Mourning at Megiddo
In ancient times, the death of a Jewish leader brought on intense national mourning. Jeremiah describes it, “Focus in and call for the professional mourning women, that they may arrive. And send out for the skilled wailing women, that they may come … Yet listen, O women, to the word of YHVH, and let your ears grasp the utterance of His mouth. And instruct your daughter how to wail, and let a woman teach her neighbor how to lament. For death has ascended and entered our windows, and has come into our palaces…” (Jeremiah 9:17, 20-21).
Another famous example of ancient Jewish mourning over the death of a beloved national leader is when King Saul and his son Jonathan died at the Battle of the Slopes of Gilboa. David penned a heart-rending lament and commanded that the people of Judah be taught this “Lament of the Bow.” The mourning song closes with the well-known words “How the mighty warriors have fallen” (2 Samuel 1:17-27).
Josiah, the Boy King, was the grandson of Judah’s most evil King Manasseh. Crowned over the House of David at the tender age of eight, “he did the right thing in the eyes of YHVH, and walked in the ways of his father David; He didn’t turn away to the right or to the left” (2 Chronicles 34:1-2). He purged Jerusalem of gross idolatry and brought in a major spiritual revival through celebrating a restored national Passover: “There has never been a Passover celebrated like this in Israel from the days of Samuel the prophet. And even all the Kings of Israel never celebrated a Passover like that…” (2 Chronicles 35:18).
Yet thirteen years after this revival, King Josiah was tragically killed at the Battle of the Valley of Megiddo. He had refused to believe that YHVH had spoken to Pharaoh Neco, and that the God of Israel had directly commanded this Egyptian king to fight the Assyrians at Carchemish. Josiah was mortally wounded by an Egyptian arrow, taken by military chariot to Jerusalem, and expired in the City of David.
“And all Judah and Jerusalem mourned over Josiah. And Jeremiah gave a public lament over Josiah. And even unto this day all the singing men and singing women recount Josiah in their lamentations. And they established it as a tradition for Israel and indeed, they are written in the Book of Laments” (2 Chronicles 35:25).
- Josiah’s death was unnecessary. Had he been more in tune with what God wanted to do at that season, he would have lived far beyond his thirty-nine years.
- Jeremiah lamented the death of a godly king who nevertheless made a mortal mistake after years of amazing ministry and rule.
Mourning for David’s Greater Son
In the Book of Zechariah, there is an ancient prophecy describing how the nation of Israel will come to the heart-rending realization that they have spurned their own Messiah: “And I will pour out on the Dynasty of David and on those dwelling in Jerusalem, the spirit of favor and supplications. And the will gaze steadfastly on Me, the One they thrust through, and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and grieve bitterly for Him as one grieves bitterly for a firstborn. In that day the mourning in Jerusalem will greatly increase, as the mourning that occurred at Hadad Rimmon in the Valley of Megiddo” (Zechariah 12:10-11).
Josiah was a beloved and brave king, and the people’s grief over his untimely death was unfeigned. The intensity of the Jewish people’s mourning over the death of their beloved leader at Megiddo is used prophetically as a type of how all Israel will mourn when we receive a revelation of who Yeshua is, and what our part was in the national rejection of His Messiahship.
Hezekiah’s last stand
Josiah’s grandfather was King Hezekiah, another son of David mightily used in revival, battle and worship. Hezekiah cleansed the land of the evil unleashed by his own father Ahaz, and re-established the equivalent of night-and-day worship in Jerusalem’s Temple (2 Chronicles 29:25-30). “He did the right thing in the eyes of YHVH, just like all that his own father David had done” (verse 2). “So Hezekiah did these things throughout Judah and did the good, the right and the true thing before YHVH his God. Concerning the work of building the House of God, and in regards to the Teaching (of Moses) and the commandments, every work that he began – to seek his God – with all his heart he worked and he prospered” (2 Chronicles 31:20-21).
Yet the Lord was peering into the recesses of Hezekiah’s heart. God humbled him for his pride and lack of a thankful heart – regarding both military deliverance and physical healing (2 Chronicles 32:24-26). When Hezekiah did repent, however, YHVH healed him and added fifteen years to his life (Isaiah 38:1-6).
Those latter years of Hezekiah proved to be a gift which turned into a trap for the nation of Israel. Isaiah 39 tells us that Hezekiah’s pride tempted him into boasting to Babylonian envoys about his wealth, power and military ability. To whom much is given, much is required. God expected much from Hezekiah son of David, and judged him much more strongly due to his position, power and privilege (Deuteronomy 17:16-17).
God sent Isaiah to Hezekiah with a prophetic message of judgment and exile for David’s dynasty and David’s people. “Hear the word of YHVH of armies: Behold the days are coming when all that is in your House, and all that your forefathers have amassed up to this very day, shall be carried away to Babylon. Nothing will be left behind, says YHVH. And from among your sons who have will come out of you and be born to you, they will take them away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of Babylon’s king” (Isaiah 39:5-7).
- Hezekiah’s great victories for the Jewish people and his spearheading of spiritual revival for Judah in the earlier part of his life were negatively offset by his fateful flattery of an ancient superpower at the end of his life. His role in triggering the process of judgment and Exile lasted for millennia – much longer than the glory and riches of his historical kingdom, and it has been enscripturated in the Bible for our instruction and warning (1 Corinthians 10:11).
The heart of a king
There was a divine oversight in this whole process. “And so, regarding the ambassadors from Babylon’s princes, who they sent to (Hezekiah) to investigate the amazing things which were in the land, God departed from him, in order to test him, so that He would know all that was in his heart” (2 Chronicles 32:31). The God of Israel was looking for a holiness and purity in Hezekiah’s heart, a dependence on YHVH and a heart of humble thankfulness for God’s deliverances. Instead, He found a leader trusting in his own strength, abilities and resources.
Hezekiah’s response to this sizzling prophetic word was surprising: “So Hezekiah said to Isaiah, ‘The word of YHVH which you uttered is good,’ he said, ‘for there will be peace and security in my days’” (Isaiah 39:8).
It is somewhat chilling to see this aspect of Hezekiah’s heart revealed. National judgment had just been prophesied over his kingdom, his people, his land and his own children. Yet his first response was that ‘all is cool’ – because Hezekiah himself would not live to see any of it. Evidently this reveals that something was lacking in Hezekiah’s response; he was shut down, detached and self focused. His vision was short-term. “Après moi, le déluge” – “After me comes the Flood,” as was said in the days of Louis XV of France.
A Lion has fallen
Ariel Sharon, Israel’s eleventh Prime Minister, passed away on Shabbat January 11, 2014 at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv. He had been in a vegetative state for just over eight years, having been felled by two successive strokes during the Hanukkah season in December 2005.
Sharon lived through some of the most momentous events preceding the birth of the State of Israel. He was wounded in battle during the War of Independence. He later became the leader and groundbreaker for Israel’s original special operations forces teams. He was a brilliant commander and general, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. His bold and aggressive military strategies are studied to this day in war colleges around the world.
Sharon was uncompromising in his battle against anti-Israel terror, whether in the 1950’s with his legendary Unit 101, in 1970 in the Gaza Strip with Sayeret Shaked, in his prosecution of the Lebanese War against the PLO in 1982, and in Operation Defensive Shield (March-April 2002) in response to jihadi Islamist terror attacks on Israeli citizens. His construction of an anti-terrorist fence drastically reduced Israeli civilian casualties. It was Sharon who chased Arafat out of his terrorist rat’s nest in Beirut in 1982 and then cornered him in Ramallah’s Muqata’ah in 2002.
Sharon was known as “the bulldozer”, because his aggressive focus and terrier-like demeanor guaranteed that he would not cease and desist until his goals were accomplished. Sharon was one of the outstanding shepherds of the mighty prophetic aliyah of Jews from the former USSR (see Jeremiah 16:14-15) in the late 1980’s and 1990’s. He was the catalyst for the movement to repopulate the hills of Judea and Samaria with reborn Jewish settlements (see also Jeremiah 31:1-5) as well as its most influential advocate. In 2005 Sharon was voted in as the eighth greatest Israeli of all time in a Ynet poll.
Four events cast a measure of somber shadow on Sharon’s life, reputation and achievements.
His occasional refusal to follow army orders when he felt that he had a better grasp of military facts on the ground.
His allowing Lebanese Christian Phalange forces into Palestinian refugee camps a few days after Syrian and Palestinian forces assassinated the Christian Maronite President-Elect Bachir Gemayal. Phalangists massacred hundreds of Palestinians – both civilians and terrorists – in a typical Middle Eastern cycle of revenge. Though Sharon was blamed for instigating this massacre, in a libel trial against Time magazine he was cleared of direct involvement or awareness of events. In the Arab world, however, Sharon is still typecast as the “butcher of Beirut.”
His connection to three serious allegations of corruption and bribery during his time in office as Prime Minister, none of which was ever unequivocally proven.
His 2005 Disengagement – the unilateral removal of all Jewish farms, towns and kibbutzim from the Gaza Strip along with a full military withdrawal from that area.
This last point – the Disengagement from Gaza and from four Jewish settlements in northern Samaria – requires some greater elucidation.
Sharon had been the primary political advocate of Jewish resettlement in Judea and Samaria, the area where the twelve Jewish tribes lived in Bible days (known today outside of Israel as the West Bank). His political declarations during the election campaign prior to the Disengagement were bold and clear – he would never withdraw from Gaza or the West Bank. His electorate could rest assured that the Gazan Jewish town of Netzarim was as safe and secure as was Tel Aviv – never to be abandoned.
Yet Sharon’s last major act as Prime Minister was to push through with the Disengagement. His long-term supporters were shocked and pained, and felt betrayed. His own Likud political party overruled Sharon, so he promptly abandoned the party he had helped found and started another party (Kadima) which today only has two seats. What caused Sharon to make such an unusual about-face, to abandon his decades-long political supporters, and to turn his back on farms and towns that he had helped plant?
Israeli political commentators opine that much of the sudden change was due both to American and European political pressure, and to a realization that Israel’s leftist politicos and media would be willing to cast a blind eye at Sharon’s corruption charges in exchange for a radical swing leftward on the PM’s part. Indeed, one top commentator referred to the necessity for the leftist media to treat Sharon with the same care that Orthodox Jews give to the fragile pitam (or top protuberance) of the etrog/citron on the Feast of Tabernacles – as long as the Disengagement continued…
Pat Robertson of CBN came to Israel in December 2004 and pleaded publically with Sharon not to move ahead with the Disengagement. For this he was mocked in Israel’s media.
The Disengagement went ahead. Great divisions of heart (see Judges 5:15-16) broke out among Israelis. Huge demonstrations were ignored by the government. Non-violent civil disobedience was met with mass arrests. Many Jewish soldiers seriously considered disobeying orders (as Sharon had once done) rather than evict Jewish settlers from Jewish farms and towns. The nation was transfixed with its heart in its throat. Two of our sons were serving in the Gaza area with the IDF during that time.
Within one year of the Disengagement, the results became depressingly clear. Israeli farmers in Gaza had left hothouses with infrastructure as they disengaged, hoping that new and peaceful Gazan industries could be established. These were hacked to pieces by joyous mobs. Abandoned synagogues were desecrated and burned. The Muslim Brotherhood jihadi terror group Hamas came to power in a one-time election, and proceeded to torture and murder former PLO members. Within a short time Islamist mortars, rockets and missiles began to rain down on Israel. Over 10,000 such attacks occurred after Sharon’s stroke, and for eight years as he lay quietly in a hospital ward.
Netzarim had been abandoned. What would then be the fate of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem?
The Scriptures prophesy Messiah’s judgment on the nations which divide Jerusalem and the Promised Land (see Zechariah 14:1-2; Joel 3:1-2; etc.). At present, nearly every nation on this planet supports the division of Jerusalem and the Land of Israel. Some superpowers are actively pressing for shrinking Israel’s borders even more, calling this a peace process and a two-state solution. Few world leaders understand what they are touching, and what the ramifications are of opposing both the promises of the God of Israel, and of counteracting the restoration of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel.
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once expressed the USA’s clear strategy regarding Israel in a declassified State Department document, describing his Paris meeting on December 17, 1975 with Sadun Hammadi, Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs (www.gwu.edu/%7Ensarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB193/HAK-12-17-75.pdf). Kissinger communicated U.S. policy, “We can’t negotiate about the existence of Israel but we can reduce its size to historical proportions … So I think in ten to fifteen years Israel will be like Lebanon – struggling for existence, with no influence in the Arab world.”
- When pressure is brought to bear on the Jewish state, so that Israel’s leaders end up doing the political bidding of another country, those who love Israel and believe in its prophetic restoration must pray for Israel’s leaders – that they avoid the traps being set for them
Even as Hezekiah and Josiah started well, were initially greatly used of God, and in the beginning shepherded the Davidic dynasty and the Jewish people with integrity, their latter-day actions led to drastic and negative results, whether personally or for the welfare of the entire Jewish people.
Pray for Ariel Sharon’s family at this time – especially his sons Omri and Gil’ad and their families – for comfort, healing, revelation and visitation.
Pray for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is facing combined international pressure to cease resettling the Promised Land, to establish a Palestinian state in that land, and to empower terror forces in that area as well. Pray for clarity, revelation and the kind of courage Ariel Sharon once had.
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do!
In Messiah Yeshua,
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