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.
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.
I recently had a man in his 60s tell me, “I have to spend daily time in the Scriptures. I mean every single day. I need it.” His words simply affirmed what the Bible makes clear for all of us.
The need for water illustrates the need for truth—both essential for life.
If you’re feeling dry in your spiritual life, there’s only one way to slake your thirst.
The annual holiday Yom Kippur begins this evening. It always reminds me of a surprising conversation I had in Jerusalem at the Western Wall. A Jewish woman approached me and engaged me in a talk.
She somehow knew my affiliation with a radio ministry and told me we needed to broadcast to the nations God’s way to be saved. I told her that was, in fact, our passion.
She smiled and shook her head no.
Then she shared with me a list of things all Gentiles need to do in order for God to accept them. I recognized some of the standards as being from the Ten Commandments, and I told her so. Again, she smiled and shook her head.
“Those commandments are for the Jews,” she said.
“Do you keep them?” I asked.
Most people familiar with the Pentecost—or Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks—associate the Jewish holiday with the Book of Ruth.
After all, the most exciting events of Ruth’s story occurred during the time of Shavuot at Bethlehem’s wheat harvest (Ruth 2:23). It’s no wonder today that many people include reading of the Book of Ruth as part of their celebration of Shavuot.
Although I absolutely love the Book of Ruth, Shavuot more often causes my mind to wander further west of Bethlehem—down into the Shephelah.
It’s unlikely anybody celebrates the Pentecost at such an unlikely place as Beth Shemesh.
But a practical application urges us to do so.
God told the Hebrews when to observe the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread. At first, to be honest, the command seems random.
The feasts were to occur at the appointed time of Abib, or Aviv (Exodus 23:15)—a Hebrew word that refers to the time in spring when the grain begins to ripen. The first Passover occurred on the fifteenth day of Nisan, which became the first month of the Jewish calendar.
This timing occurred for good reason.
The Lord gave His people a plain explanation why the celebration should coincide with spring:
For [then] you came out of Egypt. —Exodus 23:15
God linked the Passover celebration with their redemption.
But why the springtime? There was a problem with the calendar that had to get fixed. Its fix offers a lasting lesson.
Even for Christians.
As I made my way down the Mount of Olives, I couldn’t help think about the day Jesus rode down the slope on the back of a donkey.
His words that day hardly seemed fitting for a “Triumphal Entry.”
When Jesus saw Jerusalem, He wept over it:
If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. —Luke 19:42
I pondered the words. Why did He say: “this day . . .”?
The prophet Daniel penned a meticulous prediction of the very day when the Messiah would appear in Jerusalem.
It was that very day.
Local schoolchildren ate their lunches across the olive grove from my wife and me.
Like the kids, we came on a field trip to explore ancient Shiloh. Although our lunch was hardly a feast, it reminded me of the reasons the young nation of Israel initially came to this site. They came to worship at the annual feasts before the Tabernacle at Shiloh.
Ask most Americans where Shiloh is, and you’ll likely get a blank stare.
- Historians may point to a Civil War battle in Hardin County, Tennessee.
- Music buffs may start singing the chorus to a Neil Diamond song.
But question someone who knows his or her Bible, and Shiloh means something far more significant.
Where there is water in Israel, there is life.
And where there isn’t water? The rule in antiquity was simple. Dig a cistern.
While excavating a first-century drainage channel and street that led from the City of David to the Temple Mount, archaeologists recently found a massive water reservoir dating from the First Temple period. The discovery of the reservoir, just west of the Temple Mount, gives silent testimony to the importance of water in the spiritual lives of God’s people.
The Jewish holidays, Shemini Atzeret—and Simchat Torah—offer a fascinating connection to this ancient cistern.
More importantly, they reveal a truth we live by every day of our lives.
Who would have ever thought to use stairs as a memory-trigger?
At the southern edge of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, a 200-foot wide flight of stairs represents both original and restored steps from the Second Temple period.
Millions of sandals (including Jesus’) shuffled up these steps in antiquity as Jewish pilgrims came from all Israel and the Diaspora to worship the Lord for the annual feasts.
Some suggest the pilgrims sang the Psalms of Ascent on these steps. If so, the place brought to mind critical themes.
The place echoes of our need to be reminded of what we already know.
While enjoying the delightful movie, Ushpizin, I laughed out loud when the family’s uninvited guest sliced the expensive etrog—a citron reserved for Sukkot—and casually ate it. Clearly, he had no clue to its significance!
Although the movie’s English subtitles translate the Hebrew, the movie leaves the traditions of Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles, for the viewer to decode.
How puzzling the holiday must seem to those unacquainted with its modern customs—much less its biblical foundations.
Of all places, an ancient pool in Jerusalem helps us connect Sukkot with its ultimate fulfillment.
A statement made by Jesus—really, an invitation—makes it clear.