Last November, I was blessed to take my first pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Although I have been in the ministry for nearly 20 years, I had never gone to Israel.
It was an awesome experience to walk where Jesus walked, see what Jesus saw and to live in the same area where Jesus lived. I have Jewish friends who have moved to Israel and completed what is referred to as Aliyah, which is the return of Jewish people from exile to their homeland. My friends met me at the airport in Tel Aviv to visit with them in Tiberias, which is in the Galilee Region. During my visit, when I called home to family and church family, I would jokingly refer to myself as a fellow Galilean of the Lord.
The first thing I noticed about the Land of the Bible was how contemporary everything looked. The airport, roads and buildings were a lot like what you would see in America. I really got a better revelation of life in Israel today when I saw McDonald’s and Pizza Hut. I was expecting an ancient, historical look, but I found that the biblical sites in Israel are more like museums in the United States. For historical and tourism purposes, they have been excavated and preserved.
The Galilee region includes Nazareth, the home of Jesus; the Mount of Beatitudes, where He preached the Sermon on the Mount; and the biblical fishing village of Capernaum, where He met Peter and many of the disciples. There was much to see in Galilee. My friends and I would get up each morning and choose a site to visit that day. It was unbelievable to see all the places that I had preached about in countless sermons.
My last few days were spent in the Holy City. Although we did not plan it, we got to Jerusalem the night before Shabbat, or the Sabbath. After looking at some of the sites there, we went to the Christian Quarters, where there are many shops to buy souvenirs. As I was shopping, there was some commotion at the front of the store. I listened as the store owner, who was Arabic, forced a young Jewish man to leave because the Sabbath had begun, and he said it was illegal for him to sell him anything on the Sabbath. Wow!
Then I attended the Sabbath evening prayer service at the Western Wall. This site is the remaining portion or the ancient ruins of the last temple in Jerusalem. It was a breathtaking experience to see thousands of Jews praying at the Wall. Before we entered the courtyard, we could hear the roar of a multitude of voices. The men and the women enter in separate areas for prayer. I was astonished to see how many youth were involved in the services. It also was exciting to see the energy involved in the prayer services; it was not anything like American Christians, who tend to pray quietly.
Well, I had come from half a world away and was determined to get through the crowd and touch the wall to pray. It took a while and wasn’t easy, but I finally managed to get to the Wall. While I was praying there, I had what you might call an epiphany or an amazing “Ah-ha” moment. The Lord spoke to me and said “Because you came to see where I lived, I will go and invade the place where you live.”
Wow! I was forever changed by those words. I have since continued to mediate on what God was saying to me. Believe me, Liberty County, it is all good! When Yeshua enters a region, miracles happen. He always brings good news to the poor, sets the captives free, gives sight to the blind and proclaims the year of God’s favor.
My first trip to Israel was a miracle within in itself; the cost was a fraction of what a normal tour would cost. My Jewish friends gave me an open invitation to come, but the airline fares were expensive. Then airline fares were slashed because of the fighting and the bombing between Israel and Palestine at the time. I bought the ticket in faith, even though my family and friends were concerned that it could have been dangerous. But by the time I took flight to the Holy Land, a cease-fire agreement had been reached.
Deason is the pastor of Liberty Prayer Chapel and a member of the United Ministerial Alliance of Liberty County.