I use to dream of Israel. When I was a kid I would hear the Bible stories and dive imaginatively into this magical Godly place where everyone did what was right. The streets were all made of clean, perfectly shaped stones and it was always sunny, not to hot and not to cold. Much like Disneyland, everyone who was there was happy. Unlike Disneyland, everything was free. Many of my ideas of the land of Israel were also very influenced by my pastors and others in the church I went to who would describe their trips as being so spiritual, filled with high emotions, singing, ground kissing, dancing. Some even came back from trips convinced they were now Jewish because they felt so connected to the land.
Well I finally got to go to Israel in 2007 and talk about disappointment. The streets were mostly asphalt and filthy. I was not inspired to dance, sing, or kiss the ground. My Jewishness remained at the same level it was and I felt no other emotions more than maybe a little jet lag. Now don’t get me wrong, I have experienced God in my life and I know when the Spirit is working but today as I took my first steps into Israel the Spirit of God was not setting off any fireworks. That’s ok right, I mean this is just the airport terminal, the feelings and spiritual inspiration might come later?
Nope, throughout seven weeks traveling the land seeing the sights and being with other believers I did not feel any sort of extra HS (Holy Spirit) juice. What I felt was the opposite, as I observed the locals and the newly made aliyah citizens I kept noticing what felt like a spiritual heaviness. For those who confessed faith in Jesus, there seemed to be tendencies to keep quiet about their faith. When speaking to Israelis they would completely beat around the bush about who they were. It was like many were ashamed of the gospel or something.
So we visit Jerusalem, you know the most holy city ever, and what I saw was Religious Disneyland. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is where some say Jesus was buried along with a bunch of other people. I watched the Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and two other “Christian” groups have a procession into this church and I felt it immediately: spiritual darkness.
One of Satan’s most clever traps is religion. Satan warps the understanding of humans to create new man-made religion. That is why it is so import that we trust in God’s Spirit to help us understand God’s word. The Bible warns us to watch out for false teaching and to test the spirits and that is exactly what had taken over the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Human ritual and tradition had replaced Christian fellowship and Biblical teaching. Idolatry had taken over hearts and replaced true relationship with God.
A similar trap can be found at the Wailing Wall were you will find many religious Jews crying out blessings and stuffing prayers into the cracks in the wall. They do this because it is the closest wall to where the Holy of Holies would be if it was not destroyed. It is an attempt to reach God, to become righteous through prayer and confession and hope that God accepts you. Ironically, where the Holy of Holies once was, stands the Dome of the Rock which is an Islamic landmark. Why would you pray at a wall to a site that has been defiled by an Islamic building? It is an attempt to maintain the Biblical Judaism that remains since the destruction of the second temple. The question that needs asking is did God intend to always stay in the Holy of Holies?
The way I see it is that God has been trying to bring humanity back to garden status ever since the fall and the only way to do that is to destroy the separation. That separation is what the Bible calls sin, which means missing the mark. The only person in human history who claims to deal with sin is Jesus. When he died the veil in the Holy of Holies ripped in two. What an amazing statement! God has left the building. With the death and resurrection of Jesus the separation has been destroyed and we can have a true relationship with God. That is amazing!
If God is not in an ark, in a room, in Jerusalem, in Israel, in the Middle East, then where is He? Well if Jesus is who he said he is, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30), then Jesus is God. Jesus also said that where two or three are gathered in my name I am there (Matthew 18:20). So God is available to all who have been redeemed by Jesus who gather in His name. So it is not the land or the building or the props that make something holy. It is a relationship with God.
Have you ever been in a place that stimulated your emotions to make you think it was more spiritual than it ought to be? How have you experienced Israel? Do you know Jesus?
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