Slideshows from the last five days in Israel
Archives for April 2012
The last full day in Israel has arrived! This is also the day that Israel celebrates the birth of the State of Israel.
We began the day outside Be’er Sheva (Beersheba) in the desert – a place where shepherd’s lived. Be’er Sheva literally means ‘Well (Be’er) of Oath (Sheva)’ and refers to the oath made between Abimelech and Abraham concerning the well that Abraham had dug (referred to in Gen 21:22 – 31). Here we prayed through scriptures concerning Israel until the commemorative alarm sounded and we stood prayerfully in a minute silence.
Abraham was someone who moved around the entire Promised Land. He came into the land from the North and then he moved down the central mountain range. He called upon the name of the Lord in four places; Shechem (Gen 12) then he moved to the next place where he camped just south of Shechem in a place called Be’el and called upon the Lord for a second time and made a second altar. He then moved southward to Hebron to the oak of Mamre where he made the third altar where he called upon the name of the Lord. The fourth altar is in Jerusalem at Mount Moriah when he offered up his son Isaac and the Lord provided a ram instead.
Sarah and Hagar
When we think of Abraham, we think of his beautiful wife Sarah. She was astonishingly beautiful even into her 60s. This brought fear to Abraham as he thought other men would kill him because of his wife. Sarah was barren but God had given Abraham a promise of descendants numbering the sand on the sea shore. Sarah was getting older and never pregnant and so in her earthly wisdom decided to give God some help. She therefore gave her housemaid Hagar to Abraham.
Hagar became pregnant immediately. Pride grew in Hagar and she began to disrespect Sarah. Hagar fled as Sarah dealt with her harshly, however she was persuaded to return and humble herself by an angel of the Lord, who also gave her a promise concerning her son who was to be called Ishmael. Hagar returned and her child was born.
But God! He did not leave the situation like that. When God speaks a word, that word may take years, decades even to be fulfilled. God re-iterated his promise to Abraham and confirmed that Sarah would be the mother of this promised child and in her old age Sarah gave birth to Isaac.
To this day there is still the jealousy and fighting between the children of Isaac and that of Ishmael. So we pray for both the Jews and the Arabs as it is not God’s will that any should perish but that all should become one new man in Christ Jesus.
Rebekah and the Camels
We walked through the desert, the remnant of ancient houses and buildings around us. With our hardhats on, we descended down an old cistern. People who lived in the desert had ingenious ways of keeping water nearby. One way was to create large reservoirs, like the cistern we were standing in. The walls of the cistern were made of a plaster which kept the water disinfected, keeping it hygienically clean.
Eliezar was sent by the family to find a wife for Isaac. So he went with 10 camels laden with dowry to do so. Camels do not have to drink everyday only once a week. But when a camel drinks it takes 100 litres in 10 minutes! Imagine the strength of the woman who would have to be drawing water for 10 camels. Lowering the bucket, bringing it back up, throwing the water in the trough… Well Rebekah did that and Eliezar must have been impressed. We all laughed when Pamela said “So girls to be a good Israelite housewife you have to be physically fit and stay that way”
We had lots of fun at Be’er Sheva but it was definitely approaching time to have lunch.
Knowing when to Stop
After lunch we travelled to the beautiful Judean Hills to a place called Yad Hashmonah. In Deuteronomy 8: 7 – 8 we get a picture of what the land looked like in the time that these biblical women lived in. “7For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey;” This area that we were standing in was like this scripture and the perfect backdrop to learn of Delilah.
Delilah was a calculating woman, who used her sexuality to get what she wanted. She pushed and pushed Samson to reveal the source of his strength. She pushed him so much that Samson’s ‘soul was vexed unto death’ by her persistence. After being worn down and despite numerous signs of her intentions, Samson revealed the source of his strength.
Samson had made a Nazarite vow and because of this a razor had never touched his head. If his head were shorn then his great strength would depart. Delilah caused Samson to fall asleep on her knees, got a man to cut of Samson’s locks then called his enemies, the Philistines to come and take him. They dug out his eyes and bound him in the prison house.
Samson’s life serves as a warning. We will lose our empowerment when we step outside of fellowship with God. Samson was a Nazarite unto God. It was not the shaving of his head that caused him to lose his strength but the breaking of his vow to God.
As women we have to be so careful not to force our own agendas. We must certainly not use our sexuality to do so. Sex was given by God for marriage and when we engage in it outside of marriage we damage ourselves as well as others. We must also be conscious of pestering people within our fellowships in our families and even our friends. We must give our loved ones the place and the space that they can be before God. Maybe we should be vexing and pressing the Lord like the importunate widow in Luke 18.
When do we stop speaking? When do we turn to the Lord? We must know when. These are questions we should ask ourselves. As women we want to build up not crush down. We want to see people free to be released in the Lord and fulfil their purpose.
A Heart’s Cry
Judges 21:19 – 23 says “19Then they said ‘in fact, there is a yearly feast of the Lord in Shiloh, which is north of Bethel, on the east side of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah. 20Therefore they instructed the children of Benjamin saying ‘Go lie in wait in the vineyards 21and watch and just when the daughters of Shiloh come out to perform their dances, then come out from the vineyard, and every man catch a wife for himself from the daughters of Shiloh; then go to the land of Benjamin. 22 Then it shall be when their fathers or their brothers come to us to complain, that we will say to them ‘Be kind to them for our sakes, because we did not take a wife for any of them in the war; for it is not as though you have given the women to them at this time, making yourselves guilty of your oath’”. 23 And the children of Benjamin did so; they took enough wives for their number from those who danced, whom they caught. Then they went and returned to their inheritance, and they rebuilt the cities and dwelt in them.
This passage is all about the restoration of the tribe of Benjamin. It takes place in Shiloh about the time of the grape harvest in August. It is a wonderful picture of Shiloh; the vineyards, the grapes, the wine press… This is also the landscape of the next biblical woman.
Hannah was married to a man called Elkanah who also had another wife Penninah. Hannah desperately wanted a child and although favoured by her husband, the teasing and provocation from Penninah who had children, plus her strong desire for her own child made her barrenness unbearable.
Hannah’s life changed when she surrendered what she wanted most to the Lord. In 1 Samuel 1:11, Hannah is in Shiloh and goes up to the place of worship where she cries out to God, asks for a son and promises that she will give him back to the Lord. Eli the priest sees her but thinks that she is drunk. When she corrects him, Eli says ‘Go in Peace and may the God of Israel grant your petition’.
Sometime our petitions to God can be misunderstood by people even religious people, especially if they are not in the right place with God. God did grant Hannah’s petition. She bore a son called Samuel, she weaned her son then as promised she gave him to the Lord, where he served as one of the great men of faith in the bible.
Hannah did not withhold her beautiful son. This is a great example to us and is what Jesus said we should do ‘deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him’. Hannah denied herself by surrendering that which she desired so much to God.
Hannah also portrays that whilst suffering can cause great pain, we can also get joy in giving all to the Lord. Setting our hearts on something we don’t have can rob us of the Joy of a relationship with the Lord.
Hannah praises the Lord (1 Sam 2) and she also ends up having more children. Therefore reader, what is it that you desire so much that is hindering your relationship with the Lord? I encourage you to give it to Jesus. He wants to give you more than you could desire for yourself.
It has been a wonderful and life changing experience in Israel. It has been energetic, reflectional, intimate, full of revelation, fun, sober, encouraging and most of all purposeful.
Tomorrow we return to England, refreshed, changed and ready to be all that God has purposed so that lives can be saved and others will come to know Him, in whose footsteps we have walked in the Promised Land.
I hope this blog has encouraged both men and women. I especially hope for all the women readers that God has revealed to you your strengths and weaknesses, through looking at the women in the bible, so that a transforming work can be done in your life.
Today was all about walking in the footsteps of Jesus and seeing what he saw. Firstly we visited the Mount of Olives. If we think about Jesus coming up to Jerusalem three times a year from childhood it is very likely that He would have known this mountain very well.
Jesus spent a lot of time with his disciples in this location. In Matthew 24 the disciples asked Jesus about the end of the age, when it would come and what the signs would be. Jesus replied “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there will be famines, and pestilences and earthquakes in divers places. All these things are he beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
But he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
When Jesus was sharing these words with the disciples and helping them to understand what would come at the end he was actually referring to what the prophet Zechariah had spoken of in Chapter 14 of Zechariah. In this chapter the end is described and the return of the Lord Jesus, when His feet would stand on the Mount of Olives, which would then be split in two.
The coming of the Lord is going to be something that the entire world will experience. Standing here in Jerusalem causes us to be expectant of our Lord’s coming. All of us as believers look forward to that day when he shall return. We thank the Lord for helping us in Matthew 24 so that we would not be fooled by false messiahs.
Boldness Because of Who we Serve
From the Mount of Olives we then went to the House of Caiaphas the High Priest at St Peter at Galicantu (meaning the cock crowed). We stood on a beautiful path surrounded by poppies and other bright flowers. Rev Taylor and Pamela then recounted when Peter denied Jesus three times. Typically we would focus on Peter, however to continue our theme of women in the bible we concentrated on the maids to which he maid the denials.
It was fascinating to consider these maids and their significant role in Peter’s denial of Christ. Even though they were servants, they were bold, persistent and accusatory towards Peter. Noting his reticence, they could sense that he was unwilling to communicate his knowledge of Jesus but boldly they demanded that he confess. It was unusual for a female servant to be so brazen and particularly towards a man. However knowing that they were in Caiaphas’ camp and that Peter was on the “enemy’s” this gave them a boldness.
How much more bold should we be? We are on the Lord’s side. We are on the side of the King of heaven and earth.
In the afternoon we went to the Jaffa gate and reflected on the Passion of Christ, his innocence and faithfulness to the end. In addition we looked at the faithfulness of the women who followed Jesus all the way to the cross. Verse 55 and 56 of Matt 27 says “And many women were there afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him: Among which was, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses and the mother of Zebedee’s children”.
These women were in the background being faithful and Jesus noticed. We then asked ourselves are we always trying to be seen or are we happy to be in the background coming forward when called by Jesus? It is better that Jesus be the one to bring us forward.
We also considered the women who were following Jesus to the cross, with lamenting and mourning in Luke 23:27. They were possibly professional mourners or followers. Despite being physically exhausted and wounded, Jesus said to them “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs of those that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck..” What did these women think of this saying? Did they hear of his resurrection?
Jesus loved women and it is easy to see why they were devoted to him. Even when he was wounded and in severe pain, he wanted to make sure that his mother was taken care of and so he desired John to consider Mary as his own mother and John as her own son. Jesus showed love to the very end.
We then walked through Jerusalem moving from the Muslim quarter to the Jewish one. We visited the Temple institute where we learned about the Jewish hope and preparations for the third Temple to be built. Reader, pray that the Jewish people realise that they are the temple and that God wants to live in them.
We have one more full day in Israel so Shalom Alechem (Peace to you)
Today we went to En Gedi, a place that was well known to David during his days as a shepherd boy, before he became king. It was also a place of refuge to him when being chased by Saul. En Gedi is a beautiful place with lush oases, waterfalls and a perfect area from which to explore the love that Christ has for his bride, the church.
Rev Taylor and Pamela stood in the water, with a small cascading waterfall as a backdrop, ready to share the word of God to the group. En Gedi is mentioned in the first chapter of Solomon “My beloved is unto me as a cluster of camphire (henna blossom) in the vineyards of En Gedi”. There are three main ways that Songs of Solomon is interpreted; allegorically, as a means of explaining God’s love for Israel and the church, literally as a book about godly marriage and sexual relationship or typically as Solomon’s own personal experience.
Women are usually very romantic and love to feel loved. We are made to respond to love and there is only one person who truly knows about love and romance and that is God. In Songs of Solomon, God shows how he wants to love us; we are the apple of his eye. He also expresses that if we call him and run after him he will draw us to himself. It is a romantic pursuit by God for intimacy with us with the result being that we respond to Him.
In chapter 2: 14 it says “O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely”. What a picture for us, to show us that these are the places where God meets us; the secret places, when we draw away from the crowd and busyness, when we are still before God.
Chapter 4:12 – 15 of Songs gives a beautiful picture of a woman. Rev. Taylor encouraged us that we all have these beautiful attributes of womanhood within us, we just have to draw them out.
The love that God has for us is a stubborn sincere love. He went to the lengths of sending his son to die on the cross for us. What a love, what a cost we stand forgiven at the cross.
He Leads Me Beside Still Waters
After a short prayer, some of the group then traversed the hills of En Gedi. The topography was such that it was not hard to imagine that this was the place (as well as the Judean desert) that inspired Psalm 23. We walked by still waters, experienced hills and viewed valleys. This was a place where the soul could be restored.
Having traversed the hill, we reached a splendorous waterfall. The group took pictures and then descended, our next stop was the dead sea..
The Dead Sea Experience
A few members of the group had never been to Israel, hence this were their first experience of the Dead Sea. It was amusing to see their expression as they put themselves in a chair position and then floated as if weightless. One day there will be life in the Dead Sea again! (Ezekiel 47:10)
We ended the day with wonderful fellowship with Pamela and her husband Sh’muel at Jerusalem House. Refreshments were waiting for us and after we partook of them we all sat around the large table to hear what was on Sh’muel’s heart.
Sh’muel reminded us that on Thursday, the day of our departure; it would be the 64th anniversary of the State of Israel. During this time the Jewish people remember the 2000 year exile without their land, Jerusalem and their temple. God has brought the Jews back from the nations (from which they were scattered) in 1948 and this is considered a miraculous event before the full and final redemption of Israel.
We read from Ezekiel 36:22 – 24 which says “Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for our sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land” These are the main verses that speak of the return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel and Jerusalem.
The sanctification of God’s name is probably the deepest meaning of the State of Israel today. It’s not only about the people returning to the land or the spiritual restoration of the land of Israel when all Israel shall be saved. The sanctification of God’s holy name is what it is all about. For 2000 years God turned his face (presence) from Israel and scattered them amongst the nations. Church history teaches that God was finished with the Jewish people and has replaced them with the church even though Paul says in Romans 11 that God most certainly has not. Now we are in the time prophetically where he is turning his face back to Israel and turning to Zion.
We left knowing the most pertinent thing – how to pray for Israel. We read from Daniel 9: 3- 19 and were encouraged to pray these scriptures, making supplication before the Lord on Israel’s behalf. Reader, I encourage you to open your bible and do likewise…
Today was a day of walking and exploring and so it was very important for us to wear comfortable shoes. Can you imagine how it must have been for a pilgrim journeying to Jerusalem in ancient days – He would not have been wearing Nike or Reebok! Nevertheless, he would have travelled in the hot sun, on rough ground, determined to be close to God.
The Western Wall
We went to the Western wall and Pamela gave us a brief history lesson on why the Jews come to this particular wall today to be close to God. In 70 AD the Jews were expelled from Jerusalem and Judea. However in 145 AD after the Muslim conquest, the Jews were allowed to settle. The Western wall is the closest place that they could get to the former location of the Holy of Holies (as was in the then destroyed ‘House of God’). As disciples of Christ we walk with the presence of God within us, there is no need to visit a certain place to be near God. With this in mind we prayed for the Jews.
“31Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah. 32Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: 33But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least to the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
After praying we went to the Davidson visitor’s centre and saw a short film about a pilgrims journey to the House of God. This journey involved buying the appropriate animal for sacrifice and undergoing cleansing in the ritual baths. With this knowledge fresh in our minds it was the perfect time to be introduced to more women of the bible.
After purchasing turtle doves and cleansing herself, Mary would have brought the baby Jesus to be dedicated (Luke 2:22). As she went up towards the court of the women, Mary meets Simeon and Anna who both prophesy over baby Jesus and his life – a very special day for Mary.
The Heart of a Widow
When Jesus was older, we read about how he saw the rich putting contributions in the treasury but noticed a widow who put just a mite in. Jesus commented on how she gave all she had, giving out of her lack. She put her own needs aside, giving all she had and capturing the attention of Jesus. This caused us to ponder how we give. Do we hold back? How we give to God is an expression of how we worship, it is a condition of the heart.
City of David
At the City of David we heard the account of David and Bathsheba. Bathsheba was the wife of a soldier named Uriah. However David saw Bathsheba and wanted her for himself. They had an affair and she became pregnant. David then made sure that Uriah was sent to the frontline of battle, where he was sure to die. Uriah did die.
It was interesting to consider Bathsheba’s feelings. She may have been confused, angry at herself or David, even resentful. She had no choice but to go to the king when David summonsed her because he was the king. Their child died and no doubt this would have saddened her but she may also have felt guilty about her scandalous relationship. We cannot know her emotions but we do know that David repented and she married him and bore Solomon, who rebuilt the temple and was in the ancestral line of Jesus.
Bathsheba had the strength to maintain a marriage that was based of shaky ground. She was a strong advocate for her family, ensuring that Solomon was made king as desired by David. This shows us that God can make something out of a life of sin when we repent. All people are redeemable by God.
Before returning to the hotel we stopped of in Jerusalem. The day had been very full and we were ready to reflect and meditate on what we had learnt. The general sentiment thus far is that this trip to Israel has been life changing. Learning about these women has initiated a deep work in the lives of everyone in the group.
Looking forward to tomorrow….