Visiting the Holy Land is always like a refreshing wind after a hot summer’s day, and this trip was no different. I have a great gift that I’ve returned with that I want to share with you and because I believe in the power of God, I have faith to believe that you, child of God, will be in a position to receive it.
First, let me share some highlights.
Arriving into Tel Aviv just over two weeks ago, I was filled with an expectation that God would lead the way and open doors. This was the most unplanned trip we’d ever taken in terms of where we would be staying and the itinerary was extremely flexible from day to day.
We had a mission to capture footage for the upcoming short film and of course to tour the Holy Land, but all this was a day-by-day experience as to how it would unfold. We also visited my beautiful great Aunt in Jerusalem, which was one of the greatest highlights of the trip from a personal point of view.
We were so pleased to experience for ourselves and capture on film the presence of God in the city of the great King. Praying for the peace of Jerusalem at the Kotel (Western wall) was another highlight, in addition to visiting other sites; the Garden of Gethsemane, Mount of Olives, Mount Scopus, Tower of David, Yad Vashem, as well as other sites, stores and interesting experiences while touring the old and new cities of Jerusalem. We also visited The Garden Tomb and The Holy Sepulchre, both sites that are arguably where Jesus could have died, been buried and rose again.
While in Israel, we stayed in Netanya, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Three very different cities, yet Jerusalem is the apple of God’s eye and is unique in its value.
We always experience a greater sense of the Lord’s presence when there, revisiting and meditating upon the history of God’s goodness to His people. Jerusalem is the crown jewel of the Promised Land and it brings God joy to see His people dwelling there and praising Him from His holy hill of Zion.
Psalm 48:1 ‘Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised in the city of our God! His holy mountain...’
Psalm 99:9 ‘Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the LORD our God is holy!’
Psalm 125:2 ‘As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore’.
Visiting Israel is not like taking a regular holiday. On a regular holiday, you see and experience beautiful and unique places, yet in Israel, it’s not only that but everywhere you look you are seeing biblical history before your eyes and everywhere you step, under your feet lies the ruins and physical evidence of it.
On this trip, we visited Tel Aviv and the port of Jaffa (old Joppa) where Jonah tried to run from God. You can imagine poor Jonah learning the hard lesson that God was also the God of the sea and not just the land.
We took a trip up the coastal road, then we turned off towards the Valley of Armageddon where the last battle will be held. It’s an eerie kind of thought when you try to imagine how that will look.
We visited Mt. Precipice where the people rejected Jesus and tried to push Him off the edge. We stood by the River Jordan where Jesus and the early believers were baptised, as well as walking the streets of Nazareth where Jesus grew up. Not far down the road is Cana where Christ transformed water into wine. It’s ironic because apparently the wine there today is pretty lousy so we can conclude that the best wine came from Jesus and has never been as good since. I’m certain there’s a spiritual meaning in that point for you to garner.
We saw where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount at the Mt. of Beatitudes. It’s still breathtaking and the area is largely undisturbed so you can easily envisage the disciples and crowd sitting in awe of the wise poetry pouring like wine from Jesus’ lips.
We stopped in Capernaum on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. It was a warm day, the sea was sparkling in the sun and as I looked out, I wondered how Peter felt as he tried to walk on water and fell. I am sure that each one of us can relate to a time that despite our good intentions, we took our eyes off Jesus and ended up epically falling.
We also passed Mt. Tabor where the Transfiguration took place. Jesus must have looked glorious – I can hardly wait to see His face for myself.
We visited Caesarea, the remains of an ancient Roman port city and saw the amphitheatre, hippodrome and ruins of palaces, temples and bathhouses.
We travelled further north along the coast to the port city of Haifa and visited Mt. Carmel, which is often referred to as Elijah’s mountain.
It’s very beautiful today and I am sure it is far from the humble appearance during its former days. Ironically, a false religion called Bahai has created a shrine with immaculate gardens on the very mountain that Elijah had victory over the idolatry of that time. In another twist of irony, the belief system of Bahai represents what the Bible predicts will be the thinking of the end-time religion. Unity of false gods, unity of false religion, unity of humanity (humanism), world peace without the worship of the One true God, new world order and more. This mountain may look beautiful, but Mount Carmel represents a clear warning that God will not tolerate idolatry forever.
On the same day we also visited Israel’s border with Lebanon to the sea caves of Rosh HaNikra and on our way back, we walked around the Crusader city of Acre which has a great amount of history. It was not a great time in ‘Christian history’ and certainly not representative of true Christianity.
It was very interesting when we took a tour to Southern Israel through the Judean hills and passed the Inn of the Good Samaritan. We went to Masada where we took a cable car to the top of the remains of Herod’s 2,055 year old palace fortress (where 1000 Jewish people committed suicide after being surrounded by Romans). We also travelled through the desert oasis of Ein Gedi and Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found and finally we spent the rest of the day relaxing on one of the Dead Sea beaches.
Like every trip to the Promised Land, more pearls of wisdom, experience and lessons from God continue to unfold upon returning and over time. On this trip, I grasped a greater revelation of how short our time on earth really is. Many times, I have seen the ruins of villages in the city of David and elsewhere. Stone walls with rooms and hallways like we have now. I have seen the spoons and bowls they used to eat their meals and the ancient coins they used to buy them. My wife Jen gracefully wears a 2000 year old coin around her neck that I bought her on one of my trips – a widow’s mite.
Yet on this trip, it all felt very different. I stood there each day and wondered what those walls heard and saw. Husbands and wives celebrating events followed by arguing over futile matters that would soon pass, people haggling over a loaf of bread that would be eaten with friends the same day or perhaps a boy praying quietly in a dimly lit room at night asking God to make him a brave warrior like King David. I saw these people doing the things we do today and I also saw them fade away from the earth in what felt like a moment in time. I saw others come and go, generations upon generations of people with limited time on this earth, doing the very same things. God has watched over them all and has seen and heard every moment. He knows what lies beneath the dirt in the Holy Land, the remanent belongings of those who are long gone. Only God knows where their bones were buried and all that they did in their life. Where have they gone and what did they do while they were here? Did they love and live for God? Did they treat each other well and with love and kindness? What secrets do these walls of Jerusalem hold?
Standing there made me realise that my time is short. Everything I have will be buried in the dirt and even my body will vanish like a mist, here one moment and gone the next. But what will it all mean? If I have lived for myself, it will mean it has all been for nothing. I will go to the grave and my life will have been all in vain. However, if I have lived not for myself but for God, it will mean a great deal. Everything I have will be buried but what will remain for eternity is the very act of pleasing God and this will never be forgotten by the One who truly matters – God Himself. I may not have much on this earth, nor even leave much behind but I will be given a crown of life, a crown of incorruptibility, a crown of righteousness, a crown of glory and a crown of rejoicing. Hallelujah!
I am not for one moment suggesting that my works will earn me God’s love or my ticket to Heaven, I am of course suggesting that I have experienced a greater understanding of how a vessel of honour should be exactly that, whilst on this earth. A vessel of honour brings glory to its maker, just as we ought to bring glory to God (Romans 9, 2 Timothy 2:21). It’s because of God’s great love that I am convinced and encouraged to please Him in all regards of my walk, by His grace alone.
I have returned from Israel with many gifts for family and close friends but this revelation is the best gift I can share with you, if you are willing to open your heart to see it. What would your walls say about you?
Signing off with Godly love and affection,