There's nothing quite like walking out in the local neighborhood near where we stayed last night and encountering a huge lemon tree. "Yes, you're in Israel!" it seems to say.
While Dave finished prepping for his first teachings on this Old Testament tour that we'll begin in just a few hours, Mel, Amy and I wandered down to a local cafe.
Last year when we finished our third tour on the life of Jesus with a group of JV missionaries, we began dreaming about another one for our single missionaries. Three years ago we led our first JV tour to Israel with them, so wanted to do something different this time. The Lord planted the idea for an Old Testament tour in our hearts, and now...here we are about to embark on it!
We met up with everyone at the airport, including Tyler!
With his love for the Old Testament and Hebrew, and a master's degree in the study of those areas, we asked him to join us for this tour as co-teacher with Dave.
For months they've been planning and preparing for this trip, based on the tour theme they came up with -- Nourish: Drawing on your Old Testament Roots. I can hardly wait to start digging in to the Old Testament with them!
We met up with Ron, our tour guide who worked with us last year as well, and headed out on the bus to our first location.
Our first stop today was new to me! Neot Kedumim is the world's only biblical nature reserve.
Begun in 1965 by Nogah Hareuveni it is unique re-creation of the physical setting of the Bible, allowing visitors to see nature as it was 3,000 years ago. More than a “garden” showing various plants, Neot Kedumim shows the panorama and power of the landscapes which shaped the values of the Bible and provided the rich vocabulary for expressing those values.
Before exploring the reserve, Dave and Tyler got us started on our first teachings.
The thrill of seeing these two teaching together for the first time was so meaningful!
Tyler gave us an introduction to the trip, talking about the fact that while the Bible was written FOR us, it was not TO us. The world was very different then, which means we have to to learn to ask the right questions as we read, according to the terms of the text. Being here in the nature reserve would be our first introduction to better understanding the Old Testament.
Dave then gave our first leadership lesson on "The Leader as a Shepherd" before we began our tour through the reserve.
National precipitation levels are up 131% this year relative to the national averages, so everything is greener than usual, with flowers blooming everywhere!
Our guide on location at the reserve was full of life and enthusiasm about the significance of gleaning truths from nature that help us understand the Bible.
On 625 acres at the reserve, every species mentioned in the Bible is planted here! Date palms, olive trees, pomegranates, mustard, figs and almond trees are among the parts of biblical nature that you'll see.
When the founder received this piece of land back in the mid-60's, it was an overgrazed and abused landscape. With his heart and soul, he and many others reworked the land, Bible in one hand, shovel in the other, to bring about this restoration.
Today you're able to imagine the world as it once was here, back in the time of our spiritual ancestors!
So much in the Old Testament especially relates to God's creation! I was taking notes as fast as I could as we walked, soaking in the facts of what plants and trees and weather patterns meant in the Bible.
For sure I'll read differently from now on, taking time to look up the significance of things like hyssop and cedar trees (symbolizing humility and pride).
I know I'll think on this nature reserve for quite some time, and hope that I get to return to learn more of God's truth in his Word through the plants and trees that He talks about.
What a beautiful place to taste, touch, smell and hear the truths of Scripture.