“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! 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 (NKJV)
Having just returned from an eight-day trip to Israel with a group from my church, I have a confession to make. Israel is a place that I never cared much about before. Oh, I had a passing interest due to the fact that this is the place where biblical history took place and Jesus walked, but other than that, it didn’t show up much on my “radar screen.” That all changed several months ago when our pastor announced that he and his wife would be leading a group to Israel. I felt the gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit telling me that I needed to go on this trip. I then spent much time trying to find a way not to go. You know how it is, God tells you that you need to do something you really don’t want to do and you find all kinds of reasons why you don’t have to. Obviously, I finally capitulated and obeyed, but didn’t know why God would have me do something that I clearly didn’t want (or I thought, needed) to do.
I am still processing the impact and meaning of this trip (not to mention the associated jet lag), but one thing is sure: Israel, and more specifically, the city of Jerusalem has a special place in God’s heart. I went on this trip with one question: “Why this piece of dirt?” I wanted God to tell me why, out of all the places on earth which He could have given to His chosen people the Jews, this piece of dirt was so special to Him.
We visited all the usual (and some of the not-so-usual) sites on our journey through Israel. Many of the places I thought would be emotionally or spiritually significant to me, weren’t. Others, however, left a profound impact. I am sure this was the same for the others in our group. Visiting Israel leaves you changed in a way you don’t expect.
The other “take-away” from this trip was an understanding of the age-old conflict between the descendants of Ishmael and the descendants of Isaac, which remains explosive. You must tread carefully everywhere you go, especially in Jerusalem. And while I will not comment here on politics in the Middle East, I make one observation: the contrast between Jewish and Arab parts of the country (and in Jerusalem) is stark. Where Jews have settled, green is everywhere–trees, agriculture, and flowers. In parts which the Arabs control, trash, dirt, and rock are prevalent.
One thing is for sure. I will begin praying for the land of Israel, something which I have never done before. I will be praying they come to know the Messiah who lived, died, and was resurrected in this land of dirt and rock which is special to the heart of God.
I will be praying for the peace of Jerusalem.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, prosperity within your palaces.” Psalm 122:6-7 (NKJV)
Copyright © 2012 by Susan E. Johnson
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