Before I share with you some of the recent adventures we got to experience in Israel, I think it is necessary for me to give a bit of background context that helps set up where the perspective of this experience I'm about to share with you comes from. Like many experiences, I entered this trip with one main expectation: In some way, God would speak. I've found that if I have this expectation first and foremost, that when other expectations arise (and they often do), and the end result doesn't exactly meet up to my expectations (which is pretty often as well), that one expectation helps me not have a negative view of the experience as a whole.
There was a stark contrast between our day hiking up Masada, which Lindsay referenced in the last blog post and the following day where we spent some time at En Gedi. You can actually read about David hiding from King Saul in 1 Samuel 23-24.
For me in particular, En Gedi was a powerful reminder of God's provision, and what it means to rely on Him. Especially after the tough day of hiking Masada, the beauty of En Gedi was a much needed time of refreshment. As a group, we hiked a trail to the first waterfall and were encouraged to enjoy the water. We were told that from there, it was optional to stay, or continue the trail to other waterfalls. I made the decision to stay, largely because I was content where I was, enjoying the cool and refreshing water. I'm sure I could have continued hiking the trail to see the rest of En Gedi, but I was content with what I had. I decided to stay.
I walked around in the pool of water, enjoyed the sound of the waterfall, and even drank some of the water, straight from the spring itself. It was a glorious experience. I stayed at the first waterfall, and it was there that God spoke to me.
God spoke to me through the cold water, through the beautiful waterfall, and for the good and drinkable water from the spring. God reminded me that ultimately, He is the ultimate source of life and we should seek refuge in him. I was content where I was. I was content with what God had provided me in that moment. I was content with the message He spoke to me. That contentment, was something deep and whole, and I'm convinced that the feeling I had was the expression of shalom, a peace that is beyond understanding, a peace that is whole and perfect.
En Gedi is referred to as the Oasis in the Desert, because that is exactly what it is. It is a source of life and water, where all around it is a (mostly) dry and barren Wilderness. It may have very well been the only place in the Wilderness where David could have survived while hiding from King Saul. David found life and refuge there, and I found contentment there.
In addition to spending time at En Gedi, we also went to the Jordan River, to the exact spot where it is believed John the Baptist was baptizing people, including Jesus. These two spots both center around water and life. The waters of En Gedi helped David survive, and the waters of baptism represent new life found in Christ. I expected God to speak, and He spoke loud in clear. If I had to sum up what that message was, it would probably be something like this: "If you're looking for contentment, you'll only truly find it in me. I'm your source of life, take refuge in me."
These events were yesterday. Today, we got to visit places where Jesus spent a lot of his ministry at. We visited Mt. Arbel, which is likely a spot where he went up to pray, Capharnaum, his adopted hometown, and the Mt. of Beatitudes, where he preached the Sermon on the Mount. Honestly, the only way I can describe being in these places is that it is a surreal experience. We got to walk in places Jesus actually walked, and even saw the home he most likely spent a lot of his time in.
Our adventures today are ones that really help the Bible come to life, because they are from stories that are really familiar and have true and deep connections to Jesus.
As a Heartland Group, we've also enjoyed the beautiful scenery of the Sea of Galilee, which is where we're staying currently. Enjoy this fun picture of Jared sitting in a tree he climbed!
Until next time,