In the last four decades millions of people have traveled to the Holy Land to visit what is sometimes called… the fifth Gospel. In fact, according to the Israel Tourism Ministry 3.6 million traveled to Israel in 2017 alone. That is an increase of 25% or 700,000 visitors over the previous year. It will come as no surprise that the top five countries were the US, Russia, France, Germany and the UK….also no surprise, the US led the list and Christians made up 54% of those 3.6 million visitors.
Christian visitors to the Holy Land will tell you, to a person, that their faith and Biblical knowledge was enhanced and transformed by the trip. There are so many ways that Christians are blessed and inspired by traveling to Israel…walking where Jesus walked, traveling, studying and worshipping with like-minded people, actually stepping into Old Testament Bible passages you have studied for years and finding that the historicity of the Bible is completely accurate…all these reasons, and a few more below, make a trip to the land of the fifth Gospel an absolute must for those with the time and means to go.
You will never be the same.
Rich and I can attest to this. Our first trip to Israel was in 2007. Rich was invited to go as a pastor and when it turned out a roommate was needed for him…I reluctantly agreed to go. (If I hadn’t, he would have refused the trip and we would not be the people we are today.) Over the years we had heard countless people tell us two things: 1) our lives would be changed and 2) travel to Israel was safe. Today I know those things to be true, but back then I was a skeptical as the next person!
When we returned, we couldn’t put down our Bibles, our maps, our history books….our enthusiasm changed how we taught Bible Studies, how we viewed Middle East events and affairs, and best of all…our walk with the Lord became closer, realer (if that is a word), and much more intimate. All those feelings get stirred up again each time we step onto Holy Land soil.
Your Bible will come alive.
I know as committed Christians and followers of Christ you study your Bible, hopefully daily, you read devotions that speak to you and point you to areas in your life where God wants to work. In Israel the Bible becomes not only God’s plan for saving the world, full of spiritual revelations and applications, but an accurate history book. Being able to attach actual places, scenery and archaeological finds to passages make the scriptures easier to remember. The Bible becomes so real, so true, so unchanged that it is hard to put down, and easy to defend.
You will encounter Jesus in a new way.
As much as we like to think we read the Bible in the way it was intended, we are all influenced by our surroundings and bound by our own culture and times. Think about the art of the ages that depict Jesus as fair-skinned and blue-eyed. It’s not that artists were in error…just that they were influenced by their culture. We read that Rahab was a prostitute and assign her that status of our culture, not realizing what exactly that meant in the days of Joshua and Jericho.
Studying the life of Jesus in His context and culture gives you new insight into His parables and teachings. When you stand on the Mount of Beatitudes and hear His words 28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are” and see the actual flowers and beauty He was referring to, the passage comes alive with meaning and context.
You will see prophesy fulfilled and miracles.
While traveling in Israel, we are surrounded by prophecy fulfilled and the faithfulness of God to His Word. We see that the Jewish people have been gathered from the North, the South, the East and the West; from every nation to which they had been dispersed; first by ship and then by planes; and assisted by the Gentiles; all just as the Bible foretold. God is fulfilling His promises made to the Jewish people, which means Christians can also trust Him. He is a faithful God and His Word is true!
Israel is a miracle. A small country the size of New Jersey with a population of 8 million, born one day in 1948 just as Isaiah said in Chapter 66, verse 8 “…has a nation ever been born in a single day?” Out of the ashes of the holocaust and dust of the desert, in just 70 years (May 2018 is Israel’s 70th birthday), they have created a thriving and prosperous land of milk and honey. A land that leads the world in innovation, technology, science, medicine, security, agriculture and water conservation.
You will meet the “Apple of God’s Eye.”
Most of us understand that the Jewish people are God’s Chosen People, but we don’t have an appreciation for what that has meant for them. The Jewish people have carried a calling that no other people on earth have been called to; to be the vehicle of God’s redemptive plan. This calling put them directly in the line of fire and they have suffered mightily throughout history as a result. To meet Israelis face to face, mingle with them, talk with them, travel with an Israeli guide like Ezer who knows the Bible from cover to cover and who’s own father charged up the Golan Heights in 1967, is the beginnings of insight into their unique place in world events, and often the highlight of a faith based trip to Israel.
It’s the only country where Hebrew is spoken.
You may not understand much of it, Ezer our guide will teach us new words each day, but Israel is the only country where Hebrew is spoken as an actual living language. This is pretty amazing as the language was dormant and out of non-religious use for almost 2,000 years. In the past century, wise Israelis have toiled to create new words for everything from television and internet to mundane modern words like commute (in Hebrew, yomiyut, which combines the Hebrew words for day and moving to sound like the English word ‘commute’).
It’s where it all started and where it will all end.
It is the land into which Abraham first walked from Ur, the land which God promised to Abraham and his descendants and where Armageddon will be fought. Monotheism started here, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah and Rachel lived here. This is the land that all armies and nations have, for generations, aspired to conquer and control…and still do! This is where David triumphed over Goliath, Solomon built the Temple, Jesus called His disciples and from where Peter and Paul took the Gospel on the road. Whatever reason speaks to you, the fact is….you need to take the dreaming about a trip and transform that into packing for a trip to Israel. Join Pastor Rich and Cheryl on their next visit to the Holy Land in May 2019, from rafting down the Jordan River to standing on the Temple Mount, it will be a transforming visit to the land of the “fifth Gospel.”