I shall make mention of the lovingkindnesses of the LORD, the praises of the LORD,
According to all that the LORD has granted us,
And the great goodness toward the house of Israel,
Which He has granted them according to His compassion
And according to the abundance of His lovingkindnesses.
As I sit to write, I’m uncertain where to start: How does one put into words the feelings of wonder, exhilaration, awe, worship, discovery, introspection, and utter amazement of the last two weeks? I just returned from a trip to Israel with a group mostly from Kansas and Texas. The places we saw echo throughout the pages of Scripture: Joppa, Caesarea, Mt. Carmel, Megiddo, the Jordan River, Magdala, Galilee, Caesarea Philippi, En-Gedi, Dan, Capernaum, the Dead Sea, Shiloh, Bethlehem, and of course, Jerusalem. I could spend hours recounting things we saw, heard, experienced, and learned. But for now, let me just share a couple of general reflections.
First, our God is a promise-keeping God. About 2100 B.C., God told Abram to leave his home in Ur and go to a land He would show him. He promised to bless him and make him a great nation, and bless all nations through him (Gen. 12.1-3). That promise led to the birth of the nation Israel, and her existence today proclaims God’s power to keep His promises! We visited sites where the Jews disobeyed the Lord and were judged. We saw places where enemies defeated her. We visited Jesus’ birthplace, saw where He taught and performed miracles, and where He was rejected and crucified. Jews today still reject their Messiah, and Israel has enemies on every side, and yet in fulfillment of God’s promise, the nation is thriving. Why? Because we serve a promise-keeping God!
Second, God’s grace is reflected everywhere in Israel. When I preached through Genesis, I saw grace reflected in every story. From the fall on, mankind has been in opposition to God. God finally enacted a plan, through the nation of Israel, to rescue fallen humanity. Throughout biblical history, Satan did everything possible to derail God’s plan. We visited sites where Israel and her leaders strayed from God, embraced idolatry, and engaged in wicked practices. When God sent His Son, His people did not receive Him (Jn. 1.11). Surely, after all this, God would abandon His people. But no! God’s gracious love for His people, despite their sin, shines through. As Christians, we cling to God’s grace, too, for if not for His grace, we would have no hope of salvation.
Finally, those who love God, love Israel, and pray for her. Near the end of our time in Jerusalem, we spent an hour or so at the famous Western Wall, better known as the Wailing Wall, where thousands of Jews pray. They recite their ritual prayers, calling for Messiah to come and bring peace. In a visit to the Knesset, someone asked our guide what Israel was seeking today. He replied, “Peace.” Having rejected their ‘Prince of Peace,’ they are blind to the spiritual peace with God that could be theirs. In Zechariah 12.10, we read that when Christ returns, Israel will recognize her Messiah, and the Apostle Paul declares that “all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11.26-27). If God has such unwavering love for His people, should we not love them also?
These are just some passing thoughts as I reflect on eleven unforgettable days in Israel. I hope that you too will one day have the opportunity to visit there, too.