BE{atitudes} a Cultural Rebel

June 28, 2011 - Leave a Response

Here are my thoughts and notes on Matthew 5:3-12 while I was in Israel:

 The greatest man who ever lived, besides Jesus, was John the Baptist. He was a nomad, he was not materialistically wealthy, he never married, he didn’t drink alcohol and he was executed at a young age. By the world’s standards, he would be pitied and called a fool; but in the eyes of Jesus he was great. A life characterized by the principles which Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount is a great instrument for evangelism. It a life obedient to the will of God, a life striving for holiness, and it is a life that recognizes its insignificance apart from God. The word “beatitude” comes from a Latin word that means free from worry, prosperous. This is happiness, not from this world, for this happiness comes from an inner contentedness which is not affected by outer conditions. All the blessings and happiness that Jesus talks about in this sermon, comes from a relationship with Him and the fact that a Christian’s life is now right with God. For those who come to Him in the way Jesus lays out in this sermon will be blessed. However, we see Jesus lay out a standard of living that is contradictory to everything that the world deems admirable.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3).

The word, poor, comes from the Greek word which is used to refer to a person who is totally deprived, begging poor. Poor, in this case, does not refer to a materialistic type of poor; moreover, it is a state of the spirit not of the bank account. Without Jesus Christ, every person is spiritually poor, no matter what his education, social status, religious knowledge, or social statuses are. Jesus says a man is blessed if he recognizes his complete reliance on God. Nothing in our strength can save us; all we can do is rest on God’s mercy and grace. In Psalm 34:18 we see God’s favor on those who recognize the condition of their spirit, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Even in Exodus 32:1-6, when the law was given to Moses, it was evident that even God’s chosen people could not fulfill its requirements; for instance, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai, Aaron was leading the Israelites into a pagan orgy. Jewish people, made interpretations of the law, composing traditions that were easier to obey in their own strength. They exchanged God’s written law for the Talmud, which is man’s modification of the Law. They falsely thought God was less holy than He is and they were more holy than they were. The result was that they believed they were self-righteous enough to make themselves right with God. To enter the kingdom of heaven, we need to recognize that nothing in our power can get us to be made right with God. In Matthew 18:3, we see God’s instruction for humility of those who want to enter His kingdom, “unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” We cannot be made valuable until we notice our lack of worth and we cannot live until we discover we are dead. In our society, there are thousands of Christian books on how to become successful and happy, but there are few that are about denying yourself, taking up your cross, and following Jesus Christ. We will never treasure Christ the way we should, if self improvement is most important to us. Until we see our worthlessness, sinfulness and poverty of spirit we can never truly see our Savior’s strength, worth and glory. We cannot see God’s richness until we see our own poverty.  We cannot make ourselves humble to try to make ourselves right with God by our own will, but it is a divine work to make us see we cannot change without the help of God. Our own efforts to make amends with God are enemies to humility. Authentic humility is given by God; however we commanded to be humble, “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you (James 4:10).” Another example that we are called to humble ourselves is in 1 Peter 5:5, “and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” We know that we possess a heart that is poor in spirit when we consider ourselves as nothing and Christ as everything. We should consider no situation in life to be unfair because we deserve far worse than anything we can experience in this life. Those who come to God with humbleness will receive the kingdom of heaven, as we see in Luke 12:32 “Do not be afraid little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.” Once we recognize our poverty, only then God can make us heirs in His kingdom.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted (Matthew 5:4).

When it comes to mourning we have to make sure that our mourning is proper. Improper mourning is the aggravation one gets when a plan of selfish intention is thwarted. Another illegitimate mourner could be a person who carries grief to illegitimate lengths. Our lives should have mourning at one point or another. For a trouble free life is destined to be a shallow life. The trials we go through make us stronger and more mature than if we lived a life that always went the way we wanted it to go. The spiritual poverty in verse 3 is connected to godly sorrow in verse 4; those who are poor in spirit become those who mourn over their sin. God looks favorably on a person who is leading a righteous life; however it does not replace a humble and contrite heart which God honors even more. In Isaiah 66:2 it says, “this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at my Word.” David gives an example of godly mourning over his sin with Bathsheba in Psalm 51, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me, against You, You only, I have sinned.” In a Christian’s life, sin and happiness are incompatible. As we become more mature in our faith, our awareness of our sin increases and we begin to constantly mourn over sinfulness. Most of the church today has a faulty sense of sin that either ignores sin or makes light and jokes about sin. The path to blessedness is not looking at sin as though it was respectable but instead seeing it as a cause for great sorrow. True mourning does not focus our attention on our sinfulness but on God’s forgiveness. In 1 John 1:9 it says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We need to be characterized by a continual confession and repentance of our sin. The blessing that God gives is not from the mourning but the comfort which God gives a godly mourner. Every time we mourn over sin we will be continually comforted.  And as we confess our sin he is faithful to comfort us, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).” As long as we mourn over our sin, He is faithful to comfort; that is the blessing we receive. The sooner we confess our sin the sooner the comfort will come.  Sin is repulsive to God and is destructive to us. Sin robs us of comfort and robs God of His glory. The godly mourner should be repentant for the harm his sin has done to God’s glory not the harm it might bring to his name or wellbeing. In Psalm 119:136 we see godly mourning and a desire for holiness, “My eyes she streams of water, because they do not keep Your law.” Jesus gives us an example of being mournful over the sins of others when He cries for Jerusalem in Luke 19:41, “When He approached Jerusalem; He saw the city and wept over it.” If we are to be godly mourners, then we will grieve not only for our sins, but for the sins of fellow believers and sins of the world.

Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).

Gentleness is not an attribute which the world highly esteems. The Jewish culture in the time of Christ was expecting a Messiah to come that was powerful and would overthrow the Roman rule. However, in Isaiah 53 we see that the Messiah was to be a Suffering Servant who was humble and self-denying.  In Greek the term used for gentle is also used to describe a soothing medicine or a soft breeze.  The term is used to describe Jesus when He was coming in on a donkey during the Triumphal Entry in Matthew 21:5. Gentleness is not weakness, but is power put under control. Meekness surrenders its power to God’s control. For example, Paul, being mentored by Gamliel, had the best religious education for a Jewish man of his day; however, he counted it as loss and put no confidence in his flesh but found that He could do nothing apart from Christ. The blessing of those who are gentle is that they shall inherit the earth. Those who are meek understand their worthlessness apart from God and all they can do is beg God for His mercy. The blessing of the humble and meek is seen in Psalm 37:11, “But the humble will inherit the land and will delight themselves in abundant prosperity.” Our inheritance to the kingdom is as secure as Christ’s inheritance, “For all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apoloos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God (1 Corinthians 3:21-23).” Salvation requires meekness, “unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:2-4).” Christians are commanded to be meek and gentle especially as a good testimony in evangelism, “always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15).” In order to be more Christ like we need to have the spirit of Christ, which was the spirit of gentleness. This is not only is not only a necessity in order to enter His kingdom but it is a command as well as a requirement to properly give an account of the hope that is within us.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied (Matthew 5:6).

Righteousness is not a characteristic our culture desires to pursue. Our world desires artificial happiness which comes from the hunger to become powerful, gain praise or pleasure. However, hungering and thirsting after righteousness is the only craving which once pursued can bring continual happiness. Our culture tells us to pursue the wrong kinds of happiness, which result in no happiness. Spiritually hungering and thirsting for righteousness will lead to true satisfaction. Just as hungering and thirsting are a necessity to maintain our physical life; hungering and thirsting for righteousness is required to maintain our spiritual life. As food and water are needed for physical life, righteousness is needed for spiritual life. Righteousness is not a spiritual option, but is essential to spiritual life. God has created man with a desire for Himself, though men try and satisfy that desire man made gods. But those who belong to the God, desire for His righteousness; those who do not desire His righteousness do not belong to Him. We see the desire of the Psalmist in Psalm 119:97, “O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.” Even though the believer has war with its flesh on a daily basis, our inner man thirsts and loves the law, “For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man (Romans 7:22).” A child of God pursues righteousness despite his resisting flesh.  Those who are God’s children have a God given longing to pursue holiness and righteousness. The desire for righteousness shouldn’t be delayed later in life but should be instant and continue for the rest of our earthly life, “God ,You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water (Psalm 63:1)” The result of us hungering and thirsting for righteousness is to be satisfied.  The word for satisfied is the Greek word, Chortazo, which is used in reference to the feeding of animals until they want no more. Our job is to seek righteousness, God’s job is to satisfy our longing, “For He has satisfied the thirsty soul and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good (Psalm 107:9).” The reason we constantly desire righteousness is not because it never fully satisfies but because we want more of what is so satisfying. In Psalm 34:10 we see the satisfaction righteousness brings, “The young lions do not lack and suffer hunger; but they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing.” In John 6:35 Jesus speaks about how only He can satisfy our longing souls, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” An element of genuine desire for righteousness is discontentment with one self. Those who are content with their own righteousness, never see a need for God’s. Let God’s children have the same attitude of Paul in Romans 7:24, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” Let us never depend on earthly things for satisfaction but have a deep craving for the Word of God. We should never have to be persuaded or convinced to pursue righteousness just as a hungry man would never have to be begged to eat. Let us have the same attitude in Jeremiah 15:16, “Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and delight of my heart; for I have been called by Your name O Lord God of hosts.” Not only should the God’s word alone bring joy, but to a Christian, even discipline will bring joy because it is evidence of His love; we can see this in Proverbs 27:7, “A sated man loathes honey, but to a famished man any bitter thing is sweet” and in Hebrews 12:6, “For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and he scourges every son whom He receives.” Lastly, spiritual hunger for righteousness is unconditional. In Psalm 119:20 it says, “My soul is crushed with longing after Your ordinances at all times” and in Isaiah 26:9 it says, “At night my soul longs for You, indeed my spirit within me seeks You diligently.” As Christians, our spiritual hunger for God and His righteousness should be priority in our lives because we know that it is the only ambition which satisfies.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy (Matthew 5:7).

Just as Christ showed mercy to us, we too are to extend mercy to others. The term mercy, in Greek is eleemon, which means to give help to the helpless; it is compassion in action. In order to be merciful, you must bear the punishment in which you are pardoning. For even God, being just, does not show mercy without punishing sin. The foundation of God’s mercy is not only in His love but in His justice. Jesus bore the punishment for our sins so that God might be merciful and just. Those who have received much mercy should show much mercy; we can see the command for us to be merciful in Matthew 25:42, “for I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invited Me in; naked and you did not clothe Me; sick and in prison and you did not visit Me…to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.” The way we can have a righteous motive when we show mercy is only when we receive God’s mercy. We are commanded to be merciful in Luke 6:36, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” The blessing is being able to show mercy to others because of the great mercy we have been given. Mercy is an evidence to salvation. But, we are not granted salvation on the basis of us giving mercy or withholding it; nevertheless, we must be saved by God’s mercy until we can be truly merciful.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Matthew 5:8).

The heart referred to in this verse is not a physical heart, but the center of the mind, will and emotion. All of our actions begin in the heart and mind, we can see this in Proverbs 4:23, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” as well as Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick, who can understand it?” The blessing of having a pure heart is seeing God. David, being a man after God’s own heart got to be known for finding joy in the Lord. A double-minded heart is not a pure heart, “You adulteresses, do you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God (James 4:6).” Those who are God’s children will be motivated to live a pure life. A pure life is characterized good deeds which come from a genuine heart, “For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first, clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also (Matthew 23:25-26).” Though we may be busy with religious deeds, we cannot please God unless our hearts have the right motive. We are not called to compare ourselves to others like the Pharisee did with the tax collector, but our only standard to purity should be God’s holiness. Just as our sin separates us from God, “your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear (Isaiah 59:1-2)” a pure heart through Jesus can reconcile us to God. However, if purity does not characterize our life, we either do not belong to God or we are being rebellious. This does not mean we will never have temptations, but God will always provide a way out of sin. This does not mean we should live in a monastery without any temptation of our culture around us. For the problem of sin is not the world around us but the sin within us. God provides for what He demands from us, and His desire for us is to live a pure life. We are unable to even live one holy second apart from the power of God. The blessing of having a pure life is that we may see God; this is continuous fellowship with God. Just as Moses who saw the glory of God continually asked to see more of Him (Exodus 33:18). Purity of the heart makes it so our hearts can see more clearly the beauty of God.

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called Sons of God (Matthew 5:9).

The peace which Jesus talks about here is more than just an absence of fighting. In Hebrew, the word, “shalom” states a desire for a person to have all the goodness God can give, “God’s highest good to you”. There cannot be true peace while there is still unrighteousness; where there is sin there cannot be peace. We can see the importance of righteousness in relation to peace in Isaiah 48:22, “There is no peace for the wicked, says the Lord.” There cannot be peace while there are still sinful men, “out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fortifications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man (Mark 7:21-23).” We also see that sinful men cannot have peace in James 3:16, “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.” To be a peacemaker means one has embraced a holy life and is now calling others to embrace the gospel of holiness. Men who are without God are also without peace, for God is the source of peace. Not only is God of peace but has brought peace to us through the cross, “For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross (Colossians 1:19-20).” The promise to being a peacemaker is being able to be called a child of God. As a child of God we have abandoned the false peace of the world, which means we will not have peace with the world. However, as children of God, even if we do not have peace with the world, we will always have peace while we are in the world- the peace of God, which no person can take from us.

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:10-12).

Those who are holy are blessed, but they pay a price for it, “Indeed all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).” As we become more like Christ, the world will treat us the same as it treated Christ. Persecution is a concrete evidence of salvation, “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him (Romans 8:16-17).” To live in a manner worthy of the gospel is to live in a way that invites the world to resent you. The fact that some believers are popular and loved by the world does not mean that the world has raised its standards, but that those “Christians” have lowered their standards. We should not be eager to seek out persecution but we should be ready when it comes. We should not lower God’s standards in order to be popular with the world, and therein avoid conflict. Holy living brings conflict. Instead of trying to fit in with the world, we need to be a cultural rebel by fully obeying all the commands of the Lord.

A Reverence for the Perfect Sacrifice

March 12, 2011 - Leave a Response

First off, in the Torah reading, a commentator noted that, “There is nothing more sacred than our divinely given torah-the very words of God.” Today the Western Church has a low view of God.  The American Church does not view God’s word as a precious treasure, but as a book, which is dusty in the corner of their home. We have lost our fear for the Lord and a reverence for His holy Word.

The Torah reading came from Leviticus 1:1- 5:26 where all the burnt offerings and the grain offerings were explained and mentioned. We see that a burnt offering which was also called “olah” was the smoke and flames of the sacrifice and occurred before the sacred meal. This offering was known as an “attraction” and a gift to God and was a pleasant aroma to Him. Looking at the commentary and the Bible passage, the consequence for sin was a gruesome penalty. I wish the Christian church today had the same disdain for sin as Jewish people do. The reason the Jewish people make so many other laws is so they don’t violate the Ten Commandments. They “fence in” the Ten Commandments to stay far away from sinning as they possibly can. In the Church today, people question how close to sin they can get before it is called sinning, how sad that we have missed the point. Sin is so repulsive to the Lord that He made the Israelites slaughter pure sacrifices and to place the sins of the people on that sacrifice, so they will be forgiven. The sad thing is that the Israelites had a number of sacrifices and had to do them at least once a year in order to be “cleansed of their sin”. However, to be forgiven by the animal sacrifice meant they were “sprinkled with water” and cleansed; once they sinned again they had to kill another sacrifice. But hallelujah for Jesus Christ, the perfect sacrifice who once and for all paid for our sin on the cross, we no longer need animal sacrifice, for the blood of Christ has not only cleansed us of our sin, but has made us white as snow. Now when God looks at us, He sees the righteousness of Christ, our sin is cast away from His eyes as far as the east is from the west. Thank God for the perfect Lamb He has sent!

 

The Journey [from Jericho to Jerusalem]

March 1, 2011 - 2 Responses

Difficult would be an understatement to describe the 16 mile inclined hike from Jericho up to Jerusalem. This journey paralleled with the journey of my life. I was thrilled to begin this task, with the expectation to have bragging rights to say that I did it (how many people can say they have hiked from Jericho to Jerusalem- most of modern Israelites are not even crazy enough to do it). We began our ascent at the Gate of Jericho where we had many stops that included stopping to talk to locals who rode on donkeys and to have a lunch break in the Judean wilderness. The first half of our hike, I was singing songs with friends, laughing, making jokes, taking pictures. Yes, there was difficult terrain, but I still had strength from the freshness of the hike. We stopped at a half way mark at a gas station, this point I was tired but not weak. The hike continued, but after the gas station, our traveling veered northward to the remnants of the Roman Road. The mountains were much steeper and were more difficult since I had pulled my groin muscle.

"The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches."

There were many times I just wanted to give up, but pulled through it by stretching at certain water breaks. I followed closely behind our fearless leader, Bill, knowing that he knew the best pathway. It wouldn’t always be easy ground, the path we were traveling on was narrow but I trusted that he had a plan and the best possible route for us. Just like in life, I follow closely behind Jesus. He is my fearless leader. The road of life might be narrow, steep, difficult, and leaving us out of breath and in pain all over. There was a point in our hike that we crossed into an area that burned trash; there was mud all over and the stench was unbearable. I could barely walk; I had to mentally tell my brain to keep moving. We all go through rough patches in life where everything around us is not how we want it to be. We are disgusted, in pain, tired, and don’t know if we can get through it. At this time on the hike, not only was I consciously telling my body to move, but I was praying to God that He would provide me with strength enough to finish the hike. I prayed to him for a good two hours when I was in pain; not only get my mind off of my sore muscle but to be encouraged that Christ too did this journey. The journey from Jericho to Jerusalem Jesus did a number of times; His last time was when He took this long journey in order to be crucified. But, Jesus Christ also went through the journey of life. He has been through difficult periods; he knows my pain not only physically but emotionally. The best thing we can do when we face a trial in life is not to give up but to run to God. He allows trials in our lives to strengthen our character and for His name to be glorified. After the rough patch in the hike we went through a Palestinian village where people gave us weird looks and some even threw rock at us. We will be hated because we follow Christ, for even Jesus was despised and rejected by men.  The sun was setting over the Mount of Olives, our final ascent. It was like the light at the end of the tunnel.  This was the steepest mountain thus far but I didn’t feel any pain because I kept looking ahead on top of the mountain towards the setting sun, knowing it was in grasping distance away. But hallelujah, He allowed me to make it to the top and then to the Jerusalem city walls. When I got there, I hugged the wall, knowing I wouldn’t have made it if not for the Lord.  Nothing mattered at that point besides the fact that I was there! I looked back on the miles I traveled to get to where I was and praised God even in the hard times, knowing that He would get the glory in the end. Just like life, we go through trials, so God will get the glory…what an awesome privilege we have to be instruments of righteousness for our great God! The choice we have is to give up when times get rough, wanting a way out; or to follow closely behind our Savior, knowing He will bring us to greener pastures and knows just the route to go. I can’t wait to get to heaven and have a perfect relationship with God and to be in the presence of a Holy God who loves me. Now I can keep looking ahead, knowing there will be a day with no more pain or fear or sin; but until then I will following the Son into the setting sun.  By His map, the Bible, we can get to the end and not say look what I have done, but instead, look what Jesus Christ has done! Let our lives be like a magnifying glass, showing the world our beautiful Savior.

Jewish Thoughts About Exodus 35-38

February 27, 2011 - Leave a Response

Thought’s about my reading of commentators of this passage(Exodus 35:1-38:20)…

This week’s Torah portion sums up the direction God gives His people for building the Tabernacle. Four chapters in Exodus go into all the details in including who is going to build it, what materials, where the certain things in the tabernacle go, and so forth. The bible and commentator explains the many curtains: curtain for the screen, screen for the gate of the court, and entrance screen. All of these curtains show just how holy God is. What an amazing thing it is that Gentiles, of all people, through grace, can approach the holy of holies, by the blood of the Lamb. We can have a relationship and talk to a holy God, how humbling is that! In the Old Testament, sacrifices of spotless animals were done in order for the sins of the people be placed on the animal to be killed in order to pay for the penalty of sin. Now we can approach the holy of holies through the One spotless Lamb who bore the sin of man once and for all. He died for our sins so that we might live and have a right relationship with Him. I am so undeserving of His love; a King’s love so great that he would die for a person like me.

One thing the article on the Torah said was, “God speaks to us through His people, since there is no tabernacle and holy temple. There is a trace of God in each and every one of us and it is that Godliness which reaches out and communicates to us.” Biblically speaking, this is wrong. We know that men are fallen, so how can we take what comes out of his mouth to be divine? Now, God’s new community has the Holy Spirit, God’s presence, living inside of them; however, they still struggle with their flesh, so cannot be counted as heavenly message carriers. How does God speak you ask? Well, in the simplest way, through His Word. The Bible is how God speaks to His people; His infallible and true Word spoke to His people thousands of years ago and still speaks to us in the 21st century. The tabernacle and Temple may be done away with, but those have been saved by Jesus Christ can come enter into the holy of holies by Jesus Christ’s blood and can hear His voice through the Holy Bible.

 

Hike in the Judea Wilderness

February 22, 2011 - 2 Responses

standing on a candidate for Rachael's tomb

The first stop on our hike was to the non-traditional, but the more likely place where Rachael was buried. The location where Jacob buried Rachael was north of Jerusalem in the territory of Benjamin (Genesis 35:16-21, 1 Samuel 10:2, Micah 4:7-8, Ezra 2:21, Nehemiah 7:26). This can be seen as Jacob traveled to Migdal Eder (Micah 4:7-8) which is equated with Jerusalem, after Rachel died, it seems plausible that he would  follow the natural flow of traveling south, instead of going back up to Jerusalem after her death. There is also a site called “the tombs of the children of Israel” which was “situated a little way from Ephrat”, where Middle Bronze Age tombs are. This may be the location of Rachael’s tomb over the traditional location that puts her tomb near Bethlehem of Jerusalem.

After Rachael’s  tomb we went to Geba which is also know in the Bible as “The Pass” which Joshua crossed on his all night journey from Gilgal to Gibeon (Joshua 10:1-5).

Me and Brit in front of The Pass

The Pass is also mention in 1 Samuel 13:16-14:23 where Jonathan crawled over cliffs from Geba to Mickmash, to battle to Philistines from the east. Another significant aspect of the Pass (which is connecting Mickmas and Geba from the deep canyon of the Wadi Suwenit) is that it is the border between the Northern and Southern Kingdoms (1 Kings 15:22). Lastly we seen in Isaiah 10:28-32 and 2 Kings 18:17 that the Assyrians go across the Pass.

Most of our hike was in the Judean Desert. This is the same desert that John the Baptist preached in “the Wilderness of Judea” (Matthew 3:1, Luke 1:80, 3:2). It is also the desert that Isaiah uses in his geographical imagery (Isaiah 40:1-11). This is where Jesus was tempted and was “the second Adam” in the wilderness (Mark 1:12-13, Romans 5:14-19).

lunch break in the wilderness

On our way down the ridge of the mountain range we saw Anathoth (Jeremiah’s hometown) and Almon which were Levitical cities (the cities of priests) (Joshua 21:18; Jeremiah 1:1, 32:7-8). After lunch, we descended down to the Parat Springs (Ein Parat). These springs are the Karstic springs in the Land of Israel (Deuteronomy 8:7, Psalm 104:10, 107:33-35). These were also the springs where Jeremiah was told to bury clothing (Jeremiah 13:1-11). In most English Bibles the word “Nahal Parat” is mistranslated to “Euphrates” since they both have the same meaning, “fruitful”. However, it wouldn’t make since for Jeremiah to go all the way to the Euphrates River in Mesopotamia, considering the Parat Springs are in his backyard. Jeremiah buried the clothing here as a symbol of Judah’s pride and filthiness.

swimming in the Parat Springs

The barren, mountainous desert is in stark contrast to the streams of Parat. If you go down to the river bed, there are lush green trees which grow by the water, while just a mile up the mountain is a barren wasteland. A lot of this imagery is used in Jeremiah 17:1 where those who trust in the Lord are not like a bush in the desert but are like trees planted by water. They will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit. We also see in Psalm 1 that those who mediate on the word of God are like trees which are firmly planted by streams of water, yielding fruit and not withering. Reading these passages and seeing the actual desert and streams that Jeremiah and the Psalmist saw, made the verses come alive and become so much more vivid.

Also in Psalm 42:1-2 when the Psalmist says, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”

As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.

Being exhausted by climbing up and down mountains in the desert, then finally seeing a cool, clear stream of water was so refreshing. This is how the Psalmist must have felt when he wrote this psalm, comparing streams of water to God. How refreshing is fellowship with God in a world that is dry and exhaustive!

The bible verse we had to memorize on this hike was Isaiah 40:1-8, where Isaiah talks about in verse 8 that, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever!” This imagery was so evident, seeing small flowers sprout up in the desert but, knowing that when the summer months came, they would all be gone. People and this life will come and go like flowers, here one second then gone the next. However, the God of the Bible and His holy word is everlasting and will endure even when this world is gone.

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever!

Benjamin Field Trip

February 17, 2011 - One Response

On the High Place where Solomon asked God for wisdom looking out to Gibeon, where the sun stood still in Joshua 10

Our first stop on our Benjamin Field trip was to a park just above Emmaus Nicopolis, so we could look down upon it. This city was in the Aijalon Valley which is used for guarding the main route of the central hill country. This is the traditional location of Emmaus, dating from the Byzantine period in 300 AD. This site is 17 miles from Jerusalem, which questions the Biblical account of Luke saying, “later that day they returned to Jerusalem”. The 34 mile distance would make it impossible for this site to be the real location. However, today the site of Emmaus Nicopolis is a memorial for Israel’s armored division. Some believe the site to be at Emmaus Motza –Coloenia, for it is only 3.5 miles from Jerusalem. Another suspect is Emmaus Castellum(Abu Gosh) which is close to Yad Hashmonah, where we are staying. However, this tradition only goes back to the Crusader Period. The last candidate is Emmaus Quibehbeh which the tradition goes from 1290 AD. The unanswered question still lingers. But all we know is the site of Emmaus was mentioned in Luke 24:13-25 where two disciples were traveling when they saw Jesus after His resurrection. Also Emmaus is the center of the Aijalon Valley in New Testament times and Vespsian/Titus took Emmaus and put the fifth Roman Legion there (they did this to control the routes traveling from the east into Jerusalem).

it was REALLY windy on top of Gibeah, the city Saul makes the capital

After this we headed towards a place that looked upon Gezar. This city was once recorded to be conquered by Thutmose III in 1480 BC for it was a Canaanite city of value in the Late Bronze Age. This city is also mentioned in Joshua 10:33 when the king of Gezer tried to help Lacish against Joshua’s attack.  Gezar was in the tribe of Ephraim, but didn’t come into Israel’s full control until the reigns of David and Solomon. In 1 Kings 9:15-17 we see that this city was given to Solomon as a gift for marrying the Pharaoh’s daughter. This city was fortified by Solomon, most likely due to its strategic location as being a gateway from the Aijalon Valley and Beth Horon Ridge access into Jerusalem. Gezar was also the location for Tiglath Pileser’s palace after the conquest with “battering rams” in 734 BC. The location and significance of Gezar was crucial. This city was in the central Benjamin Plateau. Here we talked about Ramah and how it was the home and burial location of Samuel (1 Samuel 15:34, 25:1). This city must be in the location we were looking at for it is mentioned by being with the Central Benjamin Plateau (1 Kings 15:16-22). We also see Gibeon in the distance where Joshua got tricked into a peace treaty (Joshua 9:3-22). This is also the location where the sun stood still as the Amorite fled west by being conquered by Joshua (Joshua 10:12). Here, we also did a reenactment of Abner and Joab’s men fighting at the pool of Gibeon (2 Samuel 2:12:15). We know that this is the location of the city of Gibeon because a wine seal with the name Gibeon was found there. Gibeon was also the place where the tabernacle was moved to (2 Chronicles 1). Near Gibeon was Nebi Samwil, the possible “High Place of Gibeon” where Solomon asked God for wisdom (1 Kings 3:3-15, 2 Chronicles 1:1-13).

coffee break at KOSHERcafecafe

Our next stop was to Gibeah of Saul. This is mentioned in Judges 19:10-16 where the Levites traveled past Jerusalem to Gibeah or Ramah. This shows that these cities are on the watershed or the “Patriarchs” route, and must have been in close proximity to each other. The men in Gibeah who are inhospitable spark the Benjamite civil war. Gibeah is also the city which Saul makes the capital for the monarchy (1 Samuel 15:34). Gibeah was also on the route which the Assyrians used to go to Jerusalem (Road of the Patriarchs (Isaiah 10:28-32)). Lastly, Gibeah is where Titus consolidated his forces before taking Jerusalem in 70 AD, according to the writings of Josephus.  What we sat at on our extremely windy field trip was an unfinished palace from 1965 in Gibeah.

learning about The Pass, between Mikmash and Geba

Our second to last stop was in the “oldest and lowest city in the world”, Jericho. It is also known as the City of Psalm for the abundance of palm trees due to the subtropical climate, catering to its agriculture and many fresh water springs. What we stood in front of in ancient Jericho was the original retaining wall that the Israelites marched around. Our group even marched around it too! The retaining walls weren’t the walls that came “tumbling down”, it was the city wall made of mudbrick. Jericho had two city walls, one was on the outside, which encased the other wall (this wall was the one which Rahab lived). There was also another wall inside of the outer wall; both made of mudbrick, and both proved by archeologist to come “tumbling down.” Many excavations of Jericho have occurred some from 1910’s, however the archeological process wasn’t as advanced and didn’t incorporate evaluation of the layers.  However, in 1930, John Gastang showed that his findings proved the Bible. While in 1952-1957, Kathleen Kenny (who basically discovered modern archeology) found the dating of Jericho to be 1550 BC instead of Biblical 1406 BC.

in front of the excavations of ancient Jericho

This is due to the fact that she didn’t find certain pottery, common in the Late Bronze Age. However, she only dug in a small section of the city, which was most likely the poorer area, where expensive pottery, like the kind she was looking for would not be found. There are many evidences in the city that prove the Biblical account of Jericho. Archeologists have uncovered large amounts of pots with burnt wheat in them. If people were to conquer the city they usually would take valuables (especially wheat) before they destroy it. But this shows that Biblical account for the Israelites to offer everything in the city up to God, and nothing, but Rahab and her family to be spared. While in Jericho, we read Joshua 6 where Joshua obeys God even human reason would disagree with Him. God wanted the Israelites to march around the city 7x for 7 days and at the end of each day, blow a trumpet. This took a lot of trust from Joshua. After the city was conquered (mudbrick walls fell down in a way that was a ramp over the retaining wall), Joshua put a curse on the 1st born son of the man who would try to rebuild Jericho (1 Kings 16:31).

in front of Elisha Spring, where Elisha made bitter water pure.

Now, modern Jericho is controlled by Palestine. The ancient Jericho was much smaller than I imagined, only about 10 acres.

The last stop on this field trip was to the excavation location of where King Herod’s palace was. It was built over Wadi Qilt. This location is also mentioned in Joshua 15:5-8, 18:16-19 where the boarder of Benjamin is. In Joshua 7:26, 15:7-8 it is known as “the valley” where Achan was stoned and buried. Wadi Qilt can also be known as the “Valley of Achor(Trouble).”where Herod's Palace once stood

 

Valley of Rephaim Hike

February 16, 2011 - Leave a Response

On our hike, we went to the Valley of Rephaim. This valley is an emek, which is a wide plain which made it able for us to travel through it, unlike a narrow canyon. This valley functions as a route from Betar to Jerusalem.

The Valley of Rephaim, which was encompassed by Transjordan, is known in the Bible as a home for giants (Deuteronomy 2:11). These giants symbolized glory, but now extinct, have become powerless. By the time of Moses, only Og was left of them in the Transjordan (Deuteronomy 3:11). The departed dead from that region has made an impact making Rephaim became known as “spirits” (Psalm 88:11, Isaiah 26:14, Proverbs 2:18, 9:18).

fighting reenactments in the valley

Part of the border between Judah and Benjamin is at an area of the Valley of Rephaim where it makes contact with the Shoulder of the Hinnom Valley (Joshua 15:8, 18:16).

The Valley of Rephaim is also the location where the Philistines attacked twice after David became king of Israel in Jerusalem. The name “Baal Perazim” was given to this place because the Lord broke forth against David’s enemies, just like the parallel of the water/springs which means to “break forth” from the rock. These four springs in the Valley of Rephaim were: Ein Lavan, Ein Hinyeh, Ein Balad, and Ein Yael.

The Valley of Rephaim is also known in the Bible to be the place where three of the thirty chiefs came down to David to the rock at the cave of Adullam, while a band of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of Rephaim (1 Chronicles 11:15-19, 2 Samuel 23:13).

Also in Isaiah 17:5 it talks about the Valley of Rephaim, “And it shall be as when the reaper gathers standing grain and his arm harvests the ears, and as when one gleans the ears of grain in the Valley of Rephaim. In 2 Samuel, Giloah, which is in the Valley of Rephaim, was the hometown of Ahithophel, a counselor to David who sided with Absalom in the revolt against David.

The Valley of Rephaim is mentioned in Song of Solomon as well. It says in the Song of Solomon 2:17, “Until the cool of the day when the shadows flee away, Turn, my beloved, and be like a gazelle or a young stag on the mountains of Bether.” For this passage, our group did a reenactment of the verse, one of the couples in our group, Joel and Jenn were the ones who did. Joel read the passage and describe our location while Jenn pranced in front of him on the mountains of Bether.

Bether, or Betar was the last holdout of Bar Kochva, who led the second revolt of the Jewish people against Rome in 132AD-135AD. We also hiked to Hushah, which is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 4:4 and is the name of a descendant of Judah and has preserved its named as a city near Bethlehem.

The last stop on our hike was another spring. But after viewing the spring, we built a fire and boiled hot water for coffee and tea. Bill then spoke about Psalm 48 and we sang songs in Hebrew.

bonfire, stories, and hot tea

During our hike, we had to memorize Psalm 48:1-8. This Psalm became so much more vivid as I traveled in the land of the same person who wrote it. The Psalmist declares how great God is and how greatly he is to be praised. Not only did the beautiful scenery of His creation declare His glory but the fact that He is the one true God. This is shown in the battle victories He gave David against the Philistines in the Valley of Rephaim.   God has made himself known as a fortress (Psalm 48:3). For all the kings of the world may come against Him, but just like He did in 2 Samuel, He will leave them trembling (Psalm 48:6). Great is the LORD, He will guide us forever!

"Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised in the city of our God!" -Psalm 48:1

New Testament Walk in Jerusalem

February 11, 2011 - One Response

the group on the steps to the Temple Mount

On Wednesday we had a field trip to Jerusalem for a New Testament walk thru of the city. Our first stop was on the Temple Mount which is on the southeast end of the Old City. The Dome of the Rock on top of the Temple Mount was built in 691 AD, and is said by the Muslim’s to be the location where Mohamed ascended. This, however, is not the most holy site for Muslims, but the Al Aqsa Mosque is considered more holy in their eyes, and is conveniently located across the way from the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount.

Southeast on the Temple Mount is Solomon’s Stable which was built in the Heriodian Period and is now used as an underground mosque. Jews find the Temple Mount significant because the rock that the Dome of the Rock was built under is the rock that the earth was born out of (Genesis 22, 2 Chronicles 3). The Dome of the Rock recently had the mount on it gold plated in the 1990’s which cost around 15 million dollars.

me and my roommates at the Dome of the Rock

The location of the Temple Mount is said to be the mountain where Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac. This mountain is the same one where Solomon built the temple and where the Holy of Holies was.

The Temple Mount in contemporary time has two platforms while in the time of Christ it was a flat layer of stone all the way to the temple. The temple was destroyed in 70 AD; however, Herod began to refurbish the temple which took 83 years. The temple was rather small compared to the temple mount which is as big as seven football fields and is the home of parks, trees and homes (1 Kings 6:2). If you looked to the east of the Temple Mount there is the Mount of Olives, where Jesus ascended and will return one day.  Also on the Temple Mount was the Royal Stoa where, in the time of Christ, the Sanhedrin, made up of Pharisees and Sadducees, would meet. Also in the eastern side of The Temple Mount was Solomon’s portico which is mentioned in John 10, Acts 3 and Acts 5:12. If you look toward the Dome of the Rock from here, you would see the Dome of the Chain in front of it. This housed something called Solomon’s Chain and was once used to tell if a person was telling the truth, if they could hold onto the chain.

Some say the Dome of the Rock is sitting on where the temple used to stand. There is even said to be a stone in the Dome of the Rock to the exact measurements as the holy of holies and is thought to be where it once sat; sadly no one besides Muslims are allowed into the Dome of the Rock. However, opposing views believe the temple used to be where the Dome of the Spirits is, which is laid out in a way that the eastern gate and the Mount of Olives would be a straight shot to the entrance to the entrance of the temple.

We visited the Eastern Gate that led to the temple mount (Ezekiel 44). Contemporarily, it is closed off; however, the original gate from the time of Christ is found underneath it, but is not excavated due to Muslim tombs around the modern gate.

the eastern gate to the Temple Mount and the Mt. of Olives in the distance

While at the eastern gate, we read John 2 where John cleanses the temple during the Feast of Passover. In the passage, Jesus tells them to destroy the temple and he will rebuild it in three days; the rebuilding of the temple would have taken years; however, Jesus was speaking of His body which he will raise Himself from the grave after three days after being crucified.

While still on the Temple Mount we walked to the Northern Gate, which is the highest point on Mount Moria. This was the original location for Antonio’s Fortress, the place where Paul last stopped before dying. From here, we went to Ritmire’s Step, which is an original stone from the 1st temple period and the from the original platform from the temple of Hezekiah and Solomon.

After we left, we went outside the Temple Mount walls to see the stones that Herod the Great used to construct it. The stones were so big they weighed over 40 tons. The construction used to build the walls was a method called dry construction where the wall was held together by the weight of the stone alone.

the stones of the Temple Mount that Herod built

To build the temple, the thousands workers weren’t just slaves, but highly trained builders, planners and engineers. The highly sophisticated Roman irrigation system made more workers accessible to work on the construction of building the Temple Mount and renovating the temple. The money which funding this great undertaking was from the toll that Herod took from the spice route which went through the Gaza Strip. It took around 3-4 years to build the Temple Mount and 80 to restore the temple.

The original temple that Solomon built was already noted for its small stature; however the Temple Mount was a lot larger. Solomon had many reasons for and small but extravagant temple and large Temple Mount. One being that Solomon wanted to make a name for himself. Sages used to think that it was done as an act of repentance. While some believe it was in order to please the Jews. The Temple Mount was built in order to solve a major traffic problem. A few times a year, Jews came all over the country to offer sacrifices in one place, the temple. To hold hundreds of thousands of people, the Temple Mount was built.

Next, we saw a stone that had engraved in “belonging to that place of the trumpeter” that fell off of the top of the Temple Mount. From here, we went to the south side of the Temple Mount and read Psalm 120-124.

reading the Psalms(Songs of Ascents) while going up to the south side of the Temple Mount

The steps leading up to the Temple Mount are long and short and are in sets of 15; therefore, people think it is so you can prepare your heart before you go to the Lord, also to read the 15 Song of Ascents in Psalms.

After our journey throughout the Temple Mount, we headed to the Wool Archeology Museum. Here, we saw a house that was on the western hill and was excavated in the 1970’s. This home were most likely the home of rich priests’ because of the large size. The homes were highly influenced by Roman culture which included frescos and mosaics. But, the mosaics in these homes did not include pagan animal or humans but simple geometric shapes. In one of the rooms we saw stone water jars, much like the ones used in Cana when Jesus turned the water into wine at the wedding. We also read Luke 22 where Jesus is on trial in a high priests’ home, much like the one we were in.

The Burnt House Museum Next we went to the Burnt House Museum and saw a movie about the destruction of Jerusalem. After the movie we left to go to the Church of the Holy Seplechure. In 325 AD it was built by Constantine’s mother and it is also said that she found parts of the cross, nails, and Jesus’ crown of thorns. This is the traditional location of Christ’s crucifixion and burial. In Jesus’ time the location was a rock quarry so it was an easy place to dig tombs. We even saw a 1st century tomb in the church. The tomb was a shaft tomb, which the dead body is placed in for a year then the left over bones are put in a box. However, Jesus was most likely buried in a bench tomb because in John 20:12, “They were sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying. One angel was where Jesus‘ head had been, and the other was where his feet had been.” The shaft tombs were way too small barely enough room to fit the dead body let alone two other angels.

the location for the tomb of Christ

The church itself was very ornate and beautiful, however, it was very Catholic. Cross and candles were everywhere, people kissing the stone that was said the be where Jesus laid, and even a confessional(which didn’t make sense because Christ came so we can have a restored relationship with God and talk to Him directly, not through a priest, but by the High Priest, Jesus who intercedes for us). But once I got past the showy façade, it really hit me that the God of the universe, came to earth humbling himself to the point of death, even death for a wretched sinner like myself. And I was standing in the location where Jesus Christ hung on a cross and bore the wrathful payment for MY sin. However it was also the same location of his burial. But praise be to God that Jesus rose three days later and conquered death once and for all (Acts 10:40). For a Christians life is foolish if Jesus didn’t rise from the grave. Everything is based around His death and resurrection. My sinful self was on a hell-bound race and towards God’s perfect judgment and wrath; however, glory to God for salvation, for He bore the judgment and wrath that meant for a worthless person like me. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

 

A Typical Day at IBEX

February 8, 2011 - Leave a Response

view from the Moshav

This morning I woke up and spent time in God’s Word and prayer looking out to the Judean Hill Country. Even further in the distance you can see Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean Sea. This is the view from the Moshav we live on, it is about 20 minutes west of Jerusalem. From here I went to breakfast in the restaurant that is on the Moshav and had an 8am and a 10:30am class. After class was lunch followed by studying and homework. Then I got invited by my boss(I work in the library 3 days a week) and prayer group leader(Becky) to go to a Israeli football game, so I agreed, surprised that they even knew what football was here. I went with 3 other students to Jerusalem “football” stadium(because it was actually a soccer field that was turned into a football field. After paying 20 sheckles, I gained entrance into a game I thought was out of place in Israel. It was different than American football in a few ways. One, there was no extra point. Also, the following was a lot smaller than the NFL. This WAS Israel’s national football teams, but there were as many fans there as you would normally see at an American high school football game. The football players wore prayer shawls with there uniforms and yamicas under their helmets. However, it was entertaining nevertheless. There was a concession stand which I got hot chocolate(it was a little chilly) and a lot of people their spoke English(except for some of the fans who were cheering and singing songs in Hebrew).

with a Jewish football player

the field was funded by the owner of the New England Patriots

at the football game

player with his prayer shawls(on his left hip)

sitting in class

 

eating lunch in the resturant

Judean Hill Country Hike

February 8, 2011 - 2 Responses

At the beginning of our hike we stopped right before we got into the city of Abu Gosh. Bill mentioned the ridges that led travelers coming from the west to Jerusalem. The number one choice for travelers would be the Beth Horon Ridge, which goes from Gezer to Gibeon and is mentioned in 1 Kings 9:15-16. The second choice would be the route we were on which was the Kiriat Yearim Ridge. The Upper Sorek acts as a “moat” around Jerusalem, making travelers travel by the ridges of mountains instead of a straight shot to Jerusalem from wherever they were in the west. Kiriat Yearim is a city mentioned in the Joshua 9:17, 15:9-10, and 18:14-15. This city is only about a 15 minute walk from Yad Ha Shmonah, where we are staying. The moshav where we are staying is just in the boarder of Dan, while Kiriat Yearim is a shared boarder city of Judah, Benjamin and Dan; but is eventually selected to go to the tribe of Judah. From this view we saw, Bill pointed out Mt. Seir, which is modern Shoresh and Mt. Yearim, which is north of Cesalon. Kiriat Yearim is the place where the fighting men of Dan camped out just west of the city, which today could be Yad Ha Shamonah, the moshav which we are living on(Judges 18:11-12.6-4). Kiriat Yearim is also the place where the Ark of the Covenant staying for over a hundred years until David brought it into Jerusalem (1 Samuel 7:1-2, 7-3, 2 Samuel 6). Also Uriah a prophet contemporary with Jeremiah (Jeremiah 26:20-23) was from Kiriat Yearim and fled from there to go to Egypt because of threats from King Jehoiakim.

eating lunch at Lemon Springs

After a quick stop in the British Fortress which is in Kiriat Yearim, we headed down towards Lemon Springs. In Israel, springs are essential to life, especially if there is a drought. Many references to springs are in the Bible including, Deuteronomy 8:7 and Psalm 104:10, 107:33-35, “For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills…” God did not bring His people into a land like Egypt where they could easily rely on the Nile for their water source. God made it so they would have to rely on Him alone and the water He gave them to live. Therefore, springs were used to store and channel the water God had given Israel for latter use in a time of drought or the summer season.

Our next stop was our hike up to Tsuba. On the way we discovered vineyards and Bill spoke about the verse when Jesus is the branch and we are the vines who are to bear fruit. The vines that do not bear fruit are cut off and thrown away, because they are worthless, even to make firewood. The only possible was from vines to make fruit is by the branch. The branch is never cut off but each year after the vines produce their fruit, they are cut off. We are called to produce fruit and do the will of God, but this also shows that God is eternal and we are but a vapor, here for a season and gone the next.

"I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing."-John 15:5

Once we got to Tsuba, we could see the expanse of where we hiked from, we even saw West Jerusalem in the distance. Tsuba was mentioned in 2 Samuel 23:36, for one of David’s mighty men was from there. Today, the site is a ruin from the Crusader period.

From here, we went to a second spring, and the larger of the two. The spring itself was housed in room that enclosed it. We could see the source of the water if we crawled through a tunnel. But through the tunnel the water flowed into a deep pool which three guys from our group did back flips and jumped into.

jumping into the spring after a long hike

Each hike, there is a verse we are to memorize and then later take a quiz on. This verse was from Psalm 121:1-8 and some of the imagery used in the psalm was more vivid to me here in the land of Israel and on that hike than it had been to me in the States. In verse 3 it says, “He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.” On the rocky terrain of the Judean Hill Country, I did stumble a few times; mud made it difficult not to stand firm when climbing up a steep hill. However, God says He will not let me stumble or my foot to be moved. He is a God who never sleeps, He is a God who is closer than my right hand and He is a God who will keep my soul from all evil. The Lord has, is, and will forevermore protect me and keep me.