“Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.” Gen. 12:1-4
“For the land that you are entering to take possession of, it is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you sowed your seed and irrigated it like a garden of vegetables. But the land that you are going over to possess is a land of hills and valleys which drinks water by the rain from heaven, a land that the Lord your God cares for. The eyes of the Lord your God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full. Take care lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods, and worship them.” Deuteronomy 11:10-16
God asks some pretty tough things of us. “Trust in me.” “Obey my commandments.” “Serve me with all your heart and soul.” To me, trust is one of the hardest – maybe because I don’t like to relinquish control of situations. I think I can handle things by myself; I can work it out on my own. I’m sure it has something to do with pride and a lack of submission.
Abram was 75 years old when God told him to leave his home, and go. Abram didn’t know where he was going – God only said He would show him. And having trekked all over the beautiful land of Israel this past 10 days or so, in a fast-moving van, with nine other people and our luggage and backpacks and maps and water bottles, it’s hard to imagine Abram packing up his wife and nephew and “all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran,” and setting off on foot, on a slow-moving journey with an unknown destination.
In fact, I’m sitting in one side of a hotel room, writing, while listening to the rest of the crew very carefully plotting each and every move of the next few days. We know (or at least we think we know) every appointment we have, every location we have to shoot, every step we are trying so hard to organize efficiently – but Abram took off not knowing where he was heading. Yes – we put our trust in God in this project, most definitely so! But it’s hard to fathom the kind of trust that Abram had – God said “go!” and Abram went.
But still, he was human (like me,) and impatient (like me,) and occasionally took matters into his own hands (like me,) and the results are still being felt in the world today. (Thankfully, I don’t think I’ve personally done anything that has negatively affected world peace or the future relations between Jews, Christians and Muslims!)
Later, when God tells the children of Israel that if they will just trust Him, He will provide for their every need, both now and later. They were hesitant to leave what was familiar to them, but He wanted more for them. God’s eyes were always upon the land. He knew what the land needed and what His children needed, and even though they could not see it right then, HE could. The same is true today: He wants us to trust Him, even when it hurts, even when it’s hard, and even when we can’t see how it will turn out, because HE can.
We left the Dead Sea area at 7:30 and headed north and west, setting our sights toward Arad. With the GoPro on the windshield and the van’s engine in low gear, we climbed quickly from below sea level up into higher altitudes, passing through imposing mountainsides with caves and steep cliff faces, until the land leveled off to the Judean hill country that reminded me very much of my own home. This was much more how I had pictured Israel in my mind. Here and there we saw sheep grazing in green fields, with wildflowers in full bloom.
Arad is a city (that incidentally attracts many who are asthmatics, because of its clean air) with Tel Arad several miles west. There is a large fortress that was built there that gives us an idea about Israelite influence and presence in the land. A temple complex was built there with the Holy of Holies, evidently built with no authority from God. Rick had A-roll to be shot nearby. He spoke about the danger of combining contemporary culture and personal preferences with the commandments of God. We must value what God values, and not seek to please ourselves or the culture around us. He expects us to do His will, not our own (Matt. 7:21).
We moved on to Beersheba, or Beer Sheva (as the local signs say). Here, Isaac dug a well and made a covenant with Abimelech regarding water rights. It is where Elijah fled from Ahab and Jezebel after the duel on Mt. Carmel – and I had not realized before today how far he came. But as Rick said in one of his segments, it is easy to see why he traveled that far south, because it took him out of the reign of the northern kingdom and Ahab’s jurisdiction. It is a distance of 75-100 miles – traveled on foot, and must have taken quite some time. An enormous water system was devised here, and you can read in the picture how they built it. We went down into a huge hole in the ground, and then went through the underground tunnel that they dug to bring water in, in the event of a siege.
We ate lunch in the modern city of Beersheba. It was the most America-like city I’ve seen so far, with quaint neighborhoods, fenced homes, and streets laid out in the modern (boring) way, instead of the interesting zig-zagging streets like Tiberius had. We stopped in a little place that had calzones and bruschetta with roasted vegetables, and here is where I understood a little more about what it means to eat “kosher” – that you can’t mix meat and cheese.
Next door to the restaurant was a little kitchen supply shop, and in the window were these signs for sale – in English! And an Israeli newspaper with Obama on the front. We haven’t had the TV on at all, so I have no idea if something is going on in the world.
Sitting at a table with Doug, Gary, and Jon, we were chatting about the fences that Doug was climbing over to get better images. I told Doug he needed to be careful where he stepped, and that we didn’t want him to die…and Gary said, “Don’t worry, if you do, we will dedicate the video to you.” (That may not be funny to y’all, but it was funny today!)
After lunch, we drove out to Lachish, where Dewayne had A and B roll segments prepared (and climbed up the earthen ramp to film!) Lachish is a fortress city belonging to the tribal territory of Judah during the period of the Divided Kingdom (and perhaps during the United Kingdom too) where the Assyrian king Sennacherib laid siege to the city (mentioned in 2 Chron 32) and conquered it. He was so proud of his exploits that he had the story retold in pictographic form on a relief on his palace walls in Ninevah. Archaeologists discovered those, thus further confirming the Bible’s accuracy. And if I sounded really smart there, it’s not me. John told me what to write.
We left Lachish at about 4:15 and set our sights toward Jerusalem, where we will be staying until the end of the trip (which I am already dreading.) It was about an hour drive, and Tsvi gave us a lot of information about current political events regarding Israel as we drove. Jon asked, and Tsvi told us about the Iron Dome. In my limited military understanding, it is an Israeli missile defense system with an 85% success rate. In the case of a missile attack, it calculates where the missile will land, and determines whether anti-missile measures need to be taken. (Still not feeling very smart!)
Tsvi said, “If you live in the middle east, you have to be strong…if you’re weak over here, you’re not gonna last long.” This was in relation to President Obama, who he says is seen as “weak” because, in clashes with countries like Syria or Iran, there were no consequences to their threats against us.
Entering Jerusalem on a brand new (two week old) highway, the city seemed ultra-modern, with new neighborhoods and fast-moving highways and modern architectural design. Cars whizzed by us with Orthodox Jews inside, and boys wearing yarmulkes sat on the concrete medians between busy streets holding school books. We passed a mall with large signs for Zara and H&M, and new basketball and soccer (or football, as they call it) stadiums.
And now we find ourselves on the 18th floor of our Jerusalem hotel, in chilly temperatures looking out at the well-lit nighttime skyline, looking forward to what we know will be the hectic events of tomorrow: Gethsemane, the Israel museum (with its scale model of Jerusalem,) the Shrine of the Book museum, the Western Wall, and the Western Wall tunnels. Not really sure how we’re going to fit all that in one day, but we will do our best!
INCIDENTALS AND FUNNIES OF THE DAY:
I forgot to mention last night that we had our balcony door open to the outside when one after another, four fighter jets screamed by just over the Dead Sea. It was a little disconcerting, because it was so loud, so close, and so low, but we went on about our business. At dinner about an hour later, the same thing happened again. I looked around the crowded cafeteria and no one there even batted an eyebrow, so I decided not to hide under the table and cry. Then we realized that Israel doesn’t have an Arizona or New Mexico to fly practice missions over. They have to do it where they can. And last night it was over the Dead Sea.
Bathroom information: sorry if this is TMI, but I’m always interested to know the bathroom situation when traveling. The toilets here almost all have two buttons with two water refill levels. One uses less water if you don’t need much…the other uses more water, if you…….do! Most of the places ask you to put toilet paper in the trash can instead of flushing it down the toilet. And, I have found that most of the national park sites have nice clean restrooms.
In the hotel at the Dead Sea, I heard a lot of different languages this morning on the elevator: “Guten Tag!” “Shalom!” “Hey y’all!” (that was us…) and “Salaam!”
I had a Fiddler on the Roof song stuck in my head because at the hotel, there were so many little Middle Eastern ladies with complete coverings that looked like Yenta…. “Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match! Find me a find! Catch me a catch!” Still stuck in my head.
Micah’s least-refined question of the day: “What’s the scientific word for ‘booger’?” (No one knew the answer.) And here’s his beard progress:
One more from Mat: “I’ve never seen so many dudes excited about pottery before!”