by Pine Cove
Each year students from the Forge, our leadership development program, travel together to Israel. They walk where Jesus walked and experience the Bible in person! Together as a team, the Forge created a daily journal to track all that they saw and learned. You can read each of the daily posts here, or continue reading to enjoy a recap of all that went on!
“Our team began our second day hiking through the Wilderness of Zen (near Makhtesh), where two million Israelites spent 40 years wandering over 3,000 years ago. Their deliverance from centuries of slavery was a wondrous display of the power of God, but the goal was not just to get the people out of Egypt. God wanted to get Egypt out of the people.
We hiked for about four hours, traversing down a mountain and winding through the same desert in which God’s people had wandered. A story we had all heard dozens of times suddenly became more real for us. We bore the heavy weight of the sun. We experienced the desperate need for water. We felt the desire to grumble and complain. We saw wadis (dried out river beds), craters, and enough rocks to fill the Mediterranean Sea. Only God could have caused so many people to thrive in conditions like this (Deuteronomy 8:4). The same God that had given His people an opportunity for faith so long ago is the same God that provides through us today. He allowed His people to wander, and He often allows us to wander in “deserts” of our own. These aren’t times to shy away from but to embrace. They help us understand that our life is not our own and that this Earth is not our home. Our strength and hope lie in someone greater.”
“On the third day, we started at the Salt Sea, better known to us as the Dead Sea because nothing can survive there. Water was a running theme of the day. Water is always necessary for survival, but when you’ve been wandering in the desert it feels like salvation. Looking at the hills all around we couldn’t even imagine what it must have been like to stumble upon the Dead Sea for the first time and to imagine the disappointment when they found it undrinkable.
After spending time there we headed to Ein Gedi, where David hid from Saul in the wilderness. Our afternoon was then spent at Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. This was a really cool lesson about how God preserves His Word throughout the years. The scrolls that were found date to as early as 200 B.C. and have been a hugely influential discovery in Christian history. We got to hike an insane trek to the top of one of the mountains in the region, an opportunity that not many get to do. At the top, we had our final lesson of the day. We were challenged with transitioning our minds from the Israelites in the desert, David in this wilderness, and now to Jesus being tempted in the wilderness. Jesus was tempted in every way, yet He never sinned and combatted Satan at every turn.”
“We began our fourth day with the Sermon on the Mount. Overlooking the Sea of Galilee, Mt. Arbel to our right, it wasn’t hard to picture this location as a place He could’ve been. The best part about sitting on the mount wasn’t the beautiful view, but beholding the One who came and dwelled among us on it. Hearing the birds chirp and seeing the flowers of the field was a needed reminder of how much more He cares for us. We ended our day with a few more sights, Magdala being one of them! It’s still mind blowing what is being uncovered archaeologically this many years later.”
“Our fifth day started at the port city of Capernaum, which had a population of roughly 1500-3000 people in the first century. Capernaum was important because it was a trade city along the Via Maris (the Way of the Sea) which was one of the most important trade routes in the Roman Empire. For Jesus, this was purposeful. He came to proclaim to the world salvation through repentance and faith (Mark 1:15), and this city would have been a place many would have passed along and heard the message within. After Capernaum, we traveled to Chorazin, another city where Jesus frequently taught. Then we went to Bethsaida where Jesus healed a blind man.
The last part of the day was one of the most impactful for us all! We had the privilege of watching several of our Forge brothers and sisters be baptized in the Jordan River. For those who are in Christ, they are a new creation. Buried WITH Christ and IN Christ. Raised in the newness of life!”
“We started our seventh day on a boat in the Sea of Galilee—the same setting that so many stories in scripture also included. We were carried by peaceful yet powerful waves, strong gusts of wind, and the sun in our faces. Jared taught Mark 4:35-41. We heard how the disciples’ object of fear transforms from being the big sea and waves they’re floating on, to Jesus after shushing the waves and returning back to sleep.
On the eighth day, we waved goodbye to Galilee and began our journey to Jerusalem.
Our first stop on this journey was the town of Nazareth. Jumping off the bus, we followed Jared to a cliff face that overlooks the Jezreel Valley, and there we opened up our Bibles to Luke 4:16-30. In this passage, Jesus has come back to Nazareth, reads Isaiah 61 to the people in the synagogue, and shares with them that this Scripture has been fulfilled right then. At our next stop, we found ourselves at Tel Megiddo, where we discussed King Josiah, from 2 Chronicles 35. Josiah brought “revival” to the people and began to break down the idolatry that King Jeroboam had brought to the kingdoms of Israel.
Next, we found ourselves in the area of Mt. Carmel, where Dexter walked us through 1 Kings 18. In this story, the prophet Elijah goes up against 850 prophets of Baal alone. He walked faithfully in obedience to what God was calling him to do because he was completely confident in who God is and what He could do.”
“The next day, we started off at the Temple Mount. This location is found in Genesis 22 where Abraham goes to offer his firstborn son, Isaac, as a sacrifice at Mount Moriah.
Our next stop was Hezekiah’s tunnel, which many of us were very excited for. We started journeying our way through a deep cavern and through the tunnel. As we reached the other side of the tunnel, we came upon the Pool of Siloam. Kristen then shared a story out of John 9 where Jesus restores the sight of a man who was blind from birth. The Pharisees were immediately skeptical of this as Jesus had restored this man’s sight on the Sabbath, but the man’s testimony from verse 25 was most impactful to us as he said, “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”
Our last stop of the day was in Bethlehem of Judea. Jared started this teaching with the story of Ruth which shows how small acts of obedience and faithfulness will lead to amazing amounts of transformation that could only come from the Father as Ruth and Boaz became the great-grandparents of King David! Jared then led us down into a small cave near where we first sat through the teaching of Ruth. Jared sat us down in the cave and guided us through the Christmas story in Luke 2. The cave that we were all sitting in would have been pretty similar to the one that Jesus may have been born in 2000 years ago. This was both very cool and very humbling considering that the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ, humbled himself to a point of being born into a lowly manger in a little town called Bethlehem.”
“We started our last day looking out over Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Here we learned about Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem through the East Gate, also known as Palm Sunday. There, Jared read through Matthew 21 and explained to us the big statement that Jesus was making as he entered the city for Passover.
Next, we walked down the mountain to the Garden of Gethsemane, which means “Olive Press” in Hebrew. There, in a place where olives were crushed by heavy stones, Jesus sat crushed by the much heavier weight of the sin of the whole world. And He prayed there, sweating drops of blood, not because He was scared of the death that awaited Him, but because He knew the immense wrath of His Father. We took communion together, reflecting on the unbelievable sacrifice of our savior that saved us from the wrath we deserved.
Next we walked what could have been the same route that Jesus did as He carried His cross, and eventually made our way to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the believed location of Jesus’s death and resurrection. This site doesn’t look anything like what it might have looked like back then (it was outside of the city walls at that time), but we still got to learn a lot about what it would have been like all those years ago.
After a lunch and shopping break, we came to our last two stops of the trip: the northwest corner of the city walls and the Southern Steps. This spot on the Southern Steps was actually where Peter baptized the first 3,000 believers who heard his first sermon. We ended our trip sitting in the very place where the Church began—the very sending point of the Gospel to all of the world! Then we headed back to Texas!”
Posted Apr 11, 2023