As I reflect back on 2019, I wanted to share something that I learned with you from a trip to Israel. I was fortunate enough to travel with some faith leaders to the land of the Bible thanks to an organization called Israel Collective. If you’ve ever heard someone describe a visit to Israel, you probably heard them use language like this: “The pages of the bible came to life.” That definitely happened for me, but there was something one of our tour guides said that marked me in a profound way.
As we were driving through a desert of Israel, a familiar Old Testament phrase was brought up to our tour guide. Someone said, “I thought this was supposed to be the land of milk and honey, but so much of it is a desert.” To which our guide responded, “This land is what you make it.” His response gave us all pause. The more we thought over his response in that brief, awkward silence, the more I realized it had a much broader truth than just the land of Israel. Let’s start with what he meant for Israel and then see what it means for us.
Israel is in the middle east which is an arid, mostly desert climate. However, it was the land God promised his people, the 12 tribes of Israel. He told them it would be land flowing with milk and honey, knowing the difficulties within the climate where they would settle. God also gave them many instructions in the Torah on how to work the land in a way that would provide them with the sustenance needed to not only survive, but to thrive. As you scroll through Israeli history, you’ll see everything from prosperity to famines. The common denominator in their prosperous times was their devotion to God and living according to his statutes.
When our tour guide began to explain to us what he meant by “this land is what you make it”, we started to see some ways that Israel was becoming a blessing to the world, just as God said in the book of Genesis. After centuries of unrest and exile, Israel was able to return to their land in the mid 1900s. Israel has had some remarkable accomplishments in the areas of water, energy, and agriculture. Countries around the world are reaping the benefits of the lessons Israel learned as they’ve developed and worked their Promised Land, despite the intrinsic difficulties that occur in a desert climate.
In your life there are promises of God awaiting you. Much like the Promised Land of Israel, those promises and blessings may not come about with great ease. However, the parts of life that we faithfully steward may be where we get to see God do powerful and miraculous things. I’ve come to learn that the rewards in life are proportionate to our resolve.
I recently was given the opportunity to preach on this at my church. You can catch that sermon below.