I have been to Israel 45 times, and every time my spiritual life has been enriched. I recently took a video cameraman with me and had him shoot on the fly as I led a pilgrimage group through the land. We began in Tel Aviv, and went from there to Tiberias in the north, and then back to Jerusalem.
I'll continue to share some of the sermons I presented from that trip with you. As I do so, I think you'll come to understand why a person once wrote, "A pilgrimage to the Holy Land converts the Bible from black and white into Technicolor."
My next message was presented at the incredible fortress of Masada at the Dead Sea. There we will discover a valley of dry bones that came back to life.
Valley of the Dry Bones
The Dead Sea area is one of the most fascinating places in all of Israel. It is the site of King Herod's incredible fortress of Masada, and it is where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. It is a barren and arid place and the lowest point on planet earth, and yet it is the site of the most famous oasis mentioned in the Bible.
The incredible fortress of Masada was built by King Herod on top of one of the tall mountains that line the Dead Sea. When one overlooks the Dead Sea, they'll see it has almost completely evaporated. It's evaporating at the rate of three feet a year. It still has a long way to go because it is very, very deep. The southern end is very shallow and almost completely evaporated. The reason for that is because very little water ever reaches the Dead Sea anymore. When the rains come in the winter and the Sea of Galilee fills up and starts flowing down the Jordan, Israel and Jordan are pulling irrigation water out of both sides of the river. Finally, when the river water gets to the Dead Sea, there's just not any water left, unless it is in flood conditions. So, the Dead Sea has been pretty much evaporated.
Masada is the location where the Zealots retreated to and where the Roman army surrounded the place and kept it under siege for over two years before finally being able to conquer it. It's amazing to think of Roman soldiers living out in the hot wilderness with all of their armor on, but that's what they did. The Zealots would look down at the Roman soldiers and laugh and throw things at them. The Zealots even had a swimming pool up at the top where they would go swimming and make fun of the Romans. This obviously just enraged the Romans and made them more determined to conquer them.
When Masada was rediscovered in the 19th Century, before the archaeologists actually began all of their excavations, one of the things they discovered in the synagogue itself was a part of the Scriptures that had been left opened to Ezekiel 37. That chapter records the vision that was given to Ezekiel of the Valley of the Dry Bones. He was taken out into a big valley filled with dry bones. The Lord said, "Prophesy and preach to these bones." I've been in a few congregations that felt like I was preaching to the Valley of the Dry Bones! You been there Brother?
Anyway, Ezekiel started preaching and those dry bones started moving. They started coming together and stood up. The prophet had no idea what was going on! Let's start reading with Ezekiel 37:11.
"Then He said to me, 'Son of man these bones are the whole house of Israel; they indeed say, 'Our bones are dry, our hope is lost we ourselves are cut off.' Therefore prophesy and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord God, behold, O my people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I'm the Lord when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up from your graves. And I will pour out my spirit in you and you shall live and I will place you into your own land. Then you shall know that I the Lord have spoken it and performed it says the Lord."
One of the first things that grabs me here is the Bible says that God would bring the Jews back into their own land — not somebody else's land — into their own land. One of the greatest political arguments made by detractors today is that the people of Israel have come back and they are occupying someone else's land, but God says they are in their own land. They were even in their own land the day the Romans were at Masada, but the Romans didn't like them being here. They wanted to thoroughly conquer them. The Romans wanted to conquer everything. They are a reminder of a Scripture to me, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." This also reminds me of something else God promised to anybody who picked on His children, where in Joel 3 it says that God will retaliate.
Verse 12 says, "O, my people, I will open up your graves and cause you to come up from your graves and bring you into the land of Israel." This is not speaking of the land of Canaan or the land of Palestine, but the land of Israel. What did the Jews decide to call this land when they established their nation again? Israel. That's prophecy being fulfilled right before our very eyes!