Israel-in-Depth with Rod VanSolkema

June 22 - July 4, 2015

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Standing at the crossroads of culture

We started out this morning with the question to ask ourselves—Who are you and why are you here? The challenge was put before us, to make that more community minded and ask—Who are we and why are we here?

With that at the forefront of our minds we began our first hike. We ended up at Tel Gezer. We received some good information about this Tel—There are 26 layers, meaning over the course of many, many years, 26 different times a city was built here, destroyed at some point, and rebuilt again later. This particular Tel was 42 acres large, and it is estimated that 1500 people lived per acre. The importance of this Tel is the location. It is in the Shefelah foothills, not far from Tel Aviv. We could see the two main travel routes that people from other countries used as the only way north and south, and east and west-right through the land of Israel. God clearly placed (small) Israel at the Crossroads of the world to be His witness to the world. (Is 43:10-12)

Gezer

Situated near the International Coastal Highway and guarding the primary route into the Israelite hill country, Gezer was one of the most strategic cities in the Canaanite and Israelite periods. Gezer is a prominent 33-acre site that overlooked the Aijalon Valley and the road leading through it to Jerusalem. The tel was identified as biblical Gezer in 1871 by C. Clermont-Ganneau who two years later found the first of many boundary stones inscribed with the city’s name.

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We visited several ancient gates, which served not only as an entrance to the city, but also served as a place of justice and protection and a place of mercy to care for the poor and needy. We found references to places in scripture where men sat at the city gate (Lot, Absalom, Boaz, Samson). We know also that God is bigger than and more powerful than city gates as it says in the Psalms, Lift up your head O you gates, for the King of glory will come in….

We saw Canaanite standing stones to commemorate something big in history that they were proud of. Israel also used standing stones to show differently—What God did. We referred to I Peter 2:5, where we are called ‘living stones.’ What a different perspective to become the stones ourselves and bring glory to God by our lives and testimony.

We visited Zora especially noted as the place where Samson came from. We learned about the Nazarite vow of distinction and spent some time thinking about the areas in our own lives where we might be so passionately committed to God to live above and beyond. Another meaningful thought about Samson was that though he failed over and over, his name is mentioned in Hebrews 11 as a ‘hero’ of the faith. God’s grace reaches far.

We visited another Tel—Bet Shemesh where the stolen Ark of the Covenant made its way across the valley from the Philistine territory carried on a cart, pulled by 2 yoked together cattle. We could see the distance, and tried to imagine the joy of seeing God’s presence return to His people.

Beth Shemesh

A border city between Judah and Dan, Beth Shemesh was given to the Levites. Beth Shemesh was the most important Israelite city in the Sorek Valley as it watched both east-west traffic through the Sorek Valley and north-south traffic along the “Diagonal Route.” Recent excavations have shown a thriving city here from the Middle Bronze Age through the Iron II period.

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We also hiked to a Tel overlooking the valley of Elah, where the story of David and Goliath played out. We learned many things about the advanced state of the Philistine army; the importance of the numbers God used in telling the story and the way David foreshadowed Christ.

Perhaps the most interesting Tel was the city of Lachish. This city was over taken by Senachrib, King of Assyria, during the time of Hezekiah. We were able to climb up the siege that Senachrib used to attack the city. We learned much about the power of this kingdom, and realized in a new way how great God was to protect Jerusalem when Senachrib and his army tried to attack Jerusalem after capturing all the rest of Israel. (II Chron 228-29, Isaiah 37)

Tel Azekah and Elah Valley

The Brook Elah is famous for the five stones it contributed to the young slinger, David. Some surmise that David chose five stones instead of the one needed in case he needed to face Goliath’s four brothers.

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Some of the most challenging parts of today were the personal application at each place and each teaching. We realized how easy it is to be influenced by the world around us or to choose to live distinct lives, ourselves impacting the world so the world may know that He is Lord. We were challenged to get out of our comfortable lives and go out to the other places, to be willing to stand at places like the crossroads of the culture.

A beautiful moment that we’ll all remember was when we were sitting in a cave in Zora and comparing this to the early church meeting in small private groups, or persecuted Christians meeting underground, where we ended our time singing the doxology, imagining we were part of the bigger Church historically and present, knowing buildings don’t define our meeting together and our love for God and for each other.

- Lynda Roersma

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