Holy Land Blog 8
For me, this journey into Israel, the land of the Bible – has been a trip like no other. To enter into the context of these stories that I have learned over decades has been, to say the least, amazing. Every step of the journey has been blessed with these little touches from God and the blessing that His Story in my own life has been reaffirmed again and again. To start the trip off by serving local children at our sister church, and then to immerse ourselves into this land, has really set the right focus for me. It’s truly about God’s love for His people and His pursuit of us- not just places and relics.
To stand in the place where so many of these stories came from not only makes them more real, but it also sets a deeper context to the story that is hard to share simply with words. To look out and to see what Jesus or Moses would have seen, adds to the understanding of what they may have felt.
Along this journey there have been several points for me to experience these things. Yesterday we had the chance to go to Ein Gedi and to hike back to the remains of the cave where David and his men were hiding (1 Samuel 24) when Saul came in to relieve himself, and David had the chance to sneak up behind Saul and cut off a part of his robe. I always kind of wondered if David had ninja like skills to sneak up and do that without being caught… Now coming here and understanding that in the desert wilderness of Israel, Ein Gedi is a place where a natural spring pours out a stream of fresh water into this valley, and in the main cave in the back – where David was hiding, the entry was shrouded by a waterfall. It was the sound of the waterfall that drowned out the sounds of David and his men, not just ninja skills. Today, the waterfall flowing from the spring above, are the remains of that cave. The roof of it has long since collapsed. You can still make out some stalactites near the top and the rubble on the valley floor. This is where David’s obedience overrode what seemed like a gift from God, to have his enemy delivered to him. For me, being reminded that God is always in control of the details, really connected me to the story.
It seems to me that there are three different ways that a man can be wrong.
The first is most common, when a person makes the most simple of offhanded comments to be easily disproven. This type of wronghood, though edifying in information, brings with it little to no consequence as it was never a belief held too close to the person’s core.
The second wrong occurs less often than the first, and occurs when a person has repeated the falsity time and again up until the point of evidence otherwise. This wrong brings with it a certain amount of shame, as it comes with the realization that a person must have repeatedly brought up and stated their belief before others without actually bothering to look up the facts for themselves. It can therefore be thought of as an extension of the first over a long period of time and to a worsening degree.
The third wrong is the most dissimilar to the other two, and occurs by far the least often. It occurs when a man, to his complete horror, dawns upon a truth in complete dichotomy to his overall being. This wrongness is the most aversive in consequence to the point of not being readily acceptable to the person. It is often held too deeply and requires that a person make an actual change of action.
To say that I have been made a fool by my repeated wrongs would be an understatement. I have over and over again been corrected by God to the point of lunacy. And the experience has been fantastic! I’m not even sure why I keep setting myself up for it. At a certain point you would think that I would learn something. But I’m a special kind of stubborn and God, as it turns out, has a bit of a sense of humor. So this will most likely continue on into the next week
I should start off by saying that I’m not exactly given into emotion very easily, nor am I the person who can say he feels or hears God’s voice or presence as often as He seems to make Himself known to others. Now you’re probably thinking that if I “start off by saying” something, I should put it at the beginning. But this is my blog and I’ll put that sentence wherever the heck I want.
Anyways, the first of my wrongs would be the wrong most minor. For in the days before our trip we were told that the first portion of our time would be given to serving in VBS, as though in response to our trip to the Holy Land we would need to give a tithe of our hours. My simple mistake came immediately in my doubt. So simply it came, too; the belief that because of my own nature I could not possibly enjoy a second of that time with them. And so came the first of God’s gest-ful corrections, because as of yet this has been the time I most enjoyed and I do not regret a moment of it. Now certain other people in this group might try and convince you that this last sentence was nonsense and that it looked like I was just standing there most of the time. But if I were you I wouldn’t listen to a word they were saying because they’re all just a couple of liars anyways. (Insert laughter here)
The second of my wrongs came to me in a Christian church. It came after years of constantly praying for the land of Israel. In that church, the pastor said to us what should have seemingly been the most obvious thing. It was the simple statement that westerners have the tendency to pray more for the land of Israel rather than for the souls of the Jews and Muslims within it. God would take care of the land, but souls were never promised. Now you might be wondering what kind of idiot wouldn’t have noticed this. So let me tell you: this kind. This truth had apparently not once occurred to me. Mom, I’m blaming this wrong on you.
The last of these wrongs, however, came particularly hard. It came on the day before this one and was one that I really didn’t want to accept. Remember for a moment that I started before by saying that I am not easily given into emotion; Especially seeing as everything leading up to this moment had been extremely good. Even when I was wrong before, I had felt blessed. Each day here with these people has been a blessing, a respite to what I would describe as a rather long year. I had felt comfort knowing that God would eventually answer my prayers as I was diligent in my asking. Then came that moment yesterday, and it came the instant that I had hit the Garden of Gethsemane. Because it was there that I was reminded that Jesus’s prayer had also been a passing of the cup of suffering, only His prayer ended with “But not my will, but your will be done.” As soon as I remembered this, the truth of my last wrong had dawned on me. God had not promised me a thing regarding my prayers and avoidance of suffering. All He promised was that He had a will for me, not that it was necessary something that I wanted. My immediate response was to yell out in my mind, “God, NO! Please, no!” I wanted to be as Job and argue with God, or as Jonah and to run somewhere He couldn’t find me. Yet there I sat, resting in the same garden Jesus had just hours before he died. I wanted nothing like the prayer He had made. Eventually I recanted, offering up a prayer saying that I would accept what seemed like a new update to the “Terms and Agreement”. Honestly, I’m not sure how much of it I actually meant, but I got the whole thing out nonetheless.
I’m not sure I said more than three words up until the end of lunch. And that was in spite of the fact that we got to have some rather delicious shawarma that apparently gave everyone some gastric distress later that night. (Although that might not be a relevant detail.) In time, I took this wrong a little better. Today, we came to the place where Paul would have to stand trial before Pontius Pilate. It was something that I believe now was better received by my soul. Like I said, this trip has been one that was full of wrongs, but I do not regret a single one of my lessons learned.
Today was a travel day, so a majority of it was spent on our way from Jerusalem to Tiberius. On our way we stopped in Caesarea which was named after one of Julius Caesar’s children. It was a major port city and was where Herod the Great resided to rule. Even now, almost 2000 years later, you could see the lavish lifestyle of these people. His palace spanned a large portion of the beach and was right next to the Hippodrome and the theater. But Herod always seemed to be striving ahead for his own gain or goal. It was an interesting way to see the power of man reflected just a few miles up from Jerusalem, a city built with God’s power.
Why many people know of Caesarea is because this is where Paul spent most of the end of his life. This was where he was held on trial for such a long time, and where he had been to numerous hearings. But there was an interesting thing that we learned: many of the judges who had been listening to him at hearings believed him and many of them started converting. This was an amazing thing to hear and I thought about applying it to my life. Even in the darkest times, God will be your light, and the only way to abolish darkness is by sharing your light.
Next we went to Mt. Carmel, which is most well-known for the competition between Elijah and the prophets of Ba’al. What I found most interesting wasn’t the actual mountain, but the valley that it looked over. This was the Jezre’el valley/Megiddo, and it was the location of the first battle in recorded history. But what was even more interesting was that this will be the location of the battle of Armageddon. That left me in awe imagining the conflict that is going to take place here, but then God put His hand on my heart and gave me complete peace. I realized that when looking at this battlefield, I don’t have to imagine how it will end, because I know. In Revelation 20 it says that after this battle, Satan, The Deceiver, will be cast into the abyss. This was a complete surrender moment for me and made me see that no matter what pain is to come, God will overcome and bless us.
Elijah slaying the 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah