It’s often said that in order for us to have empathy for our fellow human, we need to place ourselves in someone else’s shoes. Well, I did this and more recently, and found someone else’s life come to life for me.
I took this picture recently as I traveled throughout Israel. The place is called the Shepherd’s Field in Bethlehem. It is understood that this is where King David used to feed his father’s flock when he was growing up.
There’s a fascinating limestone cave further back from where I took the picture where it is believed the shepherds that the angel visited in Luke 2 hung out as they kept “watch over their flock by night.” The ceiling of the cave was black from fires they would build inside to keep warm. I faintly had a thought of Bigfoot presence in Israel, since limestone caves litter the land. Nevertheless, there’s not adequate tree cover or food sources to accommodate Skookum, and I’m getting sidetracked here.
Ok. David. King David. King of Israel. His shoes are whose I placed myself in and was amazed. Although, I think he may have worn sandals… You get the point. As I stood there looking down at the valley lush with grass for sheep to feed on and gazed upward toward the hills, I was amazed by the overall scene and couldn’t help but to attempt to see the world as David may have seen it when he stood there too.
Then I got to thinking about his life. From shepherd boy, to wandering warrior, to King of Israel perched upon Mt. Zion in the King’s City, Jerusalem, David saw the vast landscape of the country as I got to see as well. I trounced through valleys, hills, cliffs, and mountains, viewing sites that held history of battles, encounters with the living God, and day-to-day actual life of peoples who lived thousands of years before little ole’ me.
Next, my mind journeyed back to a Psalm I read as I waited in the airport in Dallas, Texas to come to Israel. Baylor University puts out publication every month or so that I’m subscribed to called Christian Reflection: A Series in Faith and Ethics. I read their most recent one in the airport entitled “Traveling Well.” In it, I learned that there are Psalms called Pilgrim Songs, of which Psalm 121 stood out to me then and again as I stood in David’s sandals on the Shepherd’s Field.
“I lift up my eyes to the hills-
from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-2
Although David may not have written this Psalm, and it is called a soldier’s psalm by some and a traveller’s psalm by others, I was transformed by the thought that this Psalm speaks of a reality, an experience, that may have consumed the consciousness of the Israelite people who lived in this land for centuries upon centuries. Psalm 121:1 became a customary song to sing as pilgrims viewed the mountains of the holy city, Jerusalem, during the last night watch as they approached God’s temple to worship and make an offering.
But David. David’s mind is where my mind was at that time and space I found myself in. David must have looked to the hills as “a lion or a bear” (1 Samuel 17) came to devour a lamb from his flock when he was a boy, yet God saved him from their paws. David saw hills upon hills as he spent his life fighting and driving out other peoples to possess the land that God was giving to Israel as an inheritance, yet God was his prized possession. Lastly, David peered from Jerusalem the vast landscape of hills and mountains, which God allowed him to see and to serve as a burned image upon his heart, mind, and psyche that grew into an ever deepening trust in God’s work in and through David’s life, and not in David’s own accomplishments.
Being back in the “States,” I now wonder what can serve as a marker for God’s presence in my life. Sadly, I thought perhaps “I lift my eyes up from my computer screen or electronic device…” Notwithstanding, I have been transformed by allowing David’s life come to life for me. I am encouraged to open my eyes to what God has done, is doing, and will do in my life as I live on the earth that God made as well as the heaven that is breaking into the earth as God’s reign is recognized and submitted to by me.
What about you? What marker would you name as the thing that represents God’s presence and power to save or help you? Are your eyes open to what God desires to show you of what He has created and is making new for your life and the life of others? May our help come from the Lord as we acknowledge together we need help that is beyond our immediate local context and beyond ourselves.
Until next time, LIVE ON!