Is there anything truly special about the Holy Land?
As I got on a plane to leave the US, I didn’t think so. I love to travel, but I was convinced that each place holds its own beauty and its own flaws. I am not an overly emotional person, so I was curious to see how Israel would affect me.
I thought it would be cool after studying the Bible for so many years to finally get a glimpse of its backdrop first hand, but I didn’t think it would be a spiritual encounter any more than ones I’ve had before. Israel is now incredibly important politically, but its biblical presence has faded over the last 2000 years….right?
I was so wrong.
Let me just start by saying, I did not walk around Israel crying and weeping over every site Jesus walked. It wasn’t like that. It wasn’t an emotional trip. It was a liberating trip. A trip that revealed another piece of the freedom that is really mine. It was a trip that showed me who I really am in the light of God’s kingdom.
Let me explain.
It was wonderful visiting the stone that Jesus stepped on when walking into the temple. It was awe inspiring to sit in the tomb where he might have been placed after the crucifixion. To sit and stare at Golgotha was mind blowing. But those are not the places that affected me.
What affected me was standing atop a mountain in the Golan Heights, overlooking the site where wars and battles were played out. What affected me was sailing in a boat across the Sea of Galilee while worshipping Jesus through song. What made me see Jesus was hiking to a waterfall in the forest of Northern Israel. Things like talking to an Israeli soldier, sharing meals with Jewish families and praying with leaders over each site we visited were experiences that revealed Jesus to me.
On one of the days, we went to a Syrian outpost that was overtaken by Israeli combat soldiers during the Six Day War in 1967. I wasn’t expecting to see Jesus this day at all. It was a political day, not a biblical learning site. But something extraordinary happened.
As we sat on the mountain, overlooking mine fields and barbed wire….our tour guide, who was a former Israeli soldier, started talking. He began reenacting what had happened on the hill that day when the Israelis had taken back the Golan Heights from Syria. Against all odds, the Israeli soldiers had won back the area. It reminded me of all the miraculous battles that God blessed the Israelites with in the Old Testament, how faithful he is and how good even in modern day history.
And then our guide made a connection that hit me…..in 1967, many of the Israelis ran up the same hill I was standing on to fight, not just for political reasons, but also for biblical reasons too. They ran up the hill that day because Israel was their land, the Jewish nation’s land and the promised land. Despite politics, economics, and geographic lines…..Israel’s roots, to this day, are not political. Israel identifies itself as a Jewish nation, dating back to the time of Abraham. It is their promised land and they will defend it to the death. Biblical history means everything to Israel’s identity. Understanding that made me realize how amazing God really is and how his miracles did not just cease 2000 years ago, but are still taking place in modern time.
Though the day we spent on the Golan Heights was politically informative, it spoke to me of the biblical intertwining that is woven into every part of Israel. It showed me that God’s promises are not just alive in the sites where he himself walked. His promises are much deeper than that. His promises are fully alive in the beauty of the nature he created. His promises are fully alive in his present people that call him Lord. Every tree branch, every waterfall, every stone, every site, every person. Everything is a puzzle piece that God has fit into place from Abraham to David to the splitting of the Kingdom to Jesus to Paul and finally, to me.
And the story of Israel no longer belongs only to the Jewish people. It is not just their story anymore. It is MY story. I have been grafted into the covenant. I am no longer a Gentile dog, but I am now a chosen daughter of the King. I am a part of his people. I can identity with God’s promises because of the death of a man who called me beloved.
Though many of the people in Israel do not recognize the coming of a savior, the New Testament does fulfill the prophesies of the Old Testament. The New Testament is the fulfillment of what the Jewish nation had long been waiting for, and it has given me citizenship into God’s people.
The most amazing part of the trip was how at home I felt. And to this home I will one day return. My trip was not just a one-time trip. I will be there again, in the valley of Megiddo on the day of redemption. I will fight next to a warrior who has the name ‘King of Kings and Lord of Lords’ tattooed on his thigh. He will fight for his people, and Israel’s history will be completely and finally fulfilled.
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