Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Week of Highlights!

I’m currently on a bus heading south to the Negev, where we’ll be spending the next four days! Before I have to start writing field reports for all the places we go this week, I figured I’d take some time to update you all about the events of the past week and a half. The semester is speeding by quicker than I imagined! We’re all swimming in homework, projects, reading, field trips and reports, but I think I can speak for us all and say that we’re still absolutely loving it. With just over a month left, it’s exciting to think about being home, but hard to think about saying goodbye to this wonderful experience!

Sunday, October 28, 2012 – Sorek Valley Hike
Our Regional Studies class went on a hike to the Sorek Valley in the Shephelah, which is where Samson lived. We started at Zorah, where Samson was born, and finished the hike at Tel Batash, which is the ancient site of Timnah, where Samson met his first Philistine wife. Samson is a clear demonstration of a man being used by God’s Spirit and for God’s purposes. Samson wasn’t a very example for Israel to follow. He was absorbed in the lust of the flesh, and often acted out in anger and pursued relationships with women. Yet God chose to place His spirit upon him, even before he was born, and God used him to exact his judgment on the Philistines.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012 – Samaria Field Study
We all had our second to last field study this past Wednesday, and we went to Samaria. It was a pretty relaxed day. Our first stop was at Khirbet el Maqatir, the most likely place for the city of Ai that Joshua destroyed in Joshua 8. Most scholars think that Ai was located on a nearby hill called Et Tell, but there are not Late Bronze archaeological remains at that site, which would be necessary in order to correspond to the Biblical timing and account of Joshua 8. Maqatir does have Late Bronze remains, and it geographically fits the account about where Ai was located. It is just east of Bethel (Joshua 8:12),  and ravines on the north and western sides of the city that would be ideal for Joshua’s armies to camp and hide in (Joshua 8:13). While Maqatir has been excavated a little bit, there is still much work that needs to be done in order definitely confirm it as the site of Ai.

After Ai, we went to Shiloh, which is where Joshua set up the tabernacle after the conquest (Joshua 18). The tabernacle remained there until the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant at Aphek during the days of Eli as priest, when Samuel was growing up in the presence of the Lord. It was so amazing to be at the site where the Tabernacle was actually established! The prophet Jeremiah also used Shiloh as an object lesson for Jerusalem in Jeremiah 7, right before the Babylonian conquest. The people of Jerusalem, though walking in blatant sin and rejecting their covenant with the Lord, thought that since they had the Temple of God in their midst that they would be safe from any foreign threats. They thought that God would save them simply because His Temple was there, regardless of their actions. But Jeremiah reminded them of Shiloh in verse 12:
“But go now to My place which was in Shiloh, where I made My name dwell at the first, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of My people Israel.”

Because Shiloh rejected the Lord, and they did not obey Him, He gave them up to the Philistines.
Likewise, He would deliver Jerusalem over to the Babylonians because of their covenant unfaithfulness to Him. God cares first and foremost about obedience and repentance. Without those things, He will not be pleased and will not hesitate to bring judgment.

Standing on Mt. Gerazim, looking at Mt. Ebal with Shechem down below!
Our last stop of the day was at Mt. Gerazim! This was probably one of my favorite sites simply because I wrote a paper last year about Mt. Gerazim and Mt. Ebal. These two mountains surround the city of Shechem, and are extremely significant. In Deuteronomy 27 and 28, Moses commanded Israel to go to these mountains and proclaim the blessings for following the covenant and the curses for neglecting it after entering the Promised Land. Shechem was where God first promised the land to Abraham and his descendants, and therefore, was an extremely important site to the Israelites. Therefore, when Joshua followed Moses’ directions and went to Mt. Gerazim and Mt. Ebal in Joshua 8, I can just imagine that it was a very powerful moment! Half of the tribes of Israel stood on Mt. Ebal and proclaimed what the curses would be if they disobeyed the covenant, while the other half stood on Mt. Gerazim and proclaimed the blessings that they would receive if they did obey the covenant. This site just oozes with the faithfulness of God! He called a certain man to obey Him, and gave Him tremendous promises of land, descendants and blessings, and then fulfilled those promises (at least in part) a thousand years later! What a wonderful, magnificent and faithful God we serve! That being said … Israel did not always live up to their end of the deal. They disobeyed Him, and there were even times right at this site of Shechem where they rejected Him and worked against His covenant. Yet He was still faithful. The same is true of me! I continually reject the Lord as I choose to act sinfully and choose to serve myself rather than joyfully submit to my loving Savior. Yet He is still faithful to me! Being at Mt. Gerazim was such a good reminder of this! Even though we were only there briefly, it’s probably one of my favorite sites so far.

That was the end of our Field Study! Funny thing …. This trip was on Halloween, so the girls all decided to dress like someone else for the day! I dressed like my friend Brett, she dressed like Christine and Christine dressed like me. It was SUPER fun! Then after we got back, the whole group had a costume party! They opened up this closet for us that had lots of random clothing and props, and we got to create any kind of costume we could! Then at the party, we got to present our costumes by doing a little skit. I was in a group with Christine and Kyle, and we did a country western rendition of the story of the Queen of Sheba visiting king Solomon. It was quite fun and hilarious! I was the queen of Sheba, and was dressed as an Indian. Therefore, I was called “Shebahantas.” Kyle was Solomon (Sheriff Shlomo) and Christine was the town gossip, Jessie (we took some creative liberty with the story). The whole night was really fun!

Friday, November 2, 2012 – Free Day in Tel Aviv!
We had a free day on Friday after class, so I organized a trip to Tel Aviv! 12 people came with me, and we spent time shopping, exploring, and some people went to the beach too. There was an adorable arts and crafts market there, and I absolutely LOVED walking around, talking to the artists and doing a bit of shopping. There was a shuk there too, probably even busier than the one we went to in Jerusalem! I had such a fun day, and was really thankful that we got to do that! And praise the Lord … the whole transportation aspect went very smoothly! We didn’t miss any of our buses, nor did we ever get separated. It was a good day to kind of forget that there was homework to do, and just relax and enjoy the more cultural aspect of Israel.

<< Above are Paige, Katie and Susan at the shuk, and then a picture of my favorite jewelry stand at the arts and crafts market.

Sunday, November 4, 2012 – Hebron Trip
The little placard reads "The tomb of Abraham our Father"

Our group is really fortunate. We got to go on a trip that not many IBEX groups get to go on because of the tense political situation. On our trip on Sunday, we went to Hebron, Ziph and Maon. Bill led this trip, and his wife and 2 daughters came with us because they had never been to these sites. Both of the IBEX secretaries came too for the same reason. Our first stop was in Hebron at Machepelah, or the Tomb of the Patriarchs. The patriarchs were buried in Hebron, and Abraham first purchased the plot of land when Sarah died. Even though Abraham was promised the entire land of Israel, he died having only ever truly possessed one plot of land in Hebron. Thus, this site we visited was the beginning of God’s fulfillment of His promise to Abraham. Machpelah is separated into two sections. The Jewish section has the tomb markers of Abraham, Sarah, Jacob and Leah (Rachel is buried at Ephrat), and the Arab section has the tomb markers of Isaac and Rebecca. The tombs themselves are below the building in the bedrock, so there are just markers sitting above where they’ve guessed that these patriarchs and their wives were buried. When we were in the Arab part, the girls had to wear these robes in order to cover our heads and arms and backs and everything else, I guess! It made for some good photos!

Our next stop was at the wilderness of Ziph, where David hid from Saul in 1 Samuel 23. While hiding there, Saul’s son Jonathon met him there and asserted that David would certainly be the king of Israel. In verse 17 he said, “Do not be afraid, because the hand of Saul my father will not find you, and you will be king over Israel and I will be next to you; and Saul my father knows that also.” During the time that David ran from Saul, there were many times that other people confirmed or confessed that David was truly the Lord’s anointed and would be the king of Israel some day. What’s absolutely astounding to me is that David was amazingly patient through this whole time! He never tried to manipulate or take the kingdom for himself. He didn’t fight against Saul and he refused to kill him. He simply waited for the Lord to hand him the kingdom, and He certainly did. In many ways, David’s patience parallels that of Jesus Christ’s. They both waited until their time came, and were completely submissive to the will of God the Father. In fact, Jesus is still waiting for His Kingdom. He’s still waiting for God’s timing in order to usher in His complete and perfect Kingdom. Also, David and Jesus did not scorn or return the many abuses they received. It just reminds me of 1 Peter 2:21-24, which says:
“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor wan any deceit found in his mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.”

We have such a wonderful Savior, and a great example to follow!
The view from Ziph

Reenacting Abigail pleading with David
Our next stop was at Maon, where Nabal in 1 Samuel 25 was from. He lived at Maon with his wife, Abigail, but had business on Carmel nearby. When David asked Nabal to provide some supplies for him and his men in return for protecting Nabal’s shepherds, Nabal refused, and David set out to kill him and his house. On the way, however, Abigail met David and pleaded with him to spare them. She also stated that the Lord had appointed David as ruler over Israel! We stood where this meeting potentially took place, and then hiked up to the top of Mt. Maon. It was a really fun trip, and we are extremely blessed that we were able to go to all these places! 

And now, I'm at my hotel in the Negev! We'll be here in the Negev until Saturday, and will be visiting all sorts of exciting sites here in the desert! I'll definitely put up a blog about it as soon as I can. 

Please be praying for us! The semester is absolutely hectic right now, and at times I feel like I'm drowning in things to do, and lacking the time to do them. But that being said, I'm still totally enjoying the blessing I have of being able to study Scripture where it all took place! Please pray that I don't lose sight of that tremendous blessing and that in all things, I will be grateful, content and excited for all that the Lord has in store for me right now! 

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