“Times and seasons.” These words are so familiar to Christians and so much a fabric of our lives that sometimes we forget the larger picture. In my personal life, God has a way of demonstrating physically the spiritual truth He is working in my life.
In the two weeks before I left for Israel to be gone for five weeks and to lead two groups back to back, I retired from the company I started over thirty-one years ago, I bought (and moved into) a new home, and moved my office to The Obed Project’s new offices. I am finally now able to devote full time to Obed – which pleases me. However, all of this change caused me to have to touch everything I own, make decisions about each possession and either give it away, throw it away, or box it up for moving. It did not take deep spiritual acuity to see that I was in a changing season in my life. I knew it and had been praying for wisdom in the transition. I never suspected that everything would happen so fast!
Although I lead groups often (65 trips so far!), I am always amazed and astounded by what the Lord does and the powerful lessons He teaches us.
During the first group, we experienced record high temperatures, comfortably lower temperatures, dust storms, and desert winds – all in all, just regular June Israel weather. We traveled around the country and, as always, I fell in love with the land once again. One of our goals at The Obed Project is to show Israel to the traveler through a biblical lens, thus causing the searching Christian to see the everlasting, faithful, covenant relationship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has with the land and the people of Israel. This always happens. Each time. To me.
The second group was very small. We had a smaller bus and a very intimate feeling (it is hard not to feel this way when you are bouncing around in a smaller bus!). From the beginning, some truly unusual things happened.
To understand the miraculous nature of what I am about to tell you, you first must know that the rainfall in Israel follows a most basic pattern. It only rains in the winter. It never rains in the summer. Here is a quote from a Jewish site which says it better than I:
“For starters, you can leave everything outside during the summer months — laundry, bicycles, furniture, grill. It does not rain in the summer. Ever.
The first rain will hit sometime during the High Holidays. It doesn’t matter if the holidays are early or late, it will rain sometime, often during Sukkot. The corollary to this is that it is impossible to find umbrellas, rain boots or raincoats in the stores until after the first rain.
The last rain will hit right around Passover, usually on seder night. “
So, from about April till about October, it simply does not rain (thus the concept of the latter and former rain). I remember thinking on my first trip to Israel in September of 1983 that the guide was arrogant when he said: “I can guarantee you that you will have no rain while you are here.” I wondered how he could promise something like that with such authority. Then I learned what is second nature to Israelis – rain means winter in Israel.
Our second group spent the first three days of our tour at the Dead Sea. On the third day, as we exited our hotel for the day’s activities, we noticed that all of the Israelis, including our guide and driver, were looking up and talking excitedly (O.K. – I admit that all people speaking Hebrew sound excited!). We looked up and saw some fluffy white clouds in the sky. This did not seem worth getting excited about to our group who were mainly from the southern USA. But to the people who know Israel, this was very unusual. When I got on the bus, the driver told me that it was already at 8AM over 40 degrees Celsius. (This is a daily calculation for me – Celsius to Fahrenheit.) I struggled and then came up with a temperature of 104F. The driver, guide, and I also discussed the clouds – with such wonder that a tour member asked what was the big deal about the clouds. The guide then spoke to the group about the fact that there are rarely clouds in the desert in the summer (not much in the winter either!).
We stopped at Qumram to discuss the Dead Sea Scrolls and the group called the Essenes. We were standing outside in the sun (baking) when suddenly we felt drops of water. The guide stopped speaking and the group knew the wonder of rain – in the desert – in Israel – at the very end of June. Amazing.
These clouds (and very light showers) followed us into the Galilee but in a few days had disappeared. It was a lesson to the group about how closely Israelis are tied to their land and the seasons of the land. And it was a huge confirmation to me that truly now is a time of change of seasons. This season change is happening to all of us, whether we acknowledge it or not. God has announced a change of seasons on the earth. Let us all pray and discern our part in this change.