A Second Chance

On our first full day of touring in Israel, we covered a lot of ground.

We visited the ruins of Herod’s palace in Caeserea, climbed up Mt. Carmel (site of Elijah’s clash with the prophets of Baal) and hiked through Megiddo.

After a late lunch, but before heading off to settle into our second hotel, we drove to Nazareth to check out Mt. Precipice.

mt precipice

Now, it’s not known for sure if this is the exact site, but many Christian tours bring groups to Mt. Precipice to talk about the time that, after speaking in the Nazareth synagogue, the people of Jesus’ hometown became so angry with Him that they tried to push him off a cliff.

Here’s the text from Luke 4:16-30 that describes the incident:

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.

Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”

“Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land.  Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”

All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.

As is common when on a tour, the group moves pretty quickly from site to site.

As much fun as it might be to linger, we are on a set schedule. No time to shop or explore.

(Which is really okay. In Israel are so many things to see that, if we didn’t keep moving, we’d miss out on a lot of really cool stuff.)

So, at Mt. Precipice, we unloaded the bus, climbed the short path and took in a short devotional. After that, we promptly made our way back to the bus and on to the Sea of Galilee.

Adios, Mt. Precipice.

But, after our tour, we stayed back 5 days to visit someone from our church who lives in Israel.

And one of the things we did with her was head over Nazareth to fully explore the town. (Other than Mt. Precipice, our tour made no other stops in Nazareth,)

And, as is customary with most visits to Nazareth, we made a visit to Mt. Precipice.

Having already been there, I thought we would quickly trudge up the hill, take in the overlook and be on our way.

Except this time we weren’t on such a tight schedule.

And our friend knew the man who ran a juice/souvenir stand right at the base of the Mount.

Now, when we came through the first time, I may have noticed this business the first time. But I surely didn’t remember it.

But on this visit to Mt. Precipice we were introduced to a man named Hani.

Hani

And Hani wasn’t content with a quick hello.

No. Hani insisted we sit and enjoy a free cup of coffee.

Then, he told us he was working on a new recipe for a juice drink and wanted us to try it.

So, the next thing you know were drinking juice and chatting with a man I had unknowingly walked by just 10 days earlier.

We truly enjoyed Hani’s gregarious personality and were impressed with his off-the-charts hospitality.

All of this made me think about how many of us our living our lives in a rush.

We have places to be, things to do and schedules to keep.

And, quite likely, we are missing on opportunities to connect with other human beings.

When it came to Hani, we got a second chance.

But many of our potential interactions will not come with an extra opportunity.

If we want to make connection, we’ll have to slow things down to make it happen on the first time around.

To make these kind of human connections happen, it takes something known as intentionality.

Meaning if we don’t seek to make things happen, they probably won’t.

Thanks to our friend and a return trip to Mt. Precipice, we were graced to meet a man who I had completetly missed on our first visit.

But life rarely affords us such second chances.

 

Galilee Verses The Desert

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 Lordand 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.