Recently, I had the incredible privilege of visiting Israel. This was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream that I believe God placed on my heart back in my early teenage years. It took over two decades before the Lord opened the door for me to visit the Holy Land, but it was certainly well worth the wait!
I’m sure you can imagine that my expectations going in were pretty high, but my expectations were actually blown out of the water by what I experienced. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I wish I could pack every member of the church on a plane and fly them out to Israel! Does that sound a little extreme? It’s not. After prayerful consideration, here are ten reasons why I believe a tour of the Holy Land is well worth your time and investment.
1. Witness the Bible Come Alive
For many believers, especially those who have grown up in the church, the biblical accounts and stories can begin to feel like exactly that—stories! Through repetition and repeat exposure, it’s easy to forget that these accounts record the lives of real people in a very real place.
Visiting Israel makes the words in the Bible leap off the page. The ink goes from black and white to full blown color! To stand where Paul likely stood in Promontory Palace in Caesarea, as he shared the gospel with Governor Festus and King Agrippa, or to follow the path of Jesus up the Southern Steps to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, each of these experiences make the scriptures suddenly come alive!
2. Grasp Biblical Geography
The geographic “scale” of scripture cannot be adequately understood without seeing it with your own eyes. To stand on the Mount of Olives where Jesus prophesied the Temple would be destroyed and to look across the valley towards the Temple Mount where the Temple once stood, to stand in the Valley of Megiddo where the final Battle of Armageddon will take place and see the intersection that leads to three different continents, or to take a wooden boat onto the Sea of Galilee and discover that 70% of the gospel accounts take place within a small sliver of shoreline can only be grasped in person.
3. Fall in Love with God’s Chosen People
God loves His people. He even calls them in Zechariah 2:8 the “apple of His eye.” When you experience the hospitality and generosity of the Jewish people, you’ll fall in love with them, too. However, greater than that is the experience of touching God’s heart as your perspective suddenly aligns with His as you see His people through His eyes. This doesn’t happen by simply watching the news or reading a magazine; it happens by interacting together in the cafés, on the streets, and in the shops.
4. Develop a True Burden for Israel
Since returning home I now follow a news podcast about Israel, pay closer attention to Israel in print, I plan to teach a class about the history of Israel from the time of Abraham to the present day, I regularly encourage people to travel there, and I consistently pray for Israel.
Here’s the funny thing, if you’d asked me if I already had a burden for Israel before the trip, I would have sincerely said ‘yes.’ Yet after having been there, now I know what a real burden for Israel feels like! Suddenly, David’s words in Psalm 122:6, “pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” means something relatable, not abstract.
5. Understand the Middle East Conflict
There is a lot going on in the Middle East that the news media isn’t going to show you, and they definitely won’t give you the greater context of the battle for the land that has taken place since ancient times. Whose land is it anyway? Deuteronomy 4:40 refers to Israel as “the land which the Lord your God is giving you [the Jews] for all time.”
Israel is a little piece of land about the size of New Jersey, which is strategically located, fertile, and abundant with natural resources. Israel’s enemies covet this precious piece of real estate for practical, as much as religious, reasons. To truly understand this conflict and to appreciate the geographic relationship between Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt, you really have to see this land for yourself.
6. Make Priceless Memories
What would it be like to be baptized in the Jordan River like Jesus, to eat fried fish on the shore of the Sea of Galilee like the disciples, to literally float effortlessly on the Dead Sea, to walk for twenty minutes through ankle-high water in the pitch-black darkness of Hezekiah’s Tunnel, or to spend quiet time in contemplative prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane? The answers to these questions are the priceless memories you will carry with you for the rest of your life.
7. Be Blessed
God told Abraham in Genesis 12:3, “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” In other words, God promises that those who bless Israel will themselves be blessed. When we visit the Holy Land, we’re blessing the Jewish people by contributing to their economy, standing with them politically, and supporting them spiritually.
8. It's Safer Than You Think
I never once felt unsafe on my trip. In fact, I even took my 14-year-old daughter! Let me just say that Israel’s police are armed like our military. There is a consistent police presence, many sites even have a military presence, there are jets and helicopters regularly flying overhead, and since the vast majority of Jewish citizens serve a compulsory 2-3 years in the military, even the tour guides and bus drivers are often combat trained. Plus, they have the Iron Dome which protects the nation from enemy rockets. I felt safer there than in most American cities!
Remember, we’re told in Psalm 121:4, “Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” The Hebrew word for “keeps” is the word shamar which means “to hedge, guard, protect.”
9. Create Solid Friendships
It goes without saying that sharing these experiences with other people will create a common bond that can never be taken away. At the onset of the trip there may be people you know well, people you know of, and people you’ve never met before. However, by the end of the trip, everybody will fall into the category of “people you know well.” There is no way to experience such a spiritually profound trip without it impacting your relationships with your fellow travelers!
10. Strengthen Your Faith
Ultimately, visiting Israel will strengthen your faith. To see firsthand the cave in Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, to walk on the 2,000-year-old steps that Jesus walked on, to visit the Garden Tomb where it’s believed He was buried and resurrected, and to realize that you are standing in the epicenter that has impacted the world for thousands of years will build up the assurance of your faith like never before!
There are lots of beautiful and interesting places to visit on this amazing blue sphere in the universe, but none can claim these ten reasons that I have shared with you. I firmly believe every Christian will benefit from a journey to the Holy Land. My prayer for you is that God would open up the door of opportunity and that you would have the boldness to step right through it!
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