In today’s blog, I am sharing “A Word, A Song and A Laugh” to encourage you around the topic of “Israel.” I just returned from a 10-day trip to the Holy Land, compliments of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), and I thought you might enjoy an update on my trip and some of my takeaways.
I’ve been to Israel several times before and my husband and I have even led trips there, but this recent trip was one of my favorites for several reasons. I hope you enjoy today’s blog.
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you.”
Psalm 122:6, NLT
Why is there always so much interest, conflict and passion around Israel and more specifically, around Jerusalem? After all, Israel is only slightly larger than the state of New Jersey. Why all the fuss about Israel and Jerusalem?
Israel is Loved by God as His Chosen People:
“For you are a holy people [set apart] to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be a people for His own possession [that is, His very special treasure].” (Deuteronomy 7:6, AMP)
“Praise the Lord your God, who delights in you and has placed you on the throne as king to rule for him. Because God loves Israel and desires this kingdom to last forever, he has made you king over them so you can rule with justice and righteousness.” (2 Chronicles 9:8)
God loves Israel and Bible history tells us that God's enemy (the devil) has been against whoever and whatever God loves. Israel is considered a chosen people, with a special relationship with God.
God's love for Israel is expressed in various ways, such as through the covenant that God made with Abraham and his descendants, and through the many blessings and promises that God made to the nation of Israel. Israel is considered a chosen people, with a special relationship with God.
“They are the people of Israel, chosen to be God’s adopted children. God revealed his glory to them. He made covenants with them and gave them his law. He gave them the privilege of worshiping him and receiving his wonderful promises.” (Romans 9:4)
However, it is important to note that the concept of God's love for Israel is not meant to suggest that God is exclusive or favors one people over others. Rather, the idea is that God's love and grace are available to all people, but Israel has a special role to play in God's plan for salvation and redemption. (This has been a point of contention for thousands of years among different religions.)
Jerusalem is the City of God, the Great King:
“May the God who has chosen the city of Jerusalem as the place to honor his name…” Ezra 6:12
God, the Creator of the ends of the earth could have chosen any city on earth as the place to honor His name and He chose Jerusalem! That is no small thing.
In the Bible, Jerusalem is referred to as the "city of God" and the "great king." It has been considered a holy and significant location for thousands of years by various religious traditions, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
-For Jews, Jerusalem is considered the spiritual center of the world, and it is the site of the ancient Temple of Solomon, where God was believed to have dwelt. The city is also the site of many important events in Jewish history, including the binding of Isaac, the reign of King David, and the return of the exiles from Babylon.
-In Christianity, Jerusalem is the site of many important events in the life of Jesus, including his crucifixion, burial, and resurrection and the location of His second coming.
-In Islam, Jerusalem is the site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, which are considered two of the holiest sites in that religion.
The designation of Jerusalem as the "city of God" and the "great king" continues to be a focal point of religious devotion and pilgrimage for people of many different faiths — so it’s no wonder we are encouraged to love and pray for the peace of Jerusalem and promised God’s blessing as a result!
Interestingly, while Jerusalem is very important, Jesus invited everyone (whether in Jerusalem or not) to worship the Father from their heart -- in spirit and truth -- because that's the type of worship the Father is seeking.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:21-24)
With that background, here are a few takeaways from my recent trip to Israel.
MY TRIP TO ISRAEL TAKEAWAYS
Take Away #1: If God loves Israel, shouldn’t we also love Israel? I want to love what God loves — even if I don’t fully understand all the history, nuances or geopolitical dynamics.
Take Away #2: Israel needs our friendship and support. I have a renewed love and respect for the Jewish people. The Jewish people are in their God-given land going back to Old Testament times (a recent archeological find showed Jewish settlers there from the time of the 2nd temple).
Israel was officially declared a nation in 1948 and yet they continue to endure decades of persecution, hatred and anti-semitism. Our sobering visit to the Holocaust Museum, along with hearing from the Deputy Major of Jerusalem, the CEO of the Jerusalem Post and senior advisors to the Israeli Prime Minister reminded us that Israel is and has been surrounded by enemies for centuries. Their enemies are ruthless and in the current geopolitical reality the Jewish nation is surrounded by enemies in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza Strip, Iran and other nations. Their enemies are in pursuit of nuclear weapons and have publicly stated their desire to wipe Israel off the face of the map. As one of our speakers said, “You will notice, we don’t have many friends and we greatly appreciate yours.” Our brothers and sisters in Israel need and appreciate the love and support of believers.
Take Away #3: There is power in the weekly ritual of rest found in the Shabbat Shalom. We were fortunate enough to join a beautiful young family — mom, dad and three amazing kids for their “Shabbat Shalom” meal on Friday night. This Old Covenant tradition under the Law instructs Jewish people to celebrate this day of rest beginning every Friday night at around 6pm. For those who are practicing, they take 24 hours to stop working, to turn off all electronics, etc. and they spend that day of rest with the Lord and their families.
As we went through the Shabbat meal by singing songs and reading Scripture it was wonderful to watch this family fix their focus on God. At one point the husband sang Proverbs 31 over his mother and his wife! (What a wonderful weekly tradition!!) And later the mom and dad laid hands on and prayed over their children. (Another beautiful weekly tradition!) Then each person went around the table sharing a testimony of God’s blessings from the previous week and then together everyone at the table toasted a glass of red wine and exclaimed, “L’chaim!” which means “to life!” It was a fun and beautiful experience.
I love the idea of a 24-hour period of rest — turning off electronics and spending time together, praying, declaring God’s blessings over our families and enjoying rest. I’d love to see more families adopt their own 24-hours of a Jesus-focused, family-filled rest time.
As you know, as believers in Jesus, we are under the New Covenant and we have received the promise of a wholistic rest (spirit, soul and body) because of the finished work of Christ. Jesus fulfilled the Law and finished it’s work so that we could enjoy His grace and favor through no self-effort on our part. In Christ, there is great rest for every believer. (Hebrews 4:1-10, Ephesians 2:8-9)
Take Away #4: We shouldn’t be indifferent. As I mentioned, we toured Yad Vashem - The World Holocaust Remembrance Center, and one word resounded in my mind and heart: indifference. The holocaust and the murder of 6 million Jews was the result of a wicked ruler, evil underlings and many everyday citizens who were indifferent. It's hard to comprehend.
How could something like this happen? Why didn’t anyone stop it? A few people chose to speak up, step up and save many Jews from the gas chambers — people like Oskar Schindler who is credited with saving 1200 Jews. But why so few?
It was: indifference — because of threats, fear and the very human idea of self-preservation.
It was easy to be indifferent then and in these days, too. In our culture, it’s easy to see the ways mainstream media, big tech, government, social media and culture work day and night to intimidate, censor, silence, shadow ban and discredit anyone who chooses to speak up for Biblical truth and/or against the lies, injustices or anything that goes against the accepted narratives. This is what happened just prior to the extermination of 6 million Jews — people were afraid to step up and speak up — it was easier to keep your head down and be indifferent.
I don’t pretend to know the most effective way to avoid being indifferent these days, but I do know that everyone has the God-given right to live, to speak … and to disagree and we should not be indifferent to these types of injustices when we see them. As God leads us, we need to step up and speak up.
Take Away #5: Traveling with women leaders is fun! Touring Israel with a group of 30 Christian women leaders was exceptional! Everyone was so fun, gracious, kind and easy going. There were no prima donnas ‘airs’ or high maintenance girls in our group. Everyone was very others focused and this made the trip a delight! Those of us who sat in the back of the bus has our own little party and a never ending supply of caramel apple charm pops!
Take Away #6: I should never take the security, freedom and blessings we have in the United States for granted! On Monday, the last day of our trip we toured the north Gaza area and border wall, in southwest Israel. We visited a school, drove along the border wall and fence between the Gaza Strip (controlled by the terrorist group Hamas) and Israel. We learned about and saw the bomb shelters that have been constructed every 100 yards or so on the Israeli side — so that when bomb threat sirens go off people can run to a nearby bomb shelter within 15 seconds! It was hard to get our heads wrapped around living under that state of constant threat.
This threat was made more real to us when we woke up on Tuesday morning to head to the airport. On Tuesday, in retaliation for the death of a Palestinian prisoner, Hamas began firing rockets -- over 100 rockets -- into the area of north Gaza where we had been the day before! Thankfully, no one was killed, but it was a sober reminder of the very “real and present danger” Israelis live with every day.
Take Away #7: Everything in Israel is a take away! How can a trip to Israel not impact you in light of all the things already mentioned — then throw in a boat trip on THE Sea of Galilee -- standing on the Mount of Olives (the place Jesus promised to return to!), walking around the Garden of Gethsemane or walking down the Via Dolorosa where Jesus carried His cross? Every place we stepped was loaded with history and a revelation of Jesus -- the Messiah! I did my best to take it all in!
If you desire, I hope you get the chance to visit Israel before Jesus 2nd coming, but if not then, for sure we will all visit once He’s returned to rule and reign as King of kings from Jerusalem!