by Sue Priebe
The Amazing Israel Adventure has been aptly named, as the 2019 trip was just that. Any trip to Israel is “amazing” in itself, but this one was extraordinary. Any tour can visit the same Biblical places, but the combination of people that the Lord put together for this trip combined with the Holy Spirit directed and anointed teaching on the actual sites where our Lord walked, taught, lived and died and rose again made this trip unlike any other.
The two pieces of experiencing the Bible “on location,” as Betsy would say, included visiting the historic sites from Jesus’ and even Abraham’s time and even seeing the prophetic unfold before our eyes. It is impossible to write about the historical places we visited without sounding like a travel book. Instead I want to highlight a few places focusing on the spiritual impact they had in my life.
Our first stop was Caesarea by the Sea, a Roman and very pagan town. Jews avoided this place, but Peter answered the call of God and came to the house of a Gentile at the command of the Holy Spirit and at the invitation of Cornelius (Acts 10). This was the revelation to the all-Jewish church that the Gospel must be shared with the Gentiles according to scripture: Isaiah 49:6, “You will do more than restore the people of Israel to me. I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth” (NLT). Peter’s lesson at Caesarea is to obey the voice of God even when He seems to ask us to do things which go against the culture of the day. Culture will often lead us away from the will of God as laid out in His Word.
Shiloh was a place I had never visited before…
Driving through the hills of Samaria, we came to the spot where the Ark of the Covenant stood for 369 years through the period of the judges, through Samuel’s life until King David brought the Ark into Jerusalem. Standing on the location where the tabernacle once stood, I could picture the tribes coming across the hills from all corners of Israel to seek the presence of God at Shiloh. What a journey was required of them three times a year!
When they arrived at Shiloh, they still had to remain apart from the Presence… which was hidden from them in the Holy of Holies. As I consider Shiloh and the presence of God, I am thankful for the work of Jesus. “And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him…” (Hebrews 10:21-22). Has the availability of God’s Presence lead us to take Him for granted? “Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob” (Psalm 114:7). I want never to take His presence for granted.
Traveling up to Jerusalem is always emotional for me. Reading the Psalms of Ascent as we near the city and finally getting the first glimpse of the City of our King always brings tears to my eyes. It seems to me that once you have encountered God in His City, a person is never the same. It is as if part of my heart stays in Jerusalem, and it is only upon returning that my heart is whole once again. Praying at the Western Wall and in the Garden of Gethsemane, walking on the ancient streets, standing on the southern steps leading to the temple mount, praying for one another at the Pools of Bethesda ….all such “amazing” experiences.
The ancient path on which He was lead has been uncovered, and it is easy to picture what the courtyard must have been like that night when Peter followed to the place where He would deny His Lord. Luke 22 relates an incident that none of the other Gospel writers include. Jesus, who was probably being moved to another place of trial, at the moment of Peter’s denial turned, “At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter” (v. 61). What did Peter see in those eyes? Peter saw God’s heart in the eyes of Jesus, which lead him to repentance. I am reminded of God’s never-ending love. I am encouraged to know that when I meet the eyes of Jesus, He will always be looking at me with a heart full of love. Condemnation never comes from the Lord for “God’s kindness leads you to repentance” (Romans 2:4).
The historical Biblical experiences were indeed “amazing,” but even more “amazing” was seeing the Words of Prophecy unfold before our eyes. The very existence of the nation is a fulfillment of God’s Promise. Isaiah 66:8 says “Who has ever seen anything as strange as this? Who ever heard of such a thing? Has a nation ever been born in a single day?” Yes, we have now heard of such a thing because that is exactly how the nation of Israel came into being.
In Isaiah 35:1-2 the Lord declares “Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days. The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses. Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy! The deserts will become as green as the mountains of Lebanon, as lovely as Mount Carmel or the plain of Sharon. There the Lord will display his glory, the splendor of our God.”
I have previously visited Israel in the spring, but never have I seen such beautiful green hills and blooming flowers. It was reported to us that the rainy season that had just ended produced the greatest amounts of rain in more than fifty years! Rain is a blessing from God. I Kings 8:35-36 tells of the relationship between disobedience and drought and calling on God and rain: “…when they pray toward this place and confess Your name, …send rain on Your land which You have given to Your people as an inheritance.” (NKJV) I believe we saw the result of God’s people crying out to Him. The Messianic community (Jewish believers in Jesus) in Israel is growing. I believe God sent this past rainy season as an encouragement to His believers. God wants to remind then that He sees: “the land…drinks water from the rain of heaven, a land for which the Lord your God cares; the eyes of the Lord your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the very end of the year” (Deuteronomy 11:11-12).
Perhaps the most important prophetic move taking place in Israel today is the creation of the “one new man” described in Ephesians 2. God is miraculously working, sometimes behind the scenes, to bring about unity between Arab and Jewish believers. He is the Prince of Peace and the only hope for peace in the Middle East. “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity…so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that he may reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity” (Ephesians 2:14-16 NKJV). We were blessed to spend time with the “living stones”, believers both Jewish and Arab in the land. We shared special times of worship, prayer, fellowship and learning from them.
What an “amazing” blessing it was to be a part of the 2019 Amazing Israel Adventure. It has impacted my life, and I know the lives of every person who answered the call of God to join the tour, bringing us closer to Him as we experienced more than can ever really be put into words.
Sue Priebe is Associate Pastor at City of Hope Church in Janesville, Wisconsin, a Chaplain for Marketplace Chaplains and serves on the Board of Directors for Women of the Word. She is passionate about teaching the Word of God in ways that are relevant and applicable to daily life. She also has a deep love for Israel and travels there frequently connecting with believers there and teaching God’s Word on location.