When boxers prepare for a prize fight, they first must attend a “weigh in” where all their measurements are taken and recorded. Their height, weight, wingspan, etc. are all meticulously written down and used as a gauge to determine in which division the fighter will compete. Also, these stats are seen as a good indicator of who will win the match in the ring. These measurements, however, do not always prove prophetic. (After all, Rocky Balboa beat Ivan Drago in Rocky IV.) Sometimes it takes more than a tape measure to handicap the event.
For the past two weeks, my wife and I toured the nation of Israel together with a group of friends. What we saw inspired worship, education, and passion. However, what we didn’t see inspired something else . . . faith and hope. Let me tell you what I mean.
Before going on a trip like this, you take out a map and a tape measure and size up the land you will be touring. On the scales, Israel is only 263 miles long by 71 miles wide (at its longest and widest points). This makes Israel only slightly larger than the state of New Jersey (and with a comparable population). Further, the land is mostly covered with rocks, and water has been a historically significant issue (as the many ancient ruins of giant cisterns tell us). At the weigh-in, Israel looks more like a lightweight than a heavyweight. On paper their land is not the biggest, the best, or the brightest.
As you know, the look of this land can be deceiving. Though Israel is small, it has a divinely dynamic history. On this land, God called a people, birthed a nation, delivered a Messiah, and (from this nation) will one day rule the world. As I wandered around this country for 11 days, I became more and more convinced of one thing: God chose the Israelites and the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River NOT because they were great, but because their weakness would provide the perfect canvas on which to paint His grace. The people became a Priesthood and the land became Holy because of Him . . . not because of them. They are both neon signs pointing us to His character, not theirs.
Don’t get me wrong. The land is beautiful and productive and the people were warm and hospitable. Most places and people on this earth are. The thing that makes their past and their future so fascinating, however, is their gracious God.
Over the next few weeks, I am going to be writing a series of devotionals about my experiences in Israel, to try to put into words for myself (and others) some of what God showed me on my journey. I hope today’s thoughts help point you in the direction of our gracious God. If God can make the small nation mighty, and the rocky ground fertile, just think what He might be able to do in your own life.
We too are shallow soils that feel too small and/or insignificant to matter. “God could never use/want me” is a refrain all too often thought, spoken, or felt. “My situation is too desolate to ever produce any fruit” is another seed of dismay we often sow. Our God specializes in blessing the weak and providing an oasis of hope in a barren land. He wants to encourage your soul . . . to inspire within us faith and hope in Him.
Would you join me on a written journey through the Holy Land?