My journey to Israel was everything I expected – and more. I cannot begin to describe the impact that this single trip has had on me. Feel badly for my wife who will have to listen to me drone on and on for who knows how many days as I try to relive my experience.
People have already begun to ask me to share my most memorable experience (thinking perhaps that if they limit me to the most memorable, they won’t have to listen so long!). When you are in a place like Israel with so many sites that hold historical, biblical and spiritual meaning, it is hard to narrow it down to just one. I imagine everyone has those “aha” moments. Places that jog your memory to something you heard as a child in Sunday School and now you are literally standing in that place. Moments when something unexpected triggers your emotions and you feel unexpected joy – or tears.
I will never forget the rush of emotions as our bus climbed the hills on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem. The sun was sinking in the western sky and as we neared the summit of the hill. Without a word our driver slowed the bus to almost a crawl, as the words of the song came softly over the sound system
Last night I lay a-sleeping
There came a dream so fair,
I stood in old Jerusalem
Beside the temple there.
I heard the children singing,
And ever as they sang,
I thought the voice of angels
From heaven in answer rang.
And as the words of the climactic chorus rang in our ears, there across the valley we had our first glimpse of the city of Zion.
Lift up your gates and sing,
Hosanna in the highest!
Hosanna to your King!
Talk about chills up and down your spine! Many in our group listed that moment as the one that will forever stand out in their memory.
As moving as that experience was, the moment that will forever change my life came the next day as we visited the Western Wall. Leaving our group I made my way down through the throngs of Orthodox Jewish men who had gathered before the wall surrounding the Temple Mount. I wanted to be among them. I wanted to stand before this wall. I wanted to touch it. So standing shoulder to shoulder with them as they prayed I placed my hand on this ancient wall. The wall that Jesus would have known.
I’m not sure why it became important to me. I’m not sure what I expected. But I do know what happened to me in that moment. In that moment I realized that I was standing in a place, not of spiritual light, but of spiritual darkness. All around me were hundreds, perhaps thousands of extremely religious people. People crying out to their god. But people who did not understand that their Messiah had already come. And in that moment I understood better than I ever had before why the Apostle Paul wrote, I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh (Romans 9:2-3). And why Jesus, as He looked over the city of Jerusalem cried out, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . . how often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! (Matthew 23:37). And in that moment I prayed that God would open their eyes to the truth of who Jesus is; their Messiah and Lord. Never have I been moved to pray for the Jewish people as I was standing before that magnificent wall. That was the moment in my journey that will forever be imprinted on my mind. It was the moment that defined my pilgrimage to Zion.
Thank you to my special friend who made this possible.
Stay in the Word