Monday, January 23, 2012

The Promised Land

Mount Nebo
For Moses, the road to The Promised Land took forty years. We got there a little sooner, thanks to a bus driver named Mohamed who managed to make our tour bus handle more like a sports coupe.

We did, in fact, follow the footsteps of the children of Israel. This was no haphazard visiting of sites, but an entire tour designed to follow the trajectory of the scriptures. So we wandered the wilderness after leaving Egypt, entered the Promised Land around Jericho, and then made our way from Galilee to Jerusalem. We completed the tour with communion at The Garden Tomb.

Hazy view from Nebo, looking into The Promised Land
From Jordan we left Petra before light, driving "Mohamed style" through the desert, and when we walked up to the summit of Mount Nebo the morning haze still hampered visibility. But we saw enough to get a sense of what Moses experienced when God took him there to take a final look at "The Promised Land."
Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the LORD showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. Then the LORD said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.”

The road down to Jericho
PROMISE: We could see Jericho, the hills around Jerusalem, the Dead Sea to the south, the River Jordan and the broad valley leading toward Galilee.

Jose gave the devotion, and he shared the heart-wrenching story of his 12-year-old daughter Michelle, who has been completely dependent since an infection attacked her brain six years ago. Yet her life, and the effect she still has on the faith and the love of so many people, can only be described as a powerful ministry.

Jose's devotion wasn't a hope-filled story so much as it was a story charged with Promise. Because sometimes, when the future we hope for fails to materialize in the ways we have planned and dreamed, then the way God uses us - and our lives and our potentiality - is better understood in terms of Promise.

God showed the Promised Land to Moses. But Moses didn't get to go in. Not even after 40-years of faithful, world-shaping leadership. Yet it was still The Promised Land, and it was still a promise for Moses. God's promises own a dimension of truth that is so much deeper and more complete than what we can see, moment by moment, right in front of our eyes.

On Masada - Dead Sea beyond
BORDER: The crossing into Israel took three hours. It was lengthy, complex, and more thorough than I could possibly describe. We were met by Avi, our guide, and we immediately headed for the fortress of Masada at the southwestern end of the Dead Sea.

Masada was the last stand of the Jewish rebellion that led to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Diaspora. The fortress finally fell in 72 AD. At that time, our guide said, the Romans completely dismantled both the nation and the religion. There were, quite simply, no Jews remaining in Israel. The dispersion was thorough and complete. The nation was, essentially, obliterated.

Immediately, and this is something that cropped up for me again and again during our week in Israel, I was taken by the single-mindedness and the resolve of modern-day Israel. Our guide's words were supported by an intense sense of "We can do this..." pretty much everywhere we turned. Desert? No problem, let's irrigate. Impossible? No such word, let's improvise. Overwhelming odds? Not on your life, we can make this happen...!

THEME: And so this became the theme - so far as I was concerned - for my thinking during our time in this amazing country. You see I've been beating the same drum for some time now. It's the "Live like you mean it" idea, along with the companion phrase, "Because God most certainly does."

God most certainly meant it when God created Israel. Now I'm not suggesting that God is any justification for the way Israel continues to treat the Palestinian people. But I am suggesting that the national character of this small country is compelling, and that there is something very inspirational about the spirit of this place.

Looking west from Masada in the late afternoon
I'm just scratching the surface of this discussion today. We have so much to learn and such a short amount of time. Please join me tomorrow when we wake up in The Galilee.

Peace - and I mean that in every possible way - DEREK

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