The Wilderness of Judea—The Ultimate Getaway

How this place of escape and seclusion still speaks to us today.

Very few places in the Holy Land still look original. Most historic sites in Israel have some church, or a mosque, or a settlement, or thirty feet of civilization piled on top of them.

Judean Wilderness at sunset.

Photo: The Wilderness of Judea at sunset. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.

The places pilgrims come to see today show centuries of scars from the ruins and reconstructions of many faiths and peoples.

But in the Wilderness of Judea, one can see what the ancients saw. Deep ravines. Rocky terrain. Barren grades with scant vegetation. Horizontal lines cut in the hills betray generations of flocks that have worn trails like terraces in the stony slopes. Miles and miles of desolate land, interrupted only by an occasional camel, a shepherd with his flock, or a group of Bedouin tents with satellite dishes.

Bleak, inhospitable, stark, and harsh—the Wilderness of Judea has sat virtually unchanged for thousands of years.

It was the perfect place to escape.

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Pools of Bethesda – God’s Amazing Kindness and Our Courageous Choices

What motivates you most isn't fear.

Very few people are drawn to God by intimidation. Instead, the Lord urges us to come to Him by revealing the kindness of His mercy. It’s a tremendous motivation.

Pools of Bethesda—God’s Kindness and Our Repentance

(Photo: Pools of Bethesda and Crusader chapel, courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Once we comprehend the depth of our imperfections, and the futility of our own efforts to remove them, we are in a position to respond to God’s kindness.

In this post, you’ll read how Jesus revealed this simple truth one day in Jerusalem with an act of mercy at the Pools of Bethesda.

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Your Shame and Its Surprising Solution

What to do when you feel dirtied by the world.

Shame hits us for one of two reasons. We feel shame because of something wrong someone did to us. Or we feel it because of something we did ourselves. Either way, like Adam and Eve, we want to cover it up.

Your Shame and Its Surprising Solution

(Photo: Frieze sarcophagus, Adam and Eve after fall. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The Prophet Zephaniah writes: “The unjust knows no shame” (Zeph. 3:5). He means they have no awareness or regret over their sin—even though God makes known to them His righteousness every day.

But it’s what God goes on to say in the next couple verses how He did things to draw His people back to Him.

If your shame has smothered your life, you need to hear God’s words of grace.

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Your Rededication to God Can Begin Right Now

Shechem urges us to get back to where we once belonged.

The Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC marks where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his speech, “I Have a Dream.” Standing in the shadow of Lincoln gave greater force to Dr. King’s words. The site intensified the message. I’m convinced that’s why Joshua regathered the young Hebrew nation to Shechem

Shechem in the valley between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal

(Photo: Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal, with Shechem in the valley. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The geographical context of his words played a significant role. They spoke as loudly as Joshua did that day.

And they speak to us.

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Valley of Achor: How to Change Your Trouble to Triumph

Why You Should Never Give up if You're in a Hopeless Place

Some places in life have hard memories. Maybe it was your hometown or even your home. The events associated with those places taint their memories. The Valley of Achor was such a site.

Valley of Achor: How to Change Your Trouble to Triumph

(Photo: The Wadi Qilt, perhaps the Valley of Achor. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

After Joshua’s victory at Jericho, the Israelites suffered defeat at Ai because a man named Achan had buried banned spoils of war under his tent (Joshua 7:1, 21). Following this event, the Valley of Achor served as a reminder of failure, of setback, and of defeat.

But God would change the place from a site of trouble to a place of triumph.

He can do the same for you.

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Why Forgiving Someone is Hard and How to Really Do It

2 truths remain essential if we hope to move on.

Would you like to hold a grudge with God’s blessing? Wouldn’t it be great to know exactly how much of the same guff you had to take from someone until you no longer had to forgive?

Why Forgiving Someone is Hard and How to Do It

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

The problem with forgiving is that the debt is real.

  • Your parents neglected or even abused you.
  • Your spouse betrayed your wedding vows.
  • Your best friends backstabbed you.
  • Someone hurt you so deeply you feel you may never recover.

The debt is real. And in order to forgive, you must give even more than has already been taken. And this is hard. Very, very hard. But if we want God to forgive us, it’s essential.

The good news? Scripture shows us how.

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How to Stop Looking for God in the Wrong Places

The solution to the futility you feel is easier than you think.

The world makes promises it can’t keep. It says the reason we’re unhappy is that we just haven’t found the right whatever yet. But if we keep looking, we’ll find it.

Looking for God in the Wrong Places

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash.com)

The right spouse, the right hairdo, the right salary, the right entertainment system, the right church, the right pastor, the right Bible, the right seminar, etc.

Those without God struggle with this, for sure. But even those of us who do believe in Jesus can chase these shadows.

We may not know we’re looking for God. But we are.

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A Balm in Gilead—Your Solution is Nearer than You Imagine

Why suffer when the remedy is just over the river?

Have you ever missed seeing something only to discover it lay in front of you the whole time? Misplaced car keys are one thing. But ignoring help from God is something else.

A Balm in Gilead—Your Solution is Nearer than You Imagine

(Photo: The hills of Gilead. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Few things seem more tragic than for someone to suffer when the remedy stood near all along. Why suffer when the remedy lies just over the river?

The Prophet Jeremiah asked similar rhetorical questions in his day:

Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has not the health of the daughter of my people been restored? —Jeremiah 8:22

The words “balm in Gilead” give us more than the makings of a great spiritual song. They offer a principle we can apply today.

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Chorazin—Sitting in the Seat but Missing the Message

Jesus explains why leadership remains a privilege, not a prerogative.

Leadership in any form is a place of honor because of one reason only. You won’t see that reason in the world’s system where leadership often stands upside down. A small town in Galilee reminds us how to keep it upright. 

Chorazin—Sitting in the Seat but Missing the Message

(Photo: Chorazin’s ruins hide at center left. Courtesy of Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

From a distance, Chorazin seems like it’s hiding. I don’t blame it for trying. After all, it remains one of the three cities in Galilee that Jesus rebuked for failing to respond to His message. The basalt ruins of Chorazin appear little more than a pile of rocks among so many thousands of others. Clumps of grass and volcanic rock offer a variegated green and gray to the hillside above the Sea of Galilee.

Unless you look carefully, you may not even see the city.

But Jesus saw it. So should we.

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God Lays Siege to Your Life to Restore You, Not Destroy You

The biblical sieges illustrate the Lord's love for His people.

In ancient Israel, a city wasn’t a city without a wall. The wall served as the primary means of protection from an enemy. Without a wall, you were a sitting duck.

When God Lays Siege to Your Life

(Photo: Jerusalem’s Old City Walls. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

In times of war, an enemy would surround a city wall and lay siege to it. This method purposed to starve the inhabitants of food and water—forcing surrender. Often a siege took months or even years. But it was very effective. All it took was time.

The sieges of ancient Israel serve as a fitting metaphor for what God often does in our lives when we erect walls to keep Him out. But there’s a key difference.

God lays siege to your life not to destroy you, but to restore you.

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