Grounded in a real history
Day 1!! We spent the evening in an amazing hotel with an amazing spread of food for breakfast. It is great getting to know all of the new faces and hear their stories. Even though we come from different locations, churches, and communities, we all share a common desire to see and experience the Bible in a new and fresh way by coming to Israel.
Marshall shared a funny quip about travelling around Israel; "Blessed are the flexible for they will be bent but not broken." This was a great encouragement because sometimes we will need to make adjustments in the schedule, most these are good ones and for our benefit as students. For example, Troy asked our tour guide, Ronen, if we could go to an unscheduled location, Mozah. Ronen agreed that this was doable and it turns out that this was where Ronen grew up. The road to get to Mozah involves many steep and twisty switchbacks which our driver, Eli, handled with precision. Mozah is mentioned in Joshua 18:26 as a city of Benjamin. Mozah is also one of four suspected locations for the town of Emmaus, which is known for the conversation between Jesus and two of His disciples (Luke 24:13-35).
This is what we are here for, to see these locations and know that these places we read about are real. They have a geographical location with stones we can touch, plants growing around them, and people we can interact with. The Bible is not a book of fictional stories with characters and lands that are not real. The Bible is about real people, living in real places, grounded in a real history.
Later in our day we went to Tel Azekah. This Biblical city is located in the Shephelah (the foothills of the Judean Mountains) and this geographical location is important because it bridged the mountains (Israelites) and the costal plain (Phillistines). This area is the backdrop for many of the Israels conflicts. Most notably, between David and Goliath (1 Sam. 17). We stood on Tel Azekah (where Israel gathered) and we could see over to Socoh (the place where the Phillistines gathered). This is going to sound old by the time this trip is over but...we were standing near the place where David fought Goliath!!! I now know what that place and story looks like. This story reveals that God's faithfulness continues through the promises He keeps and by those who fearlessly choose obedience in the face of those who choose to despise the Lord. "I will honor those who honor Me, but those who despise me will be disgraced." 1 Sam. 2:30
Azekah (Heb: עזקה, ʿazeqah) was a town in the Shephelah guarding the upper reaches of the Valley of Elah, about 26 km (16 mi) northwest of Hebron. The current tell (ruin) by that name has been identified with the biblical Azekah, dating back to the Canaanite period. According to Eusebius' Onomasticon, the name meant "white" in the Canaanite tongue. The tell is pear shaped with the tip pointing northward. Due to its location in the Elah Valley it functioned as one of the main Judahite border cities, sitting on the boundary between the lower and higher Shephelah. Although listed in Joshua 15:35 as being a city in the plain, it is actually partly in the hill country, partly in the plain.
As I reflect on this I am again humbled to be here and grateful for this opportunity. I believe I speak for the entire group when I say thank you to all of you who gave sacrificially through financial support and those who are giving sacrificially of your time and your mind to pray for us. Continue to pray for our group to have eyes to see and ears to hear the truth of God's word and God's world. And pray also for our teachers Marshall and Troy, our guide Ronen, and our driver Eli.
Featured Upcoming Tour
GTI Signature Tour: Israel & Jordan
Septemer 5-17, 2020
Experience Israel & Jordan for 11 days in the context of biblical history and personal faith.
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