CONGREGATING IN THE EGYPTIAN DESERT
Why would two to three thousand people from dozens of nations gather in the Western desert of Egypt (between Cairo and Alexandria) just to worship and pray? There were no guest speakers, and the very long sessions were mostly prayer and worship. In fact at one point the whole group simply sang the name of Jesus (sounds like “Yassu” in Arabic) for nearly an hour. Why would over 300 Chinese risk coming to the event, knowing they are likely to be questioned by the Police and possibly punished on their return? Why would people pay their own way, then sit on buses travelling under armed guard from Cairo to the desert and back each day – a journey that took at least three hours?
Described that way, it sounds like torture to me — especially the idea of being in a tent in the desert with the temperature approaching 40 degrees C. But it wasn’t! Something very powerful happened, of which I can only give you a glimpse. In fact trying to describe this event reminds me of the Apostle Paul’s phrase that we “see through a glass darkly”.
THE COMPLEMENTARY BODY
Perhaps it helps to think firstly about who we are. We are all created as individuals, and we differ immensely. Some of us are very logical and concrete and linear in the way we think and live – I am one of those. Others are deeply moved by symbolic gestures, visions and dreams or connections that remind them of scripture passages. This kind of gathering tends to attract more of the people who get visions and dreams and see great significance in what sometimes looks like coincidences to me. I need these people, and they need me. Together we represent body, as Paul writes in I Corinthians 12, and we can safely discern what God is saying and doing – at least as much as He wants us to . But, there will always be mysteries.
ANCIENT “GODS” IN MODERN TIMES
Let me back up a bit, though. It didn’t start in the Western desert. About ninety of us started in Aswan, in the region of Egypt where there were the most temples, obelisks and symbols of the ancient Egyptian gods. These “gods” manifest themselves right through human history, and those who seek spiritual power often gravitate back to the symbols that appeared in Egypt about 5000 years ago. I think especially of the sun god Ra. Here are some obvious illustrations: As I understand it, the family of the Japanese Emperor make a covenant with the sun god and that has a direct connection to their flag and national symbol of the rising sun.
That symbol appears in many other nations too, including Korea. Freemasons and others have recognised the power in the symbols of ancient Egypt, so a couple of centuries ago they exported the obelisks from the Luxor region to the financial capitals of the world at that time. These obelisks still stand in London, Rome (which has eight), Paris and New York; in fact about 25 nations have obelisks in their capital cities. These were all very important symbols of prosperity in the eyes of Freemasons, and so a huge amount of effort was put into dismantling, transporting and reassembling them all across the world.
A SIGN TO US?
To the modern mind symbols like that often don’t make immediate sense, and yet we see the significance of symbols throughout the Scriptures. A central command of the Ten Commandments that God gave is that we should have no idols, and when you stop and think about the Biblical stories they are full of physical objects and acts that seemed to have direct spiritual power. I am deeply convinced that some material objects represent a direct connection to spiritual power. Interestingly, on the first day we began to worship in Aswan, with a number of Japanese believers present, a recently-erected 40 ton golden statue fell face downward in Okinawa. It was exactly like the story of Dagon in Judges 16. If you do a google search you can see a picture of it. The statue was 38 metres high (125 feet).
Here is what I think was going on both in Aswan and in the Western desert. Firstly, Egypt is a spiritual “mother” nation, and is the source of historical spiritual power, but can also be a mother of nations for blessing. We gathered in Egypt because we were convinced that God had said to do so, but gathering in Egypt alone does not give you power. What gives power is when people come together across the usual social divides: those can be national, racial, cultural, linguistic, economic or gender. The list could go on and on, and has to include age. I have been in many of these prayer and worship gatherings now, and the most notable characteristic of them is family affection. When God’s people come together and bridge all the usual divides which cause conflict, then we fulfill the condition for exercising the authority that Paul describes in Ephesians 1 and elsewhere, when he says “we are seated with Christ … far above all principalities and powers”.
ARE WE UNDER OR OVER?
We can get used to operating under the spiritual powers, and the divisions, suspicion, fear and even violence that they foster between different groups. But the Body of Christ is called to oneness and interdependence across all these divides. From that place we have the authority that the Bible describes. Sadly, we too rarely rise to that high calling of authority.
So that is what we did in Egypt. We let the Holy Spirit lead without a pre-planned agenda, and we ended up with a sense of God speaking into various nations, including China, Japan and Korea, but also with a day-long emphasis on the entire continent of Africa.
I have to add one thing, otherwise these events could appear to have no direct application. The Lord did bring a lot of encouragement to the Egyptians, who have experienced great discouragement and despondency, especially in the last decade or so. The Christians there are discriminated against, and the nation itself has experienced one huge setback after another.
So there were many words of encouragement to the Egyptians, but it was not only that. On the second to last day, a soft-spoken Sudanese pastor stood to describe how much racial discrimination he had experienced at the hands of Egyptians, including the Christians. It exposed another divide that God wanted us to close. The Egyptian response was deep humility, worship, repentance, and asking forgiveness, not only of the Sudanese who were there but all the Africans, as they realised that they had discriminated on the basis of skin colour.
Throughout the four days, we did not seek to address any of the spiritual forces, but we focussed on worshipping Jesus. As we did so some of these issues of division were dealt with indirectly and, I believe, the kingdom of darkness were dealt a mighty blow.
The principalities and powers are forces of division, fear, hatred, and violence—all towards the end that the image of God would be eradicated from the earth. However during a few days in the deserts of Egypt under a burning sun, we bridged many of the divisions, and it seemed that God smiled—then He achieved some of His purposes all over the earth because a group of His people really did act as His body with Jesus as the Head.