It occurs to me, as I travel on this plane from Nashville to Newark en route to Tel-Aviv, that this Bible Lands tour will be full of ruins. Ironically, the sights I’ve been reading about, spending lots of money to see, and envisioning in my imagination, for these months, can aptly be described by the miserably unfortunate word ruins, the root of which word is what we hope does not happen: to our party or the weather or a good day. We’re always sad when something gets ruined.
But that’s just what happened to the civilization called Beersheba that we’ll be visiting in a few hours. Once it was the well-watered plain where Abraham planted a Tamarisk tree (Genesis 21), and offered Abimelech seven ewe lambs with an oath or covenant (Genesis 21). It was the place where Jacob offered sacrifices on his way to Egypt (Genesis 46) and the site of the judgment of the wicked sons of Samuel (I Samuel 8). It held peace, security and promise to the patriarchs and justice and judgment to last of the judges. Whatever it was, it was teeming with life and vegetation and war and reckoning. It was the southernmost border of Judah and the general nomenclature for the south of Israel itself in those texts where Scripture reads “from Dan to Beersheba.”
I’m bursting with excitement to get to see this plain on Tuesday. The fact that anything of the Old Testament Beersheba has long decayed into a state beyond recognition does not make me less interested in seeing it. I think I’ll love it when I get to sit down under the same species of tree that Abraham planted and beside a well that’s in the same vicinity as the well contested by Abimelech. This is true because, in my imagination, I can paint a picture of those patriarchs—nomads in that same plain under the same sun that will shine down on me.
Imagination is what we will rely on, in many instances, as we travel the Bible lands, because what’s real today is just a reminder—a ruin of what once was.
Have you ever thought about the fact that imagination is what we use to view heaven? We can’t see it, as it is, but we can listen to the words of the Bible—mostly about what’s not there (Revelation 21)—and we can imagine how it will be. That’s kind of what I’ve been doing for the past months about the Bible lands. I’ve read passages and I’ve thought about what it must look like. Now I will see.
One day I will see what I’ve only imagined in this lifetime. I will see heaven; the place where the patriarchs are living right now. Only this time, there will be no ruins. Everything will be pristine and new and current—forever and ever. In fact, I will sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in this place where nothing is ever old or ruined or obsolete. There are no ruins in heaven. It’s the sphere of the incorruptible (I Peter1:3,4).
I know I’m going to love Beersheba. But this land—literally “well of the sevenfold oath”—will not hold a candle to that other well-watered plain to which I journey…the plain in which I’ll never visit a single ruin.