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Israel Study Tour with Covenant Life Church

March 13-23, 2023

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Day 03 - Wilderness: Ein Gedi, Qumran , Bethany Beyond the Jordan, Susita

This day started with Pastor Marshall teaching as we overlooked the Dead Sea for a time of devotionals. He taught us that the Dead Sea is dead because it has no outlet. The water that comes in and has no place to go and it causes it to be dead. It has flowing water that is coming and going nowhere. Then he hit us with a Joe Frazier uppercut as he asked, “Is what is coming into you flowing through you and out of you?” The Word of God and the life of Christ is not meant to only come in, but is to be passed through us. Let us not be responsible for the end of the spreading of the Gospel because we don’t share it. We took 5 minutes to sit in silence as we considered what has been impacting us on the trip so far. We sat in silence as the birds chirping grew louder and more pronounced as we silenced our own speaking. How amazing it is when we are silent, we can hear more! When we came back together Mike shared how we can see deprivation and yet experience the plenty of the Lord. Larry continued that thought with the how important it is for our five senses to impact the way we experience God and the Bible.

We left our wonderful time at the Dead Sea and the hotel that overlooked it and headed to Ein Gedi. On our way, we drove passed Masada again. We didn’t physically stop but you could tell that many hearts and minds stood still as the memories played from the ruins of a Roman king at the top of that ginormous mountain that was so tall not even Jack and his magic beans could produce a stalk to get to that height. In the midst of the desert and wilderness we made it to the caves where David found himself hiding from Saul. Perhaps it was David who was the first to play the game of hide and go seek, but if David would have lost, it would have cost him his life. This place is bigger than your mind has ever conceived as you read the Scriptures (1 Samuel 24). Marshall taught about David cutting off the corner of Saul’s robe and why it is important to have living water nearby as he reminded us that Jesus is truly our Living Water. He did this teaching while we were sitting on boulders and rocks and his feet were in this peacefully flowing refreshing water that was emerging from a waterfall behind him. If only we could have stayed here all day, but as our guide Ronen would remind us, it was time for us to keep moving. Here is a final question, since Jesus said He will give you living water (John 4:10) has anyone ever identified you as living water flowing through you, and who has been living water to you?

Our next stop placed Pastor Bob back on the mound as he taught about the land we entered called Qumran. There is much history here that can’t really be summed up in a blog, but here is a quick gist of it. There were some who despised that a process of Hellenization was bringing Greek ways into the culture. Families like the Maccabee’s and some others felt called to overthrew Greek ways and reembrace their Jewish ways and customs. This revolt later led to those who were called the Essenes who wanted to establish a more holy way. They wanted to be pure for the Lord. They called themselves sons of light who were called out of darkness and Greek Hellenistic ways of life. They wanted to live and lead by example for God. Perhaps there were 10 - 20 thousand of them residing in this remote desert place.  Why would a community go out into the desert to live? It’s hot…120 degrees hot… hotter than a space shuttle reentry hot! Then, after the heat antagonizes you all day, the cold bullies you with a frozen wedgy at night. What they built here was impressive, but what they left here was better than Cinderella’s slipper when she ran from the ball. They hid parchments of the Holy Scriptures. These texts were older than Peter’s first gray hair. The Dead Sea scrolls were found here. God has protected the integrity of His Word. They hid the scrolls to protect them from the Roman army. They were found by a shepherd boy throwing rocks locking for a lost sheep in 1967.

Pastor Bob led many beautiful teachings that took us from Isaiah 40:3-4 to Mark 1:1-7 to Psalm 119:9 and asked, “How can anyone stay on the path for Heaven?” and “What are the mountains we need to knock down and the low things that we need to rise up as we wait for the Lord? In the desert where you completely trust God for and that we can do without.” We again were reminded of mikveh as we seen how they had a desire to be clean from the inside out. God gives life. It flows in us and through us. They channeled water from the mountain into the mikveh. How do you personally ask the Lord to “Purify my heart, mind, eyes, etc.?” He finally took us to Matthew 7:24 to end where he encouraged us to build our house on a rock and not the sand as we put a foundation in place that our kids and their kids can build upon. A path that will lead into Jesus presence. “I have put you in place…you are my people" The people who God has built a way for you to be in relationship with Him.

A stop in the Jordan allowed for the dynamic duo of Pastors Bob and Marshall to stand side by side as they took to the dusty brown water and baptized and celebrated with those rededicating their lives to the Lord. One after one the courageous believers made their way in the refrigerator temperature flowing water. One step at a time they were getting lower into the water until it was about chest high. Bravely, they stated their name and presented why they had entered the water. The two pastors worked together to submerge the many and sprinkle the few. Then suddenly the most amazing sight happened! Two people whom we knew not approached PC (a guest pastor from Faith Church in Highland, IN who is traveling with us as he will be helping to lead a trip for their church in November). Let us tell you, it was just as beautiful as the Ethiopian Eunuch that was riding in the chariot with Phillp that said, “Here is water what hinders me to be baptized?” (Acts 8:34-38). PC asked the husband and wife whose names are Violet and Alfred some questions about their beliefs, if they wanted to commit their life to the Lord, and if they believed Jesus was the Son of God, who died for their sins, and rose from the dead. After they acknowledged that to be true and indicated that they have a church that they can follow up with, PC presented them to Pastor Tim and Pastor Bob who graciously walked this couple into the water, and baptized them. Always remember 2 Cor. 5:17!

When you put the day together, we started with a dead sea, but was refreshed by the Ein Gedi flowing stream of living water. We went to the desert to be reminded we can pull away from cultural things as we trust God and prepare His return. The day took a beautiful emersion of being in the flowing waters of the Jordan where John baptized, and ultimately took some to be filled with the True Living Water of Christ. We are at a new hotel that is on the bank of the Galilee Sea, where not long after check in the staff and community begun celebrating Shabbat. Dinner was nice and we are ready for bed. Until next time – Shalom

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