“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind. Job 12:7-10
In the months leading up to my travel to Israel, many people made comments to the effect, “The Bible will be easier to understand once you can see some of the places mentioned in it.” “Yep,” I thought, “That makes sense.” Of course being in the very places that history happens always brings alive the “story.” I was sure this would be no different. And, I was right…sort of .
Yes, seeing the terrain that was traveled, on foot, by the Israelites, disciples, and Jesus himself, gave new insight to God’s promises to his people that they would never grow tired, that they would be strengthened. Experiencing lack of water gave new meaning to “drink from the water I give you and you will never be thirsty again.” Driving into Jerusalem, the City on a Hill, seeing the white stone shining in the sunset, shed new light on the phrase “going up to Jerusalem.” There were countless instances, more of which I will share in later posts, where standing at “the place” helped further explain “the meaning”, for sure. But, I was not prepared for what it would truly mean to be in the Land of Promise.
Bible verses did make more sense in light of the geographical context, but what completely overwhelmed me- and continues to do so even now– is the depth at which God uses the land, indeed all of nature, to communicate to His people. I hesitate to even write about it as I will not be able to fully explain what I experienced there. However, I will do my best to give you a glimpse into what I “saw” in God’s open letter to mankind…His creation.
One of the first things our travel guide taught us was that what was in the Bible was important. The words God used, meant something. Yes, I know, we all know that…but we know it intellectually, do we really understand? I did not. She would use as her illustration of this principle God’s description and His creation of the Promised Land. How he put together this place for HIS people not only would communicate a certain message to them about His provision for them, but it would also point to the One who would be coming to provide the ultimate “place of promise”–the eternal presence of God.
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. Deuteronomy 8:7-8
The Seven Species. The names of the foods of the Holy Land. This is how God’s people would recognize the land. This is how they would know they made it “home.” Wheat, barley, grapes, fig trees, pomegranate, olive, and honey (date honey actually….more on that later.) These plants did more than describe delicious foods that would be available to God’s people, each one had a meaning for them. They would provide sustenance, worship offerings, and ways to carry on daily life. But even more than that, the Seven Species were symbols to the people of Israel that told them about heaven, the Holiest of Lands. God used the every day part of life to communicate the eternal. Even more so, He used everything about the natural elements to point to the coming Messiah.
Like the Garden of Eden, the land God gave His people would provide everything they needed to live. Protection, shelter, beauty, and food. He would prepare a place, show them the way, and provide a way to dwell in safety and abundance. And just like in the garden, God’s people would be constantly tempted, tried, and tugged away from His love for them. Sound familiar? It did to me. God has prepared a place, a City on a Hill, a true Land of Promise for each of His people—for you, for me. In this place we are protected, sheltered, fed, comforted, and surrounded by beauty. And just like God sent great leaders to show the Isrealites the way, He sent His Son Jesus to prepare us, show us the way, and bring us into true dwelling with Him. And just like His people, we are constantly tempted, tried, and tugged away by the things of this world.
But there is hope. God created a land in which His people would dwell, but he also created in His people a place for Himself to dwell. It was God’s land, the dust of the earth, that was used to create mankind and it is His Son who prepares in us a dwelling place. He made His dwelling among us…within us. And this presence will always tug us back toward God- our Provision, Protection, and Perfection.
It is true, I felt closer to God, to Jesus, just standing on the land of Israel. But I also felt His presence within…like finding a treasure while cleaning out an old closet, by removing the clutter of my schedule, my conveniences, my distractions, my temptations, I found something I already had…His Holy Spirit, His presence, His place–I had found the Land of Promise.