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|“The LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep SILENCE before him.”|
Mrs Chan Kay Heem
It was a series of answered prayers that my husband, daughter and I could join the 19th FEBC Pilgrimage to the Holy Land, 3–16 December 2017, led by Pastor Jeffrey Khoo and his wife Jemima.
Before the pilgrimage was announced, I had a strong desire to visit Israel again so I asked the Lord to move Pastor to organize one if it was His will. Not long after, much to my pleasant surprise Pastor shared at a Friday prayer meeting that he was visited by an old Israeli friend and God willing, he would lead another group to Israel again (for it had been three years since the last pilgrimage to Israel). I was overjoyed! God has answered my prayer, and so quickly! Therefore, when the pilgrimage was confirmed, I was amongst the firsts to register even though my family was not keen to go with me.
But, thank God, after some gentle persuasion my husband agreed to try to apply for leave. As it turned out, his colleague had block-booked 4–5 weeks of leave from the last week of November to Christmas! So, after some “negotiation”, Kay Heem’s application for leave was approved. However, by that time, he had to be put on the wait-list as the response was overwhelming! Nevertheless, I remained hopeful as there were many months more to the trip.
But, by August when I did not hear from Jemima, my hope was greatly diminished. I remembered praying earnestly for God’s help acknowledging that nothing is impossible to Him if it was His will. Gradually over the months, my daughter, Anne, showed more and more interest to join the pilgrimage as she found out that her peers were going. When she expressed her desire in September, my faith was very weak but despite of that, I told her to pray.
When November came, only one month away from the trip, I thought that I should not expect Kay Heem or Anne to be able to go with me lest I be greatly disappointed. So I reasoned within myself that Jemima would have had the visas done and it would not be possible to substitute for another person even if someone did pull out. Just then, out of the blue, Jemima called to ask if Kay Heem was still interested as there was a vacancy. But by then, Anne was more desirous on going than Kay Heem. As I was driving when Jemima called, I did not give her the details but mentioned at the end of our conversation that it would be either Kay Heem or Anne. Jemima excitedly told me that both could go as another person was willing to give up her place if a replacement could be found. I could not believe my ears. This was truly an amazing providence of God. I couldn’t help praising and thanking the Lord for His goodness. Later, Jemima told me that the timing of the cancellation was providential. If it were one day later, she would have processed all the visas and substitution would indeed not be possible.
Reflecting on this incident, I now understand that God is not constrained by time. Instead, time is under His control. It’s a needful lesson for me on waiting on the Lord. We should never give up hope or take things into our own hand while waiting on the Lord. Indeed, nothing is impossible with God. The Lord is our indulgent Heavenly Father as John Calvin had put it. If we ask Him for fish will He give us snakes (Luke 11:11)? If we, sinful mortal men, know how to give good gifts to our children, will our Holy Almighty Father deny our reasonable requests? (Matt 7:11). “Wait, I say, on the Lord!”—a song by the same title exhorts.
It was a very blessed pilgrimage indeed because the Lord was with the 48 of us pilgrims all the way. We had Leslie—a Christian Israeli “walking encyclopaedia”—as our guide in Israel, and Omar—a Christian Jordanian— in Jordan.
The main objective of my pilgrimage was to learn the geography, history, and culture of the Jews which I believe would provide me the necessary background knowledge in understanding the Bible better. Of course, all the information could be googled. But, nothing beats hearing it directly from the Jews. And God graciously used Leslie to help me achieve that. For instance, Leslie explained that a Jewish wedding always ends with a toast to seal the six blessings pronounced on the newly-weds. Without wine, there wouldn’t be a toast and that would be a cursing on the couple. Jesus’ first miracle was not for merry-making but a significant act of underlining the sacrosanct of marriage in God’s eyes. Wasn’t the first event in Genesis the marriage of our first parents?
I also learned from Leslie that certain Jewish laws require men to shave their heads and keep their beards. The Jews took the laws seriously even today. Therefore, when the children laughed at Elisha for his baldness, they were in effect ridiculing God and His Word. Given this background, Elisha was justified to curse the children as a lesson to their parents to revere God and His Word.
There were many other lessons learned but it was at Masada that I am deeply moved by the evidence that our God is truly the living God. He is sovereign and still working actively in individuals’ lives and bringing all things together to fulfil His plan and promises.
Masada was a fortress built by Herod the Great to be his place of refuge in case of any revolt or attack against him. The natural terrain of its location and Herod’s brilliant planning, Masada was impregnable. After the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in AD70, the Jewish zealots and their families overcame the Roman garrison, and Masada became a stronghold to these Jewish defenders of their land against the Romans. But after three years, the Romans successfully built a ramp up against the fortress by using Jews as their labourers. Finally, they broke into Masada—the last piece of land to fall to the Romans. Subsequently, Masada became a symbol of strength and determination of the Jews to protect their own land and people from slavery.
From AD73 until 1948—for almost 2000 years—Israel lost her sovereignty and was subjugated by foreign powers. One after another—Turks, Crusaders, Ottomans and others—trampled upon the land and the Jews were scattered all over the world. In 1941–1945, six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.
Yet, in a state of hopelessness and despair, Israel was given back her sovereignty in 1948. The remnant from the Holocaust returned to their land of Israel and rebuilt their lives and the country. It was like the dead coming back to life!
Ezekiel’s prophecy of the valley of dry bones as pointed out by our guide struck me: “Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD.” (Ezek 37:12–14). This prophecy attests to the power of our Almighty God. In total control over all world events, He orders them according to His will. No one is greater than Him. God should receive all the honour and glory.
As nothing happens by chance, I realized that God was actively directing so that Israel would know that it was the LORD that has paved the way for them to return to their land and that they are still His chosen people. Because of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God has not forgotten Israel even after all these years. How GREAT is our LORD’S FAITHFULNESS to His own!
Our Amazing God
God is so amazing. Although there are no more prophets today like in the Old Testament to update the people of God’s actions and thoughts, He is still able to achieve the same through circumstances and His Holy Word. Without a doubt, He is very real and ever-present. How can I not trust Him?
There are more lessons that I could share but I would rather not deny the readers the joy of finding out for themselves first-hand by visiting the Holy Land. I am truly grateful to God for a wonderful experiential learning of Him and His Word through this pilgrimage. Gloria Deo!
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