A few weeks ago during a visit to Israel, I walked (actually waded) through Hezekiah’s tunnel for the first time. Cold water rushed—sometimes up to waist level—as we wound our away along the twisting underground path. To think that we were walking through a passage carved out of rock all the way back in the times of the ancient Hebrew Kings! It was a memorable adventure, but it also struck me as a metaphor for the current state of affairs in Israel.
The Wonder of it All
Hezekiah’s tunnel is an archeological and architectural wonder, stretching 1,750 feet from the Spring of Gihon to the pool of Siloam. It is considered the greatest feat of water engineering technology in the Pre-Classical period. (An inscription describing the how the tunnel was built was stolen from the tunnel wall during the Ottoman era. It is on display in the Istanbul Museum, though you can view a replica in the Jerusalem Museum.)
But the dark and difficult pathway beneath the City of David is also a wonderful story to the truth and historicity of the Scripture. (The Bible mentions the tunnel twice: 2 Kings 20:20 and 2 Chronicles 32:30)
The modern state of Israel is also a wonder, and a powerful story to the truth of God’s promises recorded in Scripture (Deuteronomy 30:3; Jeremiah 29:14; Zephaniah 3:20). Many have tried to appropriate the Land for themselves, yet the present reality underscores the historical continuity of God’s promises.
Likewise, I find it wondrous to see the growth of believers in Jesus and their story of faith in the land of Israel today. While there are certainly problems among the churches in Israel today, I have seen encouraging signs of growth over the past 20 years. This growth is a powerful present day confirmation of Paul’s words nearly 2,000 years ago, Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace” (Romans11: 5).
Let There be Light
It is pitch dark inside Hezekiah’s tunnel—and my three companions and I had only one small flashlight between us. Halfway through the tunnel we were greeted by the glad sounds of another group whose flashlight had gone out entirely. They had been more or less stuck until we made our way towards them. We held up our flashlight so that they could see and move forward, with us following closely behind. But our light was small and growing dimmer all the time. Eventually it, too, went out altogether. But soon we heard another group coming up behind us. They were Israeli children, ages eight to ten years old. They had several flashlights, including a bright headlamp, the kind hikers use at night. They passed the headlamp up to the front group, and that one bright light enabled us all to make our way to the end of the tunnel.
Without light it is impossible to move forward. Life can be like Hezekiah’s tunnel, with sharp, irregular rocks jutting out here and there. This is especially true for life in Israel. At present there seems to be very little light in the Land. People are divided—and not just between Arab and Jew. Prime Minister Sharon’s effort to evacuate Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip has shown just how deeply the country is divided. Everyone wants peace, but when it comes to how to achieve it, everyone seems to be “in the dark.”
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12a). His light is the only lasting solution to the conflict that divides the Land.
As believers in Jesus, we are privileged to hold His light high for others to see. That is the way forward. Yet even believers in Jesus in Israel find it difficult to agree about to how to do this. I’m not just speaking about politics.
Just before my visit our missionary staff were engaged in proclaiming the gospel at an Israeli New Age festival called “Boombamela.” (See more about Boombamela including photos of the outreach following this article.)
Now there were many in Israel who stood shoulder to shoulder with us at Boombamela. Yet many believers in Israel are afraid to be open about their faith. Some criticize Jews for Jesus for our forthright proclamation of the gospel. Some try to prevent us from wearing our T-shirts or distributing literature at festivals like Boombamela. But a dim display of light is not sufficient for those who desperately want to see. Yeshua told us, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house” (Matthew 5:14-15).
Here’s the encouraging part. In Hezekiah’s tunnel, it was a group of children who had the wisdom to bring adequate light into the darkness, and they were willing to share that light with those of us who were less prepared. Because of them, we were able to move forward. Even so, one of the most encouraging portents for believers in Israel is coming from the young people.
A new generation of Israeli believers is on the rise in the Land. These young people are not ashamed of their faith in Jesus. They have grown up in the land of Israel and have served in the Israeli army. They are secure in their identity, willing and able to share their light—the light of the Lord—openly and boldly.
Without Faith it is Impossible…
God promised Hezekiah that He would rescue the Jewish people from the approaching armies of the Assyrians. Yet the king built the tunnel so that the city would not be without water during a possible siege by the Assyrian army. So did he accomplish this amazing feat because of a lack of faith? The Scriptures seem neutral as regards the matter of the tunnel, so we don’t really know. We do know that Hezekiah would not have been the good or mighty king that the Bible claims he was if he had not had faith in God.
In Israel today there is justifiable concern over the need for defensible borders. Much of the debate concerning the Gaza Strip has to do with security issues. One might debate the wisdom of any number of security measures Israel may take, but there can be no debate that the only real security is in the God of Israel. “Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4). Yet Israel, for the most part, does not have faith in God and in His Messiah Yeshua. (See Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28:9; John 14:27.)
Believers in Jesus must be an example of faith in the Land during a time when so many are in unbelief. We cannot expect God to grant lasting peace in the Land when the people neglect so great a salvation. God promised Abraham He wouldn’t destroy Sodom for the sake of ten righteous men living there. I don’t know what the future holds for Israel, but I believe that the faith of a minority there is vital to the future of many in that Land.
It is not easy to follow Jesus—especially in Israel. You can understand why some are fearful and uncertain about the way forward. I remember a moment there in the utter darkness of Hezekiah’s tunnel. It felt like it was taking forever to get through that passage (it was actually only 45 minutes). But I knew there was an end. I knew that I wasn’t breaking new ground and that others had gone before me. I just needed to be patient. Then I heard the sound of children’s voices. I saw a light and followed it until I came out the end of that tunnel into the brightness of the sunlight.
Despite the present darkness, the pool of Siloam may not be as far off as it seems. Genuine faith is needed more than ever. Let us trust that God’s promises are not just historic words. They are life and hope for today, leading us forward to a bright and glorious future.
For more about Hezekiah’s tunnel, including photos, see bibleplaces.com