Saturday, November 27, 2010

Lessons From Israel - Part 5

On Saturday, October 23rd, we spent most of our day in the Judean wilderness. We visited Qumran, the Essene community where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Next, we hiked the En Gedi, the hills wherein David spent much of his time hiding from Saul (and where he wrote many of his psalms). And, we went to Masada, the fortress in which almost 1,000 Jews killed themselves, believing it was better to die as freemen than to live as slaves of Rome.

It turned out to be a very emotional day as we considered what it must have been like for the Essenes living in the dry hills of Qumran, separated from friends and family; for David living in the caves of En Gedi, running for his life from an insane king; for the Jews who desperately tried to fight off the Romans but who eventually took their lives at Masada. As we walked through these various places, it was almost as if one could see the faces and hear the voices of those who had once lived there, suffering so intensely under evil regimes . Yet, there were also all around us signs of hope.

At En Gedi there is a narrow stream that runs through the rock creating one stretch of green among the dry hills and caves. Because of the sharp drops in the landscape, that one narrow stream becomes a three-tier cascading waterfall. It’s no wonder David found refuge in that place. When we reached the third and highest waterfall, our group paused to enjoy the view and to hear the reading of Scripture. I was asked to read a couple of the psalms that David had written in that wilderness place. I read Psalms 57 and 63. In them David wrote words such as these:

Psalms 57:1 – “Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge.
I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” (NIV)

Psalms 63:7-8 – “Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” (NIV)

As I read those psalms, there in that place, I can’t help but think of the great struggles the people of God have faced throughout the centuries. Yet, because of writings such as David’s, God’s people have always lived with faith and hope. Even to this day David’s words help us to pray, reminding us that truly, God is merciful, providing refuge and help to his children in need.

So, if you find yourself in the midst of a struggle – a wilderness place - I would suggest that you read each of these psalms in their entirety. Allow God’s Word to encourage your faith and renew your hope. And, know that you can take refuge in the shadow of his wings.

Have a great day!

-Pastor Tim Harris

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