“A Song of Ascents. Of David. I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.’ Our feet have been standing Within your gates, O Jerusalem!” (Psalms 122:1-2).
Last year I ventured to to Israel for the very first time. I knew it was going to be an experience, but I doubt that I truly comprehended what going there would be like. I gained an understanding and perspective of scriptures beyond any that ever had before; it’s like when you meet someone for the first time, after hearing about them for years. As my group ventured closer to the capital of Jerusalem, our excitement was quite apparent.
I think that it would behoove anyone that takes the bible seriously to go to Israel, even if just once. To be blunt, it makes the stories and everything we read and hear about becomes very real. Perhaps this was the reason why God commanded: “Three times in the year all your men shall appear before the Lord, the LORD God of Israel” (Exodus 34:23). During the time of Jesus, people were traveling from all over the world to visit Jerusalem; as observable at the feast of Pentecost (Acts 2).
True, the world was smaller back then compared to now, but travel also took much longer and was a far riskier endeavor. Unless these pilgrims lived in Israel, this kind of journey couldn’t be done on a whim; even today that would be difficult. The sojourn required investment, planning, and commitment, and was a good metric for one’s faith in their beliefs. If someone considered their work, their investments, or their family as a higher priority, then going on such a journey may not be of significant interest. However, to those that wanted to deepen their spiritual life, this was an opportunity to draw as physically as possibly near to the Lord and His promised land.
One may argue that those were Jewish traditions, and they don’t apply to us. Seeing how much the apostle Paul—at great personal risk—made visiting Jerusalem, I’d have to disagree. Paul was perhaps one of the most influential missionaries of his day, and even on his mission he took the time to pause and draw near the Lord (Acts 18:21). Paul recognized the spiritual significance of visiting the land and house of the Lord, and the value it brought him personally.
Maybe visiting Israel isn’t something in the cards for you right now, but after personally seeing it with my one eyes, walking on the roads with my own feet, touching it’s stones in my own hands, I will never say that making the trip is worth every effort