By Pastor Paul Hauschild
Chatfield and Root Prairie
In May 2018 I went hiking in Israel with a dear friend of mine. I’ve led a couple of group tours there with church groups (and will again in April 2024), but this time I wanted something unique. The main part of the hike was on the “The Jesus Trail,” a 40-mile hike from Nazareth (the hometown of Jesus) to Capernaum (on the Sea of Galilee). We experienced some very hot afternoons and lost our way a couple of times, but eventually made it after four days.
One of the most memorable days was hiking through Arbel National Park. Standing atop Mt. Arbel, one can see breathtaking views of the Sea of Galilee and the Golan Heights. But with every mountain top view, comes a difficult hike downward!
Just off the trail, climbing down the cliff face, there are numerous caves to explore, with some being impossible to get to. These caves have been inhabited by different groups of people throughout history. They were known to be a safe haven for many. The most dramatic story of these caves happened in the first century when Herod the Great (of Rome) tried to eradicate Hasmonean Jewish rebels hiding in the caves. It would have been incredibly difficult for any army to manage their way to most of the caves due to the vertical sharpness of the climb.
Herod went after the rebels by lowering down his soldiers in large baskets on ropes, who would then pull out the rebels from their hiding place, causing them to fall to their deaths. They also set fires to caves, causing many to jump out to their demise. Those caves seemed so secure and difficult to breach, but evil Herod was successful.
Evil can seem so powerful in our world. It makes us wonder if there is any place safe and secure for us in this dark world. Yet, I think of the hymn “Rock of Ages:”
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save me from its guilt and power.
Isaiah 26:4 – “Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord Himself, is the Rock eternal.” Whether it be the evil of our sin and guilt that attack us, or the evils of this world, we know that God, through Jesus, is a Rock that never fails. We are truly safe from the wiles of the devil as we trust in the Lord and find our home in his strength. Romans 8 talks about NOTHING being able to separate us for the love of God. The blood of Jesus on the cross daily saves us and renews us. God will never let us fall when our hope and faith is in him. Seeking first his kingdom and righteousness allows us to experience his power.
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear…” (Psalm 46:1-2).