Recently I heard someone sing “The Sparrow” by Charles Billingsley. We often get so caught up in the day-to-day struggles, wondering how we will make it through. But God reminds us that He is caring for us every day:
Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? (Matthew 6:26).
On the first day of our tour in Israel, we were sitting at the (dry) well at Beer Sheba, where Abraham and Isaac both had dug a well. I noticed that there were several small birds, possibly sparrows, flitting about in the branches above us. Here we were in the middle of the desert, with no water around anywhere, and very few plants, yet these little creatures were being cared for by our own Heavenly Father.
“Lord, I place my cares on you this day. Watch over my family, and make us to be more like you. Thank you for your watchcare today–and every day.”
I’ve come to the last day, the last afternoon and evening of my trip to Israel. Every day has been a wonderful blessing and very special time of fellowship with precious believers.
After lunch the group had a session where we just talked about what the trip meant to each one of us. There were as many ideas as people, I believe. Each one of us were specially blessed by the entire trip.
The afternoon was a time of shopping at the Christian Quarter, a small street full of vendors. My sister and I walked around together and enjoyed a relaxing time together. The evening was a time of rest, trying to get some sleep, as we had to leave for Tel Aviv at 11:30 p.m. for a 5:00 a.m. flight. As far as I know, everyone made it home, even if some had delayed flights.
One more picture, that to me epitomizes what this trip is all about: worship.
The last two places we visited are perhaps the most significant, for me, anyway. While the Church of the Holy Sepulchre may be the site of Jesus death, burial and resurrection, this other location seems much more appropriate for various reasons.
Situated just outside the Damascus Gate north of the Old City of Jerusalem, there is a large rocky cliff with several large indentations that appear to look like a skull. Crucifixions were done just below this cliff, next to the road from the Damascus Gate, so that anyone traveling could view the criminals.
Golgotha photo from 1800s
Mount Moriah extends from the Temple site to this particular hill, with the “place of the skull” being a higher elevation. Our guide, a Messianic Jew, mentioned that when Abraham came to Mount Moriah to offer Isaac, he left the servants at one place, and continued up the mountain where he built an altar to sacrifice Isaac. It may be that the very place Jesus was crucified is the site of Abraham’s altar. Our guide also indicated that this area may have been used as a quarry to mine the stones for Solomon’s temple.
Hill of the Skull
The atmosphere here and at the Garden Tomb was one of reverence and worship, much different than the atmosphere at the Church of the Sepulchre. I could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit among the many people visiting the site.
Once we left the Mount of Olives, we walked up through the Lion’s Gate (also called St. Stephen’s Gate, where some think he was martyred), and traveled the Via Dolorosa. Near the beginning of the way, we stopped at the ruins of the Pool of Bethesda, where Jesus healed a paralytic man. Apparently, the Pool of Bethesda consisted of two large pools, and built on top in the middle was a Crusader church.
Pool of Bethesda
Next to this site was the Church of St. Anne, renowned for its acoustic qualities. We entered this quiet church, sat down, and sang “Holy, Holy, Holy,” listening to the echoing through the chamber–very beautiful.
The Via Dolorosa is supposedly the path that Jesus walked while on trial to His crucifixion. This particular “way” is probably not the real path, but has become famous and has been walked by many who want to worship Christ. It ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Bright and early Tuesday morning we set off from our hostel in the Old City. As near as I can tell from the map, we went out of the western Jaffa Gate, around the Old City, and to the eastern side of the Old City to the Mount of Olives. We stopped at a Necropolis, to see how the Jewish people were buried. There are thousands of sarcophagus boxes on the side of the Mount of Olives, as many Jews want to be near where the Messiah returns.
Mount of Olives Sarcophagi
We then traveled down the mountain to the Garden of Gethsemane. This is a beautiful garden of olive trees, planted around 1000 AD by the Crusaders. I am reminded when Jesus agonized over his coming crucifixion in this quiet place.
Garden of Gethsemane
Continuing down the mountain, we could look over the Kidron Valley to the Eastern Gate, through which Christ will enter into the Old City of Jerusalem some day in the future!
Kidron Valley & Eastern Gate
You realize we did so many things each day that it is hard to keep everything straight. Anyway, we then viewed a large model of 1st century Jerusalem, and were able to get a bird’s eye view of the layout.
Model of Jerusalem
The highlight of my day was to visit Qumran. Even though we couldn’t literally climb up to the caves (though this is an option for tourists), just being there was exciting. To think that God preserved so many texts from the Old Testament, just to show critiques that His Word is the same yesterday, today and forever, is a wonderful blessing. There are even reports that some New Testament Scriptures were preserved as well.
We first visited Scythopolis, a first century Roman city, just below the Old Testament city of Beth She’an. It is located at the junction of three valleys, Jezreel, Jordan and Harod, and was an important crossroads. We spent some time here discussing the various martyrs of the Christian faith, and reflecting on what the future may hold for us as Christians in the last days. This entire area was destroyed in 741 AD by a huge earthquake.
City of Beth She’an/Scythopolis
We then traveled south on the “Pilgrimage Route,” from Scythopolis by the Jordan River, to Jericho and then up to Jerusalem. The Jewish families were required to travel to Jerusalem three times a year for feast days. It usually took two weeks walking.
My mind must be playing tricks with me, because we visited Jericho twice in our 2 weeks. The first time was on June 5, and the we went there again this day. Anyway, one particular part of the wall is still standing–must be “Rahab’s house”! We also saw “Zaccheus’ tree,” a sycamore tree similar to one he would have climbed.
Jericho – standing wall
“Zaccheus Tree” in Jericho