Follow me, please.
“Follow me, please.”
We hear these words every day, trusting our Rabbi and following in the dust of his feet. Day 2 of our study tour began with a rocky desert hike in Negev, studying the wadis and how they kill the most people in the desert per year. Wadis are the valleys in the desert, which remain dry most of the year, but during the rainy season, water will flood so quickly that it forms a wall of water with no escape. So with that tidbit of information settling our nerves, we dove into the rocky paths with carefully placed steps, as we all stood in awe of the lofty canyons around us.
We took a rest around an acacia tree, a deeply rooted tree that can survive the wadis not only with its own roots, but by holding the roots of other trees around it. We talked about how necessary community is to survive. Jason mentioned that when you’re holding onto a branch, you’ll sometimes have to grasp onto the thorns. When you’re in true community, you guard your people and care for them, giving them belonging even before they ever believe. We agreed on how tough that is.
That brings me to our discussion in the patriarchal house, where we talked about what it means when the patriarch of a generation is responsible, and is in charge of finding and redeeming those who wander off and find themselves far from home. We shared stories of foster care, and other challenging relationships, and how hard it really is to sacrifice your time, energy, and love into someone who may reject you, or fall away again and again from your care. The heartache reminds us of God’s heart for them, and how his longing continues for their healing, as does ours. How difficult it is to bond ourselves to each other- when one of us is hurting themselves and others, how do we handle it? We begin to see how mysterious and beautiful it is when our communities rally around us in our weakness.
We discussed the difference between cisterns of water and wellsprings of water. God speaks in language of wells and springs of life, while cisterns are man made, and often described as broken, rotting, and holding deadness of all kinds. We often try to bring water to where we are, and sustain the life we want, while God’s resources and refreshment for us are where He is.
We read through Genesis 15 and all had our minds blown... A blood covenant in Abraham’s time was between two parties, one often more wealthy or of more powerful social standing. It was over property, marriage, or some other binding agreement. They would take animals of descending size and cut them in half, laying them across both sides of a ravine and letting the blood spill down. Both parties would walk the blood path and agree that if they don’t hold up their side of the agreement, let the same be done to them.
God speaks Abraham’s language and makes a blood covenant with him and promises him descendants like the stars in the sky. After the spirit of God walks the path, Abraham falls into a sleep, and wakes in a thick and dreadful darkness. He knows he can’t hold his side of the agreement. “When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces.” God symbolically walks this path for Abraham, and their agreement was the 10 commandments. Every day the animal sacrifices made by the Israelites were not for forgiveness, but rather, begging God to keep his promise.
We studied a temple from a time of a divided nation in Avdat, and studied the architecture, and how the people of this temple had “partially obeyed” and ultimately fell. We toured a wine cellar, climbed several flights of stairs, and once we reached the top we read through mark 15. Through our exhaustion we studied how mark is written to a Roman audience, and the similarities from roman custom to Jesus’ death and even some patterns in modern Christianity.
At the end of the day, we sat on what Scott called “the Grand Canyon of Israel” and took the communion together. His body was broken for us. We marked every spot with the Sh’ma, and I can hear our voices louder and louder. I can feel my own voice rising in my chest, as I am grieved by what grieves him, shouting for what he speaks, and as these commandments grow a fire in my bones.
The Nahal Zin is 75 miles (120 km) long and drains 600 sq. miles (1550 sq. km). It is the largest wadi that begins in the Negev. The Nahal Zin was created by reverse erosion as the great height difference between the Negev Highlands and the Jordan Rift caused the underlayers to erode during the rainy season, resulting in the collapse of the harder strata of rock above. The landscape is mostly Eocene limestone, consisting of some brown-black layers of low-grade flint. The flint slows down the erosion of the limestone.