The Wilderness of Zin— Inspiring Awe but Not Obedience to God

Some of God's blessings come only against impossible odds.

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.

Machtesh Ramon at sunrise.

Photo: Machtesh Ramon at sunrise. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.

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!”

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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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5 Things to Do In Israel You Maybe Haven’t Thought Of

Most Christian tours to Israel follow a predictable route. Begin in Tel Aviv, work your way up the coast, and spend a few days in Galilee before driving south to Jerusalem. Time is short.

5 Things to Do In Israel You Maybe Haven’t Thought Of

(Photo: Harvesting wheat at Yad HaShmonah. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

But if you find yourself in Israel with a day or so to burn, you might want to try something unusual. This post will highlight 5 things to do in Israel you probably haven’t considered.

I wrote last week about volunteer opportunities for Christians in Israel—a wonderful way to demonstrate our faith in the land we call holy.

Whether you’re into learning, walking, climbing, talking, or thinking you’ll likely find one of these uncommon activities inviting.

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15 Volunteer Opportunities in Israel for Christians

Most Christians who travel to Israel go to experience the land of the Bible—and they should. But there’s a unique way to experience Israel that 99% of visitors don’t get to do.

Volunteers at the excavations at Khirbet el-Maqatir, Israel.

(Picture: Volunteers at the excavations at Khirbet el-Maqatir, Israel.)

Not long ago the Israel Ministry of Tourism asked me to identify some volunteer activities that Christians would enjoy. These range from activities any tour could do in a couple of hours to volunteer opportunities that last for months, depending on one’s availability, ability, or interest.

Obviously, you don’t have to be a Christian to participate in these volunteer opportunities in Israel, but here are 15 I think you would enjoy.

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Why You Should Send Your Pastor to Israel

Give Your Pastor the Gift of Bible Lands

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. You can change that.

Jerusalem from east

(Photo: Jerusalem from east. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

To your pastor, these places 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.

Your pastor’s seminary gave him the biblical languages. But YOU can give him the Bible lands.

It’s easier than you think. Here’s how.

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How the Jordan River Reflects Your Spiritual Life

Have you noticed how often hymn writers use the Jordan River as a metaphor for transitions in the spiritual life? That may be because the Bible does the same.

How the Jordan River Reflects Your Spiritual Life

(Photo: Jordan River north of Sea of Galilee. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The Jordan River usually flowed a hundred feet wide at the place across from Jericho where Israel crossed over into Canaan after the Exodus (Joshua 3:14–4:23). But because the Israelites crossed at flood stage, the river surged much wider and deeper.

  • When the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant stepped into the Jordan, the water ceased its flow 16 miles upstream.
  • This left a stretch of dry land some 20 miles wide for the nation to cross en masse, perhaps several thousand abreast.

Joshua compared the miracle of the parting of the Jordan River with the miraculous parting of the Red Sea (Joshua 4:23). He linked the power of God that allowed them to enter Canaan with the power that freed them from Egypt.

This was a critical comparison. Why? The same grace that redeemed them from bondage led them home.

This also reflects our own spiritual lives.

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4 Views of Jerusalem Every Visitor Should See

I doubt you’ll meet a person who goes to Israel without seeing Jerusalem. It’s the most important city in history, and it offers so much to see. But often, it’s seen only from this view.

4 Views of Jerusalem Every Visitor Should See

(Photo: Jerusalem from the east. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

There are many great views of Jerusalem. Like looking at the various facets of a diamond, each direction offers a different perspective on the same city.

Here are 4 views of Jerusalem every visitor should see—from the north, south, east, and west.

Good news: 3 of the views are free.

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Seeing Far in Southern Israel

Anyone who wants a taste of the environs the Hebrews experienced during their wilderness wanderings needs to visit southern Israel. Here you can see far.

Seeing Far in Southern Israel

(Photo: Machtesh Ramon at sunrise. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

For instance, in the southern Wildernesses of Paran and Zin the ground is composed of flint and sharp rocks, gravel, and soil with deep cracks.

  • Here the Hebrews wandered for four long decades (Numbers 10:12; 12:16).
  • From here Moses sent the spies out to check out the Promised Land (Numbers 13:1-3).
  • Four centuries earlier, this wilderness saw Hagar and Ishmael after they left Abraham (Genesis 21:20-21).

This wilderness area of southern Israel lets you see far—in more ways than one.

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Tiberias—There’s More to See than Just Hotels

The New Testament never records Jesus visiting Tiberias. However a number of His followers came from there (John 6:23). Today, most of His followers go there to sleep in hotels.

Tiberias Has More to See than Hotels

(Photo: Modern Tiberias. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Mentioned only once in the Bible, the city of Tiberias rested along the western shore of the Sea of Galilee (John 6:23). For this reason the lake sometimes has been called the “Sea of Tiberias” (John 6:1; 21:1). Although Christ may never have passed through Tiberias, He would have seen it many times from the lake.

For most Christians who visit Tiberias today, the city serves as little more than a place to sleep. Modern hotels cling to the northwestern shores of the Sea of Galilee.

But there is more to see in Tiberias today than hotels.

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3 Sea Sites to See Along Israel’s Mediterranean Coast

All tours to Israel have to prioritize the sites they see. However, after the “big rocks” get put in the jar, there isn’t much room in the itinerary for much else. But there’s so much more to see.

3 Sea Sites to See in Northern Israel

(Photo: Coast of Israel south of HaNikra. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Most pilgrims limit their seaside stops in Israel to Joppa and Caesarea along the coast. However, there are several seldom seen places by the Mediterranean coast—at Acco, Dor, and Rosh HaNikra—that offer visitors surprising benefits.

In addition to biblical history, these places offer beautiful scenery, stunning panoramas, and even a little fun.

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