We had the privilege to join the "Come and Learn to Walk" tour to Israel for two weeks in October. It was a Bible study tour, learning to understand the Bible better as we walked the steps of our forefathers and Jesus. After meeting our group in Tel Aviv, we traveled south to the southern-most part of Israel, stopping at various national parks, exploring the deserts, and driving back up towards the northern-most part of Israel, staying at the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee in between, and spent the last few days in Jerusalem. Click here to watch the video of our Israel trip.
"This is how we know we are in him: whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did" - 1 john 2:5-6
This trip was not the typical sightseeing tour. Our day included hiking to different archaeological sites, learning about geography, history, and archaeological finds (ancient city gates, cisterns, olive oil press, columbarium, etc.), going to places where stories of the Bible happened and reading the passages right there and then. I think we went to and hiked in more than fifteen national parks in total. It’s the most amazing thing to be able to see what I otherwise would have no idea of, when I read the Bible. God speaks through His creation and the whole world and everything in it is holy, but standing in the promised land where God’s people came to worship and where Jesus lived and ministered, brings a new level of appreciation of the Bible. I understand now why I should do more learning with my feet. The Bible becomes "alive!"
We started everyday praying the Shema:
Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And love your neighbor as yourself.
It was a good reminder daily that we are to love our God with all we are and all we have and love our neighbors as ourselves. I learned so much during this trip. Our leaders were phenomenal. We made new friends. Our experiences were priceless. More than words can ever say. It’s a trip I highly recommend to everyone who wants to deepen their understanding of the Bible and relationship with Jesus.
"Think of the best food you've ever eaten. The taste that makes you go back for another bite, and then another. I find Israel that "food" - wanting to dive further and not satisfied by just a piece. Being here and seeing with my own eyes and feet is a new taste, a new hunger. A ravenous hunger." - Silvia Milani (my friend from this tour)
|Mitzpe ramon, located in the Negev desert of Southern Israel|
I will be running a series on what I learned in Israel for advent. You may ask what this has got to do with a health blog that I'm running this for 24 days. The very core of our existence is not only about our physical being, but also emotional, mental, and psychological. Understanding all this will not only be good for our health, it will give us a happy, joyful life. I feel this series has got everything to do with our health. The Psalmist says a cheerful heart is medicine. Someone who takes care of his physical needs well and eats only the best, organic, pastured food, while avoiding processed foods, may be physically healthy but may also have a miserable life. He may live a life of worry, doubt, hatred, jealousy, and discontentment. He may very well work all his life looking for "more" - more money, more power, more fame- and there is never "enough." While he has all the money in the world and able to afford the best of everything, he may suffer from critical illness that doesn't even allow him to enjoy the fruit of his labor. And soon, emptiness, anger, and frustration fills his heart. How is this healthy? God says Man does not live by bread alone and the fact is our days are numbered, so numbered in fact that we cannot add a single day by worrying about our lives. There is no doubt that taking care of our physical health and living healthily is pleasing to God but there are far more important things that will make our whole existence worth living for. Join me in this series as we unveil what it is that will make our lives much healthier and happier, satisfying our hunger and quenching our thirst, fulfilling the emptiness that we feel inside, and finding a purpose in life that's building our legacy worth passing on for the generations to come. Come with me, learn with me, grow with me as I share my lessons from the desert.
Let’s Learn about The Promised Land as a start. I will share what I learned in the desert starting tomorrow.
Israel is a land "in between." It is a crossroad. If you see the map of Israel, it is in the middle of so many nations and religions and there are reasons why God put His people there.
1. Israel owned a few trade routes that were strategically located. One of them was Gezer (1 Kings 9:15-17), which means to cut or divide. It was a trade route wanted by so many rulers including the Assyrians, Persians, Babylonians, Egyptians, etc. In Solomon’s time, Israel expanded. He was so strong that Pharaoh of Egypt might have felt threatened that he gave Gezer to Solomon as dowry when he married Pharaoh’s daughter. It’s the only time Egypt allowed their daughter to marry non-Egyptians. This means Solomon must be very big and powerful that the Pharaoh sacrificed the Egyptian tradition of marrying only Egyptians.
|Standing pillars in Gezer|
These are standing pillars we saw in Gezer. Exodus 24:4-6 references how Moses built an altar and set up stone pillars where the Israelites worshiped God. Why did God place His people in Israel? Why these standing pillars are here? Maybe God places His people here so that God’s Word may be spread everywhere and that people can stop and think about what these pillars point to, what God did to His people when He brought them to the promised land, His blessings and provisions while at the same time being just, and how God was glorified through all this. These pillars serve as a reminder that we too need to live life that is pleasing to God so that when other people comes across us and asks about our lives, God’s name will be glorified.
|Zin wilderness, the general area where |
the Israelites wandered for 40 years.
|We hiked up!|
Why did God let the Israelites wander in the desert for forty years?
- To experience God: The Israelites were in the desert to learn about faith and trust. Although they are God's chosen people, it didn't mean their lives were without hardship and pain. They didn't always have it all together. If they always had it all together, how could God’s name be glorified? How could they experience God's goodness in their lives?
"Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you." - Deut 8:2-5
Just as it is with us, it is easy to forget about God when life is easy, but when life is hard, it is when we cry out to God and pray the hardest. It is when we are closest with God and experience God’s faithfulness, blessings, interventions, protection, forgiveness, healing, and restoration in the most intimate way.
- To give them good gifts: Many good things came out of the desert. Think of Moses, the Ten Commandments, King David, John the Baptist, and Jesus. God has good gifts in store for His people. When the Israelites were in the desert, they were able to hear Him in ways they couldn't while they were in Egypt. The desert was where God spoke. It was where God shaped and molded them to be different than they were before. It was the place where His people received God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, and protection. As it is with us, we are a work in progress. But God continues to transform and renew our mind so that we can receive God’s gifts of love.
"For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills." - Deuteronomy 8:7-9
- To remember God’s goodness and spread the good news to the world: Desert is a land without boundary. It just goes on and on. When God spoke in the desert, everyone could hear. When God guided them as pillars of cloud by day and fire by night, everyone could see Him. The first thing God said to them when He brought His people out of Egypt was "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt." God wants us to know that He is God and that He is a good God and that the world may know that He is God and He is good.
"These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery." - Deuteronomy 6:6-12
True, the Promised Land is beautiful. Here are some of my favorite moments while in Israel:
A very rare opportunity to ride on camels. It humbled me because as fun as it may sound, I cannot imagine going around town on camels. But this was one of the most common modes of transportation in Biblical times. Even the Kings who visited baby Jesus rode on camels. Thank God for modern modes of transportation!
Swimming in the Red Sea
As my husband puts it: "The water here is ridiculously blue!"
Floating in the Dead Sea
What an awesome and interesting experience!
Swimming in and watching sunset over the Sea of Galilee
Boat Ride on the Sea of Galilee
Woshipping, reading the Bible, singing, praying, and dancing in the boat ride over the Sea of Galilee. Beautiful beyond description.
Jordan River Experience
Playing water in Jordan river and witnessing some of our brothers and sisters in Christ getting baptized. To Him be all glory.
Enjoying Israel's local bounty and enjoying each other's company. If you are wondering what we eat while we were there... we ate lots of stuffed pitas with hummus, tunas, ham, cheese, vegetables, falafel, and shawarma. Yum!
Mediterranean Sea Fun!
Playing sand and water in the Mediterranean sea. The sand is so smooth and water so clear. Like the Red Sea.
God is good. It is a sweet experience walking with Him and He wants us to share that sweetness with other people too. I had a piece of that while in Israel and I hope to share it with you through this series. Join me as I share with you what I learned in the desert, open the Bible with me as we learn God's Word and see how God speaks to you through His Word. As we are nearing Christmas, the day that our Savior was born, may we reflect on what purposeful, healthy living is all about.