Israel Study Tour with The Kings University

October 27 - November 8, 2016

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A vividly symbolic hike

Shalom friends and family! Wow, what a day! We started the day off with possibly one of the most intense hikes for some of our lives. You might have guessed it; we climbed Masada! Looking up at the trail we were about to take brought awe for us all, but for some it also brought intimidation. We began the hike up by circling up in the shadow of the mountain. It was even in the early morning that the difference could be felt between the sun and shade. Psalms became instantly more significant as we understood why David so often talks about God being our shade. In Psalm 121:5 David writes, “The Lord watches over you – the Lord is your shade at your right hand.” This text became a very real and true promise as we began the hike up to the top.

The Lord promises to sustain us, to be our strength, and to make our yoke easy. The faithfulness of the Lord ravished our hearts today. The hike was not easy, but it was also not nearly as impossible as many of us thought it would be. And the reason for that was for two-fold: Adonai’s strengthening and the encouragement of our trip family. All the way up you could see people helping one another whether it be with carrying one another’s packs, sharing electrolytes, speaking encouraging words, and resting with the weary. Today, we saw the beauty of the spiritual family. Today, we saw the faithfulness of our God. He truly is the strength we need in every circumstance.

We all made it to the top and rejoiced as each person climbed the last steps. It was such a testimony of the power of being one in heart and mind. We circled up again and shared with one another what the hike had meant to us.

This hike was so vividly symbolic of all of us conquering our past by the grace and goodness of our God. Every step up the side of that fortress was a step of faith that we truly can be victorious in our Mighty Victor Jesus Christ. Reaching the top was a moment where we could look back and see the truth that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. What a mighty God we serve!! Fears were left behind, doubts were disproved, forgiveness flowed, and gratitude overwhelmed hearts as God’s glory was shown. Our hearts were transformed on the side of Masada and our faith soared on its top. It was on Masada that we saw first hand the truth that God really is who He says He is. He is faithful.

The top of Masada was full of history lessons of Herod the Great. The two palaces he built on top of this fortress were nothing less than extravagant. From the world’s largest known cistern to the patterned mosaics still in tact, every detail was seen to by this ruler.

Our hearts were also convicted upon hearing the story of the zealots who took their last stand against the Romans’ wave of destruction. These Jewish people had come to this fortress to seek refuge. It was the only place they could find hope to survive the onslaught of the Romans. But as they watched the Romans use Jewish slaves to build a siege ramp, they were forced to ask the question, “What should we do?” It was there in the very place they thought they could find safety that they decided to take their lives instead of submit to the torture, abuse, and forced worship of idols. These Jewish people faced the most horrific decision of their life, but the very heart of these people as they took the lives of their own family and friends, all the way to casting lots to who would be left last to take their own, was to honor God. They saw faithfulness to God as more important than their own lives. The heart of these Jewish people to stay faithful to God alone convicted our hearts to ask the question of ourselves, “What am I to do? What am I willing to die for? Am I willing to die before I worship another?” We learned first hand what conviction and passion for the True God really looks like.

Masada

The summit of Masada sits 190 feet (59 m) above sea level and about 1,500 feet (470 m) above the level of the Dead Sea. The mountain itself is 1950 feet (610 m) long, 650 feet (200 m) wide, 4,250 feet (1330 m) in circumference, and encompasses 23 acres. The “Snake Path” climbs 900 feet (280 m) in elevation. From the west, the difference in height is 225 feet (70 m).

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We continued on to Negev, the land where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob walked. There we relaxed under the shade of a Tamarisk tree, one like the one Abraham would have planted. Here we recognized the significance of his planting. This tree is one that grows extremely slow. Abraham didn’t plant the tree with himself in mind, but rather with his future generations in mind, which means he truly took God at His word. He believed God’s promise. We too are called to plant seeds of faith, not for ourselves, but for the generations to come, that they too may find comfort and peace in the Torah, the Tree of Life.

We then ventured to Arad to see a typical village home where 50-100 people would live together under the family patriarch. Here we gleaned, like Ruth, from the beauty of understanding redemption. Just as the patriarchs of the family did all in their power to provide for every need amongst their family, so our Savior, Yeshua, provides for us. We saw, also, how the patriarchs were the ones who could redeem those of their family who were marginalized and destitute. Jesus came to show us the Father and redeem us back into the family. He is our Redeemer indeed.

We ended the day climbing up to a temple of Adonai, a second temple that was built and then buried by King Hezekiah as he sought to clarify that there was only one temple of Adonai. Sitting amongst the ruins, we were taken through the powerful process of a sacrifice and its powerful covenant formation. We walked through the story of God’s covenant with Abraham and were humbled that in that very covenant, God did not ask Abraham to walk through the pieces of sacrifice, as was done in every other covenant among men to be the signature made by both that they would keep their word. God made the covenant that the promises He made were completely dependent on Him alone. Abraham only had to receive.

We serve a God who does not ask us to do the impossible. He knows our weakness. He knows our frailty. He did not ask Abraham to be perfect, and neither does He ask us to be. He only asks that we have faith to believe that He really is who He says He is. He really is faithful to His word. He really is able to be our strength and make our feet like a deer on the side of a mountain.

He is who He says He is in every way. What is it that the Lord is asking you to believe about His character? Does He ask you to believe that He is Provider? That He is the Way-Maker? That He is Restorer of all that is broken? That He will keep the promise He gave to you so long ago?

Sweet friends and family, God is a promise maker, but even more importantly He is a promise keeper. What He says He will do for us He will do. He asked us to hike up a seemingly impossible trail in the sun and heat, but He promised to strengthen us. He did. And what He does for one, He can do for all. You may not hike a physical mountain, but whatever mountain God asks you to climb, you may take heart, knowing that He will equip you for the climb.

May we never again doubt the goodness of our God. May we take Him at His word and embrace Him for who He is fully. He is God, and He is good.

“I will bless the LORD at all times, his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My mouth makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together! …Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. … Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing!” Psalm 34

Be blessed!
Sophia Navarro

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