In 1973 I was thunderstruck by my first trip to the Holy Land. What an amazing, edifying and spiritual experience that was! I immediately wrote the book Israel, My Love and subsequently composed an album by that same title.
In September I took my 66th tour of the Holy Land, if I’m counting right. In any case, it was the best one of them all.
That’s a comment I typically make at our final banquet on each tour and, truly, I always mean it. Each time I see this wonderful land my love for it grows sweeter, and my eagerness to be there grows greater.
We are living through a very difficult time for the Promised Land, perhaps as difficult as any it’s ever endured. When I tell people that Jerusalem has been destroyed to the ground 29 times, they are saddened. But when I stand with them on the Mount of Olives, look over this magnificent rebuilt city and remind them that it will be theirs for all eternity, they are overjoyed. Jerusalem will endure forever, as the Lord promises a new heaven and a new earth.…and a New Jerusalem” (Revelation 21:1,2).
When our pilgrims first arrive at their hotel rooms in Jerusalem, they find a rose with a note from our ministry saying, “The rose of Sharon, the lily of the valley, to welcome you home.” How wonderful it is to know that this is, indeed, our home, and that what has always been called the Promised Land is at this moment biblically promised to us!
I thank God that I belong to the Christians who pray for Israel, regardless of how many professors, pastors, seminary presidents and the like may turn their backs on the Holy Land. Our television programs, music and printed materials allow us to interact with supportive Christians all over the world. All of that is very inspiring, indeed. But the most inspiring part of all is Israel.
On this trip we had a wedding at that Garden Tomb where the Lord was not present, since He has gone to prepare a place for us. It was certainly a fine moment. Other couples repeated their marriage vows. There’s something about the Holy Land, Jerusalem, and especially that empty tomb, which shows us that we need not sorrow over anything, even death. And that really gets to people. It brings out their very best.
We had praise and worship services every morning, and we spoke to the Lord exactly in His footsteps as we traveled. We held a service on the Sea of Galilee, on the Mount of the Sermon and in the Upper Room, to mention a few places. Our pilgrims also went to the Western Wall to make their prayers and to place written messages to God in cracks in the wall. Important rabbis in full dress stepped aside for farmers from Iowa who approached those hallowed stones.
At the end of the tour we went around the room asking people to describe their favorite moment. The terrific variety of opinions taught us all a lot about the Holy Land, each other, and ourselves.
I’m in favor of every single Christian visiting the Holy Land, even presidents of seminaries, if they’ll take the time to go. Israel changes people. Israel makes everyday Christians better Christians and ministers better ministers and presidents better presidents. The mighty are humbled by Israel. It is a good place to meet not only God, but also yourself.
After visiting the Promised Land for the first time, a Jewish believer said, “I used to read the Bible in black and white. Now I read it in color!” I’m all in favor of everybody seeing the Land with me or with someone else. Go with anybody’s tour. That’s not the important point. Ultimately, we’ll all go for a 1,000-year tour with our Lord Himself!
“Your Kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”