Land of tension

Pastor Tom Jeske

Morning took us off for a day-trip in the countryside. We toted bottled water and pita-bread sandwiches with cucumbers and tomatoes. Someone from the hostel took us up into the highlands. As we moved out through streets of flat-roofed buildings, little kids with nut-brown faces, white teeth, and flashing black eyes watched us.

Northern Israel has hills like broad shoulders. The region’s “must-see” is a big sparkling body of fresh water. Locals call it Kinneret (Kin-air’-ett). Tourists point cameras at it. You and I know it as the Sea of Galilee.

Tiberias, with its palm trees and white plastered buildings, sits above the water on the western shore. You’ll find dockside cafés, red buses at the station, and a crappie-sized keeper some locals identified as “St. Peter’s fish.”

But now to these highlands, the north and east. For an area that qualifies as an international heritage site, something sure seemed out of place. The earth was absolutely torn apart. There seemed to be two long trails, exactly parallel. What fearsome force ripped those huge cuts in the dirt? Then someone recalled that we were in contested territory. A hostile border was not far from where we stood.

Later in the day over a cup of coffee, our guide passed along the news that the tracks were made yesterday by the army. Merkava is Hebrew for “chariot,” and it happens to be the name of the main battle tank of the Israel Defense Forces. To know such titanic things exist and are marshaled in your favor must bring a strong sense of security. Maybe.

While in the heights we found something else. As puffing hikers gained the high ground, flowers dotted the grass. They were the size of a crumpled tissue, the color of a kleenex soaked in blood.

A friend of ours preceded us to the highlands of Galilee. He was not a day-tripper but on the assignment of his life. Jesus of Nazareth served and prayed, healed and obeyed up here. Jesus’ challenge was to make the insecure and vulnerable little people listening to him understand the concept of real security. Wise eyes that had seen two worlds looked around up here and lighted on the wildflowers in the grass of the field. What a color. Why, great Solomon, one of the wisest and richest king this tired globe has ever seen, couldn’t dress like these. That son of David with all his staggering wealth could not import or produce fabric such as the scarlet clothes these flowers wore.

What kind of a father delights to cover fragile creatures that cannot even labor at a spinning wheel? If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today but tomorrow is stepped on by a tired hiker or torn by a military vehicle, what will the King do for his children, adopted at the breathtaking price of the blood of the Christ?

Insecurity is a weed of our sinful nature. Worry is unworthy of the men, women, teens, and children walking through unsafe places with the Lord Jesus. All around others are worrying about protecting their borders, maintaining alliances, studying the enemy. Unfaith. Worry is to be left behind in the hills of Galilee.

Where does my help come from? I lift up my eyes to the hills—to a little blood-red bloom.

“If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:30).

Copyright ©
Living Hope Lutheran Church, Omaha, NE