We woke to another gorgeous day in Israel! Today was a national holiday because of the historic elections taking place. We learned that, just as in Biblical times, a person must return to a designated place in one’s home city to cast their vote in person. No absentee voting here! Thursday Israel will join the elite handful of countries to land on the moon. What a remarkable week to be here!
From our serene setting in the Judean hills, our first stop was Yad Hashmonah, founded in 1971 by a group of Christian volunteers from Finland who wanted to pursue their Biblical beliefs and help the Jewish people establish themselves in their homeland. The original settlers were joined by local Israeli families and together built a community based on Scripture. On grounds populated with Biblical plants and trees were authentically reconstructed buildings and agricultural tools from Biblical times.
In word-picture representation, we saw true-to- life replicas of a:
1. Tomb with a rolling stone, learning what it meant to be “gathered together with his father’s bones”
2. Mikvek, the ritual cleansing baths located close to the synagogue, a way in Judaism of achieving purity akin to baptism
3. Olive press, essential for producing multipurpose life-sustaining olive oil. How fitting that Gethsemane means “press”, where Jesus was being crushed and pressed by the burden of bearing the wrath of God
4. Wine press, a laborious, multi-step, time consuming process requiring tons of grapes to produce a relatively small amount of wine. Josh reminded us we are ingrafted branches (Romans 11) and that if we are disconnected from the vine, we have no life and cannot bear fruit (John 15). Jesus’ miracle of turning water into wine took on an entirely new meaning! Something that took months of toil - producing wine - happened in an instant! It reminded me of salvation. Not only is the ordinary replaced by extraordinary but the sweet transformation happens immediately!
5. Threshing floor, where we understood how wheat was separated from chaff and recounted the beautiful story of Boaz and Ruth. We learned that the threshing floor was intentionally built on the highest point of the mountain so the wind could blow the chaff away. It was on the threshing floor where God told David the temple was to be built, at the highest point on the mountain to meet with God
6. Watch Tower where shepherds would scan the landscape to protect their flocks
On to Tel Beth Shemesh, the place where the Ark of the Covenant was returned to by the Philistines. Even though they captured it from the Israelites earlier, they gave it back to Israel because it caused them horrific plagues. We were reminded that God is a God of wrath and forgiveness. Josh said that the wrath of God was like the black cloth behind the shiny diamond representing His grace. The wrath of God is a reflection of His holiness.
It was at this location where Samson was born. Samson’s life of flippancy and compromise was the subject of Josh’s message. We could see Timnah from our vantage points. The Bible said Samson walked DOWN to Timnah where he found his first Philistine wife. As Josh said, “A little compromise goes a long way.” Samson lost his strength when he stopped seeking the Lord. Similarly, we lose our power (and potentially our witness for Christ) when we lose connection with God.
Maresha was our next fascinating stop. This one is worth googling because there is no way I can provide an adequate explanation of the utterly breathtaking pigeon caves and bee caves. It is a UNESCO Heritage site in Israel’s Shephelah region. The land of 1000 caves and never before could I have envisioned caves so beautiful and stunning. And all because of plaster! Yes, you read that correctly. Plaster! Created from the natural chalk stone of the region and, wait for it, pigeon droppings. Check it out online - you won’t be sorry!
We concluded our day in the Valley of Elah, the place were David defeated Goliath. We always say “David and Goliath” like it was one word, davidandgoliath. No. Goliath doesn’t deserve to be in the same league as David. All Goliath had was stature and bluster. David has fearless faith in the one true and living God, Jehovah! David had courage, boldness, conviction, certainty. David envisioned the battle already won. Josh reminded us courage comes from the Holy Spirit within you not from the circumstances around you. Faith is not based on what you see but what you know. Goliath was no giant. He was a small man in a big body. David was a giant of a man because he knew the Master of the Universe.
As we were gathering our five smooth stones, one person wondered if they’d find the one that struck Goliath. “Nope,” someone else replied. “It’s in Jerusalem because that’s where David took Goliath’s head after he cut it off!”
What a fitting ending to a day of battlefields. For those of you old enough to remember, I am reminded of the hymn, “Faith is the Victory”. Check out the lyrics on line and be courageous.
Written by Judi Medlin