Susan was right when I left for Israel and she began to call me her, "Friend who would never be the same."
One significant impact of going to Israel was that reading scripture will never be the same. Reading about places I have seen, or have a context for is like seeing a movie in vivid colour and 3 D or Imax, when all you have experienced before is black and white silent movies. I can "see" the events I am reading about now and they seem so real and alive.
I realize what a great privilege it was to go to Israel and I have felt compelled to share the blessing of my experience with others here (encouraged, friends, by those of you who wanted to hear all about it.) My prayer too, is that none of what I experienced would be wasted. To be drenched in so much history and such a rich culture, not to mention the spiritual significance, was not to be forgotten but to be unwrapped one gift at a time and deeply treasured. I am sure I will be unwrapping for some time to come!
This morning I received one such gift; let me share.
Upon arrival in Israel we stepped from a plane onto a tour bus. To say we were dazed is an understatement. There was not a moment to be lost of course, but I am afraid that some of it was lost on us that day because we were so tired. I wrote about some of what we saw: about Joppa and Caesarea Maritima, but not about our next stop before reaching our hotel in Tiberias; Mount Carmel.
Our tour bus climbed the mountainous terrain, jostling its load of 28 sleepy passengers who peered groggily out at a landscape that had become dull and rainy. In fact it was the only rainy day of our unseasonably warm and sunny week, but at that point we didn't know it. A chilly wind whipped at our clothing as we climbed to a high vantage point from which we should have seen a wonderful view, that was unfortunately veiled by a rainy mist.
The rest of the week unfolded; a wonderful, crazy, condensed crash course on biblical history--like a magic carpet taking us on a journey into the past--and our hour on Mount Carmel drifted into the recesses of my brain, until this morning.
I happened to reach the story in my reading, of Elijah and the prophets of Baal, so beautifully depicted in the frieze below; one of several illustrating the account written in 1 Kings18:16-45.
It wasn't until I got to verse 45 that I realized the gift God had given us that day. The weather was not an accident but just perfect: God allowed us to see exactly what Elijah saw:
45-46 Things happened fast. The sky grew black with wind-driven clouds, and then a huge cloudburst of rain, with Ahab hightailing it in his chariot for Jezreel. And God strengthened Elijah mightily. Pulling up his robe and tying it around his waist, Elijah ran in front of Ahab's chariot until they reached Jezreel. (1 Kings 18:45, The Message)
The account of Elijah the prophet inspires me now more than ever before--this man who stood for God in a pagan culture and whose faith was uncompromising so that he dared to trust God completely and put everything on the line. No safety nets; no plan B. And James tells us an astounding thing. Elijah was "a human being with a nature such as we have." This story was not about a powerful man, but a powerful God. The God whose power is available to us as it was to Elijah. Do I dare to believe? Do I dare to trust as he did? I stood on his mount, I saw the rain, felt the wind. I know his God.
James 5:16-18 (Amplified Bible)
16Confess to one another therefore your faults (your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins) and pray [also] for one another, that you may be healed and restored [to a spiritual tone of mind and heart]. The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working].
17Elijah was a human being with a nature such as we have [with feelings, affections, and a constitution like ours]; and he prayed earnestly for it not to rain, and no rain fell on the earth for three years and six months. [I Kings 17:1.]
18And [then] he prayed again and the heavens supplied rain and the land produced its crops [as usual]. [I Kings 18:42-45.]