What the Promised Land did for Me

The most frequently asked question since our return home from Israel has been, “What was your favorite part?”  That is nearly impossible to answer.  There were too many wonderful experiences and highlights, each of them meaningful for different reasons.

I can say for certain that it was my “trip of a lifetime” and that it impacted me in multiple ways.  I am most thankful for three of those ways:

It strengthened my faith in the Word.

No doubt about it, the places and people we read about in the Bible are REAL.  Archaeologists continue to uncover locations, discover documents, and learn about practices that prove the truth of God’s Word.

For example, the Bible mentions a place called “Sha’arayim,” which means “two gates” (Josh. 15:36; 1 Sam. 17:52; 1 Chron. 4:31).  Scoffers declared this unlikely as no Judaean city ever had more than one gate, according to archaeological discoveries.  But in 2007, an entire fortified city was unearthed having, not one, but two major gates.  It overlooks the Elah Valley, confirming the Bible’s mention of it in the account of David and Goliath.

I knew the Bible was accurate and reliable.  But it is so faith-building to have that truth confirmed by walking through the MANY “proofs” that populate the land of Israel!

It enhanced my understanding.

David took refuge in “the stronghold” (1 Sam. 22:3,4).  Masada (which means “stronghold”) was a city that sat atop a steep hill out in the middle of an arid wilderness, overlooking the Dead Sea.  It’s location made it easy to see approaching enemies.  It had a “snake path” up the side that could handle only two people wide at a time.  It was impressive!  Scholars believe that this was David’s stronghold.  Now when I read about it, I will be able to see it.

In You, O Lord, I have taken refuge…Be to me a rock of strength, a stronghold to save me, for You are my rock and my fortress.

Psalm 31:1-3

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First view of Masada

 

And when I read about David hiding in caves in Adullam (1 Sam. 22:1-4), I will be able to see it.  I understand how easy it was to do that in a land dotted with large, hidden caves.  Adullam means “refuge.”

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One of the caves at Adullam

When I read about Jesus praying at Gethsemane (Matt. 26), I will be able to picture Him among the twisted trunks of the olive trees.  I can now see exactly where He pleaded with His Father.

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Olive trees in Gethsemane

There are so many accounts that have come alive in my mind!  I can add extra senses (sight, sounds, smells, touch….) to my understanding.

It engaged my heart.

You don’t have to go to Israel to be touched by the love stories in the Word.

(How can you read about God’s call to Abraham to take his son and offer him, and then God’s deliverance and provision when He rewarded Abraham’s obedient faith without being moved?)

But I had the opportunity to go to Beersheba.  It’s in the middle of the Negev desert.  It’s where Abraham made a covenant with Abimelech and planted a tamarisk tree (Gen. 21), where he sent Hagar into the wilderness, and where he went to live after God said, “Because you have not withheld your son, your only son, I will greatly bless you….” (Gen. 22).  I looked all around me and imagined the account playing out in front of my eyes.

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Beersheba

I had the opportunity to visit the two proposed sites of the Garden Tomb.  While at the first one, I read John’s gospel account of the empty tomb.  I looked at the rock tomb in front of me and read of Mary standing there weeping, of Jesus approaching her and calling her by name, and of her declaration to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!”

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The Garden Tomb

There were so many emotional moments as we walked through the land of Israel.  I imagine part of that had to do with stepping away from the distractions of the world and immersing myself in the unfolding story of God’s redemption and love.  My heart was revived.

I pray that I will remember that I don’t have to go to Israel to do that.  I can still shut out the world’s distractions and immerse myself in the beautiful and powerful message of God’s love. 

There’s a Sea in Galilee

I wish I were better with words.  I’m going to try to convey what’s filling my heart but I know the words will fall short.

For the past six days I have been in Israel with my husband and our dear friends, John and Carla Moore.  The experience has far exceeded my expectations.  I’ve visited Beersheba where Abraham lived and probably received the call to offer up his son.  I’ve stood in the very valley in which David ran to meet Goliath (and even pulled five smooth stones from the same brook he did).  I’ve explored the impressive sites of Masada and Megiddo.  I’ve seen the wildernesses and the Shephelah.  And so much more.

I knew I’d love it all.  I can already tell that I will never read my Bible the same again.  I knew I’d learn more about geography, archaeology, and history.  What I wasn’t expecting was the soul-searching that would accompany it.

I’ve been impressed with the courage, bravery, faith, and trust of God’s people in harsh environments or overwhelming odds.  Would I be brave in the same situation?  Would I trust God when I couldn’t see my way through?  It’s been good, so good, to hold my heart up for examination.

But today was something special.  Today we went to the Sea.  We hiked up a path to the top of Mount Arbel.  There were sheer cliffs along the way.  When we crested the top and took in the view of the Sea of Galilee and its northern shore, it was as if all the noises around me faded away and I could only hear my own breathing.  My heartbeat slowed as it dawned on me what I was actually viewing.

Up to this point, we’ve visited places where great men and women of God have lived out their faith.  Today we came to the place where the Son of God lived out His faith so He could walk with us through ours.  I saw the towns where He taught in the synagogues.  I saw the shoreline where He called His disciples and where He would later have breakfast with them.   I stared at the waves on which He walked and imagined the storms that He calmed.  Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount here.  He healed here.

As the four of us took it all in, John led us in a verse of “How Great Thou Art.”  Then he prayed a beautiful, heartfelt prayer of praise.  I couldn’t help but think that perhaps Jesus prayed in the very same spot when He would go up on the mount by Himself.  Jesus.  My Jesus.  Today, and the next couple of days, I am walking where He walked.

So many things happened by the Sea on the Sea in the life of Christ.  The same sea is surrounded by bustling and thriving towns today.  The same sea is filled with boats.

I am walking where He walked and in awe of that fact.  But what would He want me to see here?  The Sea?  As impressive as it all is–the cliffs, mountains, villages, and the blue, blue water–there are people all around the Sea who still need to see Jesus in their midst.

Only one place on earth is where Jesus walked but every place on earth is where He wants us to go and tell others about Him.

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