Victory in the Garden: A Holy Land Experience

The Garden of Gethsemane

A couple of years ago, in January 2020, God blessed David and me to travel and visit the Holy Land with a tour group.  Six of us from Alabama joined a larger group of people from different parts of the country for a 10-day trip.

We visited several well-known Biblical sites such as the Upper Room and the Western Wall in Jerusalem, and Bethlehem which is the birthplace of Jesus. We also visited the Garden of Gethsemane, the Sea of Galilee, the Judean Wilderness, the Dead Sea, Jericho, Caesarea Philippi, Capernaum, Nazareth, Jericho, and other places in the Holy Land. Bible stories came alive as we saw and experienced those places. For example, when we were driving across the Judean Wilderness, I saw mountains with huge rocks and caves. In the Old Testament, David spent many years hiding in the caves in the wilderness to protect himself from his enemies (I Samuel 22-23). When I saw the huge rocks and mountains in the Judean wilderness, I remember the verse that David wrote in the book of Psalms:

“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18:2)

While touring the area around the Sea of Galilee, I remembered the story in the Gospels where Jesus met His disciples, and the time He walked on the waters of this huge lake.

There is so much to share about this trip.  I hope to write a book about my experiences.

Another touching and significant experience from this Holy Land trip was the visit to the Garden of Gethsemane. The modern-day Garden of Gethsemane is managed by the “Church of All Nations” or the “Basilica of the Agony.” Many churches from different countries contributed to the preservation of the site and built a beautifully magnificent cathedral adjacent to the Garden of Gethsemane.

The Church of All Nations, Jerusalem

In the Bible, the Garden of Gethsemane is the place where Jesus spent a late night praying before His arrest. According to the Gospel of Matthew, “Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” (Matthew 26:36)

The Garden of Gethsemane

As soon as we entered the Garden area and saw the rows of ancient Olive trees, I felt the strong presence of the Lord. It was an awesome experience! I was in tears. I almost felt the agony of the Lord Jesus when He wrestled and prayed, “God’s will, not my will be done…” It was also surprising to see some old olive trees, hundreds or even thousands of years old, still bearing fruit.

I often hear preaching and teaching that Christ won the victory over the enemy at the cross when He gave His life on Calvary. While at the Garden, I felt a sense of revelation that Jesus had actually won the battle, not at the cross, but in the Garden of Gethsemane. There in the garden, Jesus prayed a prayer of surrender. Jesus had an absolute surrender to His loving Father, trusting Him for the best outcome. It was a time of surrender to God’s perfect will for Him, and for the salvation of many. It was Jesus’ battle against human flesh and against Satan’s final temptation. He had overcome the battle with a complete surrender to the Father. Thus, the Father made Jesus the Triumphant Winner! It was a complete Victory in the Garden.

From the Gospel of Matthew:

He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, ‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will…’”

“Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, ‘O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.’” (Matthew 26:39, 42)

Whatever struggles and challenges you are going through in life, Jesus knows and understands. Like Jesus, as we surrender our lives and will to Father God, He will give you the victory!

When our team came back to our hotel at the end of that day, during my personal time with the Lord, the Holy Spirit gave me this poem, “Victory in the Garden:”

Victory In The Garden

There in the Garden

My Savior pled,

There in the Garden

My Savior knelt down and prayed,
“Father, not my will

But Your will be done”

There in the garden

My Lord surrendered

To His Father’s divine plan

Yet He had won

the Victor’s crown

There in the garden

My Savior wept

He cried bloody tears of surrender

There in the garden

My Savior won over sin and temptation

Death and evil no longer have dominion

There in the garden,

My Savior won Victor’s Crown.

(Matthew 26:36-45)

Other Bible Readings:  Mark 14:32-36; Luke 22:39-46; John 18:1-11

All Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version, NKJV.

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A Prayer of Hope

The Lord gave this message a year ago when I was struggling with the wickedness, corruption, and other evil things I see and hear in the world. May the Words of the Lord through Habakkuk encourage you also in this time of crisis and distress.

The Prayer of Habakkuk

The global pandemic, upheaval, and turmoil in the nations, people suffering for their faith, political and religious oppression, violence against innocent people, unrighteousness, godlessness, injustice, and other wicked deeds sometimes are overwhelming. One time I was praying to the Lord for His justice and righteousness. He reminded me of the prayer of a man in the Bible named, Habakkuk.

“O Lord, how long shall I cry, And You will not hear?
Even cry out to You, “Violence!”  And You will not save.
Why do You show me iniquity, and cause me to see trouble?
For plundering and violence are before me; There is strife, and contention arises.
Therefore the law is powerless, and justice never goes forth.
For the wicked surround the righteous;  Therefore,  perverse judgment proceeds.

Habakkuk 1:2-4

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Habakkuk was a man who lived during the kingdoms of Judah and Israel around 600 BCE. He wrote His prophecies before the Babylon invasion. God used Habakkuk to warn the people of Judah to repent and turned from their sinful ways.

“Habakkuk grappled with God’s economy of justice. He finds it inconceivable that God could use an evil pagan nation to judge His people. However, God uses a vision to convince Habakkuk that His ways are right.”[i]

Habakkuk was not the only one who had struggled with God’s justice. In the book of Psalms, the writer expressed his heart:

“Lord, how long will the wicked,
How long will the wicked triumph?

They utter speech, and speak insolent things;
All the workers of iniquity boast in themselves.
They break in pieces Your people, O Lord,
And afflict Your heritage.
They slay the widow and the stranger,
And murder the fatherless.
Yet they say, “The Lord does not see,
Nor does the God of Jacob understand.”  Psalm 94:3-7[ii]

Then the writer of Psalm remembered who God was:

“Understand, you senseless among the people;
And you fools, when will you be wise?
He who planted the ear, shall He not hear?
He who formed the eye, shall He not see?
He who instructs the nations, shall He not correct,” Psalm 94: 8-10

Going back to Habakkuk, God spoke to him.  

Look among the nations and watch—
Be utterly astounded!
For I will work a work in your days
Which you would not believe, though it were told you.

Habakkuk 1:5

“Write the vision and make it plain on tablets,
That he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come, It will not tarry
 Habakkuk 2:2-3

Then God spoke to Habakkuk about sure judgments for the wicked:

“Woe to him who covets evil gain for his house that he may set his nest on high that he may be delivered from the power of disaster…
Woe to him who builds a town with bloodshed, who establish a city by iniquity…and nations weary themselves in vain?…
For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the water covers the sea.”

Habakkuk 2:9-17

God assured Habakkuk that He would surely bring justice. When Habakkuk heard the response of the Lord and realized the horrible devastation that will come to the wicked because of God’s justice, he asked God for mercy. Habakkuk even prayed for revival.

“O Lord, I have heard Your speech and was afraid;
O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years!
In the midst of the years make it known;
In wrath remember mercy.” Habakkuk 3:2

Then Habakkuk was at peace trusting that God will do what He said He will do – to bring judgment and justice to the wicked in His own time.

“Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls—
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk 3:17 -18

I also need to pray for God’s mercy to those who are involved in wickedness, corruption, deceit and unrighteousness – for God to have mercy on their souls. Surely God will bring justice to the wicked, but He is also merciful, waiting for them to repent.

“The Lord is gracious and full of compassion,      
Slow to anger and great in mercy.The Lord is good to all,
And His tender mercies are over all His works.” Psalm 145:8-9

 A few months ago, we experienced a severe thunderstorm in our area here in the southeast. There was a heavy rain and very loud thunder and lightning. It was the fiercest lightning I have ever experienced in my life! I was trembling in fear and realized the awesome power of God!

 It reminded me of the experience of the people of Israel in the Old Testament when they received the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone.

Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off…” Exodus 20:18

The sharp, loud thunder and fierce lightnings were for me a demonstration of the awesome power of God! I felt as if God was saying to me, He is still sovereign and in control, and has the power to do whatever is right for Him to do. I felt like a worm, and was reminded that I’m not the judge, and should not fret about the wickedness and injustice I see in the world. The Lord God in heaven has all the power and might to bring about justice and righteousness in His own way and in His right time. My role is to intercede, do His will and pray earnestly for God’s will be done and His kingdom to come here on earth as it is in heaven.

[i] The Complete Jewish Study Bible

[ii] All Scriptures quotes are from the New King James Bible

Prayer: Dear Sovereign Lord, You are awesome and powerful! We praise and thank You for your mercy and grace. Send revival, in your wrath remember mercy.   

Post Script:

Currently, (March 2022) after a year the Lord gave this message; another major international crisis and conflict is going on in Eastern Europe.

If we are only looking at the news and what our naked eyes can see, it looks discouraging. It seems the bad guys are winning. But God is doing things beyond what we can see. He is changing hearts and He is saving souls. Many are turning to God in times of crisis and distress.

“For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:13

You may have heard the old expression, “Pay now or pay later.”

Well, the Bible says;

For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written:

As I live, says the Lord,
Every knee shall bow to Me,
And every tongue shall confess to God
.” Romans 14:10-11

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Words of Encouragement in Time of Crisis

A couple of weeks ago a friend and a dear sister in the Lord in Ukraine sent us a message to pray for them. She asked us to pray for them “not to hate their enemies”.   She also said they trust that God is still faithful.

At times I do not know what to say to encourage them, I sent her Bible verses. With our back-and-forth messages, I would like to share some of these encouragements;

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February 10th, Psalm 29:10-11

The Lord sat enthroned at the Flood,
And the Lord sits as King forever.
11 The Lord will give strength to His people;
The Lord will bless His people with peace.

February 21- Isaiah 41:10-12

Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

11 “Behold, all those who were incensed against you
Shall be ashamed and disgraced;
They shall be as nothing,
And those who strive with you shall perish.
12 You shall seek them and not find them—
Those who contended with you.
Those who war against you
Shall be as nothing,
As a nonexistent thing.

February 22,

I sent her another encouragement from Psalm 46: 1-2, 10-11

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swel
ling. Selah

Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!

11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

February 24th –

She sent another message that her family is on their way to “a safe place”.

I sent her a message and told her; “Be strong in the Lord, may the angel armies of the Lord be with you all”.

February 25th,

She sent me another message that her family (with 2 children) were driving 35 hours to a safe place…

I sent another encouragement from the Bible; This was David’s reading that day from Psalm 94:1-3, 14,22

O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongs—
O God, to whom vengeance belongs, shine forth!
 Rise up, O Judge of the earth;
Render punishment to the proud.
 Lord, how long will the wicked,
How long will the wicked triumph…

For the Lord will not cast off His people,
Nor will He forsake His inheritance….

But the Lord has been my defense,
And my God the rock of my refuge…

February 27 – I sent her another encouragement from Psalm 56:8-13

You number my wanderings;
Put my tears into Your bottle;
Are they not in Your book?
When I cry out to You,
Then my enemies will turn back;
This I know, because God is for me.
 In God (I will praise His word),
In the Lord (I will praise His word),
 In God I have put my trust;
I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me? For You have delivered my soul from death.
Have You not kept my feet from falling,

That I may walk before God
In the light of the living?

February 28th,

She sent me another message that they reached a city in the western part of the country. But they had to go to a safe shelter (bunker) one time when the siren went off. Then later, she and her family went back to the apartment when they felt safe.

February 27th

I sent her encouragement from Psalm 57:

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me!
For my soul trusts in You;
And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge,
Until these calamities have passed by.

March 1, 2022

She continues to do her job in encouraging her people through the media.

I sent her another message from Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

In closing, we joined the many people who are interceding and praying for the people of Ukraine. “Lord have mercy, may Your will be done, may Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven…

But You, O Lord, shall laugh at them; You shall have all the nations in derision.
 I will wait for You, O You his Strength; For God is my defense. My God of mercy shall come to meet me; God shall let me see my desire on my enemies. Do not slay them, lest my people forget;  Scatter them by Your power, And bring them down,
O Lord our shield. (Psalm 59:8-11

  • All Scripture quotations are from New King James Version, NKJV, Bible Gateway