Wednesday 16 March 2016

Israel Day 4 - Beit She'an, Wilderness Walk, night in Jericho

The doorframe in the hotel in Tiberias

It was fascinating to see how faith was lived out in ancient and modern day Israel. On all the door frames in the first hotel we stayed at they had affixed a mezuzah which has Deuteronomy 6 v 4-9 and 11 v 13-21

Our first stop of the day was Beit She'an, an ancient city that was devastated by an earthquake and so was abandoned. It sits in a really strategic location and this is where the Philistines placed Saul's dead body.

The hill in the above photo is the location of the city in those times but it has not been excavated.

The view from the hill.
The view from the hill.

Archeologists started excavating this place in 1921 and ended in 1996 (I think there were breaks in the work). But as I wandered around the site, and sat in the theatre in the first photo I imagined the work of excavation.

The work of showing up each day with your little shovels and brushes and the slow and steady work. The people who started the work in 1921 were probably not around to see its completion in 1996 and yet they still showed up day after day.

And I'm sure there were victories and discoveries along the way for those people but some of them would not have seen the finished work, the beautiful place they have left for the generations. 

It got me thinking about where God is asking me to be faithful, where He is asking me to faithfully show up and do what I can and join in His bigger, much more beautiful story. What am I doing now that in seventy years can be enjoyed by others? What legacy will I leave to the next generation?

Our next stop of the day was a hike through the wilderness! We hiked along the Wadi Qelt which is the route between Jericho and Jerusalem - a journey we know Jesus took many times. It was a beautiful hike, and we spent over three hours outside (we also stopped for a couple of talks along the way). 

One thing I haven't mentioned yet is the weather - it was over 20 degrees most days and a beautiful respite from the winter (as I write this post back home in Czech there is snow on the ground outside, and more forecast).

Along the hike we were able to see the Monastery of Saint George which was founded in 480 AD, and the hermit caves that hermits lived in in between weekly visits to the monastery.

On our first stop along the way in the wilderness we thought about Jesus' time in the wilderness - those first forty days after His baptism, and also the way we read that he often withdrew to desolate places to pray, especially before key shifts in His ministry. Jesus withdrew to pray and learn from the Father, even and especially in chaotic and tiring times.

Our disciplemaking takeaway from this time was:

Withdraw to the Father's presence to return on the Father's agenda.

We were given twenty minutes alone in the wilderness which was beautiful. Some of the verses that God reminded me of during that time were:

"Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. - Hosea 2:14 

"And the Lord will guide you continually    and satisfy your desire in scorched places    and make your bones strong;and you shall be like a watered garden,    like a spring of water,    whose waters do not fail."Isaiah 58 v 11

It is quite a narrow path - much of it we were all in a single file along the twists and turns. 

We stopped for a second time and looked at Jesus' priorities during the foundation phase of His ministry and what that looks like. We identified six priorities: prayer, building relationships, the Word of God, love, Christ (who He is), and vision.

The foundation phase of ministry doesn't always look impressive but it is so important. It is a phase we need to be faithful in and know what God is calling us to. Our disciplemaking takeaway from here was:

Know what time it is. 

There were different Bedouin shepherds and shepherd boys along the hike, with their animals of course.

The view from the hotel room.

We spent the night in a hotel in Jericho, which is in Palestinian West Bank. Our guide for the trip is Jewish so, although he has permission to accompany tour groups into Palestine during work hours, he had to stay somewhere else.

As I spent some time in my room processing the day it was stunning to sit there and hear the Muslim calls to prayer roll in off these hills. 

I'm sitting in my little flat in Czech writing this blog post and I feel like this day was maybe my favourite of the entire trip (if I had to choose). I loved seeing the different places, and being outside, and how tenderly God spoke about faithfulness and other things throughout the day. It's definitely the day I still feel like I'm processing the most, and the one I keep coming back to as I digest the trip.

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