This being the only Sunday in Israel on this journey, it’s not surprising that this day would be so highly emotional. We began the day at the Dead Sea, where we worshipped together (being several hours away from the Nazareth congregation). The songs we sing are always profound, but something about looking out a window at the landscapes of the Holy Land honestly evoked even more feelings as we sang “How Great Thou Art,” “He Could Have Called 10,000 Angels” or “Surround Us Lord.” The tight bond of fellowship with other New Testament Christians was (and is) intense. Dan Owen challenged us not just to know the Word of God, but to do it! What a challenging gap between the two! Then, we saw and explored the grounds of perhaps the greatest discovery of the 20th Century, the caves of Qumran. We heard that just this past week a scroll containing text from the book of Esther found in one of the caves, marking the fact that the entire Old Testament was discovered in them (read this interesting article). Such thrilling, faith building facts, pointing to the faithful transmission of copies of the original autographs of the biblical canon.
From there, we went to the Jordan River to the approximate place where Jesus obeyed the will of God being baptized by John. Watching particularly those of the Russian Orthodox religion being baptized en masse, this was a site of faith for so many people. As John Moore said, “It shows the great challenge to faithfully declare the Word of God to the world.” Despite the misguided beliefs of the crowds at this hallowed spot, how encouraging to see so many who believe in God, His Son, and the importance of His coming.
We moved along to Jericho for an incredible experience, standing at the oldest city in the world. It was the place where the greatest generation of Israel began their conquest of the land promised by God to their forefather Abraham. It was also the site of so many important events in Jesus’ ministry, from Zaccheus to Bartimaeus. It was also one end of the journey made by the unfortunate man in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. A place we’ve studied about since we are little children, Jericho lay out before us as a marvel our eyes could behold. Donnie Bates brought it vividly to life, speaking to us there with the admonition that when we do things God’s way there’s victory but when we go our own way there’s defeat. What a feeling of awe and excitement, being soldiers of Christ!
Then, oh the emotion of making the initial drive into Jerusalem. Stopping at the Ma’ale Adummim, imagining the Jews en route to Jerusalem and singing the songs of Ascent (Psalm 120-134), we were mesmerized by the grandeur of the wilderness even as we were surrounded by Bedouins extra eager to hawk their wares and baubles to us as we read Scripture and prayed. The initial view of the Mount of Olives and the walls of Jerusalem brought exclamations from people all over the bus. It’s hard to describe the well of emotion kindled by such views. A stop at Mt. Scopus, with an exceptional view of the Temple Mount, part of which we recognize as Mt. Moriah, intensified so many feelings.
Today, there were so many smiles, songs, and tears, but also many moments of solemn silence. How better to describe it than emotional? It makes the needed feelings of dedication and diligence raw and real, I’m so thankful I got to experience it and to experience it with such wonderful people.