We are back at the Olive Tree Hotel in Jerusalem. It’s where we started from our first night.
Today we drove through the valley near Dothan, where Elisha showed the young man the armies of heaven – angels and fiery chariots – surrounding the valley where the invading army had gathered.
15 And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do? 16 And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. 17 And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.
2 Kings 6:15–17
It was a sobering thing to imagine as we drove through that valley surrounded by mountains – a heavenly army of fire ready to storm down on the enemy of Israel.
Next, Ancient Samaria
Then a traditional Palestinian meal.
Green wheat soup.
A dish called upside down.
Then, a visit to the area of Mount Gerazim from which were shouted blessings of God for the righteous, and Mount Ebol from which were shouted curses that would befall the children of Israel if they didn’t obey God’s commands. Think of it as a massive object lesson where the people of Israel were divided in two – half on one mountain and half on the other (over a million on each hillside) – and they take turns shouting the respective blessings and cursing back and forth. Deuteronomy 11:26-29
Somewhere in this day was also a visit to Jacob’s well. My phone was acting up so I didn’t get pictures, but the Greek Orthodox church that was built over it was beautiful.
Also we visited a place where modern Samaritans live. There are only about 800 of them alive today, since they pretty much don’t allow outsiders to join their religion, you have to prove your Israelite tribal lineage of Ephraim or Levi or you can convert, if you are a woman and marry a Samaritan man. Tough luck, for the men.
After this, we drove to ancient Shiloh. This is where the tabernacle of Israel stood for nearly 400 years until it was destroyed by the Philistines. Here I finally turned off the “listen to your tour guide device” and plugged into some worship music on my phone. It gave me a chance to think some of my own thoughts rather than the things our guide thought.
Shiloh is where Hannah prayed to have a child and was told by Eli that her prayer would be answered. This is where her son, Samuel was called by God to become a prophet.
As I sat there for a few moments, these were some of my thoughts.
Again I come back to the vital importance of God’s children having a holy temple. Where temples are in use by worthy people (those who offer for sacrifice a broken heart and contrite spirit, and make covenants to keep God’s laws), those are places where there is a vitality that is different from other places. When the world or community rejects the temple and the values it represents – such as serving the poor, being willing to sacrifice one’s own pleasure and convenience to help others, keeping sex between husband and wife in order to create strong families – then things fall apart quickly.
And one last observation – –
It’s a strange reality to see a road sign with arrows pointing the opposite directions to Ramallah and Jerusalem. It’s almost a sense of driving a car into the Bible world or seeing a sign post that that says, “This way to Narnia.” Part of me expects the Cheshire cat to show up next!