Israel Study Trip Blog


Here are the blog posts from my study trip to Israel this year. Feel free to share it and use it as you like. Great memories!

PS--If you find any errors, please let me know. I make plenty of mistakes!

What I Hope to Find in Israel Isn't Just Historical

Day 1--Following the Mediterranean Coastline to Lebanon

Day 2--Who, Me?

Day 3--So Many Choices

Day 4--Life Around the Lake

Day 5--Light Among the Shadows

Day 6--Living on Purpose

Day 7--Keep It Simple

Day 8--Impossible Odds

Day 9--God Loves Us Unconditionally

Day 10--God is My Refuge and Refreshment

Day 11--Fun with Fatigue

Day 12--Digging Deeper

Day 13/14--What a Great Family! Anticipating the Best Reunion Ever!


What a Great Family! Anticipating the Best Reunion Ever!

Days 13 & 14--Friday/April 7 - Saturday/April 8

Well our trip is coming to a close now. Kind of bittersweet. We are all really enjoying being here and I for one would love to keep going (after a good night's sleep!), but reality is calling and it is time to wake up for the journey home.

Our final day in Jerusalem began with the Israel Museum. Staged outside is a huge model rendering of old Jerusalem, an amazing tool indeed! It is a 50:50 scale model of Jerusalem in 66 AD looking from the perspective of the Mount of Olives from 2x the actual height and took 3 years to build.

This physical model of the city allowed us to begin connecting the many dots represented through our daily expeditions into a whole, sewing together a visual picture of the interesting places we have explored.  

For example, I now have a great understanding of why Jesus rattled the religious leaders now that I can see how the Roman Antonia Fortress loomed large over the temple mount, an ever-seeing eye intended to maintain the Pax Romana form of peace. With the Roman officials watching, the religious leaders were looking for a way to get the Romans to take care of their rogue rabbi. Or another example is to see visually how the 1st temple walls (Solomon) and 2nd temple walls (Herod) really do lie in different places. In 66 AD the temple site was quite large at 445 acres, but today after the reconstruction by the Muslim conqueror Suleiman the Great it is about half that size. This matters because certain historical records may not be understood accurately depending on which temple wall is in view. To learn more about the Israel Museum, go to

From there we ventured inside an exhibit called the Shrine of the Book, a beautiful presentation of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Why are these scrolls so important? Primarily, the Dead Sea Scrolls silenced the liberal critics of the Bible, those who argued that most of it was made up hundreds of years after the fact and had no historical factuality. When two shepherd boys stumbled upon the first cave in 1947, little did the world know how these 850 manuscript fragments would forever alter our view of the Bible. Perhaps the most important find was the entire Isaiah scroll, now displayed in the exhibit in a large, backlit display. In fact, the entire exhibit build is designed as a large jar containing a huge scroll. Quite a feast for the eyes. What a fascinating experience of epic significance! To learn more about the Shrine of the Book specifically, go to

The Israel Museum is vast, incorporating many buildings and exhibits which contain some of the most important archeological collections of ancient civilizations. We absolutely had too little time to really explore everything, but we left satisfied and grateful to have seen this with our own eyes. Again, to learn more about the Israel Museum, go to

We left the museum and headed to the old city where most of us took several hours to do some more shopping and to grab some lunch in the incredible shop-lined streets of the Christian, Muslim, Armenian and Jewish quarters.

At 2:30 we gathered in the hotel lobby to walk to our final site together, the Garden Tomb near a rock formation that has all the markings of Golgotha, the place of the skull as described by the gospel writers.  Our guide Omer shared the history and significance of the site located near the Damascus gate and just 1200 feet from the Temple Mount. Our picture of Golgotha is pretty romantic, imagining a grassy hill with three solitary crosses standing serenely in place. In reality, this rocky place adjacent to a roadway is more likely how it actually was and reveals the intimate and grotesque impact of Roman crucifixion. Matthew describes, for example, how passers by were mocking Jesus who would be hanging naked and in pain right where people would pass.

And the tomb nearby would certainly have been the property of someone with financial means such as Joseph of Arimathea as described in the gospel accounts, a rich man who had at least one vineyard because underneath our feet was a huge water cistern that still waters the garden today. By the way, the custom in near-east cultures is to place the body in a tomb for one year, allowing the body to decompose, then to remove the bones and place them in an ossuary, a box for bones. While Joseph offered his tomb for a year, it turns out he would only need to loan it out for the weekend!

We were reminded that those first to the tomb believed when seeing what had been promised--Mary, John and Peter. As the risen Jesus instructed them to "go back to Galilee and report what you have seen," we now have the opportunity to do the same in our own 'Galilee'. 

After hearing some of the history of the site, and enjoying our guide's simple explanation of the good news of Jesus, we each personally entered the hewn rock tomb, followed by a sweet time of remembrance together in communion with our Savior. We shared the ways we have been drawn near to Christ while on this trip, a truly memorable moment shared together as brothers and sisters in Christ. To learn more, go to

At this point some of us decided to venture back into the old city to pass through Herod's gate. We wandered through less traveled streets deep in the Muslim quarter where growing up is a very different experience than in the States. We made our way through the winding streets to the Via Dolorosa and followed it down to the Jewish Quarter, through security again, and then finally back to the Western Wall for one final visit. 

Several of us were able to have visited and passed through all the gates of the old city of Jerusalem: Jaffa gate, Zion gate, Dung gate, Lions gate, Herod's gate, Damascus gate, and New gate. And, of course, the Eastern gate known as the 'Golden Gate' remains sealed by Suleiman. But perhaps nor for long. To learn more, go to

We returned to the hotel for dinner and then prepared for the flight home. As we anticipate landing on the west coast on Saturday, our bodies remind us that this has been a very long day. In Pacific Standard Time, our final day in Israel began Thursday evening and culminated when we arrived home late Saturday. There was a glitch: some of us didn't get our luggage as hoped. At least one person in Los Angeles landed without her luggage and all of the Yakima group waited until the next day for luggage to arrive from Seattle. But, you know what? It's alright. We have all received many blessings along the way.


Sadly our group was divided when moving to connecting flights in Frankfurt and so we were not able to say goodbye. Tom, buddy, I had a big hug waiting for you!

We may never meet like this again. My grandfather was transformed by Christ and devoted the rest of his life to serving the homeless in Jesus' name. But Cliff Phillips loved his family deeply and showed us all what faith really looks like. At any family gathering, as we were preparing to leave he would have us grab hands around the circle, and he would say, "We may never meet like this again." And he was right. 

Those of us on this trip may not know each other well, but we are family. Jesus has given us a new name. We are His kids, and as our gathering has come to an end, the truth of that statement remains true: we may never meet like this again. Not for now. 

As I moved in and out of sleep in flight, I again treasured the joy of praying for each person on the trip. In conversation during the trip I tried to learn how I could be an encouragement and lift each person in prayer. Each person's needs are different, but it is my privilege to remember each one as a fellow disciple, a brother or sister with me on this journey of faith.

Also, for me personally, this trip has been another opportunity to sit under my brother Kurt's teaching and leadership. Well done, Kurt. Love you, bro.  

The Yakima group flew off to Seattle, and the Victorville and Portland groups took off for Los Angeles. Even so, we each take with us the memories of a shared season in Christ's presence, and it is just the beginning of things to come.  


Revelation 1

"When I saw him I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said, "Do not be afraid..." Revelation 1:17a

PS--I took a few pictures and will be posting and sharing as the week unfolds. Feel free to share this blog as you like.


Digging Deeper

Day 12--Thursday, April 6

Please indulge me with this longer-than-usual post. Thanks.

Today we journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, a mere 6 miles away yet a different world in so many ways. Bethlehem is the most Christian populated city currently in Israel. Understand that when someone here says they are Christian and follow Jesus, it may mean nothing more than "I am not Muslim or Jewish." That said, for those Arab Christians who comprise the majority of Bethlehem they are faced with discrimination and difficulty because Bethlehem sits within the central West Bank and under the Palestinian Authority. Within the West Bank exist levels of security, and our tour guide Jacob is not allowed in a high security area like Bethlehem. So, we welcomed a delightful Arab Christian from Palestine named Johnny.

We spent time overlooking shepherds' fields and reflecting with Paul Gostanian on the history of this area near Bethlehem which means "the house of bread." Many years ago these were the fields of Ruth and Boaz (Ruth 1-4). In her story Ruth and Boaz have a son Obed who has a son Jesse who has a son David who would be king. So Bethlehem is called the city of David. We were reminded that Ruth was a Moabite (a despised people). Faith made her part of the genealogy of Jesus. Like her, for us faith is to live as Jesus lives.  

Our guide Johnny offered this perspective: "Many here don't know Jesus. God brought the good news through the lowest people on earth because they believed the word of God. The Lamb for the temple; Jesus, the Lamb of God, for us. Pray for Christians to return to Bethlehem. There is no work here because of prejudice, so they move away for work." We then went then into the chapel and sang carols surrounded in wonderful acoustics.  

Next we visited a Nativity store run by Arab Christians. They presented Kurt with a silver chalice featuring beautiful craftsmanship. To check out their wares, go to

We moved on next to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. This ancient church was first built by emperor Constantine's mother Helena. In my opinion it is quite ornate, perhaps gaudy. The church is shared by leadership from the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Armenians. To learn more, go to

We also paid a visit to The Herodium Palace, the ruler's palace which he favored. Earlier in history the area was significant because of a supernatural intervention by the living God (see 2 Chronicles 20:1-20). God is a God who keeps his promises, who protects his people. To learn more, go to

Our final stop of the day was to the Holocaust museum, Yad VaShem, in Bethlehem. To prepare ourselves we read Isaiah 56:5 and considered the significance of God's view of us: we are faces, not numbers. This museum seeks to tell the stories of countless men, women and children who suffered the Nazi regime. Wow. What a moving experience. As I was immersed into the history of evil and tragedy at the hands of the Nazis and it's collaborators, I cannot hold back tears for human beings who have, are, or will suffer undeserved assault. But the horrors of the Holocaust must not be divorced from the millennia of human carnage, all which reveal one simple truth: that same seed of evil exists within each of us and reminds us that, were it not for the merciful intervention by our holy Creator, we would all--myself included--devolve into the base, natural, self-serving thoughts and behaviors that simply echo the murderers, torturers, and despots across the ages. Today I worship my God in the faces of these innocents and pray, "Come, Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22:20 NIV). To learn more, go to


God is more awesome than I ever imagined yet He desires intimacy with me as His child. As the trip nears its conclusion, please allow me to be very transparent about my emotions. Today at the holocaust museum I was overwhelmed by the horror. I've seen it before, but today my emotions were very present.

Men are often described as unemotional. I respectfully disagree. In fact, men simply withhold the expression of emotion. And unfortunately when it is acknowledged it is sometimes volcanic and disruptive.

At this season in my life I find that I must learn to acknowledge my emotions to myself and others. For those of you who know me well, you know that I am deeply shy, that I often feel inadequate for words in the moment, that I simply don't have words to express the deep feelings I carry. This is one of the reasons that I have gravitated to writing as an expression of thought. It's good for me.

With all the change I have experienced in my world over the past year, participating in this trip to Israel held promise. I had several very personal goals: 1) lead our group well in the diligent preparation for the trip; 2) do all I can to encourage others; 3) rediscover my joy; and 4) learn again how to be intimate with my heavenly Father and with those I love. As the trip draws to a close, I find myself at peace and amazed at the ways He has met me in these desires.

We have been running at a frantic pace, yet hidden in the journey is the presence of our Lord. He is with us as we read His Word together, and gaze upon a mind-stretching archaeology site, and enjoy the varied brushstrokes of our Creator's work, and learn to care for another as an expression of the sweet Savior we share together.

These are precious moments for those who are privileged to share in an adventure like this. We will never be the same. And we may never see each other again this side of heaven. Yet, even though we begin as acquaintances and strangers, we leave this place brothers and sisters and friends for life. The memories we share. The distance we tolerate. Geography is not king; Jesus is our King.

So, if you have not been privileged to deepen your discipleship by exploring your spiritual roots like this, I urge you to start saving now. Come, Lord Jesus.


For my brothers and sisters on this trip with me:

"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident in this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ--to the glory and praise of God."
The apostle Paul's prayer for his friends in Philippi





Fun with Fatigue

Day 11--Wednesday, April 5

Today was a shorter day in order to make time for an afternoon of shopping. We began on the Temple Mount, dressed appropriately. This is the location of the temple Jesus knew, later destroyed by Titus in AD 70, but it is now home to the Dome of the Rock, the Muslim building to honor the thought of Muhammad's ascension from here. Known in scripture as Mount Moriah, this hill is where Abraham was instructed to sacrifice his son Isaac in a test of his obedience to God (Genesis 22). Unfortunately the Muslim world has an alternate reality where it was Ishmael, not Isaac, who was offered in sacrifice here.

In a city and region of tension, both sides make compromises for peace. Regarding the Temple Mount, that compromise was that Israel gave up control to the Muslims. Since it is Muslim-controlled, we had to be careful about what we wore, that we brought no Bibles, that there be no show of affection or joy, and that there is no praying. Well, some of us got called out for showing affection or joy, but there is no way they knew we were praying!

The Jewish temple is important to us as Christians because it illustrates the centrality of God to our relationship with Him as individuals and a whole nation. In the temple God revealed His glory and made access to Him possible through a priest. But our bodies are His temple now, Christ in us the hope of glory. We no longer need sacrifices to atone for sin or priests to serve as our access because Jesus came to die as our substitute and to become a permanent High Priest interceding always on our behalf. In the temple we find the value of the past, the joy of the present, the hope of the future. To learn more, go to

Interesting note: Jerusalem has been rebuilt 17 times.  

We then explored what is known as the Citadel and Tower of David museum near the Jaffa Gate. In reality, this structure is likely the site where Jesus was interrogated by Herod during the trials Jesus endured. To learn more, go to

After the museum we walked on the ramparts around the Zion gate and then went to lunch. After lunch... free time for shopping. So imagine 36 Americans heading out to shop the merchants in Jerusalem. It was fun and unfamiliar at the same time. These male shopkeepers have learned the trade through many generations, and they are masters of the sale. Everyone I asked seemed to enjoy the experience and came away with something satisfying. Of course, that many shoppers is also good for the merchants who depend on the purchasing power of tourism. Many, many sellers are on a first-name basis with Ken, and we are so glad! To learn more, go to


Fatigue is temporary; fun is contagious. This is the point in a study trip like this that exposes the fatigue from information overload, bodies operating in a different time zone, poor sleep, inadequate sleep, no sleep, etc. You get the point. Even while we can't wait to go to the next site, there is in fact the reality of fatigue. We can see it in each other's eyes and hear it in our tired voices. For some it shows up with illness or sore muscles or pained backs.

Even while fatigue is present there are still awesome moments when the joy of the Lord invades our presence through a funny comment, a thought-provoking devotional idea, spotting a vendor with Magnum ice-cream bars, or just enjoying becoming better acquainted regardless of our home address.


"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near."  --Philippians 4:4-5 NIV

God is My Refuge and Refreshment

Day 10--Tuesday, APRIL 4

After playing in the Dead Sea last evening and enjoying a night in a spa hotel, we began our journey north again making our first stop at the ancient mountain fortress known as Masada. In Hebrew, the word "masada" means fortress, and that is exactly what this piece of real estate became over time. For the Jews, this special place represents the last Jewish stronghold against Roman invasion. The Roman army of 20,000 came against 967 Jewish people (men, women and children). Why did the Romans need to take this? They didn't. But it was about dominance. Kind of like the Alamo. 

To learn more, go to

After getting to the top, we were all able to hear more about the history and explore the various structures that have endured. Fortunately for us, historian Flavius Josephus was able to pass along the accounts of what occurred here.

After grabbing a Magnum ice cream bar, we boarded the bus to move further north to the beautiful site of En Gedi. Here was another hike, but it was a wonderful trek back into a waterfall and cove, along welcoming pools and beautiful scenery. Two creatures are frequently seen here: the Ibex and the Hyrex. If you don't know what they are, look it up and marvel. At the first pool we stopped to read Proverbs 30:24-28 and Zechariah 14:1-11 as we connected past and future. I remarked to several of my tripmates that I could spend a week at En Gedi alone with God. Interestingly, my allergies went crazy here. Go figure!

After a shopping stop at the Dead Sea's AHAVA outlet store for skin treatment, we enjoyed lunch and then the site of Qumran. To learn more, go to

Qumran is the famous location where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered by accident in a cave in the area. The Qumran find has exonerated the veracity of the Old Testament against the liberal thinkers of the day who were skeptical about it up to that point. Isaiah scroll was a phenomenal find. The Essenes, a private religious community living in the desert) hid the scrolls because after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD they aimed they were the last Jews alive. We opened our Bibles and read Luke 1:5-20; 3:1-3 about Zechariah and John the Baptist.

At Qumran more than 800 caves are still unexplored. Why? One reason is that handling the scrolls is a difficult issue because Qumran is in the West Bank. It is about control. One person reminded us that Muslims begin dating history that matters to them with Muhammed, so they will destroy anything prior to that because to them it is irrelevant. 


Humility hurts. Hiking up the face of Masada needs to be balanced with the pace at which you attempt it. There are two ways to get to the top of this mountain that towers 1424 feet above the Dead Sea: (1) take a 3-minute cable car ride, or (2) walk it. Of the 36 people on the trip, 13 of us determined to make our way up the Snake Path on the eastern side of Masada. All was well for about half the hike until I began noticing my heartrate running too high. So for the remainder of the hike I had to slow my pace, work at deep breathing, and get to the top behind everyone else. It became a grueling hike for me not because of leg fatigue but because of heart rate and nausea. My legs are strong, but my heart rate just got too high so I needed more frequent breaks. The team was gracious to wait for me and cheer me on. Thanks, everyone!


Psalm 31

Two movies to consider as well: The Dove Keepers and Masada

God Loves Us Unconditionally

Day 9--Monday, April 3

Today we move south into the desert. On our way we learn from our guide Jacob his perspective on the educational system in Israel. To sum up, he suggested that the mandatory draft into the military is the best education for life. Many also study abroad to become well connected in the world. The two official languages in Israel are Hebrew and Arabic, not English which has been resisted because of colonialism. While that may be true, many Israelis do quite well with the English language.

Ironically, there is a community west of Jerusalem on the road to Emmaus that claims to be the largest Elvis fan club in the world, referred to as "Little Memphis." Sure enough, as we drove by we could see the Elvis sign declaring their fandom. No kidding. If you're interested,

Fun Fact: about 10 percent of those living in Israel are from north America. 

This was a supercharged day with an abundance of driving and significant sites to visit. We visited Tel Beth Shemesh, an excavation of an important Israelite city in the Sorek Valley, a bordering Judah and Dan and given to the Levites.  It represents the Middle Bronze Age through the Iron II period. To learn more, go to

Another stop was to the site of Azeka overlooking the Elah Valley where the philistine army opposed the Israelites and taunted them by mocking the God of Israel. In that era it was customary for each army in conflict to send their best representative to do battle on behalf of their side. Whoever would win was the victorious army. 1 Samuel 17 tells us the story of just such a conflict occurring when the Philistine giant Goliath was confronted by the young man David, a person in no way physically capable of doing battle. But it was David's confidence in the Lord that moved him to stand up to this huge bully and, with five smooth stones, he used his slingshot with dead aim and hit Goliath's forehead. The Valley of Elah is formed like a natural amphitheater with ample seating on each side. Amazing to visualize this piece of Israeli history. We then walked down to the Elah brook to pick smooth stones as a memento. To learn more, go to and

From Elah we moved on to Tel Beth Guvrin, the only Roman gladiator amphitheater in Israel that is open to the public. There is additional evidence of a Crusader fortress and a Byzantine church called St. Anne's Church. We stopped for box lunches in nearby Maresha, a Roman-era city famous for chalk caves carved by ancient inhabitants. Maresha was later abandoned and moved to Beth Guvrin. To learn more, go to

Next we moved on to Lachisch, the most important city in Judah after Jerusalem in the 9th century BC. Through the compromises with pagan idols by king Amaziah, the Assyrian army utterly destroyed the city and the king (2 Kings 14:1-22). In the excavations have been found an Israeli tower and well-preserved gates. But a discovery as recent as the Fall 2016 is astounding: an unused toilet seat. In the reforms of rampant idolatry by the people of Israel, the toilet seat was put on the high places as a statement to those who were not serving the Lord of Israel alone: "your god is nothing but..." To read of the reforms, see 2 Kings 18-19 and the rise of king Hezekiah.

The Lachisch site reminds us that what matters more than anything else is faith in the one true God. The mistakes of ancient Israelis can be avoided by understanding and acting on Jesus' own words recorded in John 3:15-16. Later the apostle John would write about the importance of guarding ourselves from idols (1 John 5), but we all have this same danger when we trust ourselves or other things rather than exercising faith in God. It is interesting that this battle in Lachisch is commemorated on a wall in Nineveh in the king's waiting room. To learn more, go to

Next we made the journey further south to the city of Beersheba. "From Dan to Beersheba" became a common way in the Old Testament to describe the land of the people of Israel, from north to south. Beersheba is in the Negev in the southern and widest portion of Israel, located between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea. It's very arid and desert-like. So why would anyone move here? It feels like the middle of nowhere. But to the patriarchs, it was an important place. The whole history of the nation of Israel begins with the patriarchs: Abraham, his son Isaac, and his grandson Jacob. And Beersheba is part of each of their stories. One of the highlights here was to walk through a water cistern that shows both how important water is to a civilization as well as how much water could be stored. To learn more, go to

From Beersheba we traveled on to Tel Arad, located on a high mound in the wilderness, another place where the people of Israel drifted from God's commands. Here they reasoned, "We are too far from the temple, so we will just make our own." One of the sad discoveries at Arad is the presence of two temples and idol stones which indicate that the Israelites used temples erected to two deities. Despite Moses forbidding them (Deuteronomy 12), high places of worship flourished throughout the land according to the Bible. Read Numbers 21 for some more perspective on this problem in Israel. To learn more, go to

After a long, hot day we made our final trek across the desert and down to the Dead Sea, what is purported to be the lowest place on earth. As one of my tripmates pointed out, though, the lowest place on earth is actually in Antarctica.


God keeps His covenants. Here in Beersheba I had an opportunity to share with the group some observations from God's Word. The ancient idols and gods were fickle and hard to please. But the God of Israel was unlike those false gods. The God of Israel kept His word. Every time. He could be counted upon.
The language for God keeping His word is ‘covenant’. So we traced the highlights of God's covenant with Abraham and how this man was willing to take God at His word and believe against impossible odds. But Genesis 22 and the ultimate test of Abraham was just the prelude, because 1800 years later God would come to offer Himself as that perfect substitute. God made a covenant with Abraham, restated it on Mount Moriah, and proved it in Jerusalem when He was lifted up on a cross. This is a new covenant with God based on what He did for us. God had in mind an unconditional covenant that would be offered on the mount when Jesus gave His life. In effect, He is saying to us: even when you can't keep your end of the deal, I am faithful and guarantee that my offer of forgiveness through Christ is always yours by faith. What an amazing, merciful and gracious God we can come to know through faith in Jesus.


Hebrews 13:20



Impossible Odds


We continued our discovery of Jerusalem today by visiting the City of David. You may be thinking, "Wait. I thought Jerusalem is the City of David." Well, yes and no. Jerusalem is certainly the city of David in a broad sense, but technically the oldest part of Jerusalem is known as "the City of David." If you think about it, Jerusalem as we know it didn't exist when David arrived. So within Jerusalem is a more ancient area outside the current city gates which is named for its famous king and psalmist. To learn more, go to

We enjoyed a delightful tour with a guide named Oren who skilfully integrated history, humor and humanity throughout our adventure. The highlight of the tour was to travel through king Hezekiah's tunnel (2 Chronicles 32), an amazing engineering feat--carved out of rock--to bring water directly into the city during the reign of king Hezekiah in preparation for the assault by the Assyrians (8th century BC). Imagine walking through a 1750 foot narrow and frequently low-ceiling tunnel in the dark and in knee-high cool water. What a blast!  For the men who labored to carve this tunnel using oil lamps and chisels, not so much. To learn more, go to’s-tunnel-city-david.

We emerged from the tunnel to a downpour and rain that continued on and off for the remainder of the day. We stopped briefly to visit and discuss the Pool of Siloam as well.

Entering through the Jaffa Gate we sat together for lunch and then walked along the ancient Cardo with modern shops. No shopping today, though. 

Next was a tour through a museum called the Wohl Museum of Archeology featuring what is known as the Herodian Quarter. This was an excavation of some of Jerusalem's wealthy leaders and priests from the time of Herod's temple over 2000 years ago. We gazed on some beautiful mosaics, colorful frescoes, and luxurious architecture. To learn more, go to

As we then looked at the Dome of the Rock in the distance, we discussed a huge Mennorah which stands outside the museum. The Mennorah is the ancient candlestick with seven candles. Sometimes though you will see candelabra with nine candles. Which is right? Both but for different reasons. The Mennorah does indeed have seven candles, but the nine-candle stand is a version of the Mennorah used in the celebration of Hanukkah. To learn more, go to

After passing through an x-ray security checkpoint we emerged on to the Prayer Plaza and the West Wall commonly referred to as the "wailing wall." The wall is monstrous, composed of 11 large stone layers, 16 small layers, and a single cap layer. Women and men are separated, men required to wear a head covering, and all to be respectful. We each took the opportunity to approach God in prayer at the wall, touching this part of the temple wall that was part of Jesus' experience. 

We also were able to spend some time reflecting on God's Word at the southern steps to the temple where Jesus and His followers would have frequently entered the courts (read Psalm 122, one of the songs of ascent the Jews would sing as they approached the temple). These stones are indeed from the first century and are yet another place where Jesus walked. Immediately adjacent are many large ritual baths known as Mikveh. When you read of 3,000 people responding to Simon Peter's message at the feast of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-41), you have to wonder if they simply commandeered those Mikveh to get the job done.

After visiting Robinson's Arch and walking through the Davidson Center we passed through another security check and re-entered the Prayer Plaza en route to the temple wall tunnels. These tunnels were formed when the conquering Muslims erected arches upon which the Moslem Quarter was built. The subterranean park explores the oldest foundations of the city of Jerusalem dating back to the second temple period (2000 years ago). Our guide was Josi (sp?) from Manchester, England. He did a nice job showing us the underside of Jerusalem complete with a huge 570 ton single stone in the temple wall. Massive! How did they get it there?!!

By the time we were done with the tunnels, we were done. Tired. Ready to get to dinner.


Impossible odds mean nothing to a God who keeps His promises. When you read and understand what king Hezekiah and the people of Israel were about to face in Sennacherib and the Assyrian war machine, they didn't stand a chance. There is just no way this tiny nation could possibly defend itself against this world-conquering army in the 8th century BC. But know what? They did just that. And it wasn't just because they engineered an amazing tunnel to transport water. No, the key is found in 2 Chronicles 32:

Hezekiah said, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles." And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said... And the LORD sent an angel, who annihilated all the fighting men and the leaders and officers in the camp of the Assyrian king. So he withdrew to his own land in disgrace.

To be honest, you and I live at a time when we have great control over our own lives. We choose to go here, do that, whatever we desire within our means. We often don't think about it, but the consumerism of our culture has conditioned us to be self-centered and self-sufficient. And when things are going well enough, we act as though we are in control of our world. Then when crisis hits we are suddenly demanding that God rescue us or we simply blame Him for our misfortune. But what would it look like if we were to take to heart the attitude of Hezekiah? Can you imagine how you might respond differently to the crisis you are facing? How could you call out to God, not just to be rescued, but in honest and confident faith that He can be trusted? Things may still be difficult, but when we are trusting God with the impossible odds we face, that's when He loves to show us the way forward.


Psalm 23