The Rock, the Road, and the Rabbi: My Journey into the Heart of Scriptural Faith and the Land Where It All Began

The Rock, the Road, and the Rabbi: My Journey into the Heart of Scriptural Faith and the Land Where It All Began


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780785215967
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 03/06/2018
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 19,706
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Kathie Lee Gifford is the three time Emmy-winning cohost of the fourth hour of TODAY, alongside Hoda Kotb. The Gifford-Kotb hour has been hailed as “appointment television” by Entertainment Weekly, and “TODAY’s happy hour” by USA Today. Gifford has authored three New York Times bestselling books, including Just When I Thought I’d Dropped My Last Egg and I Can’t Believe I Said That.

Rabbi Jason Sobel is a thought leader, spiritual guide, and Jewish follower of Yeshua (Jesus). He is cofounder of Fusion with Rabbi Jason, a ministry dedicated to sharing teachings and resources that reconnect ancient Jewish wisdom with the teachings of the New Testament. Learn more at

Read an Excerpt


The Brook of Elah

David and Goliath

[May] God ... give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.

— Ephesians 1: 17–18 ESV

The next day of our Israel tour, we traveled by bus and then foot (uphill again!) to the Valley of Elah — the place where David famously defeated Goliath. Nobody was grumbling anymore. Not even Frank. We had learned a great truth the day before: the harder the climb, the greater the blessing on the mountaintop.

When we finally reached the ridge where the Israelites had looked out with terror across the valley to where the Philistines waited to attack, the first thing that struck me was how completely unchanged it is. There is nothing there but the imagination you bring with you. And as you recall the familiar story of David and Goliath recorded in 1 Samuel 17, you can truly envision the drama that took place there some three thousand years ago.

Ray has the extraordinary gift of enabling people to see a familiar story with new eyes.

He explained, "Many people think the miracle in the story is how David, a young shepherd boy, was able to defeat the giant, Goliath — the champion of the Philistines, Israel's enemy. But the truth is that any shepherd worth his salt already knew how to defeat his foes. Shepherds were trained from their earliest days to protect their f locks from any enemy, including lions and bears. The Scriptures tell us that David had already done this. In 1 Samuel 17:36, David tells King Saul that he 'has killed both the lion and the bear.'

"So while King Saul and the entire Israelite army cowered in fear for forty days, this young shepherd, who was probably between twelve and fourteen years old, spurned the king's offer of his own armor and instead reached into the Brook of Elah, picked up five smooth stones, placed them in his shepherd's pouch, and approached the giant without fear. David said to Goliath in 1 Samuel 17:45, 'You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.'"

Ray paused to let all of this sink in.

"The miracle of David and Goliath is that David had an intimate relationship with the living God!" he bellowed. "That's what makes a miracle!"

Then Ray instructed all of us to go down to the brook and pick up a stone. By now we had learned to do what he said without questioning him. I will never forget the look in Frank's eyes as this man who was in six Halls of Fame obediently reached down to pick up his stone, just as a young shepherd boy had done three thousand years ago.

Ray also picked up a stone from the brook. As he held the stone in his hand, he looked at each of us, as if to the core of our souls, and asked: "What is your stone? Where are you going to throw it?"

He literally "rocked" our world. Frank and I and everyone in the group were never the same again.

This experience lit a fire in my belly, and it satisfied a deep longing in Frank's soul. Though the rest of the trip was profoundly moving and illuminating, it was this truth he learned in the Valley of Elah — that religion is nothing without relationship — that gave Frank a strong sense of peace and purpose until the day he died. Finally, at the age of eighty-two, he had found his stone.

As I stood on the mountaintop of Elah, I was filled with a sense of overwhelming awe. I was thrilled to be hearing for the first time what the ancient text truly meant. Centuries ago, Jesus said, "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" ( John 8:32).

And I was starting to feel free, indeed.

As Ray concluded the day's teaching, he called each of our names, one by one, and challenged us to throw our stone wherever the Lord has placed us. "That's why every one of us who are created in the image of the Creator is on this planet," Ray said. "We are supposed to partner with God to bring His shalom to the chaos of this world. Genesis 1:1–2 says, 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, ... and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.' Think of Genesis 1:2 like this: 'Shalom hovered over the chaos.'"

Ray explained that the word shalom has been diluted through the centuries from its original meaning to now mean "peace." But according to Ray, shalom really means God's perfection. Shalom encompasses all the characteristics of God — His righteousness, His justice, His unfailing love, His forgiveness, His holiness, and yes, His peace as well. Shalom is everything that is inherent in the one God and everything He planned for those He created. The garden of Eden was perfect, and all of creation, including human beings, was perfect — because God was, and is, and shall forever be perfect.

"So," Ray repeated, "we are to bring God's shalom to the chaos of this world."

There it was: our purpose! This is what gives meaning to our lives — what drives our passion, what fuels our very soul, and what ultimately fulfills our personal destiny.

But as we would soon discover, Ray had only begun to shake our foundations.

Come ... to the Brook of Elah!

More from Rabbi Jason

Why Did David Choose Five Smooth Stones?

Over a forty-day period, the Philistine giant Goliath mocked and demoralized the army of Israel. Even worse, he ridiculed the Lord. Goliath's actions exposed the fear and lack of faith in the hearts of King Saul and his soldiers. But then David came along, and he couldn't tolerate the way the Lord's name was being insulted. He couldn't stand idly by as the people cowered in fear before this pagan blasphemer, even if he was a giant skilled in war. David was provoked to act.

So David went to Saul and said he wanted to fight Goliath on behalf of the king and his people. Saul, for good reason, was hesitant to allow young David to fight, but he conceded. He offered David his armor, but David decided not to wear it because it was too big. Instead, he would use a slingshot and five smooth stones from the river. Sounds crazy, right?

What is the significance of David using five stones? To answer this question, we need to dig deeper to understand this story from a Jewish perspective.

The name Goliath comes from the Hebrew root gimmel, lamed, hei, which means "to expose, reveal, or exile." He revealed the fear and exposed the weakness in the Israelites and their army. If Goliath had been a professional wrestler, he could have been called the Banisher or the Exiler.

I believe the five stones are key to understanding the story of David and Goliath. The Hebrew language is alphanumeric. This means that numbers can be written with letters. For example, the number five in Hebrew is written with the letter hei ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]), which is the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet. According to some Jewish mystics, the letter hei is connected to the divine breath of God that releases His creative power and potential. This is alluded to in the Hebrew text of Genesis 2:4, which says, "These are the genealogical records of the heavens and the earth when they were created, at the time when Adonai Elohim made land and sky" (TLV). The Hebrew word translated "created" is bara, which means "created out of nothing." In this verse, bara has the letter hei inserted into it, which is grammatically incorrect.

There is no good grammatical reason for this word to include the letter hei unless the text is trying to allude to some deeper truth. But what? Remember, the letter hei is often seen as the letter of the divine breath of God, which, along with the Word of God, is the means by which creation came to be: "By Adonai's word were the heavens made, and all their host by the breath of His mouth" (Psalm 33:6 TLV). So the letter hei in the word translated "created" in Genesis 2:4 alludes to the divine breath releasing God's creative power.

This truth can also be seen in the life of Abraham and Sarah. God promised Abraham and Sarah that they would conceive a child, but years went by without their having a son. As a sign that they would bear children even in their old age, that the promise would be fulfilled, the Lord changed their names:

For My part, because My covenant is with you, you will be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer will your name be Abram, but your name will be Abraham, because I make you the father of a multitude of nations. ... As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her by the name Sarai. Rather, Sarah is her name. And I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son from her. I will bless her and she will give rise to nations. Kings of the peoples will come from her. (Genesis 17:4–5, 15–16 TLV)

The Lord changed Abram's name to AbraHam, and Sarai's to SaraH. There is a one-letter difference between their new names and their old ones — the addition of the letter hei, or H in English. The Lord added this letter to their names because it represented His creative power to accomplish the impossible!

Now it should make more sense why David picked up five stones. David needed the supernatural power that comes with the divine breath in order to punish Goliath, the wicked blasphemer, to restore honor to the divine name, and to bring shalom to the chaos. This is what the letter hei — the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet and the number five — represents in Hebraic thought.

In other words, David needed the hei, the divine empowerment of God's Spirit, to obtain victory and overcome the impossible!

The way to overcome the impossible has always been the same. Don't fear the giants. The Lord is with you always. Just believe and fight! You already have the victory.


En Gedi

David's Waterfall

Let the one who hears say, "Come!" Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

— Revelat ion 22:17

One of my favorite places in Israel is En Gedi. This oasis in the desert, directly west of the Dead Sea, is a steep climb dotted with ancient caves where young David hid from his enemy, King Saul, for years and cried out to God in dozens of profound psalms. All David's poetry about strongholds, hiding places, refuge, rocks, and living waters come alive here. We can only wonder what was going through David's mind during his time in the wilderness.

Perhaps David thought of Abraham, who was promised that he would have a child, only to have to wait and trust for decades for that promise to come true when he was one hundred years old. David had been anointed king of Israel by the prophet Samuel when he was a young boy, only to wait until he was thirty to finally sit on the throne of the kingdom of Israel.

Haven't we all experienced excruciating times of waiting for God to answer our prayers? But the wait isn't idle time; the waiting period is our opportunity to be active and alive and growing, which is why it is so important that we persevere. As Isaiah 40:31 reminds us: "Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

God's promise about the waiting time is as big a part of His plan as the actual moment when God's promise comes true. I doubt we are ever the same person when the promise is fulfilled that we were when the promise was made.

Although the landscape is bleak and the land is parched and dry, an amazing thing happens the higher you climb in En Gedi. Life begins to bloom all around you, wildlife bounds effortlessly on the heights, and suddenly, unexpectedly, streams and waterfalls of living water appear as if from nowhere.

The most famous of these waterfalls is the extraordinary David's Waterfall.

You catch your breath when you come upon it, and you can easily imagine how David and his men were overjoyed and praised God when their parched tongues tasted the water f lowing from it and their weary, sun-scorched bodies stood beneath its blessed refreshment. You will never read the Psalms the same way after experiencing En Gedi. The realization of God's unfailing love and faithfulness overwhelms you, and you weep tears of gratitude and praise.

Ray explained that the Judean mountains are made of limestone, so they are porous in nature, not rock-solid like granite or marble. "There — directly north, some seventeen miles from here — lies the town of Bethlehem. It's conceivable that the rain that fell in Bethlehem two thousand years ago in the time of Jesus is the very water falling over us here in En Gedi right now."

Imagine waiting two thousand years for living water! There have been times in my life, I confess, when I felt as if I was waiting that long for God's promises to be filled. Yet His timing is always perfect.

Come ... to En Gedi!

* * *


(Inspired by En Gedi)

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
Let me know Your truth, that I may understand That nothing is created except by Your command.
Repeat Chorus

— Lyrics by Kathie Lee Gifford


The Judean Wilderness

Psalm 23

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

— Psalm 2 3:6

While our tour group was in the wilderness of En Gedi, Ray Vander Laan reminded us of another well-known Bible passage that was likely written while David was in the wilderness: Psalm 23.

Most of us are familiar with this psalm, perhaps the most famous of all the psalms. On the surface, Psalm 23 seems almost like poetry, setting a beautiful, bucolic scene of the peaceful relationship between a shepherd and his f lock. But as Ray explained, it is so much deeper than that.

The first line, "The Lord is my shepherd," is obvious. There is only one leader of a f lock of sheep. And in Jesus, we have a benevolent, tender, and protective Shepherd who knows His sheep — and His sheep know Him.

Jesus said, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me" ( John 10:27). They follow Him because they trust Him. He has never let them down. Sheep can't see very well, but they have a heightened sense of hearing. They follow the shepherd's voice.

The next line in Psalm 23 is interesting: "I shall not want" (v. 1 NKJV). Perhaps a better translation is, "I have everything that I need because of Him."

The shepherd provides everything the sheep needs, even leaving the f lock to go looking for the one lost member who might be in danger.

The next line is, "He makes me to lie down in green pastures" (v. 2 NKJV).

The truth is, there were no green pastures in Israel at that time — not in the way we think of rolling, grassy, lush fields. There were only small patches of grass in the Judean wilderness, barely visible except late in the day when the setting sun caused them to reflect light.

Ray explained that the shepherd's job was to lead his sheep to these life-giving spots so that they would be given exactly what they needed for that day. No more. This kept them in a constant state of trusting.

"He leads me in the paths of righteousness" (v. 3 NKJV).


Excerpted from "The Rock, The Road, and The Rabbi"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Kathie Lee Gifford.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction ix

Preface 1

Meet the Good Rabbi: Jason Sobel 3

Meet the Tour Guide: Ray Vander Laan 7

Chapter 1 The Brook of Elah 11

Chapter 2 En Gedi 18

Chapter 3 The Judean Wilderness 22

Chapter 4 Mount Carmel 25

Chapter 5 Caesarea and Herodium 29

Chapter 6 Bethlehem 34

Chapter 7 Nazareth 40

Chapter 8 The Judean Desert 46

Chapter 9 The Seven Streams 49

Chapter 10 Cana 56

Chapter 11 Capernaum 62

Chapter 12 The Sea of Galilee 70

Chapter 13 Magdala 74

Chapter 14 Galilee 82

Chapter 15 Caesarea Philippi 90

Chapter 16 The Pool of Siloam 98

Chapter 17 The Decapolis 102

Chapter 18 The Mount of Olives 107

Chapter 19 The Upper Room 115

Chapter 20 Bet Av 122

Chapter 21 Garden of Gethsemane 126

Chapter 22 Golgotha 130

Chapter 23 Jerusalem 140

Chapter 24 The Upper Room and Temple Courts 148

Chapter 25 The Temple Mount 153

Chapter 26 The Dead Sea 163

Chapter 27 Masada 166

Chapter 28 The Qumran Caves 169

Chapter 29 Tel Aviv 173

Conclusion 175

Going Home 177

Afterword 183

Appendix 185

Notes 203

About the Authors 207

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The Rock, the Road, and the Rabbi: My Journey into the Heart of Scriptural Faith and the Land Where It All Began 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Bassocantor More than 1 year ago
THE ROCK THE ROAD AND THE RABBI is a unique book. At first, I wondered if it would be all that interesting, but it is! Whilst reading this book, I kept on thinking, “Hey, I want to go on that tour!” The reason that Kathie Lee Gifford wrote this book, is that it goes to the heart of what she values most. This land is the land of the Gospel: “I believe with all my soul that the answer to every question any person will ever ask is hidden in that land and in the Word of God.” The author takes the reader to many famous Biblical places. Then, with the help of two Bible experts, Rabbi Jason Sobel and Ray Vander Laan, she explains what happened here in Biblical times. The two theologians do a good job of setting the stage, and explaining the meaning of the Biblical passage. In my favorite chapter, we visit the Valley of Elah, where David killed Goliath. Here, the author and her late husband each pick up a stone. The question for them is, “What is your stone? What is your gift? What is the one thing that you can do that no one else can do but you?” And that’s how the book works. We visit the scenes of the Bible, we get an expert explanation of the passage, and also a practical lesson. In visiting the places where Jesus lived, the guides discuss how people lived at that time I was flabbergasted to hear that a more accurate translation of Jesus’ occupation was “stone mason,” not carpenter! This fits the Bible narrative well, since “Jesus is the promised master craftsman and architect of creation who brings order out of chaos and shalom to our lives.” The author sums up her book with this challenging word of encouragement: “I encourage you to find your stone and throw it at the chaos of this world. Serve the living God and find your purpose in Him.” Nicely said! When does the next tour leave?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Would love to take the Tour!
Anonymous 4 months ago
Kathy does a fabulous job of bringing the Holy Land to the reader. I actually feel like I have experienced this trip. This book has made the Bible more meaningful to me. I am so grateful that I experienced this book.
Anonymous 9 months ago
The Bible, the history recorded in it, the culture of biblical times, and so much more come to light in this book! Highly recommend it!
Anonymous 9 months ago
Anonymous 10 months ago
Very interesting look at the bible I have been reading for years. The times and culture are so extremely different from today.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have loved reading the book. Now, to pray about making the trip to Israel myself.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed re-traveling Kathi's visit.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Left me with a new-found sense of closeness to our lord Jesus Christ. So happy I found this writing!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After having been on the same trip with RVL, it was wonderful to remember the truths of our trip as we walked the land where Jesus walked.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After having been on the same trip with RVL, it was wonderful to remember the truths of our trip as we walked the land where Jesus walked.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After having been on the same trip with RVL, it was wonderful to remember the truths of our trip as we walked the land where Jesus walked.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Must read!!