Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither and whatever they do prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3 NIV)
So, this is the first post since our return from Israel.
Of course. all of our travels filled my mind with many sorts of thoughts and contemplations.
Here’s something that rattled through my brain as we spent half a day on a tour bus driving south From Tiberius to the Dead Sea:
The region of Galilee was marked by rushing water, green hillsides and plentiful plant life.
The Negev Desert was bleak, barren and foreboding.
When we spent three days in Galilee, we got to see all sorts of spots where Jesus carried out his ministry. In fact, there we so many sites related to Jesus’ ministry, we couldn’t see them all.
In Galilee, people were healed and lives were changed. The ministry impact was undeniable.
But, Biblically and historically speaking, when it came to the desert, rather than being a place of ministry, it was much more an area marked by difficulty and struggle.
It was in the desert that Jesus was tempted (unsuccessfully) by Satan.
It was in the desert that David hid out from the rampaging Saul.
And it was the in the desert that the children of Israel wandered for forty long. painstaking years.
(And of course, the desert was the location of Masada, where in 74 A.D. some 900 Jews committed suicide rather than be taken captive by Roman soldiers)
Yes, it seemed to me the desert had much more in common with death and despair than it did with any joy, healing or redemption.
When we arrived at our Dead Sea destination, we found that it was simply a small cluster of high rise hotels that served as a sort of “Palm Springs” for Israelites.
People came there to find comfort and ease, and to disconnect from real life. (which sometimes it’s nice to do)
But as far as our tour went, finding any sites where Jesus ministered was out of the question.
Truth be told, staying in the desert one night was enough. It was fun to bob in the Dead Sea and to enjoy a nice hotel, but we weren’t going to come in contact with any remnants of Jesus’ ministry there.
This contrast between a lush region like Galilee, and a bone dry region such as the Negev Desert made me think about how we live our lives.
Are we in close proximity to where Jesus is moving and working?
Or have we placed ourselves out in the desert, far away from the things related to the abundant life?
When it comes to our Christian life, are we seeking a comfortable faith, or a faith that challenges us?
Are we, as Psalm 1 describes, like a tree planted by a flowing stream, producing God-pleasing fruit?
Or are we far from Him and His Spirit, living more for selfish pursuits?
Truth be told, it is God’s desire to redeem and restore us from our desert existence.
Isaiah 35:1-4 says this:
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” (NIV)
Galilee was full of life. The desert spoke of death.
Life with God provides life. Life without God is like living in a desert.
Which will we choose?
Just some thoughts as our tour bus rambled down an Israeli highway.