Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Land of Israel: Illustrations and Meditations

What does the land of Israel look like?  Well that's hard to explain ...

During a lesson on the book of Joshua this last Sunday, I shared with my class that the Promised Land is a diverse piece of real estate.  This relatively small country boasts several distinctive geographical regions.  This is a topic that I have discussed before on this blog, but I thought I'd share some photos I gathered for my class to give you an idea of what I mean.

Let's begin with our schematic map (click for a larger image):

This map shows the various geographical regions of the land.  (For instructions on how to draw this map, see my post here.  It makes a handy teaching tool.)

Next, let me illustrate what each of these sections look like in living color.  The pictures below are representative of these regions and give you an idea of the diverse landscapes you will see if (or should I say, when) you visit the Holy Land.  Moving from north to south ...

The highlands of Upper Galilee, a solid section of mountain range.
The Bet Netofa Valley in Lower Galilee, a region of east-west valleys.
The flat farmland of the Jezreel Valley.
The agriculturally rich Coastal Plain.
The rolling hills of the Shephelah.
The forested, deep ravines of the Hill Country.
The dry desert and deep valleys of the Wilderness.
The hot, grazing lands of the Negev.
And starting again in the north, moving down the Jordan Rift:

The beautiful Sea of Galilee (located below sea level).
The Jordan Valley (farther below sea level).
The Dead Sea (even farther below sea level; in fact, the lowest place on earth).

My point in sharing this with my Sunday School class was that God does not make generic promises.  He did not tell the Israelites, "Someday, somewhere, I'll give you a land where you can live."  Instead, He promised them this land (Gen. 12:7; Exod. 6:8), a specific geographic territory that you can still visit today.

This is how God operates.  All throughout scripture, we see God making specific promises to His people.  Even today, those who believe and follow Jesus cling to specific promises provided in the Bible.  For example, just like He promised the ancient Israelites a place to live, He has promised His church that He is preparing a place for them ... a real place that we will be able to see and touch and walk upon.

"Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also." (John 14:1-3, NASB)

This is a promise we can cling to.  But it is a promise given only to those who believe and follow Jesus.  In the next breath, He said:

"I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." (John 14:6, NASB)

So place your faith in Jesus and rest in God's specific promises, knowing that He always keeps His word.