Day 10: From the Gates of Hell to the Feet of the Father.
by Alexandra Rutkowski
So, first stop today was the Gates of Hell. No, really. We traveled all over the Golan Heights in northern Galilee and visited the Temple of Pan in Caesaria Phillipi, an ancient site of extreme pagan worship and sacrifices. (Just as a side This is where Christ spoke to His disciples in Matthew 16:13-20, asking them “Who do you say I am?”
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
When he talked to them about the Gates of Hell, that wasn’t figurative! That was a literal place, a large opening in the mountain connected to the temple that the pagans believed was a direct portal into hell. Crazy stuff. We were all just taking pictures next to a mountain that we thought looked really interesting. Little did we know…
If you know your Old Testament history, you might recall something about the division of the Hebrew kingdom. Here’s the brief rundown- independent Hebrew kingdom under judges, monarchies under Saul, David, Solomon, and then it splits into the Northern kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The northern kingdom was under the rule of Jeroboam. The son of Solomon, I believe, he led the people away from the Lord. In his eyes, traveling to the altar of the Lord on the top of the mountain was too much trouble, so he commanded the people to worship two calf idols in an altar he erected in Dan. I remember hearing about all this during class, but standing ON the very altar in Dan made it all come to life. But more than that, Jeroboam is forever immortalized in Scripture for his influence over the people of Israel- he turned them away from the Lord for the sake of maintaining his power and influence. At first he is called “Jeroboam son of Nebat.” Later, he is always referred to as “Jeroboam son of Nebat who caused the people to sin.” This became his identity. He wanted to worship G-d on his terms, not G-d’s. I feel like we’re like that a lot too, worshipping G-d on our terms, not His. G-d is holy, and true love is to worship Him on His terms.
We spent a while at the remains of the gate in front of Dan. (During this time, Christian Gonzales was just chillin’ in a tree.) There was so much spiritual significance there, I don’t even have time to write it! I’ve never been so thankful for Brubaker’s Minor Prophets class. Take it! It’s worth it!
When we were in Dan, Ilan, our guide, made a contest to see who could go into the water in a stream there and stay there the longest. Seems easy, right? Not.at.all. It was ICE cold. Who would have ever thought there’d be ice cold water in Israel? This little stream is created from the melting ice on the mountain. Wow. On the bright side, however, we met a handful of absolutely wonderful young Israeli children that we spoke to while in the water. It was so lovely to speak with them and hear what they had to say. And how polite they all were! All the little girls kept saying, “You are so beautiful. You are so beautiful. You are so beautiful!” All of them were so sweet and such a blessing. While we’re enjoying freezing in the water, Ilan just goes out, finds some herbs, and makes us hot tea. That’s the second time he did that. Last time, he found herbs in the DESERT and made tea for us!
We visited a few mountains today too. Honestly, I don’t even remember where they were or what they were called. I’m a little too tired to go back and check my notes for the day. All I know is that they were beautiful and just were a reminder of G-d’s creativity and skill as an artist. (We also visited a Syrian bunker on the top of the Golan Heights and got to go underground through all the tunnels and such. That was an experience for sure.) At the Golan Heights, we stood on the highest place in all of Israel.
When it’s 110 degrees in the shade, all you really dream about is water. That’s where it’s really convenient that the Sea of Galilee is literally on the doorstep of our kibbutz. I can’t use earthly terms to describe the water. It was… yep, still can’t find words. We tried to jump and “walk” on the water, and even got the chance to make acquaintance with Israeli children there. Sea of Galilee… I adore you.
Right before dinner, Kayla comes up to me and asks if I have a dress she can wear for dinner. Five minutes later, Rebecca knocks on the door asking if she could borrow a dress. Seven minutes after that, Shoku asks the same. Now, if you know anything about me, then you know of my love for dresses. It was an honor to see my girls in my dresses! I mean, this aint the Ritz- it’s a kibbutz. There’s absolutely no need to dress up for dinner. But it was fun. I went in my bathrobe. (But made it into a dress of course. I wouldn’t have it any other way.)
After dinner, this is where G-d really works. Us girls all gather together for prayer and worship in Becky’s room next door. For a while, I’m sitting outside on a metal hammock just talking to G-d, and then I head in for some worship. I guess no matter how many times G-d completely blows my mind at times like these, it never gets old. It’s always something completely beautiful and indescribable. Just sitting at the feet of the Father, completely real, no masks, no facade. This is it. It was so beautiful. Like children so eager to hear, so eager to receive! And so delighted in their Father. I’m still in awe.
(At one point during tonight’s prayer, I was face flat on the ground and I felt a hand gently on me. All of a sudden, I feel something crawl up my face, and find that a cricket is running up my cheek to my forehead. Naturally, I jerk my head back up quickly in fear. Reflexes. You know how they are. And at that moment, I felt that hand grip harder and voices praying over me loudly. Though I welcome the prayer, I wasn’t suffering from a spiritual attack that made my head jerk back. It was a cricket. That was a laugh afterwards.) I am so thankful for the fellowship and unity here among the girls especially. It’s so beautiful and encouraging. We weren’t meant to go through this alone.
By the way, a side note: remember a few days ago how I mentioned visiting a Druze community (it’s the one with the amazing food)? This trip has turned into a missions trip in more ways than one (but more on that another time), and we are representing Christ to a people who don’t know of Him, or whose only experiences with His followers has been negative. We are ambassadors for Christ. The Druze are an Arab sect who haven’t really encountered a lot of evangelical pro-Israel Christians that have come to spend time with them. The young man who guided us around asked Michael permission if he could vlog about it because it touched him so much. Check it out.
You know, we didn’t feel like we did anything special for them when we were there. We listened, tried not to fall asleep at one point because we were exhausted, and we ate their food. We didn’t evangelize or try to push. We asked questions and were real with who we are. That translated. Praise G-d.
I’m going to turn in now, it’ll be a big day tomorrow. Well, not too big. Just a little maybe. We’re hiking the Yehuddiya Falls and taking a boat on the Sea of Galilee. The latter I am extremely looking forward to, but the hike… there’s a question still. See, we are given an option: 1.) a 20-minute light hike to get to the falls 2.) a 3.5 physically-straining hike half the length of Masada but twice as hard, and that leads to the same place. Decisions, decisions. And Thursday? Thursday is going to be an incredible day. Something very special happens on Thursday. Wait for it.
I’ve learned so much in such a short amount of time, and I know it’s a phrase that’s overused a lot and it seems to have lost it’s meaning, but really… G-d is good. We began the day at the Gates of Hell, and ended it at the feet of the Father. And the Father never left.