I deeply apologize for those who have been waiting for an update from the Israel trip. Returning home I immediately jumped into getting things caught up from being gone two weeks and then headed straight into a “graduation” from our new semester program. Time has been incredibly limited and thus the lack of posts. Now, a month later, I’m finally getting around to the write up.
It’s hard to put into words that which needs to be experienced. Before going to Israel I would have told you that a trip like this would change your understanding of Scripture, but this truly turned things upside down. Let me explain …
I’ve been studying God’s Word diligently for over a decade. Though I have read it through dozens of times and have studied several sections at depth, it was absolutely incredible to stand at a location and read the Scripture passages that happened there. For example, on our first day we stood upon Mount Carmel and read about Elijah and the prophets of Baal. I’ve read that story countless times but it was mind-boggling to stand upon the mountain reading the story while looking out upon the Valley of Armageddon (Mount Carmel sits on the edge of the valley). It was absolutely beautiful and breathtaking in more ways than one.
I was told that the land of Israel is the “Fifth Gospel” – obviously we have the four Gospels that lift high and proclaim Jesus as Lord, but the land itself has a way of opening our understanding to the Bible and showcasing Jesus through everything you see.
I feel like John who after spending three years with Jesus wrote that if he was to record all that Jesus did, the books of the world wouldn’t be able to contain it all (see John 21:25).
My 5 Favorite Places
You can look at the itinerary to see all the places we visited, but let me give you my top five favorite locations/memories (in no particular order).
1. Mount Carmel
It may have been that it was the first day but standing atop Mount Carmel and realizing that so much history surrounded me was mind-boggling. Elijah and the prophets of Baal, Gideon’s battle with the Midianites, the Valley of Armageddon, Nazareth, the Mount of Transfiguration – all happened (or will happen in the case of Armageddon) within eyeshot of Mount Carmel. The Jezreel Valley (Valley of Armageddon) was lush and green due to the spring rains, a quiet mist from the rain clouds nearby hung in the air, and the Mediterranean where Elijah prayed seven times for the rains to return were off in the distance. Realizing that Elijah’s battle with the prophets happened nearly 2900 years ago yet the battle of Armageddon has yet to happen – I was standing in the midst of history!
2. Dead Sea
I laughed and laughed. Having been to the second saltiest body of water (Great Salt Lake) as a kid was fun … going to the saltiest as an adult, even better!
It was a slightly stormy day (which only made it more exciting as waves rolled in) when we donned our bathing suits and splashed into the saline solution. Walking out a bit I lifted up my feet and … floated! I can’t describe it besides feeling like you were on an inner tube without anything neath you. Waves caused us to body surf (though the splashing water in the eyes and mouth was not as delightful as it might sound) and I couldn’t stop laughing through the entire time. It was amazing. Oh and the free Dead Sea mud bath made my skin smooth and silky.
3. Valley of Elah
We didn’t have much time to spend in the valley, about fifteen minutes in fact, as we were late to get to some other spots – but the tour guide knew how much I wanted to go and so we made a quick stop. Standing between the two mountains where the Israelites and Philistines stood for 40 days as Goliath spew forth his taunts was captivating. Realizing that the dried up creek I stood next to was where David grabbed five smooth stones, was memorable.
We spent several days in and around Jerusalem. So much of the Bible is centered upon this little plot of ground and walking throughout it, realizing how much took place there was too much for mere words. It was beautiful, emotional, illuminating, and fun.
Perhaps my favorite part was celebrating Easter in a shepherd’s cave in Bethlehem and walking the Via Dolorosa heading to Golgotha and the Garden Tomb. I’m 33 years old and the profundity of walking to the location of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection – at the same age He was – was incredibly stirring.
It surprised me that this made my top five but it truly was one of my favorite places we went to. While I loved every place we visited, there was something grand and epic about this palace-fortress of Herod the Great called Masada. Built as a get-a-way palace and fortress by the brilliant (and cruel) architect and engineer Herod the Great, this tourist site takes you from the Dea Sea (1300+ feet below sea level) to 1300 feet in the air (interestingly, even at the top of Masada, you are still a few feet below sea level). It wasn’t so much the history of the place that stunned me (though I did find that interesting … more on that another day), it was the breathtaking landscape surrounding it that caused such awe. Walking down to Herod’s entertainment villa caused the fear of heights to stir a bit within, but I was continually captivated by the views of this regal mountain.
Watch, Listen, and Learn
I could go on and on, but let me suffice it to say it was one of the most profound things I have ever done. It was the trip of a lifetime and I have loved and appreciated every moment – even more so since being home and seeing Scripture open up in ways I never could have imagined before.
If you are interested in learning more and hearing some of the discoveries and “ah-ha” moments I had, we recorded a debrief session with the Ellerslie students a few weeks back. Below you will find the audio (you can listen online or download) as well as a PDF of the pictures I am referencing in the presentation. This is not a “watch my vacation slideshow” but more of a simple “Bible Survey” type of presentation to help open up Scripture the best I can without taking you to Israel with me. Unfortunately you’ll have to do your best with figuring out what picture goes with what section but it should be mostly self-explanatory.
Interested in More Photos?
I’ve uploaded a slew of photos on the deeperChristian Facebook Page. Click here to check them out (descriptions and more pictures coming in the next couple days).
And for those interested in some of the “homework” the students gave me for my trip, I have included a few of them below for your enjoyment (or see the full list of homework assignments).
First Sunset in Israel (on Sea of Galilee)
Eat something you have never eaten before
These were like cheese puffs but were made of peanut butter (our tour guide said they were a common Israeli snack).
Lazarus Come Forth
can’t see the videos? click here
Film yourself rolling over a stone on the site of the tomb