If you fancy a tour of Israel, but can’t afford it or feel it would be too dangerous in view of escalating conflict, you could just read a book!
Kathie Lee Gifford’s The Rock, The Road and the Rabbi, with additional comments from Rabbi Jason Sobel, takes you on an exciting journey through many of the famous places linked with the Bible.
I guarantee you will learn precious new truths even without visiting the land for real, but you will no doubt also gain even more of an appetite to go and taste it for yourself (when you can) perhaps by joining one of the tours on which Kathie’s narrative is based.
The Rock, of course, is Jesus, the Road is the Land and the Rabbi is Jason, a Messianic Jew connected to the brilliant film series The Chosen, which has made a global impact through its stunning portrayal of the gospel stories.
It is often said that touring Israel, especially on study tours like this, is like reading a fifth gospel as you come to understand the narrative more clearly in its Jewish context of the time.
This is not the sort of book you sit down and read in one go, although you can of course do that. But you would be in danger of glossing over deep truths without savouring the experience and letting it sink in.
What’s more, each of the 29 chapters is entirely self-contained, and I found I could do much better feasting on one location at a time – whether Masada, Galilee, En Gedi, the Qumran Caves or wherever.
You are not simply introduced to biblical sites, but encouraged to drink deeply from the living wells of Scriptural truths they unpack, so successfully drawn out by Kathie and Jason.
The author makes much of the Valley of Elah in Judea, where David defeated Goliath with a single stone, challenging readers to discover their own stone with which to make their mark for God.
I was particularly stirred by the teaching from the Garden of Gethsemane, an ancient olive grove where Jesus sweated drops of blood as he agonised over his impending torture. We are told that olives needed to be pressed three times in order for all its oil to be extracted. And that in the same way, Jesus three times asked the Father to ‘take this cup away,’ adding: “Yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Matthew 26, Luke 22) For as Isaiah prophesied, “it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer…” (Isaiah 53:10).
I’ve heard it said that New Testament believers have no need to worship at a place, like Jerusalem or Israel, because we worship a person, Jesus.This is true of course, but context to the gospels is important, and the Lord has not abandoned the land and people he claimed for his own. Besides, when people we love are associated with a place, that place will clearly always be special.
In any case, we have a duty as Christians to love and serve the Jewish people, especially by returning the favour of sharing the gospel with those who first brought it to us.
Charles Gardner is author of Israel the Chosen, available from Amazon; Peace in Jerusalem, available from olivepresspublisher.com; To the Jew First, A Nation Reborn, and King of the Jews, all available from Christian Publications International.
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