The greatest storyteller and location choice
So here’s the thing.
What’s the big deal with Israel? Why do so many people make such a fuss about it? Why is it so special to both the Jews and the Christians? Why does the place called Israel have so much significance for God? And why - as the book of Revelation suggests - does it play a central role in the winding up of... basically everything.
Some of the answers are obvious, but I want to point out one that you might not have thought of. And it might be a rather important reason - perhaps even the reason behind all the other reasons?
So here’s the thing.
Imagine for the moment that you are God. You have just finished speaking the entire cosmos into being, including planet Earth, and you have placed humans on Earth, made in your own image. Which bit of the Earth are you going to choose to use as the hub for your events and stories? You can choose absolutely anywhere you like. You are God after all! Will it be New Zealand? Or Kenya? India? Vietnam? They are all pretty nice, all rather special in their own way. Why did you choose Israel? Because that is what God clearly has done.
Theologians have a standard answer to this - because Israel is placed at the intersection of a number of ancient trade routes, so it was very easy for the message of both the Jews and the early Christians to spread to other places. And I’m sure that is at least part of the reason.
But let’s go back to God choosing anywhere He likes. The key word being 'likes'. What if God liked Israel? Just for what it is? What is so unique about Israel? Well ... a few things actually!
The Dead Sea for a start. Weird and wonderful all at once. A kind of ‘otherwordly’ place. The lowest land on the entire planet. Salt flats. Salt lake. 400m below sea level. Dry atmosphere. Water that is so dense with salts it is impossible to sink into. Wonderful!
Tides are another! Israel borders both the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Both of these are actually part of the sea - the Mediterranean joining onto the North Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea onto the Indian Ocean. Salt water. Oceans. But because they are so far ‘in’ there is virtually no tide at all - at either Eilat in the south of Israel or Tel Aviv on the western coast. All the benefit of being on an ocean, but no tides to speak of. Just a few inches. Park your chair at the water’s edge. Go for swim. Come back. You are still at the water’s edge. Brilliant!
The green line. Look at Israel on a satellite image and you will see the green line. The western side of Israel gets rainfall as the weather comes in from the Mediterranean and drops its rain over the rising land. Then - exhausted of rain - the wind carries on over the desert. The green line follows the top of the ridge line. Jerusalem is perched on the eastern edge of the green line. Jericho is in the desert part. Lush growing conditions on one side. Desert on the other. Fantastic!
Cloudless skies. Around four months of absolutely cloudless skies. Predictable. Beautiful!
Did we mention abundant limestone? For carving and making the most elegant buildings. Limestone in a variety of colours? White. Pink. Yellow. Tawny. Setting off the clear blue skies perfectly. Stunning!
The Sea of Galilee - not a sea really at all, but rather the lowest freshwater lake on Earth. Fed by springs and also the Jordan River it is around 210 metres below sea level. Beautiful drinking water. Great fishing. Wonderful!
Olive groves where the trees are over 2000 years old and still bearing fruit! True! An amazing climate - this strange combination of enough rain, and also hot and dry.
Did we mention date palms? Also ideal land for goat and sheep farming. And vineyards? And citrus? And on and on.
Simply put, I wonder if - as God was planning the creation of the Earth and considering on which part to centre His story, that some of these unique, beautiful features that make Israel so amazing played a part?
He is a being that loves beauty - just look at the night sky!
And He imagined, and then spoke into being all of this.
I wonder ...