Dear readers… this Sunday Scripture is very different that my usual Sunday post. It is the retelling of one of the most important events that happened to me when I was in Israel. This is the second part and conclusion of the story. Part one can be read by clicking HERE. I hope all who take the time to read this are blessed!
I turned from the hot holy stones… exhausted. I was a puddle. Melted by the heat and the emotion of being stood up by God! How do you pick up a puddle… How does it walk or continue a tour… or write in its journal. Can a puddle eat lunch or make small talk… or even breathe? How does a puddle put it’s heart back together…
The remains of the day were a sad blur. I put on a “happy face” for the sake of the other students… but inside… my heart was shards of hurt and disappointment stabbing me… slashing me… the pain was almost unbearable!
Thankfully, we spent the late afternoon before dinner on our own… I had planned to visit the Jewish shopping district and buy authentic prayer shaws for my husband, son and son-in-law. Instead, I went back to the guest house… and my room. Turning the air conditioner to 55 degrees I collapsed under a scratchy wool military blanket and slept. A little sleep always changes my attitude… and true to form, I woke up feeling less overcome. The acute heartache was replaced by a dull ache in the middle of my chest and head. The sadness still hung over me like the rough wool blanket that covered me from my nap.
Dinner was served at 8:00 pm each evening in the downstairs level of the guest house. We ate Kosher, as we were guests of Messianic Jews. Delicious food …. healthy food. Much of the same fare was served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! Tomatoes, tzatziki, baba ganoush, olives, pita, fabulous olive oil, pickled onions, hard boiled eggs, and salads. All of this and more was served along side of our main dishes.
And each evening our guest had some sort of performance or program to entertain us in the outside courtyard. The outside courtyard was a pristine large paved plaza surrounded by sand colored buildings, like much of Jerusalem. In the right hand corner of the courtyard sat Christ’s Church. A beautiful architectural structure with arches and alcoves and stained glass windows. A stunning blend of respect for the old city and a nod to its Anglican roots! Big palm trees made an overhead canopy in the courtyard that covered us with shade by day and made a softly swaying roof by night! Huge clay pots of colorful flowers dotted the courtyard. Taking our coffee and dessert in the courtyard followed by entertainment had been our custom while we were there.
The last thing I wanted to be was entertained that evening. I did not want to participate… I did not want to clap to the music… It was too hard for me to learn a new song in Hebrew… I could not even think straight in English! And I was too tired to make the effort because now the dull ache of a pain had now settled into a sulky heavy hardness. Hard like the stones of the Western Wall… and about as thick.
We settled in the courtyard… I had a cup of coffee and no dessert… and I took a seat away from the circle of chairs that had been purposely placed there for the entertainment. I was in self quarantine, not wanting my mood to spread to the excited and happy group… and truthfully, I did not want to be a part of the group!
Eight mid-Eastern young men, probably as young as twenty and no older than mid-thirties, took their places on the chairs at the front of the circle. They looked very different than us… very ethnic. Dark and rugged and many were very handsome. They had guitars… that looked as beat up as I felt!
They introduced themselves and began telling us their story…At first, I was listening with just my ears… but soon their words began chipping away at the wall of hardness around me.
These men… all Israelis…Arab and Jews… now Christian believers… spoke of their dedication to each other… and their deep love for Christ and their “brothers”. It seemed almost impossible that these two groups that barely associate except for dissension, would come together and talk… let alone love each other.
The love that surrounded them was so palpable that I breathed it in! The warmth of it filtered all through me! The hurt and disappointment that filled me most of the day began to slowly disappear as the men gave their incredible testimonies!
Many were rejected by their families… they gave up their fortunes… they lost everything and were hunted by radical group wanting to kill them… all because they came to a simple, yet saving truth. Jesus was their LORD! This is the one thing that could galvanize two groups in enmity!
They told stories of kissing their wives and children each day and holding them so tight… not knowing if they would return to them that evening! By now most of our group… men and women… were crying. Crying for these dear men… servants of the Gospel… crying for love of the brethren! I was crying too! It was more than emotional…it was spiritual!
The men had just come back from Jericho. We had planned a trip to Jericho earlier that week, but it was too dangerous at that time… it was full of hate and unrest. But these men went.
They had rented a second story room with a window opened to the street. They left the front door unlocked and wide open… as well as the window! In that room they prayed for a long time and then picking up their guitars began singing songs of praise and thanksgiving to God! They would hope that people walking by would come up to their room and so they could minister to them… trusting God… and bowing to His will! And people came! They were so drawn to these holy men!
As they told us this story they picked up their guitars and began singing to us as well. Some songs in Hebrew, some in Arabic and some in English. It was the most beautiful music I had ever heard!
It was during the singing that something miraculous happened! It was what I had been waiting for! The glory of God and His great presence surrounded me. It comforted me and loved me and filled me up to overflowing.
The Holy Spirit came over this Jerusalem plaza and filled all of us… like the tongues of fire that lit up the disciples and changed their lives forever.
Then I heard God speak to my spirit. Not audibly like I had hoped at the Wailing Wall… but soft and sweet and dear…
“MY PRESENCE DOES NOT LIVE IN STONES OF A WALL… BUT IN MY LIVING STONES”
God had spoken a great biblical truth into my life!
“You are living stones that God is building up into His spiritual temple.” 2 Peter 2:5
Stones have been an important part of witnessing to God’s presence and God’s work in the lives of His people. In ancient times people would stack up stones or place large stones on end so they were tall. These were called STANDING STONES. They were like our modern day monuments… celebrating and remembering an event or someone special.
The stones were erected so that when ancient people would pass by they would ask, why is this stone here… and other’s could tell them of the wonderful works and person of God.
Standing Stones… we are standing stones! The very God of the universe in the form of the the Holy Spirit lives in each of us who confess Christ as Lord (creator, owner).
The presence of God that I longed for lived… vibrantly in these precious men… and me! It lives eternally!
That night, God… the real and only God… the God who I worship… showed Himself so big to me! He was not at a wall… He is shown through those who serve Him and Him alone!
Look at me… I am a standing stone… a living stone… an undeserving monument to my Father!
This week’s memorization verse…