I have been looking forward to attending one of the Israel trips since I began at Shepherds Theological Seminary in 2013. And now that I am on the tail end of my studies for the Master of Arts in Church Ministry, this is the perfect culmination of my education. My name is Jared Laskey and I am currently in the process of church planting in Virginia Beach, VA.
This morning, December 9, began with my Israel Study Trip roommate (Corey Staton) and I quickly strolling the beach at Hotel En Gev, nestled along the Sea of Galilee. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking. I think we both were still in awe that we were now here, walking among and seeing locales we had only read about in Scripture. I could see off in the distance Mount Arbel, a place we visited yesterday which may have been the mountain where Jesus gave His disciples the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). That has always been a Scriptural passage of significance to me as it was one of the first verses I memorized when I began my discipleship journey at 18 years of age, in 1998.
After breakfast I took time for personal devotions, standing on the beach looking outward to the sacred land. I read the Scripture aloud, to an audience of one, reading, “Make me know Your ways, O Lord, lead me in Your truth and teach me…Good and upright is the Lord…He leads the humble in justice and He teaches the humble His way…Turn to me and be gracious to me for I am lonely and afflicted…”
This ended with, “Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for You. Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles.” (Psalm 25).
We loaded the bus and then began the adventurous day seeing this land, with our knowledge increasing and reverence for the Word deepening in our ever expanding minds as we went from place to place, strolling Scripture everywhere we went and hearing Dr Bookman’s profound insight every step of the way.
Stopping at Chorazin, located nearly 3 miles north of Capernaum, Dr. Bookman walked us down to where the mikvah was. The mikvah was a place for a ritualistic bath for purification. Though the mikvah is not mentioned in the Old Testament, its practice emerged during the intertestamental period and may have been a precursor to John’s baptism of repentance. Chorazin was mentioned in Luke 10:13-15 and Matthew 11:20-24, where Jesus had performed many miracles yet pronounced, “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.”
Dr. Bookman and the students on this trip had a pleasant surprise at Chorazin as we met Dr. Mark Bailey of Dallas Theological Seminary. He shared several insights to us, saying at one point(and I will paraphrase), “It is better to come to Israel at the beginning of your ministry rather than at the end, because it shapes what you do and how you love your ministry.”
This day had many other treasures, such as when we visited Tel Dan, where Jeroboam, who was appointed king of the northern kingdom in 931 BC, presented calves of gold to be objects of worship, as recorded in 1 Kings 12. Among this place were also remnants of recent history as we saw not only the high place of worship, but also trenches and pill boxes that formed a 360 degree perimeter along this hill side, left behind from the Syrian military in 1967. Being a veteran of OIF and OEF I took great interest in this and could see in my mind how soldiers lived among this site, in the recent present day and in antiquity.
This trip to Israel is simply astounding. Everywhere we go I am in awe of God. If you go on this trip, the biblical text comes to life. I cannot wait for the adventures to come in the days ahead.