For the Word of God is living and active…
The day started early. A few of us watched the sun come up over the Dead Sea. As we stood and prayed, we worshiped the Creator, not the creation. Our God is creative and powerful. Over the past two days, we were at the Sea of Galilee and now at the Dead Sea. Both bodies of water are fed by the Jordan River. The Sea of Galilee is about life. The Dead Sea is about death. We confessed in prayer this morning that we wanted to be like the Sea of Galilee. We desire to live the abundant life that Jesus promised (John 10:10).
Our first stop of the day was at Masada. There’s no biblical text here. Masada was a getaway for King Herod. To see how he lived is amazing and chilling. Masada is perched high on a mountain, overlooking the Dead Sea. It’s on an isolated cliff in the desert. The place oozes with archeological history. Hebrew scrolls were found at Masada. King Herod had his problems. He loved to eat. Sounds like many of us Baptist folk! King Herod built his palaces to the highest standards. He loved the good life. King Herod faced his physical ailments. He dealt with gout and syphilis. He fathered many babies. People survived in these days because their bodies were strong, and their immune systems were resilient. During Masada’s history, because of Roman aggression, Jewish men had to make a decision. The choice was between Roman slavery or physical death. A passionate speech took place in the synagogue on Masada. Those Jewish men choose death, not slavery. Ten Jewish men were selected to remain. The question was, “Who would kill the other nine men and then fall on his own sword?” The decisions at Masada were acts of courage. What decisions are you and I facing? May you and I make decisions with acts of courage, too!
During our visit to Ein Gedi, we saw a mother Ibex and her baby. Animals are always fun to see in their natural habitat. We read 1 Samuel 23, describing the story of David and Saul at Ein Gedi. Our next stop before lunch was at Qumran. The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered here. Sunday’s worship service focused on the Word of God. The Bible is spiritual nourishment in our walk with Jesus Christ. Our group was challenged with seven principles: (1) Ask the Lord to give you a hunger for the Bible; (2) use an accurate Bible translation; (3) open the Bible with realistic expectations; (4) invest time in the Bible; (5) overcome obstacles to Bible study; (6) study the Bible with a group; and (7) read helpful books about the Bible. What a blessing to worship Jesus today with the Qumran caves as a backdrop!
On our way to lunch, we saw a sycamore tree in the city of Jericho. We immediately remembered Luke 19:1-10. Jesus called Zacchaeus by name, went to His house for a meal, and changed his life. Our afternoon stop was at the “Valley of the shadow of death.” As you can imagine, we read Psalm 23. God has used that Psalm throughout the ages to comfort many people. Our group shared personal stories, detailing how the Lord used this Psalm to give them hope and assurance in the valleys of life. We even saw a shepherd leading his sheep through the valley. God’s timing is always perfect!
As we drew near the city of Jerusalem, we played the song, “Jerusalem.” That song is a perfect introduction to the Holy City. It’s emotional to see the beauty and magnificence of Jerusalem for the first time. Tears were flowing from our group. We visited Mount Scopus for a “Genesis Blessing.” I watched people stand amazed at seeing the Holy City with their own eyes. That’s one reason why I’m passionate about leading trips to the Holy Land.
We arrived at our Hotel for the next four nights. We finally get to leave our luggage in one place for a few days. The Inbal Jerusalem is a nice, comfortable hotel. We stayed at this hotel before. The service and food are outstanding. Our group enjoyed a delicious dinner and hopefully a restful night.
We leave the hotel early in the morning for a full day in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Christmas is coming tomorrow!
Waiting Now for the New Jerusalem,