STS covers the cost of a study trip to Israel for its students!
Quite simply, that is the essence of the Israel Initiative, a commitment born of two realities. First, the simple fact that such a trip is of inestimable value to the student preparing to handle the Word of God. And second, the remarkable reality that we live in that very narrow window of history during which the land of Israel – a land which was functionally closed from AD 70-1967 – is actually accessible, indeed ready and eager to be explored as the stage on which so much of the drama of God’s “mighty acts” unfolded. Given all of that, the seminary is committed to raise the funds necessary to provide a full study trip for its students.
The Apostle Paul testified to a special love for the people of Israel , and he enjoined that same affection upon all believers (Rom 9:1-5; 11:28-36). The modern state of Israel is the most dramatic and important concentration of Jewish people and culture since AD 70, and that nation is much cherished at STS for several reasons:
First (and this is the apostle’s point in his epistle to the Romans), Israel is the people through whom God has chosen to manifest His glory in the course of human history. This is not because of any special merit or deservedness on the part of that people; indeed, her very hardness—hardness which resembles that of any fallen human soul/spirit but which has been rather spectacularly on display in the course of sacred history—is key to God’s plan to demonstrate Himself absolutely faithful to His covenant promises despite the undeniable ill-desert of those who enjoy the good fruit of those promises.
But even given that, the inescapable biblical reality is that there is one people whom God has chosen to bear His name to a fallen world. That nation has done so haltingly and reluctantly — but inexorably, simply because “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Romans 11:29). And the world in which Israel has been placed as an enduring and compelling (albeit unenthusiastic) testimony to Yahweh is a world which desperately hates that God and all that He claims concerning Himself. For which reason Israel’s stewardship has always been horribly painful. And for which reason there ought to erupt in the heart of the Christian today a special affection for that nation — an affection, again, which mirrors that of the apostle.
Second, the nation’s very existence is a compelling demonstration of God’s covenant faithfulness, and specifically, of His capacity to work providentially in accomplishing that fidelity to His promises (that is, through means, apart from miraculous intervention, in a way which is deliberately illustrated and foreseen in the delightful and strategically located book of Esther).
Third (though not finally—there are other reasons as well), STS treasures Israel—the land and the people—as a remarkably strategic and amazingly accessible (amazing, given that it was functionally inaccessible until 1967 and could be politically closed at any time) teaching tool in the effort to equip students to do grammatical-historical exegesis. A teacher is always advantaged to have visual aids for his students. Israel is, in effect, a giant blackboard that teacher and students can walk around on! It is for this reason that STS has introduced the Israel Initiative: a commitment to provide our students with a full study trip to Israel.