Wandering in the Wilderness
This is my final post for a few days. Tomorrow, we wrap up our time in Jerusalem and begin the trip home. I will continue posting on Monday, March 18. Thank you for following!
“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord’,”. These words, as quoted by John the Baptist, echoed in my heart today, as we made the short but dramatic trek east of Jerusalem into the Judean Wilderness. It was in these barren hills and rugged valleys that have called the devoted for centuries to spend time purifying themselves, making their own hearts ready for the voice of God.
Our first stop today was Qumran, the ancient settlement inhabited by the Essenes, a strict sect of Judaism that occupied the caves near the Dead Sea in the last century before Jesus’ birth until 68 AD. The Essenes were made known about 70 years ago when the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered. Biblical archaeologists call it the most significant find of the 20th century.
From here, we made the short drive to the ancient city of Jericho. This was the first conquest made by Joshua after the Israelites crossed the Jordan, marching around the city walls until they fell on the seventh day. The original city was destroyed that day, but a second Jericho was built a couple miles away. It was in this second Jericho, that Jesus spotted the tax collector, Zacchaeus, perched in the sycamore tree. In the heart of the city stands a large sycamore, a reminder that not only people, but entire cities can be redeemed by the power of God’s grace.
Following lunch in Jericho, we took another short drive to the Dead Sea. Like a mirage in the dexert, the sparkling blue waters create a beautifully stark contrast to the arid landscape surrounding it. The water here is calming to the soul, but dangerous. The salt concentration is so high it is lethal if ingested. Floating on those waters reminded me of what Jesus said about himself to the woman he met at Jacob’s well, just down the road from Jericho: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”.
The Dead Sea is deadly in part because it has no outflow. The Jordan flows into it, along with runoff from the mineral rich mountains surrounding it, but nothing flows out. The people who settled this land thousands of years ago were in search of living water...water that flows, because it is living water that sustains life.
We are much the same. Thriving in life is to both receive and give, as we allow the goodness of God to flow through us and into the lives of others. We have been in the presence of Jesus at every stop along this journey, but the question for all of us is, what do we do with what we have seen?