Pilgrimage: a journey or search of moral or spiritual significance.

In 1977, just one year after the infamous hijacking of Air France flight 139 from Tel Aviv to Paris, I started my two week pilgrimage to Israel aboard an El Al flight from D.C. to Tel Aviv. I stayed with friends in Herzliya and Jerusalem while I explored places of biblical and historical significance. Every part of the country was under perpetual high alert for terrorist attacks but, for some reason, I felt safe.

Israel has always had perilous hotspots. In Jesus’ day one of them was the road going up from Jericho to Jerusalem (parable of the Good Samaritan). In the days of the Temple, all roads going up to Jerusalem had certain dangers. When faithful Jews made pilgrimages through the mountains surrounding Jerusalem for the three required festivals, they would sing the 15 songs of Ascents or Pilgrimage found in Psalms 120 – 135. Jesus would have sung these songs every year as his family traveled from Nazareth to worship in the holy city.

Psalm 121 (CSB) reminded pilgrims that the LORD was their Protector whatever route they took.

I lift my eyes toward the mountains.
Where will my help come from?

My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to slip;
your Protector will not slumber.

Indeed, the Protector of Israel
does not slumber or sleep.

The LORD protects you;
the LORD is a shelter right by your side.

The sun will not strike you by day
or the moon by night.

The LORD will protect you from all harm;
he will protect your life.

The LORD will protect your coming and going
both now and forever.

It seems to me the second verse is key when engaging in unfamiliar or dangerous travel.

My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He’s made heaven and earth…if he’s the one who leads me, there’s no place he isn’t sovereign. Furthermore, my ultimate destiny is already settled when I’m trusting him.

For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. (Hebrews 13:14 ESV)

Take a look at the first two minutes of this video showing the road from Jericho to Jerusalem that Jesus walked just prior to his crucifixion on his way to the festival of Passover. Then, envision an unfamiliar place you believe God wants you to visit – or a spiritual destiny where he is leading you. Read Psalm 121 above and trust the LORD to protect you as you travel.