I went to Israel and fell into the Bible. Literally.
As a Christian journalist, I had been in the biblical country for only a couple of days. Along with my small tour group, we'd dined with theatrical royalty in Tel Aviv, sat in a somewhat secretive meeting with a female officer of the IDF, and had toured Sepphoris (Tzipori), an important ancient town located near Nazareth.
But it was not until we came to the ruins of Hazor that I truly knew I had arrived in the "land of the Bible." Quite honestly, that discovery came with a slip of my foot and a fall toward the word of God.
The name Hazor means "fortified" or "enclosed." And so it must have been. This was a city whose walls held one of the most important places in ancient Israel during the time of Joshua and the conquering Israelite army.
Its ruler, King Jabin, had heard the news of Joshua's army and the vast success they'd had at conquering the land in the central and southern campaigns. He figured that if the army had turned north - and surely they had - then his beloved city would be next.
Jabin organized a vast army of northern kings. In spite of reports of what had occurred in Jericho, surely, he must have thought, the army made of old Hebrew slaves' children couldn't take them all.
But, according to Joshua 11, because of God's empowerment within Joshua and his army, the northern area of Canaan fell. Successful, Joshua turned back to Hazor, and did something there he did not do anywhere else.
In Joshua 11: 11-13 we read: "The Israelites completely destroyed every living thing in the city. Not a single person was spared. And then Joshua burned the city. Joshua slaughtered all the other kings and their people, completely destroying them, just as Moses, the servant of the LORD, had commanded. However, Joshua did not burn any of the cities built on mounds except Hazor." (NLT)
Eventually the city was rebuilt by the Canaanites and again ruled by another king named Jabin. For 20 years, Jabin's commander of the army, Sisera, oppressed the people of Israel. In Judges 4, we find the victorious account of the prophetess Deborah and a soldier named Barak that ended with Israel reclaiming the city of Hazor.
Many years later, King Solomon equipped the city as a defense center against Syria and Assyria. Again years passed, and in 732 BC an Assyrian king, Tiglath-pileser III, overtook it just before the period known as The Exile.
In the Middle East, as civilizations rose and fell, successive settlements were literally built one on top of the other. These mounds, which today roll across the landscape of the Holy Land like gentle waves, are known as "tells."
As modern-day excavators went into northern Israel to dig, the ruins of Hazor were eventually discovered (1926) and have since been confirmed. The tell is 200 acres, the largest in Israel.
Hussein El-Heib, Director of the Hazor National Park and our guide at Hazor, stood tall, dressed in jeans and a cotton shirt. Atop his head rested a cowboy's hat. He was tanned and weathered, his English broken, and his passion for the land he stands over obvious.
As he spoke to us in Hebrew, extending his arms to the upper city of what was once the great city of Hazor, we were captivated by all he had to say (interpreted by our tour guide, Miriam).
It seemed that even Mount Hermon, which rose in the distance, was paying attention to this man who loved both the God of Israel and the legacy He had left as a testament to His greatness.
Mr. El-Heib then took us into the lower city. Like inexperienced rock climbers, we literally had to climb down, with each step moving further back in time, seeing the remains of first one civilization and then another.
Finally we reached what Mr. El-Heib had been so anxious to show us from the beginning. Pulling back a piece of blue tarp, he revealed a lower section of a stone wall.
"Look at the stones," he said. "Joshua's fire was of such intensity, when we discovered this layer of the city, we found the soot still clinging to the walls." He then told us to lean over a short bolder and touch the wall, to feel the soot on our fingertips.
As we leaned forward, Mr. El-Heib's thick brogue rang perfectly clear: "Touch the Bible," he said with extreme reverence.
It was then that I "fell into the Bible"...and in love with God all over again. I was struck with a new realization that this was not only where it all happened, this was the land of testimony.
As Mr. El-Heib helped me to my feet, I leaned forward once more and touched the proof of God's power when man brings himself to submission to His will for our lives. I rubbed the ashes on a rock I'd picked up near my feet, and brought the rock home.
A Different Fire
As a Spirit-filled Christian, the Holy Spirit's fire dwells with me. A power...a force...a guiding light that encourages me, strengthens me, comforts me, and so much more. A fire, surely, that has left its mark on my life.
But, I wonder, if someone should find the "remains" of this body thousands of years from now, will the "soot" from the Holy Spirit still be there? Will the people say, "The Holy Spirit burned with such intensity in her life...look, the ashes still cling to the ruins"?
If this could happen, what would it take?
Joshua was able to conquer and destroy the work of the enemy because he trusted God. He yielded all fear, all worry, all logical concern and went forth in the mission that God had directed him to do.
Only when Joshua became devoid of the elements that were not of God, could he be filled with the elements that were of God...God's mighty Spirit, going before him, raising him up as more than a conqueror.
It's obvious from the Scriptures that before Joshua fought the northern kings of Israel he had gone to the Lord in prayer, to ask about the impending battle.
All these kings responded by mobilizing their warriors and uniting to fight against Israel. Their combined armies, along with a vast array of horses and chariots, covered the landscape like the sand on the seashore. They established their camp around the water near Merom to fight against Israel.
Then the LORD said to Joshua, "Do not be afraid of them. By this time tomorrow they will all be dead. Cripple their horses and burn their chariots." ~~Joshua 5:4-6 (NLT)
By spending time with God, Joshua had come to a place of recognizing His voice. By conferring with the Commander of the Army, Joshua was clear as to the battle plan God had laid out. Because Joshua had trusted Him in the past, he was able to trust Him again now. He hadn't heard the Scripture "perfect love expels all fear" (1 John 4:18 NLT) but he certainly understood it.
Where are Your Burn Marks?
Thousands of years from now, if the world is still turning and your "remains" are discovered as part of an ancient culture, what will the excavators and onlookers find there? The mark of the Holy Spirit or the oozing leftovers of fear, worry, and complacency?
Do you spend enough time with your Heavenly Father in prayer that you easily recognize His voice? Do you go to Him before you step out onto enemy territory? Have you trusted Him enough in the past that trusting Him today and in the future comes like second nature?
These are the marks of the Holy Spirit. These are the remains of a warrior.
And this is part of what I learned when I fell into the Bible.
Eva Marie Everson is the author of "Shadow of Dreams" & "Summon the Shadows" and an award-winning national speaker. She can be contacted at Bridegroomsbride@aol.com