Around the middle of February in 1998 Alice and I received a phone call from a couple who used to attend our fellowship, but had recently moved away. You can imagine our surprise as they shared with us how the Lord had placed a desire upon their hearts to send us - all expenses paid - on a trip to Israel! As it turned out, friends of ours here in Kansas, IL were planning on going to Israel in August of 2000, so plans were made for us to join their tour group.
In this day and age it is still not unusual to hear some of our brothers and sisters in the Lord say something like, "Oh how I wish I had lived during the time of Jesus." Needless to say, believers such as these do not have a clear understanding of the times in which we do live. Nor do they understand what God's desire is for His overcoming, end time - mature sons. Many times, those same brothers will view a trip to modern day Israel as an opportunity to somehow draw closer to God. It is almost as though they believe that there is something 'magical' about physical Israel.
On the other hand, it is not unusual for some brothers and sisters in the Lord who do have a good understanding of the Overcomer, Third Feast, Sons of God message to totally ignore modern day Israel. Some have even gone so far as to say that God is finished with those of Jewish descent - that the true church is the 'Israel of God.' Now, while I do most certainly agree that the true Church is the Israel of God, and that as believers in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we are heirs of the promise, I also believe that without a doubt the 'natural branch' will be grafted back onto the Vine.
Therefore, even though I do not hold to the pre-tribulation rapture teaching which is so prevalent among certain parts of the body today, nor do I believe that a new physical temple must be built in Jerusalem before the physical return of Jesus, I do not discount the modern state of Israel, nor God's desire for the natural branch to be grafted back onto the Vine.
I am also very cognizant of the fact that it is virtually impossible to 'walk in the exact places Jesus walked in.' If for no other reason, modern day Israel has been built upon the ruins of ancient Israel, and the actual ground Jesus would have trod upon is anywhere from several inches to several feet below 'present day' ground level. Never-the-less, by the time our departure date approached I can honestly say that I was looking forward to at least being in the same general vicinity that Jesus ministered in. Prior to leaving I had prayed that the Lord would use this experience to help me gain a deeper understanding of His ways.
While we were there, there were numerous times that I experienced God's presence, but not to any greater or lessor degree then I have experienced during my walk with Him here in the states. During our trip there were also times when I felt the presence of tremendous religious bondage, particularly when we found ourselves surrounded by people who were so tied up in tradition that they seemed to give more importance to the place they were in, than to the place they had made for Jesus in their hearts. They were more concerned with their candles going out, then whether or not they were letting their light shine to the world around them. I mention these things not from a spirit of condemnation, but with a great deal of sadness. What should have been a time of joyous celebration for them, had turned into just another ritual which, rather than freeing them up, held them in even greater bondage.
As for Alice and I, we were looking forward to a wonderful experience, and for the most part, that is exactly what we had. Here then is a run down of our trip along with some of the pictures which we took. I hope that you enjoy them.
After our 13 hour flight from
Chicago O-Hare airport, a two hour wait for
members of our tour party who had been unavoidably delayed, and about
an 1 1/2 hour bus ride from Tel Aviv to the Royal Plaza Hotel
in Tiberias, we were greeted by a sumptuous buffet dinner. While it had
been past midnight when we arrived at the hotel, what you see immediately
below is our first view of the Sea of Galilee taken from our room. What a
way to wake up in the morning!
By 8:00 AM we were off and
running. Our first destination was the boat dock in Tiberias where we would
embark on about a one hour ride out onto the Sea of Galilee. Here are
three views from the Sea . The top one is looking back to modern Tiberias. The middle
is of Magdala, and the bottom one is of Alice doing what we so often did
during the trip. We would simply put our headphones on, and lose ourselves
in praise and worship while our eyes took in the sites around us.
The church on the summit of the Mount of the Beatitudes is in a beautiful setting.
Below are 2 pictures of the ruins of Chorazin, a village, which like Capernaum, was cursed by Jesus for rejecting Him (Mt. 11:21 & Lk. 10:13). The first one is of the remains of the Synagogue, and the second is of the main street in town as it was at the time of Jesus. The bluish sign in the middle of the picture points to the fact that the street level is actually 2 feet below the present level of the surrounding ground. Here is a good example of what I was referring to when I indicated that it would be virtually impossible to actually 'walk where Jesus walked' when you visit modern day Israel. But that still does not take away from the fact that as you stand on the edge of the city and look out over the Sea of Galilee, you know that a similar scene greeted Him 2,000 years ago.
The next picture is of the traditional site of Peter's house in Capernaum. The gray beams at the top of the picture are the support structure for the church that is built directly over this site. This is the traditional location at which Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law of a severe headache as recorded in John 4:38-39.
We then stopped at a region where tradition says Jesus fed the multitude. In Arabic it is called 'Tabgha.' This area was known for seven springs, or wells. Tradition places this event here because it is the only part of this area where water is so abundant. It was a place of refreshing. This is the altar built over the rock upon which Jesus is supposed to have sat when he blessed the loaves and fishes.
As Alice and I had both been baptized back in 1980 when we each re-dedicated our lives to Christ, we felt no particular desire to repeat that act here. However, keeping in mind the relationship between the events of II Ki. 2 & Joshua 3, and our understanding of the importance of 'crossing the Jordan on dry ground,' we both wanted to step into the Jordan. While we did not expect the waters to part, I know that when the picture which those events foretold becomes reality for God's overcomers, we hope to be able to look back to this time in our own lives and say that on Wed. August 16, 2000 we stood in the Jordan in faith knowing that at some point God's overcomers would fulfill the prophecy of II Ki 2 & Joshua 3 by coming into God's presence without tasting physical death. At that point, the river of living water flowing from each believer (John 7:37-39) will figuratively replace the waters of the Jordan, and this living water will now flow toward the Dead Sea and bring life to that body of water, all as foretold in Ezekiel Chapter 47.
Just as we had begun this day with a picture perfect sunrise over the Sea of Galille, here is a picture of the evening's last light reflecting off the hills east of the Sea, again as seen from our hotel window.