To There and Back Again
Updated: Sep 6, 2022
Near the end of the last Lord of the Rings, (The Return of the King*), as the Hobbits sat around a table in their local pub in silence, there was a general knowing that they shared an adventure that no one around them could comprehend. Life went on as it always did in the Shire, but between the adventuring Hobbits, there was a special camaraderie forged by their perilous and anonymous journey*. I often think of this scene when I sit with my husband and kids or with certain friends with whom I have just returned from a grand trip and realize that no one around us knows what we just experienced. It's like a secret treasure kept close to the heart that only the sojourners are allowed to share.
Several years ago, the Lord put a strong desire in my heart to pursue my master’s degree in Israel. Because I tend to be someone who thinks a desire must mean “now”, I tried to go for years - each time the dear Lord sighed and said, “Not yet sweetie.” In mid-summer of 2021, as I was driving and enjoying the Montana summertime, I suddenly knew in my spirit it was time to go to Israel. Israel was calling me. One day after my inquiry to the University of Haifa, I receive a call with the caller i.d. “Israel”. Yes, Israel was really calling. The degree I was interested in, an M.A. in Israel Studies, was available with scholarships that made my total degree less than $5000 with completion in less than a year. When I called one of my children to share the news she said, “Wait, are you going to Israel? The Holy Spirit just said ‘Your mom is going to Israel’. The Lord is faithful to confirm His directions.
It took a lot of preparation and faith to step back into the scholastic realm after 27 years out of academia. But my family was supportive and the Lord was faithful to leave a breadcrumb trail for me to follow every day. I was led to rent an amazing garden apartment (the owners became dear friends), that was only a short bus ride from the campus. I had happy little birds serenading me daily as I enjoyed total peace in the lush, professional, garden paradise of my quiet little flat. The wind through the trees sounded like waves from the ocean and would rock me to sleep under the watchful moon that I could see almost nightly from my window. I felt like a born-again and scholarly Snow White.
My classes at the University of Haifa were also wonderful; some challenging (many prayers and determination to stick with Rabbinic Lit.), some hilarious (my philosophy teacher’s outrageous French accent made the class), and some sobering (the Hungarian Holocaust). Most were extremely eye-opening and brought to light how much I did not know about the Land of Israel and the people. There is no other place like it on earth. The university campus is absolutely the most beautiful I have ever seen - a lush paradise on top of Mt. Carmel overlooking Haifa and the Mediterranean. Some days I sat in Levy’s Cafe with my hibiscus tea and just breathed in the smells of Israeli food and the beautiful, melodic sounds of Hebrew, Arabic, German or English. I was living in a stained glass society of colors and people who had a synergy not felt in most of the rest of Israel.
But what was most important and the entire reason I felt I went was my love for the Jewish people. I have always loved and supported Israel - it was something
my husband and I were united in even before we got married. But when you live and interact with a complicated society, it needs to test your resolve. Is your love genuine or emotional?
For me, it is unconditional. From the many, many taxi drivers, hosts, faculty of the university, amazing friends from church, and the strangers we chatted with and who touched our hearts, I realized that the love I have for the Jews and the Nation of Israel is deep and profound. It comes from something more than biblical emotionalism but from the love of Yeshua (Jesus) Himself for the land of His people and promise. This is the Land of Israel or Eretz Israel (a provocative term in Israel). The land not given to the Jews as consolation because of the Holocaust, but because God promised it to their forefathers; Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Jews are not occupying the land but are returning to their homeland. A literal promised land. As believers in Yeshua, Jesus, we should reverence the Jews as Jesus’s family, God’s covenantal people (into whom we as believers are grafted), and a symbol of God’s miraculous redemptive love. Because of the Jews, we have hope. And this hope is that we all, Jew and Gentile, can believe that Yeshua is Messiah and trust Him as our Lord and Savior. Our Messiah came, lived a perfect life, was crucified, and raised to life by the power of the Holy Spirit. Without Him, we cannot come to God (John 14:6), go to heaven (John 8:24), and be saved from sin, death and hell (John 8:24, Acts 14:12). Yeshua is the Lamb slain since the foundation of the world and God's plan of salvation for mankind. This is what the Bible says and every word is true. Isaiah says, “Can a nation be born in a day?” (Isaiah 66:8) Yes. A nation was born in a day and Israel and the Jewish people are a sign that God keeps His word and covenant. The Jews are living proof of the faithfulness of our God and He will literally move heaven and earth to reach them with the love of His Son. My heart in going to Israel and studying there was not only to learn more about the nation and people but to share the love of our Messiah. Sometimes when I told a taxi driver I know who the Messiah is, he would say “You do? Who?! So do you want me to become a Christian?” I would laugh and say, no! I want you to simply know Yeshua and the power of His resurrection! He is your Messiah! To know Yeshua is to find the one your heart longs for. He is the end of the long and arduous quest of the soul. He is whom Moses prophesied about in Deuteronomy 18:15-22. Daniel prophesied in Daniel Chapter 9 that the Messiah had to come before the destruction of the Temple. So He had to come by 70 AD. Who could He have been if not Yeshua? The Bible clearly shows the signs we are to look for to recognize our Messiah. He is the secret fulfillment of all the Jewish feasts and the fourth man in the fire who Daniel described as one like the Son of Man (Daniel 3:25). He is who Proverbs rhetorically asks, “What is His (God’s) name and what is His Son’s name?” (Proverbs 30:4) He is the Man whom Isaiah 53 describes. He is Yeshua, Salvation, Jesus.
Future blogs will reveal bits and pieces of the many adventures with Jesus that I (and later with my husband), had in Israel. Our lives have been just as a prophetic friend of ours prophesied in 2019: “Your life verse is John 3:8 and you will go here and there blown by the wind of the Holy Spirit”. Well, that is a true picture. We have been here and back again. Sometimes following the leadings of the Holy Spirit looks kind of convoluted and can be hard for some observers to understand. Not to say we can’t miss it and regroup, either. But I always think of the map of Paul’s missionary journeys in the back of my Bible: red and blue spaghetti lines that look like an Australian walk-about instead of the apostle's mission trips. Jesus and Paul’s steps were not entirely understood by their friends either and that’s ok. The Bible says “a good man’s steps are ordered by the Lord and He delights in His way”. Not all who stay somewhere and never leave are obedient and not all who go and do not stay are flaky. We can find this idea in Paul’s first letters to the Thessalonians. They didn't understand why Paul had not come to them when they expected. Paul had his reasons and was led by the Spirit to eventually send Timothy to them. The Lord is each person’s Shepherd and He alone gets to be the judge of obedience and direction.
Jesus said in Mathew 25:40, “Whatever you did to the least of these my brethren you have done it to me.” I firmly believe His intent in this statement was to remind us all to love and remember the Jews. They are Jesus’s family, His literal bloodline, the ones for whom He cried that they would not miss the day of His coming to them. I implore you to do good to them, bless them, do not think that the “church” replaced them (a heretical teaching), or that they are alright because they have “another covenant” with God (also heretical and flat-out insulting to Jesus and His sacrifice). According to the Joshua Project, Jews are an unreached people group for the gospel. Imagine it, Jesus’s literal family bloodline is one of the most unreached groups in the world. Leaving the "Shire" and going to Israel had significant sacrifices for me. It was really hard to leave my family, pet, and yes, house plants, to do something seemingly for myself. But I don't feel at all it was just for me. In my heart I took all of my friends who blessed me with offerings, cake, letters of love and encouragement, calls, and texts. I took my family in my heart who lent me to beloved Israel and sacrificed our holidays and the comfort of knowing I was available and in the same country as them. And I had the Holy Spirit who literally saturated me with His presence, wisdom, favor, and friendship. Who could leave their wedding ring in a taxi and the next day have a taxi driver return it? Only the Holy Spirit of God could lead me to take a taxi the day after leaving my wedding ring, and get one driven by a man named Ehud, of all names (see Judges 3:12-4:1). When Ehud found out I left my ring in a taxi the day before, he contacted his company, who contacted the driver, who looked and found it on the seat and returned it promptly. These and so many more stories are tucked safely in my heart. Israel is my home. It is my place of safety, peace, and destiny. And one day soon I will stand, hand in hand with Yeshua my Messiah, and declare with my Jewish brethren, “Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”
*Jackson, P. (2003). The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. New Line Cinema.
EgolmothofGondolini01. (2013, July 8). LOTR The Return of the King - Homeward Bound. [YouTube]. 1:01 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3oXr7XVuhc