Welp! Day 1 is in the books! It was a day full of sweat, dust, sweat, sunscreen, sweat, and I feel like I’m forgetting something…oh yea, sweat! The temperature was in the mid/high 90’s all day and got over 100 as we descended toward The Dead Sea, the lowest place on Earth (approximately 1000 feet below sea level). But, despite the heat, sun, and salt water we swam in (both from our pores and the large body of water) it was an amazing day.
I’m not sure how to summarize all that we learned and experience throughout the day. It’d be a little like watching Inception or The Matrix or Yo Gabba Gabba and having to succinctly describe it in two words. So, instead of trying to talk about everything we learned, I’ll just briefly mention the two most significant truths I felt God speak to me about. While the day was filled with things like spending time in a cave that was probably very similar to the one Jesus was born in, finding ancient pieces of pottery along the trail, connecting the dots to parts of Scripture I’d never made before, and drinking my body weight in water, here are the things I found most impactful:
1). Throughout the trip so far, Rod (our guide and main teacher) has impressed on us the importance of what it means to “know.” Unlike knowing in our western culture (where knowing something usually has more to do with data and facts), the Jewish people approach it very differently. The Hebrew word for know is the word yada, which comes from the root word for “hand”, meaning that the Jewish perspective of knowledge has to do with touching and feeling and experiencing, more than just retaining information mentally. Knowing is about touching, not just hearing.
So as we hiked, as we felt the heat, as we felt the dry desert plant life clawing at our ankles, as we tripped over rocks, I began to truly experience this land and these places I’ve so often read about in Scripture in a new way. The most significant was when, at our first stop of the day, Rod pointed out over a valley that was the ancient location of Gibeon, where God caused the sun to stand still while He helped Joshua defeat the Amorites in battle (Joshua 10).
I’d heard the story before and it hadn’t necessarily meant anything significant to me, but at that moment the sun was beaming down on the valley and it was an amazing sensation to look and see (to yada) the exact place where the God of the universe stepped into creation and so blatantly demonstrated His power and presence by stopping the rotation of the Earth for His purposed to be accomplished through His people. Because of my imagination (or undiagnosed tendency towards ADD…or probably both), I stood looking over the valley and could vividly picture the battle going on and God’s people growing in their strength and energy as they realize the miracle that was happening all around them.
Truly God had been in this place and it sent chills over my body to gaze on the exact place where God’s power had once been so miraculously manifested.
2). The second moment of knowing for me came overlooking the valley of Elah, where David defeated Goliath. Once again, through Rod’s teaching and the ability to look at the actual place where this took place thousands of years ago made the story I’ve heard countless times before come alive. I no longer could just recite the facts of what happened, but felt my understanding grow as I now knew (yada) the story in a different way.
Rod said that shepherds were and still are generally between the ages of 10 and 14, making David most likely just a kid. As he hears Goliath taunting God and His people, David convinces King Saul to let him fight, picks up some stones, and then runs to meet Goliath (1 Samuel 17:48) with his sling.
Of course we know the rest of the story, but one of the things that most stood out to me were the numeric meanings contained in this account. Rod taught us the significance of numbers in the Bible. For example, the number 12 symbolizes a complete family, the number 40 symbolizes trusting and preparation, and the number 3 symbolized resurrection.
The number 7 symbolizes completion or perfections (God’s number) and the number 6 symbolizes imperfection or man. In the description of Goliath, 1 Samuel makes a point to mention that his height was six cubits and the weight of his spear head was six hundred shekels. The reason the writer makes a point to describe these features but not others, was to make clear that Goliath symbolized imperfection; he symbolized man. And he even calls for a man (another 6) to come fight him to decide the battle.
But instead of getting a man, Goliath gets God. He gets a 7. And according to my homeschooling, 7 is always more than 6. David comes at Goliath with the God of the universe and even with a heavy spear, God wins.
Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.” – 1 Samuel 17:45-47
Here’s the brook where David found the 5 smooth stones, one of which he used to kill Goliath. We all got to take a stone as a souvenir.
For me, day 1 was a day of beginning to yada the accounts of Scripture more. To see and touch and feel the places and environments that God’s people walked and talked and heard from the same God I desire to yada more every day.
Now, after we all had a chance to swim (more like float) in the Dead Sea, we head off the bed for a solid night’s sleep until we’re on to the next tomorrow!
P.S. Here are a couple more pics of things we did today: