Chasing the Presence
We did it. 20 hour of travel. 7,537 miles. 2 flights. 1 bus ride. Negative 28,800 seconds of sleep, but hey who's counting?
If you've ever arrived in a new city at night, you'll know what I'm talking about. You've made it, but in darkness, the landscape remains a mystery. It's only when the dawn breaks that reality snaps into focus.
We are in the Land of God's chosen ones; between the tribes of Judah and Benjamin; a lush green country of deep valleys and steep rock terranes.We have come to chase after God's presence and to know him more deeply.
Just like the light revealing the Judaean country side , God wasted no time in showing himself on our trip. My first revelation was a mere 5 minutes into our first site visit to the biblical gardens. God's word cannot be understood apart from the land and culture of Israel.We learned how grapes, olives, wheat and figs were the sources of harvest that kept the people of Israel sustained and referenced throughout scripture countless times.
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.
As we sat upon the hill top at Gezer, Michael reminded us of the history of the Israelites.A people who, on the one hand, sought the presence of God but made compromises to follow other gods. We overlooked the valley on top of Azekah, where David had stood against Goliath. A child who made no compromises when it came to his confidence in the living God to deliver him.
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.
On the other hand, hearing the story of Sampson while in Bet Shemesh, who found himself blinded, bound and ground by a mill stone as a result of walking away from God. In almost complete darkness, we stood in the bottom of a broken cistern, that did not hold water but could have held thousands of gallons to sustain life.Water being a constant symbol of revitalized life in Israel, makes it so clear why God is referred to as Living Water.
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.
On our last stop of the day, we crawled through the narrow caves of Adulum. I was the last to go through the tunnels for fear of a swarm of bees at the mouth of the cave (which is amazing that I was the only one freaking out!You better give your fearless friends and loved ones a high five for being ok with being in a claustrophobic space with a swarm!)
I decided to turn off my flashlight to experience the absolute darkness and loneliness of the inner caverns. I reflected on the scripture Michael gave us, Psalms 142, where David writes his plea to God while hiding within a cave like Adulum.“I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name.Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.” (Psalm 142:7)
I'm excited to see how God will meet us in dark places and reveal to us how compromise leads us away from the Living Water.