Seek Ye First The Kingdom of God

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees,

they gathered together and one of them (a scholar

of the law) tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment

in the law is the greatest?”  He said to him, “You shall love the Lord,

your God, with all your heart, with all your soul,

and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and the first commandment.

Matthew 22:34-38

I went to Israel to find Jesus.  We, as a family, were going to walk where Jesus walked.  We were going to see where He did His work.  From His birth to His death and everything in-between.  I had an itinerary that stated this very clearly.  We would be in Bethlehem on this day, Nazareth these days, the Sea of Galilee this day, the Mount of Olives and the Via Dolorosa this day.  It was typed and printed out in black and white.

It really didn’t matter.

It became obvious very quickly that before I would be shown the footsteps of Jesus, I was first to become aware of the handprint of God.

We spent most of our time in the Holy Land in the city of Jerusalem.  The majority of the people in Jerusalem are Jewish.  It is easy to tell who they are, especially the men.  The more devout Jewish men and boys wear white shirts and black pants.  We discovered that you can tell the different sects by the way their shirts are buttoned or the way the wear their socks.  Another difference is that some of the men and boys have their heads shaved except for one long curl that hangs right near each of their ears.  Even the less devout Jewish men and boys wear yarmulkes, covering their heads, distinguishing them from the Muslims and Christians.

I found myself fascinated by these men, who were often seen flanked by their sons.  “These are my people.  I love them beyond belief,” this is what hit me as we were walking down Jaffa Road towards the Old City one hot afternoon.

This past year, I have been doing the Great Adventure Bible Study by Jeff Cavins.  This study teaches you how to read the Bible as a narrative so that you learn the story of the Israelites and their relationship to God.  It has not always been an easy relationship. Their story is one of a people who turn away from God again and again.  God becomes angry and puts them into exile.  Again and again.  Yet, God has never, ever forgotten the covenant He has made with them.  He has never forgotten His love for them.

And I was walking with them.  On the same street.  My awe at the Jewish men never waned throughout the entire time we were in Israel.  I felt a deep respect for them and maybe just a tiny bit of envy:  God’s chosen people: swoon, swoon.

Another handprint of God was revealed to me when one of our tour guides took us near the spot that is believed to be the Garden of Eden.  It is also believed to be the spot that connects Heaven and Earth.  The Muslims have built their Dome of the Rock directly over this very Holy spot for both Jews and Christians.  We are not allowed to go there, but we can see it from afar(no comment here on how that still makes me feel!).

 “Jerusalem is the only city that exist both in heaven and on Earth at the same time,” he said.  “And you are here…” Was what I heard.

Don’t worry, I would come meet Jesus very intimately during this pilgrimage, but for the first few days, I just stood in awe of God and His people and this place He created.  This is where it all began and He is still very much alive and present here.

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