A few years back, I was part of a team of guys who went to Egypt to travel the way of the Exodus. It was an extraordinary trip. We saw Cairo, cruised the Nile river, visited the museum..hung out at the Pyramids.. then we followed the path the Israelites took as they exited Egypt… we however.. had a van, complete with an armed guard. We camped at the base of Mount Sinai and then we climbed it. There are several older blog posts that speak to that trip.
That trip ended at Mount Nebo where Moses was stopped by God from entering the promised land. As I stood there.. looking at the signs with the posted mileage to a variety of Israeli cities I had a definite sense that my trip was not complete. I needed to go to Israel. After a couple of failed attempts I presumed the trip just wasn’t going to happen. So I went to Manchu Pichu. That was 2015. In April of this year I got an email from Walk The Text saying there was a cancellation and they asked me if I wanted to go. It seemed to be perfect timing.
This blog is about that trip. In May I took part in a study tour of Israel called: Walk The Text, lead by Brad Gray. It was a wonderful trip. Great people and a great teaching. With respect for the tour I wont be doing to many “spoiler alerts” to deminish any ones future trips. I wont be following any particular order.
On the first day.. stop number three, we found ourselves on a hillside overlooking The Valley of Elah, the location of the famous battle between David and Goliath. The picture is from the Phillistine side of the battle called ” SoKor”. I found setting on that side a little disconcerting. As the teacher (who is brilliant) told the story with many details I had never known before, the story came to life in a way I never imagined. One fact that had been left out of the story that I have heard many times was the path the Philistines were taking on their destructive journey to Jerusalem. David’s home town, Bethlehem was directly in the way. At that time it was nothing more than a village and easily destroyed leaving everyone either killed or enslaved. When David saw the Philistine encampment, it was clear to him that failure to defeat them would mean doom for his family and everyone he knew.
Everyone knows the story so repeating it would be silly, but there is one part of it that I have never heard discussed when I was in attendance.
The story portrays David in this larger than life and reality perspective that I think is over glamorized and romanticized. I think David has a strong faith in God to deliver both him and the nation of Israel but I don’t think he was completely without fear of the super human monster called Goliath and the Philistine army that were spread out on the hill in front of them. That just goes against every experience I have had as a human being and the experiences recorded by everyone one else in the Bible, even Jesus on the night he was betrayed before he was crucified.
David was afraid, but he did not let the fear alter his response to what he saw needed to be done. There was to much at stake. The story does indicate that David had experienced God’s intervention into crisis situations in his past which would have indeed increased his confidence in God.. but giants and armies are giants and armies. To pretend this was no big deal diminishes the very real danger that was present before everyone there. I think it’s important to allow David to be human. A human who knew God, but a human none the less.
I was reminded today when a good friend became vulnerable and open about some anxiety he had been experiencing. I think there are few human charactoristics more powerful than that kind of disclosure. The openness often clears the path for all kinds of inner healing to take place and gives the rest of us a boost of encouragement to help us face our own fears.. I have many..
As I prayerfully pondered what he shared, this is what I wrote :
“There is a type of courage that comes directly from God. Its not to be confused with bravado, a pretense of immunity to fear that we see in our culture. The courage that comes from God is the unique ability to “do it afraid”. This kind of courage is not the absence of fear. It says: what must be done, must be done regardless of how I feel at this moment. It comes from a knowing we are not alone. It pushes back the fear for the good of those around us. The core of this kind of courage is love. It denies the self the false luxury of paralyzation. This power to do it afraid comes from God alone and is modeled in the words of Jesus: “May this cup of suffering pass from me.. but not my will, but your will be done!” Spoken in prayer to God in the garden of Gethsemane.”
— for those of us who know what its like to feel the fear of uncertainty and the frailty of life this side of heaven.