Although I have never traveled there myself, several close friends have recounted their own journeys to Israel in recent years. One comment seems to echo through each word of testimony:
“To set foot on that ground, to experience the climate, to see the mountainside or the Sea of Galilee or the Jordan River or the gardens with my own eyes, has given me a completely different appreciation for Biblical accounts of that place! The stories of people who lived before me, of the very paths where the LORD JESUS walked, where He met individuals face to face, where He prayed to the Father, where He accomplished the work of redemption for us – they have come alive as never before!“
I don’t know if I will ever have the chance to visit the “land of the Bible” in person, but in his new book, The Basic Bible Atlas: A Fascinating Guide to the Land of the Bible, John A. Beck has given me an extensive tour! He tells GOD’s beautiful story, uniquely weaving facts and figures, maps, and sketches with a broad-sweeping look at the whole Biblical narrative, from Genesis to Revelation.
It is truly awe-inspiring to recognize the hand of GOD orchestrating the details of His story through time, specifically using the details of a given location to accomplish His greater purposes. For example, John points out that the promised land was a place that fostered faith because of its difficult terrain and weather patterns, and that the LORD’s chosen nation was positioned geographically to share the truth of the one true GOD with the rest of the world because Canaan was a transportation hub between three continents, through which other nations would travel.
The Basic Bible Atlas gives us a fresh approach to looking at the Bible story in broader strokes, yet pauses in specific places to zero in on important details we may not have noticed or considered. John offers a topographically and geographically accurate framework in which we can better understand movement within GOD’s plans – for a given time and people and place, but also within His story that stretches from eternity past to our promised Home with Him in a new heaven and new earth.
It was especially interesting for me to see traces of the paradise the LORD created in the Garden of Eden woven through the Biblical narrative to the Home He is preparing for us – where the tree of life will bear twelve crops of fruit and its leaves will heal the nations! (Revelation 22:1-3) John also suggests that we see glimpses of a longing for that eternal reality in our hearts today:
“…the feeling of wonder we have when we climb toward a mountain saddle and meet the panoramic view slowly opening before our eyes … the feeling of peace that envelopes us when sitting on a beach and watching the sun set in a burst of colors … the contentment we feel while working in our garden or cuddling with our companion animal … This is not the reality of day-to-day living, but in those moments, we recall the possibility of knowing a perfect place. We, like the heroes of faith, long for “a better country – a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:16).” (page 41)
A broader perspective gives us a different appreciation for GOD’s eternal plan. This view grabs what might feel like loose threads and weaves them together in a way that comforts and reassures our hearts to know that the LORD’s plan is good and right and mind-bogglingly beautiful. It is precious to be reminded that the Home He is preparing for us will be no different. We can trust His heart and His power to bring His story (for us!) to a glorious conclusion.
The specifics along the way reassure us too. They help us to see that every specific detail is important to GOD. Nothing is missed. Nothing is by accident. It all matters. For each and every one of His chosen people. It causes me to stop and think: where has He purposely placed me, geographically or topographically? Under what conditions (relationally, professionally, or even meteorologically) has He called me to live and grow and serve Him? How might He be using every detail of my life to further His eternal plans?
I started reading John’s book, The Basic Bible Atlas, thinking of the land of the Bible as a geographical place in the middle East where I might never set foot in my lifetime. I expected an “atlas” to be a rather dry volume of maps and “encyclopedic” details. Instead, I discovered a fascinating and engaging story! At the conclusion of John’s guided tour of the land of the Bible, I am blessed to hold a few things:
* a richer and fuller understanding of the Biblical accounts of history,
* a deeper appreciation for the heart of GOD, sovereignly planning and orchestrating every movement, and
* a clearer perspective of my own time and place in His story, an eternity that includes today!
The Basic Bible Atlas: A Fascinating Guide to the Land of the Bible, written by John A. Beck, is published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group.
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