Across the wind and waves of the morning a flute plays, dancing notes flying to the sky. Music floats from Herod’s harbour in Caesarea Maritima to the uttermost parts of the world, like the mission and message of God that once left there on sailing ships with Peter and Paul.
What a contrast to what we’d hear a few hours later, on Mount Carmel where Elijah had his showdown with the prophets of Baal. Baal, god of lightening who couldn’t muster up a spark. Elijah’s showdown ended with the terrified prophets’ loud chant, “Jehovah is God!” as Jehovah shot fire from the sky and consumed Elijah’s soaking offering.
Loud cries didn’t save the false prophets, and the valley of Armageddon below witnessed their end. The intersection of nations, it has always been a valley soaked with blood. Afterwards, Elijah, overwhelmed, ran away to meet God in the sound of silence.
We responded with five minutes of silence. Silence that was shattered by the fiery sound of fighter jets flying overhead.
This is Israel. And Iran via Syria is making its neighbouring presence felt. Israel makes sure they return the greeting. We, as guests, listen to their mighty dialogue, spoken in a different language. The language of supersonic booms, of missiles and national news. We understand some but not all of it.
And so we pray. Like Elijah, our prayers do not fall on deaf ears. We speak to a God who hears and responds!
Our day closed in the north of Israel. Overlooking the Sea of Galilee and the city of Tiberius from above, we stood among tall grasses, shimmering trees and narrow paths. We heard the story of Queen Bernice who listened to the good news, but her life was too full to receive it. Her palace below, crumbled and empty, whispers that not everything we hold dear will last.
As the wind blew over the hills, once again the flute played: “Sheep may safely graze,” from Psalm 23, the most famous of David’s songs. It reminded us that among these hills, Jesus, the Son of David played, taught, sang, ate fish, wept, made friends, prayed. The hills he formed as Creator shaped the colours and sounds of his human soul. A soul marked by amazing grace, compassion and love.
So we sang “Amazing Grace” and settled into our hotel on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, where some had a quick sunset dip before dinner. Overnight, missiles flew and jets boomed, but in the morning, the birds sang in the dawn, and the sun came up again.