Israel Study Tour with Dr. Tim Keiper and Pastor Paul Petersen

Jun 18-29, 2016

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An easier route

Sites visited today: Wadi Kelt, Jericho and Seeds of Hope, Salt Sea (Dead Sea) swim

East of Jerusalem, the rugged Judean wilderness drops steeply toward the Dead Sea. It's striking in its beauty, but it is also dusty, dry, and hot. It makes you resolve never to take fresh water for granted, ever.

Like so many wildernesses in the Bible, the Judean wilderness is a place of testing. Traditionally this is the place where Jesus fasted for 40 days, and where the devil tempted him to take an easier route to accomplishing his mission. As we hiked, many of us were tested by the heat, by the terrain, and by our own tired bodies.

But wildernesses are also places where God reveals himself, where he proves to be a refuge for his people. David hid out in the wilderness when Saul was trying to kill him. John the Baptist announced his message in the wilderness, quoting Isaiah: "in the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD" (Isa 40:3). When we're tested, it is tempting to respond by digging deeper into ourselves, trying to pass the test using our own intelligence and determination, not letting others know the degree to which we need help. But while intelligence and determination are two of God's gifts to us, he didn't make us to get by on those alone. He made us to rely on him, and on others whom he has placed in our lives.

After the destruction of Solomon's temple, Ezekiel saw a vision of a new temple. It would face east, he saw, and pure water would flow east from it. It would flow through the dry Judean wilderness and make it verdant, and empty into the Dead Sea and make it fresh (Ezek 47:1-8). This temple symbolized the renewed presence of God among his people. He had left before the Babylonians destroyed the old temple, Ezekiel was saying, and he would return. The full presence of God among his people awaits us in the new heavens and new earth. We still go through wildernesses of testing. But as we do, we remember that wildernesses are also places where God accompanies us, for he himself has gone through the wilderness.

Written by Elliot

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