At the start of this year, I had the opportunity of joining a tour to the holy land: Israel. Israel had been at the top of my bucket list of places to go to for a while, so needless to say I was excited beyond measure.
Israel is a land rich with history, both ancient and modern. So many things have happened on that small piece of land; right from the birth of civilisation: different empires battled over it and conquered it again and again, and many races of people have since occupied it and called it home. On top of that, as the only ancient race still remaining today, the history of the Jewish people is rich, eventful, amazing and incredible.
I could spend ages talking about each historical sites we visited, together with their significance, both historical and spiritual, or of the yummy food we ate each step of the way, or of the history of the Jewish people, both past and present – but instead, I’ve decided to pick three of my highlights from this trip.
1. Seeing how the land of Israel is a type of the church.
We know that Israel is a picture of the church – just read the life study of Exodus and you’ll get what I mean! Specifically, I was impressed by the matter of working on the land. When the children of Israel entered into the good land (in Exodus) they were charged to work on the land in order to yield produce. Likewise, since returning to Israel, Israelis have laboured on the land. Much of the southern part of Israel is actually desert, yet as we drove through the desert we saw acres of date palm trees and different plantations. At the Arava Vidor visitor’s centre, we learned how they had managed to overcome water and soil challenges to grow edible produce. But how does this apply to the church? We know that Christ is our good land and that we must labour on Him. So, every day we need to get into the word and contact the Lord. Through our daily working on Christ, we gain many precious experiences of Christ which we can supply to others as food.
We also learnt that when they first returned to the land, the Israelis struggled to grow food in the desert. (I mean, there’s a reason the desert is called a desert: irrigation, soil quality, temperature conditions etc.) However, they kept at it and eventually succeeded in making the desert bloom. Likewise, in our experience, we need to keep endeavouring to enjoy Christ. It’s not something that we try once and become a pro at. In fact, sometimes we get frustrated because we aren’t willing to spend the amount of time and effort to just be in prayer and in the word. We need to labour on Christ!
2. Learning the history of Israel
Many of us know the stories in the bible, both in the old and new testaments. But that history only goes up till the first century AD – what happened after that? So I started reading up on the modern history of Israel. I started with a book called “O Jerusalem” which was an amazing account of the war of independence followed by many other videos on YouTube and articles online. How can anyone say that it was all a coincidence? The formation of the nation in 1948, the victory at the end of the 6 day war where they captured Jerusalem and expanded their territory – their mere existence is a testament that there is a God in heaven.
3. The seaside of John 21
We went to the Sea of Galilee, which is also called the Sea of Tiberias. There we learnt that it isn’t a sea, it is actually a lake. So here we are, standing at the shore of where the events in John 21 took place (quick recap: it was after Jesus had been crucified, the disciples were discouraged and decided to go fishing. They caught no fish for the whole night and in the morning the Lord was waiting on the shore for them with bread and fish. When they came to shore, after catching 153 fish after following the Lord’s directions, the Lord asked Peter three times “Peter, do you love me?” then commissioned him to feed and shepherd His lamb and sheep).
To me, it just looked like any other shore. I could as well have been in Malaysia, or New Zealand, or even Brazil. Nothing was special about that place, in fact, no one even knew if that was the specific place that it happened. (They also said that 2000 years ago the sea level was probably higher, so it definitely was not the exact spot). Then I realised – it doesn’t matter where it happened exactly. We often get so caught up in the technicalities that we forget the meaning behind the story. The fact is that it happened between the Lord and the disciples.
So those are my morsels of sharing. And though we saw so much in the short 10 day tour, there is still so much more to be seen and experienced. I would love to go back to Israel again one day – maybe after I’ve read the bible a few more times, learnt a bit more history, and definitely after growing more in life!