A friend sent me this scripture this morning John 4:23-24. It comes at the end of the passage where the Samaritan woman meets Jesus (the Living Water) at Jacob’s Well and he asks her for a drink of water.
When I received the scripture this morning, I was immediately transported back in my mind to my first visit to Jerusalem in September/October 2000.
I had been standing at a high place overlooking the Wailing Wall (place of worship for the Jews) and the Dome of the Rock (place of worship for the Muslims) at the time the Holy Spirit put this scripture into my mind (John 4:19-24) : 19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
We had arrived in Israel/Palestine on 28th September 2000 and were staying in a Christian Arab-run hotel in Bethlehem. The following day, 29th September 2000 (St Michael and All Angels Day) war broke out on the streets where we were staying – an Intifada had started following Ariel Sharon visiting the Temple Mount, a highly sacred area to both Jews and Muslims, also known as Al-Haram Al-Sharif. On Friday September 29th, a day of prayers, an Israeli police and military presence was introduced and there were major clashes and deaths.
It was a very sad and emotional time for me. I had gone for an 8 day tour of Israel and Palestine, starting in Bethlehem (the place of Christ’s birth) and it had become a place of death. I had no fear as I knew, from events leading up to the tour, that God definitely wanted me to be there at that time. I believed God wanted me there to observe what was happening and to pray for both sides in the conflict. I believe that is a privilege we have as Christians, to be able to pray to the Prince of Peace for those in conflict.
We had a reading list for the tour and the one book that was really highlighted to me was a book by Garth Hewitt called Pilgrims and Peacemakers. (It is interesting to note that in 2001 I went on a tour with the same tour leader to Israel/Palestine and on that occasion some of the members of our party were Christians and some were members of a Peace Movement. Also interesting to note that the “not-yet Christian” peace movement members had more guts than us Christians, in that they actively walked into trouble spots in order to attempt to bring peace).
Another reason for our being in Israel at the time of the Second Intifada was, I believe, to worship in that place of conflict. We had a singer/songwriter with us on the tour called Sue Rinaldi and we had a list of songs that we were to sing.
I am reminded of a scripture God gave me when I got my second Peugeot 205 Cabriolet car in March 2000, it is Psalm 42:8 “By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life”. In that dark time in Israel/Palestine in September/October 2000, our worship brought a lightness to that heavy spiritual atmosphere.
There was a very important song that God had given me that year. Chris Bowater had introduced it in my church in Lincoln. I called it my “travelling song”, as we seemed to sing it wherever I went in the year 2000. That song was Jesus Be The Centre and it was on our song list for the tour to Israel/Palestine.
I was very keen to sing “Jesus be the Centre” in Israel in 2000, but I wanted to leave it to the Holy Spirit to choose when we would sing it, rather than to request it. I was delighted when we eventually came to sing it on the Mount of Beatitudes and it will forever now be linked in my mind with Matthew 5:1-12.
I should like to come back now to Jesus being the Living Water. In Jeremiah 2:13 God says “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water”. A prophecy was given in Church a few weeks ago based on that scripture, saying that we needed to return to drink from the Living Water, to stop dabbling in unclean things and return to the purity of Jesus. There is more on this theme in Peter Horrobin’s Blog.
One final thought – this is a photograph I took as I was waiting to board the plane with the God TV Tour to Israel in 2005 – J for Jesus, Psalm 133 is the Psalm of Unity and Psalm 150 the Psalm for Let Everything that Has Breath Praise the Lord.
ENJOY YOUR FLIGHT