As I write this, I am in Jerusalem. I have been invited to speak at the garden tomb on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It is an honor to be here.
That said, other than being captivated by places such as where Jesus prayed, talked and walked, where the temple was and where God met with His ancient people, I have yet to have an acute sense of God simply because I am in Israel. I have friends who claim God meets with them in a special manner every time they visit Israel. I have been in the Holy Land 30 times or more, but for some reason, so far I have never felt the presence of God in a special way there.
On the other hand, God has met me in Florida, Tennessee and London countless times. Furthermore, there are times when God sovereignly sets His anointing on special places—as in Toronto in recent years—that is, for those who were not cynical but came hungry for more of God.
There is a biblical basis for going to special places to meet God. Jacob was in a backslidden state when God told him to return to Bethel where He had appeared to Jacob before (Gen. 35:1). God said of the mercy seat, "I will meet with you there, and I will meet with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony. I will speak with you all that I will command you for the children of Israel" (Ex. 25:22). Then came the "tent of meeting" where the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend (see Ex. 33:11).
The Israelites were told to seek the place God would choose (Deut. 12:5). "I have chosen Jerusalem for My name to dwell there" (2 Chron. 6:6a). Jesus told His followers not to leave Jerusalem but stay there until the Holy Spirit came (Luke 24:49). He did (Acts 2:1-4).
But that was then.
Are the people who have had the privilege of coming to Israel invariably more spiritual as a result? I'm not so sure. Are those who get baptized in the Jordan River closer to God than if they were baptized back home? Surely not.
I would say the same thing about special places in America. In Enfield, Connecticut, Jonathan Edwards preached his famous sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." It shook New England. I have visited there four times, praying on my knees and asking God, "Please do it again." But I felt no witness that He would hear my prayer there any more than anywhere else. I have also been to the area known as Cane Ridge, near Lexington, Kentucky—where America's Second Great Awakening took place in 1801. I had hoped to sense God's special presence there, but I can't say I did.
I am glad for my trips to Israel, Enfield and Cane Ridge. I hope to keep going to these places. But my most special times with God have been in unexpected places at unexpected times, experiencing His showing up in an unexpected manner.
My point is, do not be discouraged if you do not get to go to special places to meet God. The woman of Samaria said to Jesus, "Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, but you all say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship" (John 4:20). Jesus declared, "Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. ... Yet the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. For the Father seeks such to worship Him" (John 4:21, 23). What matters is having both the Word and the Spirit.
And yet there are those who still believe the prayers that rise from Jerusalem are more likely to be answered than those prayed in other places. One well-known TV preacher from America knocked on the gate at the garden tomb, bringing thousands of prayer requests in boxes from California. He had promised his followers that he would take their requests there and pray for them inside the tomb. What a pity that there are those who encourage superstitions like this!
Strange as it may seem, the nearest I have come to a great sense of anointing in Israel was in Bethel. Ancient Bethel is now called Ramallah. I visited the late Yasser Arafat there five times, emphasizing that Jesus died on the cross for his sins, contrary to Islamic belief. I always prayed with him, anointing him with oil and asking God to sprinkle him with the blood of Jesus. I can't say for sure, but I expect to see Arafat in heaven.
Go to all the places mentioned above if you can. In the meantime, make your own prayer closet the most holy place. Your place of quiet time becomes the mercy seat where Christ's blood is sprinkled by the Holy Spirit. I leave you with the words of Hugh Stowell (1799-1865):
"From ev'ry stormy wind that blows; from ev'ry swelling tide of woes,
There is a calm, a sure retreat; 'tis found beneath the mercy seat."
R.T. Kendall is an author, teacher and preacher. He now has a number of books in print, including the latest, Whatever Happened to the Gospel? (Charisma House). He was the senior minister at London's Westminster Chapel from 1977 to 2002. He has earned multiple degrees, including a Doctor of Philosophy from Oxford University and a Doctor of Divinity from Trevecca Nazarene University.
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