Educated or Changed?

I can’t really call it a vacation. We walked many miles every day. We got up early and were held to a strict schedule. There were days we stood in the rain and slogged through puddles. Other days we were too cold or too hot. I’ve learned less in an entire semester college course than I learned last week. A wise, passionate man lectured, answered countless questions, and shared his passion for his country with people who wanted to learn. Last week I walked through the streets and stories of the Promised Land. The land God gave to Abraham, the place he brought the Hebrews back to from Egypt, the cities and villages and mountainsides where Jesus walked and taught and healed became mine. The history of their battles and miracles, their stories of victory and devastation came to life as I lost a part of my heart to the place God gave to his people.

I’ve been to places where I learned new things or gained better understanding of the history I knew before I got there. But this tiny country is different. I was educated by an incredibly patient teacher with a seemingly endless supply of facts who brought the stories of the Bible to life and gave me new insight into details that I didn’t know were significant.

I recently published a book “He Wants You to Know” about the metaphors God uses to describe himself in the Bible. But, while seeing the country of Israel, God showed me a new metaphor. Israel’s enemies are powerful and close in proximity to every part of the country. Some of the incredible sites of that country were built by evil kings, some by those seeking to honor God. Some of the ruins and archeological digs we saw were destroyed by battle or earthquake or were just abandoned and lost in time. These places are being unearthed by historians and archeologists who are painstakingly scraping away the layers of dirt and debris to find the truth about life in that place. Sometimes new cities were built on the foundations of old ones. Sometimes those ruins were buried and lost to history until recently. Sometimes the new construction was designed to honor God; sometimes it just served new purposes and ignored the past significance.

My life is a lot like that. I live in a fallen world where evil is powerful and a constant threat. My present is intrinsically intertwined with my past. The things and events that I have buried are still a part of who I have become. I face choices about what I will build on the ruins of my failures and whether or not my victories lead me to honor God or give me foolish confidence to trust my own plans for my future. God can bring new life and meaning to old events and stories that will change my old foundations into new construction. God doesn’t just rescue us from our sin; he redeems our past and uses its rubble to build something new and stronger.

An education is an incredible tool, but if it is limited to just accumulating information, it will not change us. God never intended for us to just be educated by the Bible. He wants us to be changed by it. This incredible love story between the God of the universe and the ever so unworthy people he chose as his own is not just about people in history; it is about you. I was incredibly privileged to see the places and learn new facts about the land God promised to his people. But I was permanently changed when God met me at the western wall of the Temple. The God who builds and rebuilds with the treasure and rubble of our lives reminded me that he is God and I am not. He overwhelmed me with a palpable sense of his presence, and a peace that his plans will not be thwarted by evil.

For a moment, the God of the universe met me in time and space. He has a habit of doing that with his people. Some in the Bible left that presence with a glow or a limp or a new name. I left with new peace and humility and hope. I got an incredible education during the ten days I was in Israel, but it didn’t just add information to my teaching arsenal; it changed me. He never called us to be smarter; he calls us to be holy. May what I do and say each day bring my good and his glory. And may my past and present lead me to an eternity with the God who continually finds ways to dwell with those who love him.

II Chron 7:15-16 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.