by Peter Kroon on April 9, 2011
It has really been exciting to see the Scriptures come alive with new meaning as we have been traveling throughout the land of Israel—the area Jesus lived His earthly life, the places prophets prophesied about, the land where the Psalms were written. In my morning devotions I was amazed at how many references to the nation of Israel, Zion, or Jerusalem were on the few pages I read in the latter part of the Psalms. Psalm 134 deserves special mention as it really fits for today. “Behold, bless ye the Lord, all ye servants of the Lord, which by night stand in the house of the Lord. Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord. The Lord that made heaven and earth bless thee out of Zion.”
On the bus we sang a few Scripture songs (also taken from the Psalms), and the spirit of singing didn’t leave us after we got off the bus. The first stop, the Church of St. Anne, has beautiful acoustics, especially when singing the Lord’s Prayer, as we experienced.
Across the courtyard of the church lie the ruins of the Pool of Bethesda. This is where Jesus asked the man who had been sick for 38 years if he would like to be made well. The lesson we learned here is that with Jesus, it’s moving time! Dr. Castelino shared another important insight from the story of the paralyzed man who was made well. Being paralyzed from the neck down is a sad plight to be in, but even more tragic is to be paralyzed from the neck up! Being stiff-necked and resistant to the working of the Lord is just about the worst thing possible. Let’s all be transformed by the renewing of our minds that we might prove the perfect will of God!
The next stop was a very sobering one indeed. The Israeli Holocaust History Museum, called Yad Vashem, is a place that remembers and honors the people who were eliminated for reasons none other than the fact they were Jews or were supporters of the Jews. Such cruelty and inhumane treatment was almost too much to fathom.
After leaving the museum, we drove over to Bethlehem to eat lunch and see what there was to see. What we found waiting for us at the restaurant blew me away. A full two-course traditional Middle Eastern spread of pita and flatbread with lots of fixings—about 7 in all to choose from—barbecued lamb and chicken with fries, topped off with some Turkish coffee and baklava. The restaurant also offered a great view overlooking the shepherd’s fields from back in the days of tending flocks for Temple sacrifices and things.
Following the meal, we went to the Church of the Nativity which is built upon the spot where Jesus is thought to have been born in. Also there, we learned that St. Jerome did the first Bible translation work, translating the Aramaic Scriptures into the Latin Vulgate. Being the birthplace of Christ, Bethlehem is a bit more Christian than other parts of the country. We had the opportunity to shop at a local olive wood carving and souvenir shop owned by local Christians. A lot of us took advantage of the sales and brought back gifts for family and friends.
We had a little while to pack our bags back at the hotel before having a farewell dinner/recognition time prior to leaving for the airport. We had the opportunity to sing our favorite Jewish songs for the guests, “The Prayer of Jabez,” “Then Shall the Virgin,” and “Heveynu Shalom Aleichem” (We’ve Brought Peace). Throughout this trip, it’s been wonderful to have seen God at work in our lives, blessing us indeed like Jabez requested: enlarging our coast, keeping His hand with us, and protecting us from harm.