There have been 4 Study Tours organized to visit places in the Bible and Christian History.
This is a record of the precious memories and lessons learnt.
A PILGRIM JOURNEY TO ISRAEL & JORDAN
6 to 17 Nov 2012
Tell It to The Mountains
Psalm 125:2 says, ‘As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the LORD is round about his people from henceforth even for ever.’ By the higher providential hand of God, 34 pilgrims were led by the Lord to visit the Holy Land and Jordan for an educational visit of the biblical sites where we learned unforgettably rich spiritual lessons. It is by the Lord’s sovereign will that all of us could make it as we heard from the wonderful testimonies and sharings on the last 2 nights of the journey.
There were many poignant experiences that each of us had. God was with us as there was unrest and conflict in Gaza with tensions on our second last day that we were there and it escalated over the next few days (we saw with our own eyes Israeli tanks that being transported to the south). We need to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
Below are the various legs of this Pilgrim Journey:
PART 1: JORDAN & THE JUDEAN WILDERNESS
The Wilderness Journey in the South - The 2000 years old ancient city of Petra, Jordan.
We began every morning with prayer, singing and devotion and we arrived safely in Jordan after touching down at Amman and visited the magnificent ancient city of Petra built by the Saboteans 2000 years ago. We also witnessed the vast mountains of Idumea and Edom. The Jordan was dry and just sandy brown in colour as we travelled southwards – there was hardly any sign of greenery!
We made our way safely, crossing the southern border into Israel. We thank God that one of our pilgrims who was held up at the immigration checkpoint finally managed to successfully clear the necessary procedures and we were received by our knowledgeable Jewish guide, Irit. Our first stop in Israel was Timnath National Park in the Negev, which had a life-sized Tabernacle model. There we learned of the different pieces of furniture in the Tabernacle and its significance that depict Christ and His work of atonement (Exo 35-40).
A meaningful event was the overnight stay in the wilderness in Kfar Ha-Nordim where we slept in huge Bedouin tents under the starry sky in dormitory-style accommodation with basic necessities. Due to some circumstances, the ladies were then blessed with slightly better accommodation in cabins. The camel ride in a convoy of 16 camels was a courageous experience for all pilgrims! We had a night sharing session where we shared from Hebrews 11:23-28 on what it meant to be a pilgrim and stranger. Many gave thanks to the Lord for His protection and guidance along life’s journey.
PART 2: MASADA, ENGEDI, QUMRAN CAVES, THE DEAD SEA & JERICHO
Masada, a Judean fortress built by Herod The Great and one of the Jewish people’s greatest symbols, was our next destination, the last stronghold of the 960 heroic Jewish zealots who refused to surrender after 3 years and finally took their own lives in AD73.
Engedi & the Qumran Caves
We were at the Qumran Caves where the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered in 1947 by some Bedouin shepherds. These were the OT manuscripts (except the book of Esther) and other documents of the Essenes community (possibly where John the Baptist came from) that dated back to 125 BC, and gave us an understanding of the accurate transmission process of the Bible back to about 1000 years. We later saw the well-preserved manuscripts now kept at the Book of the Shrine in Jerusalem. We also at En Gedi, the desert oasis where David ran away and hid from King Saul.
The Dead Sea
A quick float and black mud self-spa at the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth (i.e. 400m below sea level) were unique experiences most of us would never forget.
We made a quick visit to one of the oldest cities, Jericho (the city of palms where the walls fell apart in Joshua 6) where we saw an ancient archeological site and an old sycamore tree that reminded us of Zachaeus who climbed on it to see the Saviour passing through the city.
PART 3: TO JERUSALEM & BETHLEHEM
Mount of Olives
The valley of the Hinnom and the Kidron valley separated the Old City of Jerusalem from the Garden of Gethsemane and the Mount of Olives. As we sat on the Mount of Olives, we were exhorted from Zechariah 14:4-5 which says, ‘And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.’
Baraka BPC, Bethlehem
The highlight of the Greek was the Sabbath worship at Baraka BPC, Bethlehem when Pastor Jack preached from Jude 21-25 to exhort our Arab brethren. The worship service was chaired by Rev. Danny Awad and the Holy Communion conducted by Rev. George Awad. We visited their educational centre in the Shepherd Fields. The pilgrim choir sang in parts on “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and visited the Church of the Nativity. Bethlehem is under the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank and God protected us during our visit.
PART 4: A DAY IN JERUSALEM
Upwards to Jerusalem
Jerusalem,2500ft above sea level, is a picturesque city of profound historical and religious significance, it is the home for 3 monotheistic religions- Judaism, Islam and Christianity and shall be a beacon of light one day to the world. We walked through the poignant Via Dolorosa and identified the stations where Jesus stopped and did something while He carried the cross in His final journey in Jerusalem as recorded in scriptures. We walked through the Jewish and Arab quarters.
We had a sombre time of meditation from Matthew 26:26-30 and Matthew 28:1-10, remembrance and meaningful commemoration of the Lord’s Supper at the Garden Tomb. This was the place of the crucifixion and the resurrection of the Lord. “He Lives, He Lives, Christ Jesus lives today!” and “Because He Lives, I can face tomorrow” truly rang in our hearts as we sang those beautiful hymns.
We visited the Temple Mount, where the Dome of the Mount Moriah Rock is located, built on Mount Moriah where Abraham offered Isaac. At the Wailing / Western Wall, (i.e. the last remains of the 2,000 year old Herod’s temple) we had the opportunity to witness a Bar Mitzvah, the official admission of a 13 year old boy into the Jewish community with the reading of the Torah.
What is it like to be an Archaeologist?
A memorable event for many was the participation of an archaeological excavation on the Temple Mount. An archaeologist explained to us the process of how it was done and we actually had a hand in sieving thru the debris and in the process discovered some useful historical artifacts.
PART 5: CAESAREA, MEGIDO & GALILEE
Northwards to Galilee
We visited Caesarea, a city that Herod the Great built and dedicated to Caesar Augustus more than 2000 years ago in 25 BC, which is picturesque in its architecture and beautiful by the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It was here that Paul met Philip the evangelist in his house and later stood before the Sanhedrin, Felix and Festus and he had an unfair trial and he appealed to Caesar (Acts 21).
One of the many mountains we visited was Mount Carmel which overlooked the Jezreel valley and where Elijah defeated the 450 prophets of Baal with the miraculous help of God. We need the faith and courage to defend the Christian faith like Elijah in these last perilous days.
We were also at Megiddo, the historic place for the final battle after 7 years of tribulation (Rev 16).
The Sea of Galilee, known to the people of Israel as Lake Kinneret or Gennesaret, is Israel's largest freshwater lake and flourishes with life and fertility. The Sea of Galilee is 21 by 12 km. It is 180 m below sea level and is a lively freshwater lake to the northern Israel with many fishermen. Tourism is alive here and we ate the delicious fried St. Peter’s fish. We heard the word when we were on a boat in the sea and what an awakening of hearts as we recollected how our Lord walked on the water, stilled the stormy sea and called the fishermen, Peter, James and John to follow Him! Likewise, today we are to obey and do the same. Interestingly, the sea was too choppy on the next day and no one could go on a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee.
It was here that our Lord began His 3 years of public ministry from Nazareth to Capernaum and later to Decapolis and to Judea. We had meaningful meditations of the Word as we travelled via Cana and Nazareth where our Lord grew up as we retraced the footsteps of our Lord.
The Church of the 5 Loaves and 2 Fishes (also known as the church of the Multiplication) is a
Church in Tabgha (ancient Heptapegon) on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. We reflected on the omnipotence of God. The church is modern but stands on the site of 4th and 5th century churches. It preserves a splendid early Christian mosaic where the miraculous meal was supposedly laid. It was here that we shared His Word and rehearsed the wonderful miracle that Jesus had wrong.
We were also at Mount Tabor where the transfiguration took place and where Deborah and Barak also gathered their men to fight the enemy of Sisera in the plains of Megiddo (Judges 4- 5).
FINAL : GOLAN HEIGHTS, DAN, NAZARETH & MT NEBO
We also visited Caesarea Philippi and where Jesus asked his disciples the question, “Who do you think that I am?” This was the northernmost point of Jesus ministry. We also stopped by River Dan and travelled the Golan Heights (Israel’s border with Syria) called Bashan in the Bible which was the venue of a great battle in October 1973 Yom Kippur war when Israel suffered heavy casualties not withstanding a final victory.
The climax of the safe trip (in the midst of the shelling in Gaza) was back to Jordan at Mount Nebo which was the place Moses saw the Promised Land of Canaan and was not permitted to enter (Deut 34). Here we were reminded of how Moses hit the rock in defiance to God’s word. Though there were consequences to disobedience, yet there was abundant grace. There was a brazen serpent that was raised on the cross (Num 21:7-9). As we saw the brazen serpent on the cross, we comprehended in a special way the evangelical message by our Lord in John 3:14-16; the brazen serpent was used as a prelude to the greatest gospel verse of all times. We do not know the place where Moses was buried as the Lord did not reveal it to us.
Nothing is impossible with our God. We thank God for giving His covenant people the wisdom to plan, coordinate and organise this pilgrim trip about 10 months ago that has finally come to fruition in the fullness of time by the sovereign will of God.
It is truly a pleasant surprise for us to have 34 people representing more than 10 churches from 5 countries with us. What a memorable time of learning from the Word which came alive on site in an unprecedented manner for all of us.
There was a sombre time of prayerful reflection and contemplation on the final two nights as the pilgrims shared of God’s faithfulness and covenant mercies and the rich spiritual insights they derived from this trip.
We are sustained and overwhelmed by the constant Presence, Protection and Provision of the Lord! These are indelible memories that will last a life time till the Lord returns on Mount of Olives when we shall see the glorious Lord, as Messiah, the Prince of Peace face to face in the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb 12:22-24)!
Isaiah 2:3, And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
Jack and Angie Sin