(“Back to Beit Lehem” | The Jordan Journey, part 7 | May 19, 2018, evening)
Passage of Jabok. Again this word that means “crossing over, passing” – ABR in Hebrew. “Jabok” means wrestling, and that adds a powerful meaning to what was about to take place. That region is a strategic site, as many Biblical stories took place there. The one I was fascinated with is Jacob’s wrestling with the Angel of the LORD.
Jacob arrives there while his identity and behavior are still much like the ones of a deceiver, who follows the heels of others (his brother, while still in the womb; his wives, when he planned to let them cross the passage before him, just in case…). But in that spot he wrestles with the Face of God, goes through a transformation and receives a new identity. No more a deceiver. Now he is someone who wrestled, yet prevailed. Thus the name “Israel” (Gen. 32:25-31. See also Hosea 12:3-5).
More than 400 years later, a few miles from there, his descendants were preparing to cross over again, this time as a young nation. The One Jacob wrestled with, they already started to reject. This Angel of God’s Faces is about to be hidden from the nation for centuries. That will lead to an ongoing national wrestling with God through a valley of tremendous sufferings, until we will embrace Him again for who He really is.
Our Own Wrestling as a Team
We arrived at the Jabok river late in the afternoon, which left us a short hour to do whatever the Lord wanted us to. It took us a while to find a suitable spot. As I reflect now on that evening, I realize we were wrestling ourselves. We could not find the right spot, or a stone to sit on; we were not sure how to pray, and battled to connect our hearts and spirits with His. When Rania asked Hermana if she gets anything in prayer, Hermana responded: “I’m struggling to connect.” She most likely expressed what all of us felt.
We looked at each other scattered,
a bit confused, clueless as to what we should do next
I sat down, held my head between my hands, and tried to figure out what part of Israel’s widowhood or Jordan’s destiny should be prayed over at this location. Jacob wrestled during the night, so all of us asked God to show His Faces to both nations, on both sides of the Jordan river, this time in daylight.
I prayed that our wrestling as a nation will end; and for the ability to look into the Face of the Beautiful Man from Nazareth (a phrase Rania loves to use when she refers to Yeshua); and that we will see in Him the Lover of our soul and not the biggest enemy of our nation. I prayed against the limping in our national walk: “Touch our feet, O Balm of Gilead, with your healing hands.”
“Something is burning in my heart,” Rania said. “It has to do with the dependence of Israel on the arm of the flesh. Our military, our wisdom – as if these will rescue us. The change for Jacob happened when he yielded to the Angel and stopped wrestling.”
It stirred up something within me, so I responded: “I ask you, God, to help me wrestle with you on behalf of our national strength, wits and manipulation. Forgive us, forgive me, for relying on my own understanding, for not trusting you with all our hearts, for leaning unto our own understanding, for not acknowledging you in all our ways and letting you direct our paths. For being wise in our own eyes and not fearing you (see prov. 3:5-7).”
From the very first day of my walk with the Lord, He has been pointing to this horrible habit I have – to rely on my own wisdom and ability. What seems like a great strength can easily become a terrible weakness. At the passage of Jabok I realized that this is one more junction, where my personal wrestling with God’s standards runs parallel to Israel’s ongoing battle. The world commends the Jews for our talents and wisdom. Indeed, these are God’s given gifts to us, but unless they are redeemed and submitted to His ways, we will continue to limp. So once more I was battling for both myself and my nation.
A Unique Form of Exile
Rania started declaring: “Exile is being away from your mother’s heart, being a widow without your sons. Even being without The Son – Jesus, who hid His face from the nation. The womb of Israel birthed the Messiah, but she [Israel] rejected the Son of her own womb.
“Come back, come back to your place, Israel, and receive your mother’s heart again. The Arab Ruths are calling and saying: ‘Stand up and embrace us again. We will be nursed on your bosom and receive comfort when you will take your place. There will be safety when you arise to your place.’ ”
No Longer Widow, Not Yet a Bride
The team continued to pray with me and over me. In my absent mindedness I was hit mostly by a couple of phrases they were repeating: “No more a widow, you are a mother, Mama Naomi”. I have been wrestling to see a white bride emerging out of the black clothes of widowhood, but at the shore of Jabok I finally got it: my nation is no more a widow, not yet a bride. We are a mother nation.
It all of a sudden dawned on me that I need to make a choice. Will I let go of our national identity as a broken and bitter widow, who needs Ruths to show her the path to the Redeemer, to lend us their spiritual wombs and provide for our needs? Or will we choose to be resurrected, and against all odds, at an old age, start birthing, enlarge our wombs and become a mother nation? Can you imagine how that would affect the rest of the world?
It sounded beautiful, spiritual, right. But embracing it was not simple. This was a wrestling point. For me personally, and I could tell it would be so for my nation as well, as I have been carrying this Naomi-Mara identity for a long time.
Will she cross over? Will I? Will she stop wrestling with Him and start co-operating? Will she fulfill her identity as a Hebrew, as the one who dares to cross?
I had to ponder over that. And as darkness started covering us around, I finally said “yes.”
Crossing back over in the dark
I chose to move across the river, into the promised land – emotionally, physically and spiritually. Not knowing what God was planning for us the next day, at Jabok I opened my heart to take on a new identity.
Starting our prayers with salt, bread and wine
“Mama Naomi,” Tian Jie declared, “release comfort, healing, acceptance, forgiveness to Jordan. This land is full of anger and rejection, and it needs comfort.”
Rania opened her Bible and started proclaiming Isaiah 54 over Israel, and over me: “Fear not, for you will not be ashamed…”