Your Heart is a Reservoir for Truth

Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah mirror how God gave both rain and His Word for life.

I recently had a man in his 60s tell me, “I have to spend daily time reading the Bible. I mean every single day. I need it.” His words simply affirmed what the Bible makes clear for all of us.

Reading the Bible—Your Heart is a Reservoir of Truth

(Photo: A cistern near Michmash. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

God used a simple, physical resource like rain water to teach the spiritual truth that He alone is the true source of life. This truth hasn’t changed for us. The need for water illustrates the need for truth—both essential for life.

When the rainy season begins in Israel each fall, the High Holidays draw to a close with the celebration of the holiday, Shemini Atzeret, which means, “the assembly of the eighth [day].” (The holiday originates from Leviticus 23:36.) Following the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, the act of bringing a sacrifice to God was replaced with the tradition of praying for rain, called Tefilat Geshem, the only exclusive ritual of Shemini Atzeret.

Where there is water in Israel, there is life. And where there isn’t water? The rule in antiquity was simple. Pray for rain and dig a cistern.

If you’re feeling dry in your spiritual life, there’s only one way to slake your thirst.

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The Feast of Booths—When You Want Heaven Now

(And why your road to glory has splinters.)

The Feast of Booths, or Sukkot, provided a time to remember how God had delivered His people from bondage and how He had provided for them in the wilderness. It looked back at deliverance, but it also looked forward to something else—to Messiah.

The Feast of Booths—When You Want Heaven Now

(Photo: Crowds at the Western Wall at Sukkot, the Feast of Booths. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Building tabernacles or “booths” (Hebrew sukkot) was nothing new for the Jews (Lev. 23:34, 42-43). The act served as a mandatory memorial of God’s faithfulness in the wilderness. At Sukkot, every seven years on the sabbatical year, the Law was read in the hearing of all Israel (Deut. 31:10-11).

The Bible refers to the holiday by several other names:

  • The Feast of the Harvest (Exod. 23:16)
  • The Feast of Ingathering (Exod. 34:22)
  • The feast of the Lord (Lev. 23:39)
  • The feast (1 Ki. 8:2; 2 Chron. 7:8-9; John 7:37)

In light of the world’s ugliness, it’s tempting to hole up on some mountain and just wait for God to come get us. In fact, it was the Feast of Booths Peter had in mind when he made exactly that request to Jesus.

We may not know it, but we often ask for the same thing.

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Timna Park—A Portrait of Your Atonement on Yom Kippur

Enter a doorway to history—and view a picture of your salvation.

The best part of Timna Park is its least-known exhibit. Tucked away among the steep sandstone formations in Israel’s Arabah Valley sits a place most visitors never see.

Tabernacle model at Timna Park.

(Photo: Tabernacle model at Timna Park. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.)

Timna Park’s best-known attraction is called “Solomon’s Pillars”—beautiful Nubian sandstone formations that have nothing to do with King Solomon. The park also features relics from Egyptian idolatry as well as interpretive signs about ancient copper mining. But the best part? A full-scale replica of the Tabernacle stands in the very wilderness where Moses and the children of Israel wandered for forty years.

It is like entering a doorway to history—and viewing a picture of your salvation.

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Hope from the Upper Room and David’s Tomb

How events of history and tradition combine to offer an answer to David’s prayer.

One of King David’s most poignant prayers came after one of his greatest mistakes. “Do not cast me away from Your presence,” he prayed, “and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11).

Hope from the Upper Room and David Tomb

(Photo: Upper Room Interior. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

At the traditional site of the Upper Room, pieces of Hebrew and Christian scripture come together in an ancient building. Here, on Jerusalem’s Western Hill, events of history and tradition combine to offer the ultimate answer to David’s prayer.

In fact, the place offers hope for all of us.

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What’s Your Motive? There’s One Way to Tell

How Tisha B'Av & the Burnt House Examine Us

I find it fascinating that when the New Testament talks about God judging our motives, it uses the metaphor of a burnt house. In Jerusalem, one site I pass always begs the question: “What’s your motive?”

How Tisha B'Av & the Burnt House Examine Us

(Photo: The Burnt House in Jerusalem. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Some call it coincidence. Some call it Providence. But according to tradition, both the First and Second Temples (in 586 BC and AD 70) were destroyed on the same date in history. Tisha B’Av marks the 9th day of the month of Av—the fifth Jewish month. During the exile, the Jews instituted a fast to commemorate the Temple’s destruction. After they returned to Jerusalem, they asked God a question about Tisha B’Av:

Shall I weep in the fifth month and abstain, as I have done these many years? —Zechariah 7:3

Their question made sense.

They had observed the fast in exile, but should they continue to fast on Tisha B’Av now that they were building the Second Temple? God’s answer to their question reaches beyond them to the heart of why we do what we do.

One question gets to the heart of our heart.

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How the 4 Quarters of Jerusalem Will Be United

The crossroads that has divided the city won't always.

Whenever I visit the ancient Cardo street in Jerusalem, I like to look at the replica of the Medeba Map mosaic. It depicts the Holy Land as it looked in AD 580 and shows Jerusalem sectioned by crossroads. The divisions paved the way for the 4 quarters of Jerusalem.

Medeba map of Jerusalem

(Photo: The Medeba Map mosaic, showing the Cardo street at center. The Greek letters at top left read: “Holy City of Jerusalem.” Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The annual celebration of Jerusalem Day, or Yom Yerushalayim, celebrates the reunification of Jerusalem. But can we really call the city unified? Although the capital of Israel enjoys a unification of Jewish control, there remains a wildly disjointed set of worldviews.

The 4 quarters of Jerusalem represent, in small manner, the ongoing contentions that have existed for centuries. But one day the 4 quarters of Jerusalem will be unified.

Here’s how.

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The Source of Our Peace—Reflections from Yom Yerushalayim

Why Peace Requires One Thing More than Anything Else

The holiday, Yom Yerushalayim, “Jerusalem Day” always reminds me of the T-shirt my grandmother bought me when she went to Jerusalem in 1987. (We men keep clothes way too long.)

The Source of Our Peace—Reflections from Yom Yerushalayim

(Photo: The Jaffa Gate, celebrating Jerusalem’s 40th Birthday. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Printed in English, Hebrew, and Arabic, the T-shirt celebrated “The 20th Anniversary of the Reunification of Jerusalem.” Yom Yerushalayim is a Jewish holiday annually celebrating the first time the Jews controlled Jerusalem since the Romans destroyed the Second Temple in AD 70.

Now almost 70 years since the beginning of the State of Israel, the land has just as much tension and heartache as ever. And much of the conflict cloaks its true motives in the name of religion.

One day in Jerusalem I saw a humorous sign that tried to bridge that religion gap.

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Rosh Hashanah— It’s Time to Start Over

Everybody uses a calendar. Some hang it on the wall with pictures of puppies, landscapes, or old cars. Others use Google Calendar or carry their schedules on their smartphones. Some do all of these.

Man blowing shofar during Elul at Western Wall.

(Photo: Man blowing shofar during Elul at Western Wall. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.)

In fact, most of us operate with several calendar systems at the same time. My calendar year begins in January, but I also march to a fiscal year, a school year, and occasionally, a leap year.

But as God’s people—just like the Hebrews of old—a calendar does much more than keep us on schedule. Especially on a New Year.

The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, begins this evening and reminds us of essentials we mustn’t forget.

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How to Quit a Life of Compromise

If you think about it, King Solomon never started out to build pagan shrines. It was his failure to deal with the tiny spiritual cracks in his heart that produced a life of compromise and dissatisfaction.

You can quit a life of compromise.

(Photo: Design Pics, via Vivozoom)

The backwash from Solomon’s life reminds us how we only kid ourselves when we think we can have a healthy walk with God and still keep our hidden life of compromise on the side.

The good news? We don’t have to.

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What Do You Think of When You Hear a Rooster?

One morning when I was in Jerusalem, I chose to have my devotions on the Mount of Olives at sunrise. Making my way through the Old City’s dark and narrow streets, I passed beside the Temple Mount and exited the city on its east side.

Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives

(Photo: Overlooking Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Photo: צולם ע, via Wikimedia Commons)

After climbing the steep ascent of the Mount of Olives, I sat near its summit as the sun began to warm my back. Turning to Matthew’s Gospel, I read about Jesus leaving the Temple, predicting its destruction, and sitting on the Mount of Olives (Matthew 24:1–5).

Looking across the Kidron Valley at the Temple Mount—now crowned with a Muslim shrine—I thought about how Jesus’ prediction proved true. Because Israel rejected Him, they ultimately lost the very objects they hoped to secure through His death—their Temple and their nation (John 11:48).

Suddenly I heard a sound that jerked my mind in another direction.

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