The Living Water
In many ways, when you sign up for our Up to Jerusalem tour, you don’t know what to expect. Yes, the itinerary of our daily visits keeps the tour on track, but it’s the heart/emotional part of it that can’t quite be predicted.
That’s how today started. It started with me and my new good friend looking for tissues, because we underestimated the power of our first visit.
When you come to Israel with us someday, you, too, will be given the opportunity to get baptized (or renew your commitment to Christ) in the Jordan River. For every believer, this is an incredible opportunity to declare publicly your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The location where we will go takes great responsibility in honoring the special moment for everyone. Those who chose to publicly declare or re-declare their faith in the Messiah were given white robes, towels, and full hearts as they made their way to the water.
A pastor on our trip, Nathan, stood in the water, and one by one we praised God for the moment we were witnessing. Over 15 people on our trip declared or re-declared their commitment to Christ in this holy-like water. It was beautiful for those involved and watching. Dan Price led us in worship songs, and Pastor Nathan gave a brief message that reminded us that becoming like Christ in His death and resurrection (symbolized in an immersive baptism) is one that should humble us all.
It was a beautiful, meaningful morning for all of us, and we praise God that we could experience such a gift.
Following the baptisms we started making our way south along the Jordan Valley to the Dead Sea.
We made a brief but lovely stop in Jericho where we shopped at a store that sold beautiful glass and ceramics (and fresh dates, which is what I bought!). We did our best to help support the Jericho economy by purchasing gorgeous gifts, then enjoyed a tapas-like meal of fresh vegetables, falafel, hummus, and pita at a restaurant nearby.
As always, our travel on our extremely comfortable charter bus that carries us from place to place drove us past what we would learn were warning signs for mine fields! We passed by Bedouin villages through biblical Judea and even passed a sycamore tree situated in Jericho as a reminder for Christians of Zaccheus and his determined attempt to see Jesus.
Following our lunch we made our way to Qumran—a place incredibly important to our faith, yet its desert, dusty setting is harder to explain. This desert area was once inhabited by scribes whose singular purpose there was to stay clean and pure before the Lord. In an effort to ensure they had living water to cleanse them, there were channels and methods for collecting water that came only from the sea or rain.
As our Israeli tour guide explained, to better understand the New Testament you have to understand the Jewish traditions. When Jesus came, He said He was the living water—the only One who could purify.
The life for these Jewish scribes was one that distinctly revolved around ceremonial cleansings to ensure nothing unclean went before the Lord. Imagine what it must have been like for any Jewish person to hear from Christ Himself claiming to be the living water.
For believers today, we understand this from our modern-day understanding, but how much more impactful it must have been as the Jewish people started to see Christ as the one true Messiah who could purify those who have sinned.
The Qumran Caves are where the Dead Sea Scrolls were preserved by the scribes who lived there in their time. We can thank them for preserving the words that have since changed generations to come for the sake of God’s story on Earth.
Our Israeli tour guide also pointed out to us that it was in 1947 that Bedouin goat-herders searching for a goat came upon a pot holding what would be the ancient Dead Sea Scrolls. Coincidentally (or not), 1947 was the year the United Nations called for a Jewish state in the land of Israel, which was officially declared an independent state the following year.
Again, the tour through Israel is so beautiful it will leave you speechless, but it also will confirm your faith in the Word of God over and over. To God be the glory.
After a day full of meaning and contemplation, we ended it at what I will claim as my favorite part of the trip so far: the Dead Sea. It’s odd to me that a sea, made of one-third salt, that is known to be dead because no living thing can survive in it, can be so beautiful.
Along the edges of the shore are mounds of salt, not sand, that children can use to build castles. With it, you can also scrub your arms and legs to exfoliate your dead skin, and for those who attempt an entry into the sea, all they have to do is simply lean backward and they will find themselves afloat.
The Dead Sea is about 50 miles long and 15 miles wide. On our way to our hotel here, we experienced unconventional rains and even saw a rainbow. This area, known as a desert, will not receive more than eight inches a year, and we’re confident we saw about three of them fall down today.
Again, you never know what you can expect in Israel. It’s called the Holy Land for a reason. The Lord will use any place, person, or setting in your life to draw you to Himself. Whether it’s a baptism, a dry desert, a dead sea, or falafel, it’s worth noting that there is nothing too big nor too small for our Lord.
Ezekiel 47:9–11 prophesies that when Jesus comes, the Dead Sea will come to life.
“This water flows into the Dead Sea so that the water in that sea becomes fresh and clean. There are many fish in this water, and all kinds of animals live where this river goes. You can see fishermen standing by the river from En Gedi to En Eglaim. You can see them throwing their fishing nets and watching many kinds of fish. There are as many kinds of fish in the Dead Sea as there are in the Mediterranean Sea. But the swamps and small marshes will not become fresh. They will be left for salt.”
May the Lord bring living water and new life into yours today. Especially if you don’t know Him yet, He is the God of making all things new no matter your circumstances. Perhaps that’s just what you need today.
Until tomorrow! Good night from the Dead Sea.
Blog author: Karen Katulka
Director of Marketing & Communication
The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry
Photos: Dan Price
Assistant Director of International Ministries
The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry