In May my husband Tim and I were blessed to take a 12-day pilgrimage tour of Israel with pastors Jim Garlow & Rosemary Schindler Garlow from San Diego, www.skylinechurch.org and Pastor Dave and Cheryl Barton of Aledo,Texas www.wallbuilders.com. It’s difficult to describe the many “take-aways” from the journey but foundational:
- the Bible is true and accurate historically, archeologically
- walking the geographical locations of Biblical stories brings them to life
- God sees time differently than we do
- the Jewish nation by its existence is a miracle we can see in our lifetime
- the Messiah (Jesus) will come again
- the Lord is bringing together Jews and Christians before Christ returns
- Israel felt like home—safe, welcoming, familiar…we ran into Crossview friends in Jerusalem!
We viewed layer upon layer of evidence that verified stories of the Old and New Testaments as we toured locations mentioned in Scripture: Tiberias, Capernaum (where Jesus lived during his ministry), Nazareth, Jordan River, Meggido (Armageddon), Sea of Galilee, Bethel, Jericho, Samaria, Magdala, Joppa (where Jonah left port, and Simon the Tanner lived, where Peter saw the heavenly vision), Shiloh, Mts. Zion, Nebo, Moriah, and all-important Jerusalem.
Our amazing guide, Omer Eshel, an Israeli archeologist and Bible scholar, spent several years working at Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947. The most famous scroll is a 2500 year old copy of Isaiah, which we viewed at the national museum. Omer said his grade school daughter can read the words from the scroll. The ancient Hebrew is exactly like present day script. Astonishing!
It’s interesting to note: a “minor” earthquake revealed the mountain cave entrance where the jars of scrolls had been hidden to protect them from invaders. Israel’s statehood was proclaimed the next year, 1948. Israelis have a strong sense that their return to “The Promised Land”is a fulfillment of God’s Word. We marveled at the vastness of God’s plan revealed over time. Thousands of years of HIS STORY told through the written Word, oral tradition, and layers of stone. Structures were built, destroyed, trampled, rebuilt or covered over by conquerors to demoralize the conquered. Israel has been ruled by dozens of nations since its recorded history (Canaanites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Egyptians, Turkish Muslims, who ruled for more than 700 years, and others. The British ruled in 1948 when Israel again became a Jewish nation following the Holocaust of WWII.
Fulfilling God’s Word to gather His people from North, South, East and West, Jews from Africa, Russia, Poland, Germany, England, China, the Middle East, and the United States come by the thousands each year to live in Israel. New development is everywhere to accommodate the influx. The destroyed wastelands are being restored with modern irrigation methods. Fields of wheat and barley, spices, vegetables, flowers, grapes, and millions of trees now fill the plains and hills. A primary cash crop is the hospitality industry. More than three million tourists visit annually. The State of Israel is a miracle that has happened in this generation.
- Praising the Lord in song on the boat named “Faith” on the Sea of Galilee.
- Praying on the Southern steps leading up to the temple mount, where Jesus and Peter taught. On these steps millions of Jews kneeled and sang Psalms of Ascent when they brought sacrificial offerings to God. Here Peter preached to the masses who came to Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost and the Christian church began when 3000 souls heard the gospel in their own language and believed in Jesus.
- Communion service at the the Garden Tomb and Place of the Skull, likely sites of Jesus crucifixion , burial, and resurrection.
- Singing hymns and sharing communion in the Upper Room
- Baptism in the Jordan River—Baptism, a custom practiced often by the Jews, demonstrating cleansing and purity before the Lord.
- Riding in a bullet-proof bus to pray at Shiloh, where the Ark of the Covenant rested for 300 years. Here Hannah prayed for her son Samuel, and where Samuel ministered. We sensed God’s Sprit so strongly, a holy place where women today pray for conception miracles and they continue to be granted.
- same day to Beth-el, site of Jacob’s dream—a ladder reaching heaven.
- Praying at the Western (wailing) wall, the only place Jews are allowed to pray publicly close to the former temple site. (A Muslim mosque now covers the site of Solomon’s temple and Jews are not allowed to pray there.)
- Walking far underground to see burnt foundation stones from the second temple.
- Seeing Temple Institute implements and clothing for the priests prepared for the Third Temple yet to be built. Maranatha! www.templeinstitute.com
- Meeting Israelis with miraculous stories of God’s intervention and healing such as newly elected Knesset member, Yehuda Glick (miraculously healed after four point-blank gunshot wounds) and David Rubin, www.ShilohIsraelChildren.org. David, shot in the leg, and his young son, shot in the head, miraculously drove through sniper fire and survived), daughters of Schindler’s List survivors, Joseph and Rebecca Bau, who married in the concentration camp, and thrived in Israel.
A sweet blessing: When we toured the Old City of Jerusalem we ran into hometown friends who were touring with another group. God blessed us with wonderful food, companions, teaching, and we have much to contemplate. The Bible comes to life in a completely new way when you’ve “been there.” You can view many of the highlights of Israel on U-tube videos with our guide, Omer Eshel, in the series The Bible Comes to Life. We highly recommend taking a pilgrimage tour if the Lord calls. There are affordable ways to go, such as working tours for younger folks. A Tennesee family offers a plan for Christians to serve in Israel’s vineyards and also tour the country. (See www.hayovel.com).
“O Taste and see that the Lord is good.”
Ruins of Capernaum by Sea of Galilee, Peter’s house under church.