For many Christians, to tour and study in the land of Israel is a once- in-a-lifetime experience. For me, it has become a calling that began with an invitation to study in Israel in 2001. This invitation changed my life, my ministry and my understanding of Scripture.
My first trip to Israel came after many years of formal theological training and time spent as a pastor, preacher and teacher. I always knew that Israel was important for biblical and historical reasons. What I didn’t understand was how visiting the land of Israel would increase my faith, deepen my confidence in the resurrection of Jesus and make the pages of the Bible go from black and white to vibrant living color.
On my first trip to Israel, I was riding on a bus from Jerusalem to the desert oasis of En Gedi, the site where David hid from King Saul, cutting off the corner of his robe in the process (1 Samuel 24). As we made our way across the desert of Judea someone on the bus suddenly yelled out, “Driver, stop the bus!” The driver pulled over and all of us passengers piled out.
At first, I didn’t realize why we had stopped. Then suddenly it hit me. The entire desert hillside was carpeted with a lush variety of beautiful, fragrant wildflowers covering the barren land like a magnificent robe of royalty. With Bible in hand, our guide read aloud Isaiah 35:1, “The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose” (NKJV). God had spoken and it was coming to pass right in front of my eyes. Truly, a moment of faith-building awe and expectation that God always keeps his promises.
Upon our return to Jerusalem, we made our way north of the Old City to a place known as Gordon’s Calvary and the Garden Tomb. For many Christian visitors to Jerusalem, this is the absolute highlight of the tour. As we entered the Garden Tomb a hushed quiet came over all of us. We could sense that this was sacred space, and a reverent and calming peace filled us. The guide reminded us that though no one knows the exact place where Jesus’ body lay silent for three days, we do know that this tomb represents the fact that the tomb is empty and Jesus is not here, he has risen from the dead!
The moment I entered the empty tomb for myself, the words of the apostle Paul washed over my mind, “This is the gospel you have received and on which you have taken your stand…that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15). At that moment, with all my senses fully engaged, I knew that my faith was anchored on a historical reality and that this moment solidified in my mind what I already believed by faith but was now also affirmed by sight.
Since that first trip, so many years ago, I have returned to Israel many times to lead, teach, study and pray. Going to Israel is like returning home. The day will soon come when Jesus returns and we shall all make it to the Holy Land as we join him there, to rule and to reign with him forever and ever.
If you would like to know more about traveling to Israel, contact Frank Lenihan at: email@example.com. If you have already been to Israel, Pastor Lenihan would love to hear your story.
Frontlines is a column written by USMB pastors. The definition of frontline is “a person or thing that is a part of a leading position” and pastors are leading our local churches and their insight into ministry and the USMB three core commitments: church multiplication and evangelism, leadership development and discipleship.