“I want to go there before I die.”
Whenever I tell people about my trip to the Holy Land, this is the response I often get. And can you blame them? What Bible-believing person wouldn’t want to walk the same road that their Savior walked thousands of years ago? So, what’s stopping them? What’s stopping you?
Just as it was during Jesus’ time, Israel remains one of the most controversial pieces of land in the world. And why shouldn’t it be? Isn’t it interesting that the very land Jesus brought controversy to all those years ago, remains in controversy today? Consequently, if you are waiting until it is “safe” to visit Israel, you could be waiting your whole life. Here are three reasons you should go to Israel now, and not later.
1. IT CHANGES THE WAY YOU READ YOUR BIBLE
Our pastor, Rick Thompson, (also, incidentally, my dad) published a book last year called Into the Land He Possessed (*shameless plug*). He published the book a week before our 10-day trip to the Holy Land so that every one in our 22 member tour group would be able to go through the book together while traveling. The book is a collaboration of knowledge and insights he’s gained through visiting Israel numerous times. It is also a great historical overview of the major Biblical sights in Israel, as well as a devotional book. Each chapter outlines a specific archeological site, and reading it on the bus while on the way to the site allowed me to stay in a spirit of reverence throughout the whole trip.
There is nothing quite like reading a passage from the Bible while standing in the very spot it took place. One of my favorite memories from last year’s trip was in Jerusalem, standing on the edge of a balcony where King David’s palace stood centuries before, and reading a Psalm where David spoke of God’s love for His kingdom, Israel. When I read the Bible now, I read it with the land in mind—I see it in its physical, historical context and not as idealistically as I once did. It is one thing to know that the Bible is true, it is another entirely to experience it.
2. IT CHANGES THE WAY YOU VIEW JESUS
One thing that is difficult to get from just reading your Bible is the cultural and geographical nuances Jesus experienced while on earth. A special thing about visiting Israel today is you experience a culture and geography similar to His. The Jewish and Arab cultures depend highly on tradition, just as they did during Jesus’ time on earth. By experiencing this culture first hand, it is easy to imagine Jesus walking right alongside you, heading to the market to sell fish, or walking with his disciples by the Sea of Galilee.
My favorite example of Jesus’ culture coming alive happened at the olive wood factory in Bethlehem, the city where Jesus was born. Years ago my grandpa took tour groups into Bethlehem just as my father does today. Consequently, through the years our family has developed a close relationship with the Palestinian Christian store owner and his family. This is a special stop for us because my Poppy would always have the owner quote the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic, the language of Jesus. My dad also asked his elderly friend to quote the prayer for all of us. It was such a beautiful experience, hearing the very words our Lord spoke to teach His disciples to pray those many years ago.
3. IT CHANGES THE WAY YOU VIEW YOUR LIFE
When the Bible becomes more than just a book of stories, your walk with Jesus moves from the ideal to the real. This is what experiencing the land of Jesus does for you. I don’t mean to imply that people can’t experience Jesus anywhere, but there is nothing like living and breathing the land our Savior loved so much. For example, reading David’s Psalm 42, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God” while standing in the middle of the desert where David spoke those words. Being there and feeling thirsty actually helps you identify with the Psalm in a new way. What I am saying is the feelings you get while in those physical spaces brings biblical images to life. While standing on the Temple Mount, you get a sense of the sheer size and vast space Jesus had to clear with the authority of his presence (Matthew 21:12-17). When you read the story it doesn’t have near the impact of actually standing in that huge space. You realize that with that same authority and power, He came to save you.
I could go on and on about different life changing experiences that occurred for me in Israel, but don’t just take my word for it, why not experience it yourself? I encourage everyone who is physically and financially able to make the trip. It is a financial investment, no doubt about that. My Poppy used to say it was like investing in a semester of college, and trust me, you’ll get a full semester’s worth of knowledge. So if you are able, my advice is to make the investment, and sooner rather than later! Go into the land He possessed—the Holy Land.
So, I’ll ask you again, what’s stopping you?
The next Israel trip with Pastor Rick is scheduled for April 20th to May 2nd of 2021. Put it on your calendars and start saving!
Meet the Author!
Tallie Thompson is the daughter of CRBC's senior pastor, Rick Thompson. She is an artist that has a heart for missions and children's ministry and enjoys teaching grade schoolers on Sunday mornings. When she isn't traveling, she enjoys sipping on a cup of coffee with her family and friends in good ol' OKC.