense desire in the king so that he did not hesitate to lay hold Sarah? And another case to consider is this! If Abraham still appeared as an old man of a hundred years, could he have hoped to pass off his wife as his sister? What reasonable conclusion can we draw from our survey of the facts? In order for both Abraham and Sarah to have produced Isaac, they both went through an immense physical change, and it was a changed that did not fade away after the mission was complete. As if with a single wave of his hand, God renewed the body of Sarah and miraculously restored her ability to bear children, and her husband had to be brought into the equation in order to complete the process. Can you picture yourself like a television news reporter covering this couple from a life of strife and struggles in the plains of Mamre to their entry into the southern town of Gerar? Can you imagine your reactions to miracle after miracle occurring right under your nose? The Lord said it well when Sarah laughed; he asked: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” It goes without saying that God can do these things and more to us, through us, and for us in this our day if he so chooses, only if such acts are contained with the context of his will and purpose. We must always remember that God did none of those things outside of what he had determined for himself after his good pleasure, to the intent that his name should be glorified in the earth among all people. Sarah’s rebirth exemplified God’s desire to bring this same process to our very doorsteps to quicken our hearts. Sarah brought Isaac into the world, and God himself testified; Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.” Genesis 17:19. Isaac the offspring of Sarah and Abraham impacted the nation of Israel, changed their destiny and pointed to the coming of the Messiah, himself being a type of Christ. But Sarah did not impact just the nation of Israel because God testified saying; “I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.” Genesis 17:16.
We should not ignore the fact that Sarah was destined to be the mother of nations, not only Jews in Palestine, Russia, Romania, or South America. Her boundaries went far beyond a single race of people, or a single king over a single sovereign country. The term “kings of people” offers no single definition nor does it set specific boundaries. Far too many preachers over the airwaves are tying specific glory and favor to a single race called the Jews, while completely ignoring the inclusiveness of God’s purpose when he conferred blessings upon Abraham and Sarah. God spoke to Abram (before his name was changed) on this wise: "As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations (not Jews only). Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be called Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings (how many kings are there in Israel today?) shall come out of thee." Genesis 17:4-6. As I read this, do you know what impresses me most? Here, God comes along and strikes up a conversation with a man called Abram. The man asks nothing of God; did not lay out his desires and goals in life and suggests that perhaps God may want to take a look and see if there was anything he would like to contribute to ensure his success. God starts off by saying; “as for me—I will!” He could swear by none greater, so he swore by himself, saying, “As I live saith the Lord!”
No pressure was applied to God; no long prayers were made to him. Seemingly, it looks as if God came by in a very good mood and wanted to spread some sunshine around and Abram was in the right place at the right time. What gets to me in this scenario is that God offered blessings based upon his own condition—but as for me was his condition—and nothing was asked of Abram in order to make these promises viable. In other words, God could have said, Abram, in spite of you I am going to do this because it is my good pleasure. What a mighty God we serve? I am not looking for excuses! I am simply telling it like it is! It has been many years now that I learned (the hard way) that God will do his good will and pleasure without my help, and in spite of me. In scripture, while Hagar typified the old covenant and Mount Sinai that answers to bondage, Sarah typifies the Heavenly Jerusalem, the mother of us all, the children of freedom and immeasurable grace that continues to flow to all of mankind from the very heart of God. Thus we see that the impact Sarah has upon the human race abounds far beyond the nation of Israel; it reaches well into the Body of Christ and continues to offer freedom from all forms of bondage. Her story is not one of those that begins like this; “Once upon a time, in a far country, there lived an old woman, etc. etc.” Her story remains current because all that God invested in her is like an investment that is brought the floor of the Stock Exchange every trading day. I know that God has invested his all in you and in me! Do you believe that, or do you know that? Sometimes when I get to a point
where there seem to be no way out, or times when I see how I let myself down and have thoughts that I also let God down, I begin to think how God trusted himself to invest in me, and in order to guard his investment and to make sure it shows a profit, he came to live inside his investment. That is when the song burst in my mind: “What a mighty God we serve.” Abraham by simple (but strong unwavering faith) became the father of nations and is now being called the “father of us all” who are children of faith. Some who claimed to be his children were told by Christ, “ye are of your father the devil” but if we be Christ’s, then we are Abraham’s seed and heirs to the promise. Their legacy lives on and on for us to appropriate unto ourselves. We take our leave of Sarah and move on to a lady of whom we hear very little from our pulpits, from our televangelists, from religious books and camp meetings. We will visit a town called Ramathaim Zophim of mount Ephraim and the family of Elkanah who had two wives two wives, Peninnah and Hannah. Elkanah was a Levite who belonged to one of the most honorable families of the priestly portion of Jacob’s progeny, the Kohathites. In those days it was common for one to do whatever seems right in one’s own sight, so this man saw no conflict in following the common practice of having two or more wives. The name Hannah sits against the backdrop that means that which is “gracious” or “graciousness” or “favor”.
We are told that her husband went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto the Lord of hosts in Shiloh, and when the time was that Elkanah offered, he gave to Prninnah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions. But unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah: but the Lord had shut up her womb. As if being barren was not enough of a burden to bear, the other wife mocked her and made her life miserable, as was the case between Sarah and Hagar in Abraham’s household. Under duress, Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and at the temple began to plead her case to the Lord. Old Eli, the priest, represented a ministry that had passed its years of usefulness, and to show its demise, the light burned dimly in the temple. “And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore. And she vowed (a bargain with God?) a vowed, and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a “man child” then will I give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.”1st Samuel 1:10,11.
To show how out of touch the priest, old Eli was, he saw this woman grieving and pouring out her soul to God moving only her lips—no wailing and groaning for she spoke in her heart; but the priest got on her case and accused her of being drunk. He asked; “How long wilt thou be drunken? Put away thy wine from thee.” See how far in left field the ministry in the temple had gone? What we don’t want to miss in this story is that Hannah prayed for a “man child.” Perhaps that was the way they spoke back then, but from where we are sitting it carries a greater meaning. It reminds us of Jesus saying; “A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.” John 16:21. (This signifies a “man-child” company!)
We cannot be sure of Hannah’s age at this particular time, and we don’t know what number wife she was among the two. But at this point in time, Peninnah had born Elkanah sons and daughters. I find a pattern of end time truths woven into the fabric of the stories of our three ladies in this study. Sarah was old and past the years of childbearing when she produced Isaac who was a type of Christ. We can safely assume that Hannah was perhaps in late “middle age” and here she is praying for a “man child.” She was about to bring forth a son who was unique from all the other children of her husband. This son would be committed to a special ministry; one that would crown kings and remove them, operating as God’s own agent. Her son became a prophet and judge over Israel and brought God’s will to the forefront in the consciousness of a people who backslid and rebelled often. At a time when the light burned dimly in the temple indicating that the current ministry had entered its twilight and its sun was already gone over the horizon, a little lad stepped on to the scene and said, “speak Lord, thy servant heareth.” God had a listening ear once more and his first message via this little lad was to move a dying administration out of the way. When Samuel was pressed by the old man Eli to tell him all that God had said to him, the old priest knew that he had heard it before and yet he did nothing about it. “And he (Eli) said, It is the Lord: let him do what seemeth him good.” 1 Samuel 3:18. Suppose you ask your spouse, “Honey, what would you like for dinner and he/she replied; I don’t care, do whatever seems good to you” wouldn’t you feel like saying, “If that is your attitude, you can very well have dinner at McDonald’s.?” Eli knew what his sons were up but did nothing to correct them, and now that God had laid the ax to the root of the tree, he still found no place to repent and humble himself. But it was just as well, for that which was sick and ready to die was moved out of the way. Hannah kept her word to God and every year she went up to Shiloh to see her son bearing a coat that seems to suggest that the lad showed a healthy growth. She, through her son had a great impact upon the nation of Israel for he ruled as God’s main mouth piece before kings in war and peace, in times of true worship and in times of national sin and departure from God. We now turn the spotlight upon Mary, our third subject of discussion and scrutiny. What new thing can we add to her story? What can we say at this juncture that has not been said about her? We could simply read Gabriel’s message to her, include her response and end our study and we would have said it all. She was announced as being highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.” In a nutshell, this salutation seems to immediately set her not apart from all women, but at the top of the list of those favoured of the Lord. When she enquired as to how she is supposed to have a child when she has not known a man, the angel explained how the process will work. “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee.” Luke 1:35. Simple enough for us from our vantage point at the hinder part of history. But did Mary know anything about the Holy Ghost? She could have said to Gabriel, “Just a minute, Sir, but what do you mean “the Holy Ghost”? I have never heard such a term!
Since the story and all its challenges is now history, it is easy to heap praises upon Mary and even worship her as the Catholic Church invented and initiated. But suppose we step back in time for a moment and stand right by Mary’s side? Let us take the story apart and look at the ramifications it held for Mary. Yes, she replied in a strong and positive way” “Be it unto me according to thy word!” But let us consider the consequences because of all that was at stake for Mary, who was looking forward to be married to Joseph, perhaps in the near future, perhaps raising a lovely family in Nazareth. In her time, in her town, and her society, it was a sin worthy of death to be caught in fornication, and her having a baby out of wedlock would be seen as fornication punishable by death. Here is short list of possibilities! She could be driven out of town, if not stoned to death; she would be scarred for the rest of her life; she could have lost her home, her character, and the man she loved and planned to marry. The bible does not offer any clue as to whether Mary gave any of these possibilities any thought, because in the presence of Gabriel, she gave her answer right away, and the angel left. Possibly it all happened so fast she had not taken time to reason and put the pros and the cons together, and later on she sat down and wondered if she did the right thing. Since the bible offers no clue on such assumptions we are not at liberty to interject these “what ifs” and “maybes.” I think that Mary responded on the spot in what we call “a snap decision” in so much that repercussions and side effects never entered her mind. As we say; “It all happened so fast!”
What I find most compelling about Mary’s response although I am sure Gabriel’s explanation of how she would conceive must have slid by like water off a duck’s back, she possessed enough fortitude to say; “Be it unto me according to thy word.” There are odd moments in life when one makes a snap decision of such magnitude and it proved to be the correct one. Some people have lost fortunes and have come to ruin because of a single snap or “spur of the moment” decision, but Mary did not take time to ponder and reason and calculate. It reminds me of the old lady of Zarephath who was told by Elijah; “But make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son.” 1 Kings 17:13. It seems to me that most of those who took God to task and successfully proved his miraculous powers, were people who jumped on what God said. Abraham believed and it became his righteousness. Hannah had a period of time to watch God work out his purpose in her life, but Mary had the greatest challenge in my opinion because of impending threats to her natural life, based on the time, culture, and religious laws that governed in those days “Be it unto me according to thy word” was not a play on words or “small talk” for Mary. But she opened up to God’s will and produced a man in whom all other men have their destiny enshrined. By yielding to the Holy Spirit, she brought God down to earth, that in the end, man will be elevated to sit and reign with him in the throne of his glory. As Paul puts it in proper perspective; “For he hath made him to be sin for us (or in our place) who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” 2nd Corinthians 5:21. At Calvary he traded place with us where he took our old tattered garments and gave us robes of pure white, and logged our names in heaven’s archives.
Royce O. Kennedy