All glory and praise be to the Lord for a blessed and fruitful pilgrimage to the Holy Land conducted by FEBC from 18-30 November 2018. There was a total of 40 pilgrims from 12 different churches and we enjoyed good fellowship.
A week before the pilgrimage, I heard of news concerning missile strikes on Israel from Gaza. I even saw video footages of how these rockets were being intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system. But true to His word, the Lord preserved Israel according to His promise to her.
When we arrived there, it was peaceful and we were kept safe throughout our stay in the Holy Land. It was pertinent that before departing Changi Airport, Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Khoo, our trip leader, read a portion of Scripture from Psalm 121 to remind us that the Lord is watching over us because “he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” (v 4).
We were blessed with a knowledgeable Jewish guide – Leslie, whom the late Rev. Timothy Tow described as a “walking encyclopaedia”. Leslie lived up to his name and many testified of how his explanations on the cultural and historical background of the places we visited helped to make the Bible “come alive”. However, Rev. Khoo reminded us that it is not the land which makes the Bible to come alive, but the Bible which makes the land come alive! Rev. Khoo also elaborated on the theological significance of these places during our daily morning and evening devotions.
As we walked the paths which our Lord Jesus Christ and His disciples had trod, we were able to better appreciate the different kinds of terrain which they had experienced as they went about ministering to the poor and sick, and preaching the gospel. They certainly did not enjoy the comfort of padded track shoes nor a coach to ferry them from place to place. Yet we do not read of any murmuring or complaining in the gospels, but hear the echo of Christ who proclaimed that “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (Jn 4: 34).
Very often it is said that the specific locations of biblical events are based on tradition and cannot be fully confirmed. For example, there were two sites which were believed to have been Jesus’ burial tomb – the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Garden Tomb. Whereas the former can be ruled out due to Scripture references, the latter site cannot be indisputably verified either.
Nevertheless, what we know for certain is that our faith is not based on archaeological excavations and artefacts, but on the very Word of God. Moreover, it is evident that God’s Word has proven true because the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum on which Christ pronounced a curse in Matthew 11: 21-24 have remained in ruins ever since. Indeed, God’s Word will never fail: “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matt 5: 18).
However, it was sad to see many religious devotees going on their pilgrimages to venerate the relics of dead saints and to get their rosaries or other personal belongings “blessed”. Their belief that the “power” from these objects can be “transferred” to them arise from a misinterpretation of two passages of Scripture – Matthew 9: 20-22 (the healing of the woman with an issue of blood when she touched the hem of Jesus’ garment), and Acts 19: 11-12 (the healing of the sick and demon-possessed with handkerchiefs and aprons from the body of the apostle Paul). These miracles served to authenticate Jesus Christ as the Son of God and give credence to the apostle’s ministry. They were not meant to promote superstitious practices as these specific kinds of miracles have ceased (I Cor 13: 8).
As Christians, we are grateful to God for our salvation so rich and free. Our salvation in Christ is not based on our works, but comes wholly by the grace and mercies of God: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour” (Tit 3: 5-6).
I thank God for giving me the opportunity of visiting the Holy Land. May the blessed memories of the pilgrimage draw me closer to the Lord. Amen.
– Bro Kelvin Li