Today we toured the sites of Beth-shean and Jericho before we made our way through the Judean Wilderness up to Jerusalem. Read about these sites below.
Also, Purim begins tonight in Israel. How interesting to be here! Purim represents more than costume parties for kids and eating triangular cookies filled with fruit. The holiday remembers the historical event in the book of Esther where the Jews survived a plot to exterminate them.
(Photo: Hand-written scroll of the Book of Esther in Hebrew. By Chefallen. Own work. CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia)
My favorite part of Purim includes the reading of the book of Esther.
- It’s the only book in the Bible that never mentions God.
- It never speaks of prayer.
- It has no miracle.
- And yet it’s Scripture.
The story of Esther is built on a growing series of seeming coincidences, all of which play essential to the story.
God is never seen or spoken of—yet He works quietly behind the scenes, orchestrating His sovereign will.
Just like in our lives.
Your pastor likely has never seen the places he preaches about each week: the holy city of Jerusalem, the waves on the Sea of Galilee, the rocky slopes of the Judean wilderness.
To him, these names may be mere words on the pages of his Bible—places he’s experienced only in his mind’s eye through pictures, Bible atlases, and travel videos.
(Photo: Me standing on Kypros in the Judean Wilderness. Pic by James Foo)
To be sure, many truths in Scripture we have to accept by faith. But the lands of the Bible are still there to see. The places where Jesus walked, taught, and healed haven’t moved—nor are they inaccessible. They stand ready to offer a greater understanding of and love for the Word of God.
I know, because it happened to me.
I was a senior pastor when my wife and I first journeyed to Israel. The experience radically opened my eyes to Scripture, and to my surprise, I discovered it greatly enhanced my pastoral ministry. I decided to research whether or not my experience was unique.
What I discovered amazed me. Here’s why you should send your pastor to Israel.
When we think of the Red Sea, we tend to picture Moses holding up his arms and dividing the waters.
This body of water parted like curtains in the opening act of Israel’s history. The parting of the sea set the stage for one of history’s most incredible escapes (Exodus 14:29-31).
But this part of the Red Sea represents only half of its northernmost edges.
The sea has two fingers that point north, divided by the Sinai Peninsula. The more famous finger, the one that parted in the exodus, is the western one—today called the Gulf of Suez.
If the western finger of the Red Sea represented Israel’s beginning as a nation under God, the eastern section, or the Gulf of Aqaba, could embody Israel’s ongoing relationship with the Lord.
And it offers a spiritual lesson for those who will look below the surface.
Where God places us is no accident.
Throughout biblical history, the land of Israel sat in an amazingly strategic position as the only intercontinental land bridge between the superpowers of the ancient world.
The most important international highway of the Fertile Crescent ran the length of the land of Israel.
Some call this international highway the Via Maris, or the “Way of the Sea.”
Any nation coming to or from Egypt, or traveling from the Mediterranean to the Gulf of Aqaba, had to go through Israel. For many years, Israel remained the crossroads for international imperialism, war, and trade.
It’s hard to believe at first, but this highway offers a practical principle for our daily lives.
It’s all about influence.
Location, location, location . . . If history ever compared the land of Israel to the game of “Monopoly,” the site of Tel Megiddo would be Boardwalk.
It was the most coveted spot on the playing board.
Tel Megiddo’s tremendous value came from its strategic location as the sentinel of the most important pass through the Mt. Carmel range.
Whoever held Tel Megiddo in the ancient world controlled the traffic and trade along the International Highway to and from Egypt. That meant both military and financial security.
Taking Megiddo is like capturing a thousand cities. —Pharaoh Thutmose III
Its value simply can’t be exaggerated.
You’ve finally decided to take a spiritual journey to the Holy Land—to the land of the Bible. I can promise you, you won’t come home from Israel the same!
But there’s something else you need to know.
(Photo: the aqueduct at Caesarea)
You already realize you are investing a lot of money this trip, and you want to make the most of your time. But you will get twice as much out of your Holy Land tour if you’ll also invest some time preparing for it.
Here are some ways that will help you maximize your trip—by preparing mentally, practically, physically, and spiritually.
Sometimes the things God gives you seem too hard to hold.
The Lord provided prime real estate to the Tribe of Manasseh. But the excellent location proved to be a double-edged sword.
Because the spot was so good, every nation wanted control of Beth Shean. And whoever held it always seemed to contend with those who would wrench it from their grasp.
Perhaps its strategic location gave Beth Shean its name, “House of Security.”
But security only works when you trust in God.
It takes great vision to see something where there is nothing.
Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, saw the vast expanse of Israel’s Negev as something that offered great potential. In 1953, he settled in the kibbutz Sde Boker, urging Israelis to help him tame the Negev into a new society for Israel.
To many, the idea seemed no more than a pipe dream. As a result, the plea fell on deaf ears, for the arid region receives barely eight inches of rain per year.
In the Negev, life has one uncompromising requirement: water.
Through this simple need in the same land, God taught His people a life-giving lesson.
We can drink from it as well.
At Tel Arad, the whole land of Canaan lay before the Hebrews.
They had waited and wandered forty years in the wilderness. The Promised Land was theirs for the taking. Right there before them!
Instead, God led the Hebrews on a major detour.
Tel Arad in Israel’s Negev offers many benefits to its visitors. It’s an oasis of ancient archaeology. It gives a rare glimpse of Judah’s idolatry.
And it speaks to us today of the need to tap the brakes on our impatience with God’s leading.
I thought I understood the wilderness wanderings of Israel.
Then I traveled through the wilderness. On my summer visits there, I never had to check the forecast. It only fluctuated from blistering to broiling.
After a searing hike through this wilderness, a traveling companion of mine boarded the bus, his shirt sweat-soaked. He collapsed in his seat, and someone asked him if he now understood why the Hebrews grumbled and failed in obedience to God.
He took a long gulp from his canteen and then blurted, “I’m with them!”