This past May, about a month ago, I had the amazing opportunity to travel with my master’s program at Judson to the Holy Land in Israel. I had no idea of what to expect when getting to see all of these places where biblical events happened, but wow, I learned SO much. I could go on and on about all that I saw and learned and how it gave me so much context for what we read in the Bible, but a few specific places stuck out to me.
One place that struck me was Ein Gedi. This is where David hid out from Saul in a cave in 1 Samuel 24. David took refuge in the back with his men while Saul meanwhile goes into this cave, not knowing that David nearby. David chose not to kill Saul, even though he could have to become king sooner, but David knew he was not to take Saul’s life and his own path to kingship into his own hands. Still, David cuts off a corner of Saul’s robe to show that he spared Saul’s life.
When we arrived at Ein Gedi, I did not expect this area to look like it did. This area sits right on the western shore of the Dead Sea in the Judean desert, but it is not flat land. It actually reminded me a lot of the Grand Canyon. We started hiking and were walking through a canyon with a river of clear water running through and giant cliffs to the side of us. Right near the water there were green trees, bamboo plants, and even occasionally wild animals such as ibexes, and all around us were rocks. It was absolutely gorgeous. After about half an hour of walking alongside this river and climbing up and down large rocks, we came around a corner and saw a waterfall coming from the top of the rocks. I have to say, when I pictured the story of David hiding from Saul, I expected a mini cave in the side of a mountain, similar to the area of Qumran just north of Ein Gedi. I did not expect to see canyons and a waterfall! That waterfall was refreshing to stand by after a 30-minute hike in 100-degree heat, so I am sure it was also refreshing to David. Walking through this area, I was just amazed at how beautiful the land is that God chose to send his people to.
Psalm 18:1-2 says, “I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold”
Sometimes we read scripture and ask, why would the author describe God in this way? God has many attributes and we see them differently throughout our life. David had a complicated life full of joys and hardships, but through it all we see how he trusted God continually. This Psalm was supposedly written by David after an instance where God delivered him from Saul, most likely after he was at Ein Gedi. The rocks at Ein Gedi are large, strong, and unmoving, able to protect those who hide in it. God was protecting David from Saul here, and David saw the connection of the attributes of God to his creation. And 3,000 years later as I walked through this area, I was reminded of who God was as protector, provider, sustainer, creator, and more just knowing the history and looking at creation.
As I stared out at the landscape, I started to understand how David was inspired by nature to write Psalms. He understood what it meant to be sustained by God as he was on the run for his life in the wilderness. There he continued to learn how to trust God completely for when he would become king over Israel. Elisha experienced trusting God in this same wilderness just a bit west of Ein Gedi, and Jesus was tempted out in this desert/wilderness nearby as well. There is value in learning to rely on God in seasons of wilderness, whether that is metaphorical or in David’s case, literal because in those seasons, we see the goodness of God who loves us enough to sustain and grow us to go and be his disciples.