Brian reminded me of this picture, taken in 2006. It was in 1996, however, ten years before, that I first laid eyes on this very special place, the gate of Laish, or Dan, in the far north of Israel, near the Lebanese border. Laish was an ancient Canaanite city more than 4,000 years ago, and Abraham, who was journeying south into the land where God had called him, took his first steps into that land as he walked through the gate I stand before.
Laish was renamed Dan when it was conquered and settled by that Hebrew tribe five hundred years after Abraham lived, after Joshua led Israel into the promised land. From the book of Judges 18:27-29–” they proceeded to Laish, a people tranquil and unsuspecting, and they put them to the sword and burned down the town. There was none to come to the rescue, for it was distant from Sidon… They rebuilt the town and settled there, and they named the town Dan, after their ancestor Dan who was Israel’s son. Originally, however, the name of the town was Laish .” The city flourished under the control of the Hebrew people, but in the two millenia since they were exiled from their land, it had slowly eroded and become a forgotten ruin.
The area of the ancient city now lies in a forest! We walked about fifteen minutes through woods looking much like Northwest Missouri, on a pleasant path, to come to the site of the ruins, which began to be excavated by archaeologists in the 1960s.
The wooden doorway behind me in the picture was put into place by archaeologists as support as they began to dig. The archway seen surrounding it is the gate through which Abraham would have walked, coming into the land–note the crumbling clay bricks. When I first saw that gate, I was suddenly struck with the humanity of Abraham. He was a real person, and was obeying the voice he heard deep in his spirit. He might have been nervous and scared and questioning himself, but he was obeying nonetheless! And I was filled with the knowledge that if Abraham could obey God and go where he’d never gone before, I could do the same.
At that time, we were facing an impossible challenge. We were struggling to learn and believe that with God all things are possible. For me, this was a holy moment of spiritual breakthrough. A calm came over me, a peace, the one that “passes understanding” because it certainly wasn’t rooted in logic! And in the next few months we watched as God came through and accomplished the impossible.
That visit to the Holy Land was life-changing and God-ordained. It would have been impossible and unthinkable for us even to go at that time, but our Father even arranged the going! And Brian had his own breakthrough moment late one night all alone on the Sabbath in Jerusalem.
Abraham’s journey is our journey, the journey of everyone who answers the whisper of the spirit of God. Walking by faith! Doing what we never thought could be done. Becoming what we have only dreamed of!
In the last two days I have talked with two different people who were distraught and struggling, dealing with circumstances they thought were too big for them. “I’ve lost my faith!” both of them, independently, told me.
“No, you haven’t!” I said. “You’re just now getting it!” They had both found themselves in new places, faced with situations they had never encountered. And the truth was that they had never had to have faith in this particular arena, because they hadn’t been there yet. They were fighting for their faith, fighting the good fight of faith, and I’m confident they’ll both work through those situations and come through better than ever. I love the promise in Philippians 1:6–“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it!”
I thank God all the time that even though I’m not exactly where I want to be, I’m sure a lot better than I used to be! Making progress on the journey. It’s a wonderful life.