Pain amidst blessing

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Ruins on Mount Gerizim ca. 1880 (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Yesterday afternoon (Thursday, April 26, 2018) I stood with 28 Australian Christians on the Biblical Mountain of Blessing, Mount Gerizim, way up in northern Samaria.

The valleys and hills spread out from nearly 900 meters below us were dappled with light as grey clouds heavy with rain and hail charted their course southwards.

Rain, so late in April! In this land which has suffered five consecutive years of damaging drought, its arrival the day before was as welcome as it was unexpected. Thunder rumbled overhead, and some of us stretched our hands out over the valley of Shechem where God appeared to Abram 4000 years before and assured him, “To your descendants I will give this land” (Genesis 12:7)

Reading from Deuteronomy, the group leader recited the words spoken by the Children of Israel right there as, under Joshua’s command, they proclaimed blessings that lay ahead for Israel.

“The Lord will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand…” (Deut. 28:12)

As we headed back through the inheritances of Ephraim and Benjamin towards Jerusalem, the rain bucketed down on our bus and poured across the roads, drenching the olive groves and vineyards on the terraced mountains around Shechem, Shiloh, Bethel and Ai.

Most of the land was experiencing the rain, and multitudes were doubtless rejoicing at the evidence of God’s goodness and mercy.

Laughter, however, would suddenly give way to tears. Unbeknown to us, a terrible tragedy was unfolding down south. A flash flood racing through a wadi near Eilat smashed into a group of young Israeli hikers, sweeping nine girls and a boy to their deaths.

Israel, today, will be numb – the entire nation struck by the pain so suddenly inflicted upon these families.

“The State of Israel,” wrote Prime Minister Netanyahu, “mourns the promising young lives that were cut short by this tragedy in the Arava.”

All who love Israel, and who are thankful for the rains that will help renew life in this land, will also weep with the nation, and pray for the families and friends so suddenly bereaved.

Lord, comfort them.

This article originally appeared on Jerusalem Watchman, April 27, 2018, and reposted with permission.

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Stan has lived in Israel for half of his life even though he was born to a Gentile couple serving on the mission field in the small kingdom of Swaziland. Following three years volunteering on Israeli collective farms in the 1980s, he worked as a political reporter for the South African newspaper, The Daily Dispatch – where his pen had its training during apartheid’s waning years. He has traveled to various nations, speaking to Christians about developments in Israel. In 2011 he was accredited by the Israel Ministry of Tourism as a tour guide, and takes individuals, small groups, families, busloads and helicopter-loads of Christians around God’s Land.