I have been preaching full-time for 26-plus years, and made my first attempts over three decades ago. I’ve taught Bible classes about the same length of time and taught in a preacher training school for a dozen years. I’m a preacher’s son and feel like a fairly diligent student. But, this trip has been enlightening in many ways.
I’ve learned more about the physical features of the land. Today is just a sampling of that. Going to the Shephelah, the Judean foothills or lowlands, we looked at ruins of the Old Testament town of Tel Beit Shemesh. It was a fertile, strategically important area and the site of conflict between particularly the Israelites and Philistines. The valley of Elah, also a famous location of conflict between Israel and Philistia, was a playing field surrounded by two stadiums, those Judean foothills where each army camped. We got to walk in the creek bed where David retrieved his five smooth stones. But far to the south, where we ended up in the afternoon, we reached the arid, though surprisingly green, area at the very south of the nation–Beersheba. It is south of the mountains of Jerusalem, at the northern edge of the hot, flat Negev desert. Each day, we’ve been surprised and enlightened by the secrets of this land unlocked with our GeoBasics book, an expert guide, and an extremely knowledgeable tour group leader.
I’ve learned more about the people I’m traveling with. Each day, I’ve said something about them, but the blessing continues with every new day. You can’t travel with anyone for this long without learning new and interesting and unexpected information.
I’ve learned something about the religion of the land I’m in. I know far less about Judaism than I do areas of Christendom, but tonight we had a rabbi speak to us after dinner. He is a conservative rabbi that grew up an Orthodox Jew. He shared with us the viewpoint of at least a portion of the Jews in Israel and the rest of the world. When I heard him, it showed me how much there is for us to share with so many people in this world. It also told me something of the unique hope found in the New Testament.
Ive learned more principles about the Word of God, especially as viewed through the lens of Bible Geography. Wes Autrey gave a powerful lesson overlooking the valley of Elah, where David defeated Goliath. Adeptly using that story, he urged us to see the stone fired by David as faith in action. Donnie Bates, at Bersheva, related how the God revealed there is literally the living God who sees me. In the wilderness, God was there to be with His people. Masterful! Every day, the lessons have tied the geographical location to a spiritual lesson that has helped me in my relationship to God, His Word, and this land. I’ll never forget it.
I’ve learned more about me. These days have exposed those areas in me that need more work. They’ve shown me what touches my heart and how. They’ve shown me what I should be doing more effectively and why. It seems strange that a place would help do this, but it has done exactly that.
The journey still has about three days left. The days are long and tiring, but thrilling, too. And, as today perfectly represents, they are so enlightening.