While in Israel, we went to Joppa and I was able to go to the house of “Simon the Tanner.” In Acts 10, you can read the account of Cornelius. He was a devout man and all that were in his house believed and worshiped the true God. Cornelius, who lived in Caesarea, had a vision (verse 3) and in that vision he was to seek out Peter who was staying with Simon the Tanner. Caesarea was about 30 miles north of Joppa so it was no short journey to get there. In the meantime, down in Joppa, Peter was having his time of prayer on Simon’s housetop when he also had a vision (verse 10). In the vision, Peter learned that God was preparing him to witness not only to Cornelius but for anyone whether they be Jew or Gentile. The men that Cornelius sent found Peter and he returned with them to Joppa. When Cornelius and Peter finally met, Peter spelled it out in verse 28: “Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation” and then he goes on to say “but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” The Bible goes on to say in verse 34, “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.” Peter had recognized that Jesus came to this earth for all people. He did not come for a select few but for each and every person willing to accept his forgiveness.
Throughout the rest of the chapter, Peter shared the Gospel with Cornelius and all that were gathered there. Many were saved and baptized during the time that Peter was there. That same God still saves anyone and everyone willing to call upon him for forgiveness. Have you? Enjoy your coffee.
Love you all,
Luke 2:4 says, “And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:).” About 70 miles north of Bethlehem was the town of Nazareth. It was there that Joseph had made his home. When King Herod demanded that a census be taken, Joseph had to return to the city of his birth: Bethlehem. As he traveled south to Bethlehem, he had Mary, his espoused wife who was well along in her pregnancy with Jesus. Once they arrived in Bethlehem, they found the best accommodations available in the crowded city and as recorded in verse six: “And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.” In those humble surroundings, the Savior was born. Born of a virgin Jesus came that day in the form of a man. He had left Heaven for earth. He had left what he knew for a life among us. He left his home to come to ours. Why? In 1 Timothy 1:15, we read: “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” There comes a time in our life when each of us knows wrong from right and we then need a Savior. No matter what we have done or who we are, Jesus came to restore a relationship. Jesus did what he needed to do...and the rest is up to you. Enjoy your coffee.
Love you all,
If we are not careful during the Christmas season, we may lose sight of Jesus in all of the hustle and bustle. Some may appreciate the fact the Jesus came but leave him lying in the manger. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus this Christmas season, let us not forget why He came and let us realize that He came. He became the sacrifice needed to reconcile us to God. Speaking of sacrifice, please allow me to tell you the account of a man by the name of Janusz Korczak. In the early 1900s, Dr. Korczak began a career as a pediatrician; a child psychologist and a skilled educator. He wrote children’s books such as King Matthew the First and Kaytek the Wizard. His particular gift was writing the stories as if they were being read through the eyes of a child.
While Dr. Korczak was building his practice and flourishing in Warsaw, Poland, there was a menace growing in Germany; a demagogue by the name of Adolf Hitler. As Hitler’s power grew, he became aggressive against other nations and started moving into and conquering those nations around Germany. After a successful career, Dr. Korczak eventually slowed down his practice and opened a home for children that had no place to go. At this home, they cared for vulnerable Polish children from all backgrounds – Jewish, Catholic, and anyone who needed a home. Dr. Korczak became to most of them the only Father they would ever know. However, after Nazi Germany began to occupy Warsaw, they removed the non-Jewish children from Dr. Korczak’s care and moved his orphans into the Jewish ghetto. Conditions rapidly deteriorated, supplies were sparse, water was limited, and food for the children was not provided.
Soon after coming to power, Hitler began his personal attack on the Jewish people: what we now know as the Holocaust. The term "Holocaust" comes from the Greek holos or “whole” and kaustos or “burnt.” To the Hebrews, it is known as HaShoah, which simply means the “catastrophe.” Dr. Korczak knew that his little orphanage would not escape the reach of Hitler and on August 6, 1942, word came to the orphanage in the ghetto of Warsaw that they were going to be relocated to a death camp located in the village of Treblinka, northeast of Warsaw. Dr. Korczak gathered his workers together and told them to dress the children in their very best clothes and make sure they had their favorite toy. He then gathered the children together and told them they were going for a walk in the countryside. To those children, it was a treat to get out of the ghetto and escape the hell that they were living in. Dr. Korczak carried one child while holding the hand of another and led 192 children through town and to the train. Arriving at Treblinka, one of the guards recognized him and told him how much his books meant to him as he was growing up and offered to make an exception for Dr. Korczak; pull him out of line. Janusz Korczak refused to abandon the children under his care. As the account is told, he led his children into the gas chamber at Treblinka and was found still holding the one child in his arm and holding the hand of the other.
Jesus also went willingly to his death. The baby in a manger we see this time of year grew up into a man and made his way to die on Calvary as a propitiation or substitute for our sins. Jesus came to die for nothing that he had done. He was hated and despised for who he was. He was “Immanuel” or “God with us.” As he went to the cross, his love for you and I held him there as he died to bear our sins. He went into a borrowed tomb and three days later, arose and today sits in Heaven waiting on you. Have you asked Jesus to forgive your sin? Have you accepted Jesus as your own? He died so that you may know him. Enjoy your coffee.
Love you all,
This was our last day of this most magnificent trip. Wednesday morning, we packed up and left the Leonardo Hotel in Eilat. Eilat, if you remember, was a coastal town on the Red (or Reed) Sea. We were at the southernmost end of Israel and now began the long drive back to Tel Aviv where David Ben Gurion Airport is located.
We started our day in Timnah Park in the Negev Desert where there is a full scale model of the Tabernacle. The tabernacle site had some damage from a flash flood in October that they are still working on but for the most part, everything was intact. As odd as it may seem, the desert only gets about four inches of rain a year but because the terrain is so steep the rain can come gushing down and actually cut big gullies or wadis, as the Israeli would define it, into the mountainside. These wadis can build up a force that comes so fast it, can catch people unaware and drown them. Inside the tabernacle courtyard, we saw the different locations for men, women, and Levites and priests. I was able to not just picture the tabernacle in my mind but actually walk through the process as it was carried out on the Sabbath. Inside the tabernacle is the "Table of Shewbread," the "Menorah," the "Alter of Incense," and inside the "Holy of Holies" is the "Ark of the Covenant." Such an informative sight!
Some of the places we saw along the way were King Solomon's Pillars and the Ancient Cooper Mines used by King David. In the Old Testament, copper represents judgement. Copper was used to cover the bases of the five pillars that held the front of the tabernacle up. As we traveled up route 90, we were going through the "Wilderness of Sin." Exodus 16:1 says, "And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt." Even on the last day, were seeing locations that made the Bible come alive right before our eyes. The land was harsh and God sustained them there by sending food, water, and providing shelter...yet they still complained.
We left there and kept working our way to Tel Aviv. Some interesting places along the way were Kiryat Gat which was named for "Gath" and became one of the five largest cities of the Philistines. It was in this area that Samson went chasing after a Philistine girl by the name of Delilah. She eventually learned the secret of his strength and gave that information to his enemies. Samson became a slave, had his eyes gouged out, and became a laughingstock in the eyes of the world. But in the end, God granted his request to bring his strength back one more time so he could deal with the Philistines...turned out pretty good don't you think?
Continuing north, we entered the Valley of Elah. Any guesses on what famous battle took place here? This was the place where David fought Goliath. You can read the account in 1 Samuel 21 and how David selected five smooth stones, took what God equipped him with and slew Goliath before the eyes of the world. I had to go and get a stone from the Valley of Elah. One never knows when that may come in handy. It seems like there is always a Goliath lurking around wanting to challenge our relationship with God.
We had a farewell dinner at a Yemeni restaurant in Tel Aviv and headed to the airport. Bidding farewell to Assher and Avi was kind of sad but I believe we were ready to get the last leg of the trip underway. Going through Israeli security can be time consuming. They are very thorough and diligent in their process and I am very thankful for that. El Al is one of the few airlines who have had zero incidents and they plan to keep it that way. After making it through and getting to the gate, we had an 11:45 p.m. departure. The flight itself was about 12 hours and we picked up 7 hours. That all works out to us landing in New York at about 6:00 a.m. We got on a 10:15 a.m. flight from New York to Charlotte and arrived from Charlotte in Charleston at around 3:00 p.m. So it has been about 48 hours since we have rested. I believe everyone is looking forward to being in their own home tonight. Enjoy your coffee...more to come.
Ahava you all,
Today we went to Petra. Since Petra is located within the country of Jordan, we had to gather our passports and personal information to prepare to leave Israel and enter Jordan. The drive to the Israel/Jordan border was only about 15 minutes but once we got there, it took us about an hour to exit Israel, cross the DMZ, and enter Jordan. We had left Avi and Assher in Israel and had to get a Jordanian guide for the trip to Petra. Our Jordanian guide was Hussein, who was very knowledgeable about his country and the area leading up to Petra. Jordan is about 3 times the size of Israel in land mass but about the same in population. The country of Jordan is about 80% desert so the landscape is a little barren and seemingly hard to scratch out a living. Hussein kept emphasizing the safety of Jordan as compared to some of its neighbors. He pointed out such features as religious tolerance, equality for women and went out of his way to distance Jordan from Isis. He said that Jordan was the first Arab nation to battle Isis and has taken in 4 million refugees which is a huge number considering that their population is only about 7 million.
Once we left the entry office, we began about a 2 hour drive to Petra, which is Jordan's most visited attraction. It is not known exactly when Petra was built but the city began to prosper as the capital of the Nabataean Empire around the 1st century BC. They were on the trade route and grew prosperous selling or trading frankincense, myrrh, and other spices. Petra later came under Roman rule but still thrived until an earthquake took them out around AD 363. That earthquake combined with changes in the trade routes eventually led to the abandonment of Petra. In 1812, a Swiss explorer named Johannes Burckhardt set out to "rediscover" Petra. His work led to the establishment of Petra as a tourism site and some proclaim it as the second wonder of the world behind only the Great Wall of China. Intricate tombs, an amphitheater, churches, the Great Temple, and other carvings are just amazing. There was a 1.6 mile walk (downhill) to get into the site and about that much walking when you got there. Not bad until you have to walk the 1.6 miles back out uphill.
So since this is a prophecy themed tour what does Petra have to do with anything? Some scholars believe that Petra will be the place that the remnant will flee when the Antichrist turns on Israel 3.5 years into the tribulation period. Petra is located in the Land of Edom (southern Jordan) near the ancient city of Basra. In Revelation 12:6, the Bible speaks of "the woman" (Israel) fleeing into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God. There are other passages that speak of this day such as Matthew 24 and Luke 21 among others. No one knows for sure and I cannot be dogmatic about it but having seen this place and the fortress that it is and the location of Petra, I believe it is entirely possible.
We begin our marathon day tomorrow in the morning at 8:30. We will be going to Timnah Park, visit a tabernacle, traveling through various sights in the Wilderness of Sin, and the Valley of Elah. Our day ends with the farewell dinner in Tel Aviv. We will check in at El AL Airlines at 9:00 and depart Israel around 1:00 AM. Assher's Father was released from the hospital today so keep praying for him, Assher, and Avi. Pray for our safe travel. We pray for you. Enjoy your coffee...more to come.
Ahava you all,
This morning, we checked out of the Dan Jerusalem Hotel and said goodbye to the Jerusalem portion of our trip. We are beginning the last segment of our trip and heading to the southern end of Israel. Leaving Jerusalem, we headed toward Jericho which is under Palestinian rule even though it is still located within the borders of Israel. Because of that, we were not allowed to go into Jericho...at least not without a lot of paperwork. Our first stop today was the Jordan River baptismal site located at Qasr al-Yahud. This site is one of two recognized for ceremonial baptisms. The Jordan River starts in the far north of Israel, flows in to the Sea of Galilee, and eventually winds up in the Dead Sea. The Jordan River forms part of the southern border with Jordan. This part of the river at the baptismal sight is about 30 feet wide and probably 8 feet deep. They have built wooden steps down into the water to make it safe to walk in to. They also have dressing facilities, and even sell you robes, towels, and whatever else you may need to be baptized. I had the privilege to baptize Dave, Kim, Sandy (Bud's daughter), Nancy (Sandy's cousin), and Bob from South Point, Ohio. The experience was wonderful and everyone had a great time. Without a doubt, this was the coldest water I have ever been in.
As we traveled today, we entered into the Judean Wilderness. Not to be confused with the desert, this wilderness is vast and mostly desolate but a person can live there. Most of the inhabitants are Bedouins. These arabs are nomads living in tents or anything else they can find to provide shelter. For the most part, they are squatters living on land they do not own. These Bedouins are Muslim, typically have at least two wives (Islamic traditions allows for up to four), large families, and take what the land will give them. It was very interesting to see nothing but wilderness and then all of a sudden see a shepherd leading his flock in search of water and food. In some ways, not much has changed in the last 2000 years. Most of the day, we traveled with the Dead Sea on our left and the Judean Wilderness on our right.
Once we started to leave the Judean Wilderness, we headed into the Negev Desert. Our first stop in the Negev was at Ein Gedi which is an oasis in the desert. If you remember, David took refuge in Ein Gedi when King Saul was pursuing him. As you read in 1 Samuel 24, King Saul entered the cave where David was hiding and his men urged David to kill the King but David refused because he respected God and in turn he respected Saul. These hills are unbelievably steep and today, you are not allowed to go near the caves. Avi said that to go into the caves, you would have to repel down from the top with a rope. Back in the time of King Saul and David, the topography must have been different to allow access. There are only a few animals that live in such harsh conditions and one is the Hart which is similar to a deer but with large, backward curving horns. As we were leaving, a small herd of 4 or 5 came strolling through the parking lot...way cool.
After a short 20 minute drive, we stopped at a place where those who wanted to get their feet wet in the Dead Sea could do so. The Dead Sea is void of life due to its high salinity. The salinity of the Dead Sea is 33.7% whereas the Atlantic Ocean is somewhere between 2-4%. The Dead Sea is at 1,388 feet below sea level making it the lowest point on earth. Israel has found ways to extract many useful minerals from the Dead Sea and its main plant employs over 5000 people which provides jobs in a region that otherwise has few opportunities. Another interesting factoid is that the Dead Sea also has many healing and moisturizing properties to it.
Our last stop of the day was Masada. When I was considering making the trip, I looked at the stops listed and put Masada as number one. Naturally, being eight days into the trip, I have had many number ones but I still have a deep personal interest in Masada. When the second temple burned in AD 70, the Jewish remnant that would not surrender to the Romans fled to Masada. There, they had food, water, and shelter to last for years. King Herod had built a palace there and fully stocked everything in case he had to flee. As a side note, King Herod had nine palaces so when you study and read about the palace of King Herod, make sure your study includes knowing which of the nine he was at. Although it was never recorded that he actually stayed at Masada, King Herod had a palace consisting of three stories. The top floor was his ceremonial or "work" floor. The second floor was his residence and the third floor was the patio, pool, and entertainment center. In Ad 72, the Romans laid siege to the mountaintop fortress and in AD 73, after many failures, they built a ramp leading up to the mountaintop. Once they breached the wall, they retired for the night meaning to finish the job the following morning. During that night, the leaders of the Jewish remnant decided that suicide was a better alternative than being captured by the Romans so 960 people committed suicide (most likely by poisoning) and the Romans secured a hollow victory. Two women and five children hid and lived to tell the story. In Israel today, the motto "Masada shall never fall again" stirs passion and pride about ancestors that would not bow...and they will not bow now.
We continued on and arrived in Eilat about 8:00 p.m. Eilat is on the Red Sea. In Israel, the Red Sea is also called by its original name: "The Reed Sea." The name was changed in the 1500s by some map makers who knew no better. A saying told to those that visit Israel is that if you see "The Med, The Dead, and The Red you have seen it all." Tomorrow, we will cross over into Jordan to visit Petra. Leaving Israel behind even for just the day feels a little odd. Many feel that God will preserve his remnant at Petra (Revelation 12) so I am looking forward to tomorrow.
Continue to pray for us. Pray for the peace and protection of Israel. We pray for you.
Ahava you all,
This morning, we started heading toward Yad Vashem. Isaiah 56:5 "Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name (a "yad vashem") better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off." Yad Vashem is Israel's living memorial to the Holocaust. Established in 195,3 Yad Vashem is the keeper of the records of over 6 million Jews who were murdered by Adolf Hitler and the German Third Reich during World War II. The justification for the killing? They were Jewish. God's people were persecuted for just being who they are. Right now, there are 7 million people living in Israel so imagine that nation being wiped off the face of the earth. Our guide Avi and Dr. Cook warned us about the heaviness of the museum but we were not prepared for what we saw and heard. The exhibit starts with a memorial to the 1.5 million children who were exterminated. As we walked through a darkened room, the names of each child, their age, and place of birth was being read. Avi told us that it would take over two years before the names repeated; each with the dreams of a child...wanting to just be a child but never given the opportunity. While we spent a large part of the morning there, we had just scratched the surface by the time we became mentally drained from the experience. This place is clearly a "must visit" site when you come.
From there, we went to the Israel Museum and Shrine of the Book. We started with lunch and if I may, I would recommend a small round pita-looking disc that had cheese and some other stuff in it. Very tasty! The museum had a model of Jerusalem reflecting the look of the town during the time of Jesus. When I say model, we are not talking about a small layout...the area the model covers is 21,520 square feet. It was amazing in detail and further helps people understand the topography of the land and the locations of historic structures. Another place of note was "The Shrine of the Book." Here, the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed and cared for. It was very informative regarding the preservation of the oldest Biblical manuscripts in the world. The museum covers 20 acres so needless to say we just hit the high spots.
Next was the "Temple Institute." The Temple Institute is given to educating about the temple of the past and plans for the temple of the future. Here, you can see the articles of worship that have been prepared for temple service. These are not replicas but they have made actual worship tools so that the Jewish nation can have them once again. The Temple Institute's ultimate goal is to see the temple rebuilt on Mount Moriah. Israel has not had a temple in 2,000 years and the prospect of having a temple again is exciting for the people. You can go to templeinstitute.org for actual pictures of the exhibits.
From there, we finished up the day in the Jewish Quarter of Old Jerusalem. Some went to the local shops and some of us just wandered. I find it extremely interesting that each civilization just built on top of the other every time the city was conquered. They had actually uncovered a portion of the wall during King Herod's reign.
We leave Jerusalem in the morning and head toward Eilat. Along the way, I will stop at the Jordan River (I get to baptize some people there), Qumran, Qasr el Yehud, Ein Gedi, Masada and the Dead Sea. I will get to do the devotional in the morning and baptize in the Jordan so pray I can get everyone under and back up. Moses Cohen (Assher's Dad) is doing well and is ready to get back into his routine. Pray for Avi and Assher for salvation. We pray for you. Enjoy your coffee...more to come.
Love you all,
This morning, we actually started our day with a "Watchman on the Walls" prayer meeting here at the hotel. Dr. Cook gave us a short devotional based on Isaiah 62:6 which says, "I have set watchman upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence." That gave us a little insight about his call and his burden to be a "watchman" to the Jew first. He vowed to not be silent until God says so and he's very passionate about the call that God has given him for the Jewish people.
From there, we went to the Mount of Olives. This is where the Garden of Gethsemane is located; where Jesus went to pray. The sight is mostly restricted as far as access goes but we could see people harvesting the olives and caring for the trees in much the same manner as they did in the day of Jesus. One tree in particular was very old and very large and we were told that it was around 2000 years old, which puts it in the garden at the same time as Jesus. Standing on the Mount, we could see the temple, Old Jerusalem, and the grave of Absalom, which had a tree growing over it. How ironic is that? (2 Samuel 18:9)
Next, we walked up to the wall of the old city of Jerusalem and in particular, the Eastern Gate. According to the book of Nehemiah, there were originally ten gates on the walls of the city of Jerusalem. Today, there are only eight gates and only one of them is closed: the Eastern Gate. The gate was sealed nearly 500 years ago when the Ottoman Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent, conquered Jerusalem in 1517. Suleiman learned of the Scripture prophecy that a Jewish Messiah would one day come from the east to deliver the Jewish people so he sealed the gate believing this would prevent him from coming. He then ordered that a muslim cemetery be placed in front of the gate believing no Jewish holy man would defile himself by walking through a cemetery. This gate was built on top of the original gate. No matter where we went, there seemed to be city on top of city. One day, Jesus is going to bust the eastern sky wide open and nothing man can do will prevent it. I also found it interesting that this part of the wall and parts of Jerusalem are under Jordanian occupation. Israel's General Moshe Dayan allowed that as part of the peace settlement after Israel won the war in 1967.
Once we were in the old city of Jerusalem, we went to the Upper Room which really was not the Upper Room in the day of Jesus. This building was built on top of the site believed to be at the approximate location of the Upper Room. Walking down and around the corner, we went into the sarcophagus of King David. It was an interesting room with lots of marble and there were Jewish men there praying and reading. Next came the House of Caiphas. On a scale of 1 to 10, this is a 10. The actual dungeon that housed prisoners was preserved and actually open to go into. This was a dungeon where prisoners were lowered into or thrown if the guards we having a bad day. We went as a group into the dungeon and a Psalm was read, we prayed and finished by singing two verses of "How Great Thou Art." What a great sound that was reverberating off those solid walls! We walked outside and the original steps to the House of Caiphas were still there. I had the opportunity to speak at that site. What a moving experience!
Next was lunch in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem; another interesting meal. The food was good and I would tell you what it was if I could pronounce it. From there, we walked through the Jewish Quarter and came out of the city at the Damascus Gate which is the gate they led Jesus out of on his way to Golgotha. While the route is probably not the same, we walked from the Damascus Gate to Golgotha or "Skull Place." In looking at the Golgotha site and listening to the guide there, I began to see that most likely Jesus was crucified at the base of the hill; not on top. No one really knows the exact location but the Bible speaks of people walking by and railing at Jesus. That would not have been easy had he been perched on top of a hill. While we were at this location, we did go to the tomb where Jesus was buried and it is empty. We serve a risen Savior! We concluded our day with a communion service near the Garden Tomb. Today was one of our longer days. One of the ladies said we had walked over five miles. While this may not seem like a lot, there was little walking done on level ground. Whew, what a day!
We did take a slight detour (more walking) to see the grave of Oskar Schindler. Although I did not read the book or see the movie, I was told he and his wife were personally responsible for helping to save the lives of 1,200 Jewish people during Hitler's murderous regime. Also, to give you an update, Assher's Dad was up today talking and eating. He passed along his thanks to Avi to get to us for your prayers. We will hopefully see him tomorrow and get another update.
It was a quiet ride to the hotel this evening. Avi publicly announced how proud he was of Dave and Bud. They are real troopers and set the pace. Tomorrow, we go to Yad Vashem, the Israel Museum, Knesset, Pool of Bethesda (I get to speak) and the Temple Mount if possible. Pray for safe travels, pray for Assher's Dad, pray for Assher and Avi that they may be saved. We pray for you. Enjoy your coffee...more to come.
Love you all,
This morning started early since we had to pack up and leave the Nof Ginossar Hotel in Tiberias, Israel. We had been at this kibbutz since day three and it was time to leave Tiberias and head to Jerusalem. Leaving the Galilee area of Israel was kind of tough. I enjoyed our time there immensely and learned so much but there are other lessons to be learned today. Before we left Tiberias, we stopped by King Herod's hot springs. These springs were used by Herod and his family and were thought to cure skin ailments and even reduce joint pain (Amen!). The springs were steaming when we got there but smelled like sulfur.
Our next stop was the city of Nazareth, the town where Jesus grew up. This is the town that Nathaniel referenced to in John 1:45 "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" The answer is YES!!! In Nazareth, there is a reproduction of the town as in the day that Jesus lived. Surprising to me, this was a mission project funded by the local YMCA. One of the many things I am learning is that we typically look at things based on our experiences and that is usually incorrect when applied to things in the past. This project called "Nazareth Village" (visit nazarethvillage.com or like them on Facebook) had working demonstrations of an olive press (Samuel), a carpenter shop (Joseph), weaving (Hannah and her sister Rebecca), and shepherding (David). We also met Joshua walking his donkey along the path. Our guide, Zachary, was excellent. He was from Fairfax, VA, attended James Madison University and is now in Israel as part of Young Life Ministries and volunteers at the YMCA to further spread the gospel. I was amazed at how little I knew about the working life in the day of Jesus. When you read the accounts and parables in the Bible and then look at how they applied to the people of that time, it helps you better understand and apply those same principles today. God's word is timeless and needful for every generation.
We continued south driving through the Valley of Jezreel heading toward Megido (Israeli map spelling). Tel Megiddo is located south of Nazareth, west of Haifa, and north of Jerusalem. You may be a little more familiar with the name Armageddon, derived from the Hebrew "Har Megiddo" meaning the "Mount of Megiddo." This location is mentioned once in the Bible in Revelation16:16 as the place where God will gather the armies of satan. After eating lunch there, we ascended to the summit. While this is not a "mount" like we have in West Virginia, it is high enough to command a view of the entire Jezreel Valley as far as the eye could see. Due to its strategic importance in keeping the trade route open between Egypt and Assyria, Megiddo was established as a town/ fortress. Archaeological excavations have revealed 26 different levels of towns. One of the attractive features of Megiddo was its defensive capability; with one exception: the water supply was outside the walls of the fortress. To remedy this, a square shaft was dug 115 feet deep that opens in to a horizontal tunnel bored 330 feet to a pool of water. With the water problem solved Megiddo was the perfect vantage point for the valley floor. By the way, there were 187 steps down to the pool and 80 steps back up (this I know) to an exit point. If you recall from an earlier post about Mount Carmel and the view of the Jezreel Valley from there, then you now know that Megiddo is located on the opposite end of the valley.
We then began about a 2 hour journey to Jerusalem. Dr. Cook wanted to get to the Western Wall before the Sabbath began. We made it there shortly before and were able to get in and observe some of the ritual prayers and practices of the Jewish population. Such ritualistic practices are of no benefit and just build on the pride of man. Young and old, men and women rushing to pray for Messiah to come; following the writings of a rabbi while rejecting God. It is humbling to see the fervor with which they worship and compare that to the effort we give. We had to leave since Sabbath was starting but plan to visit again.
Tomorrow will be one of the longest, most intense days yet. We are scheduled for 18 different activities starting with Dr. Cook presenting "Watchman on the Walls" and ending the day with a communion service at the Garden Tomb. I am scheduled to speak at Caiaphas' Home, the Pool of Bethesda, and somewhere along the Jericho Road if time allows. Pray for God to use me, pray for safe travel and our tour driver's Father Moses Cohen, who had heart surgery yesterday. He is 83 years old but strong and doing well. We pray for you. Shabbat shalom. Enjoy your coffee...more to come.
Love you all,
Whew what a day! We started at 7:15 a.m. with a boat trip around the Sea of Galilee. Our captain for the day was Daniel Carmel. Captain Daniel is an Israeli Jewish man who has accepted Jesus as Savior. He has two boats that sail on the sea and the one we were on was called Faith. As a messianic Jew, he is truly in the minority but in Dr. Cook's opinion there have probably been more Jewish people saved in the last twenty years than ever before. Still, the vast majority of Jewish people still walk around looking for the "Messiah" to come. As a matter of fact, our guide "Avi" and our driver "Assher" are both unsaved. Pray that they see that Messiah has already come and they may believe. Captain Daniel came to know Yeshua (Jesus in Hebrew) by listening to the preachers that came on his boat with their groups. After five years, he woke up one morning and realized that Jesus was real to him and he had a love for his "Messiah." From that time on, his life was changed. Daniel is not only a boat captain but quite an accomplished gospel singer. After we sailed for a bit he turned the motors off and we just floated. What an amazing way to start the day; sailing on the Sea of Galilee so quiet and serene watching the sun climb in the sky.
From there, we went to the remains of the city of Capernaum. This town was a fishing village in the time of Jesus located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Capernaum was a poor city with a struggling population estimated to peak at about 1,500 people. Jesus spent a lot of His time in this city and used this as His base for His ministry in and around Galilee. Capernaum was the hometown of Apostles Peter, James, Andrew, and John as well as the tax collector Matthew. Most of the town was centered around the synagogue. The ruins of the synagogue that are there today have a foundation of black (basalt) stone. This is significant because the summer temperature in Capernaum would average about 110 degrees. No one in their right mind would build their homes and businesses out of black stone in that heat unless they had no other choice. That is one of the factors that lead people to believe that Capernaum was poor and that also helps us to understand how Jesus can come to a people that are struggling and offer hope to a person that does not see hope in anything the world has to offer. This foundation was for the synagogue that we read about in Mark 1:21 which says, "And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the Sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught." While the city is now excavated ruins, I stood and envisioned Jesus teaching, healing, and touching lives as He walked through that city. Matthew 4:23 says, "And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner pf disease among the people."
Matthew 4:25 says, "And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond Jordan." These people followed Jesus not only for what he could do for them physically but also what he could do for them spiritually. Continuing in Matthew 5, "And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain and when he was set, his disciples came unto him and he opened his mouth, and taught them." Our next stop was the Mount of Beatitudes and this was where Jesus began to teach many practical life principals. I spoke that morning on the beatitudes and how that there should be a difference between the life of a believer and the world. When you read in verse 13 that a believer is to be the "salt of the earth" and in verse 14 "the light of the world" it becomes apparent that the believer should "glorify your Father which is in Heaven" (verse 16). This was not a request by Jesus but principals that were given with the expectation that the believer will obey.
From there, we went to Caesarea Phillipi which is located about 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee at the base of Mount Herman and is one of the largest springs feeding the Jordan River. Here the pagan god Pan was worshiped and there was a temple set up for that purpose. Other gods were worshiped there as well and Jesus spent quite a bit of time there spreading the gospel. He went to those that needed Him most.
The next stop was the Golan Heights. We were within 1 mile of the border of Syria and I never felt safer in my life. The Israeli Defense Force presence was seen but not prevalent. Controlling the Golan Heights means security for those in Northern Israel and is very important to Israel's continued survival. We ate lunch in another Druze village where we had another meal of flat bread, goat cheese spread, and various fruits and veggies. The terrain is steep and the only way to grow plants is to build walls to support a garden. As you drive by and look at the side of the mountain is looks as if steps were built into the side of it.
Next was the town of Kursi or probably more familiar as the Gadarenes. This was where the man possessed by demons was healed by Jesus and the swine did a nose dive into the sea. It was interesting to look down into the Sea of Galille and picture a man sitting up there watching a storm gather and buffet a small boat and all of a sudden a man steps out into the boat and commands the storm to stop. He saw hope that day...hope he never knew existed.
Tomorrow, we leave this part of Israel and head toward Jerusalem. We are going to head down the Jordan Valley, swing by Nazareth, stop along the road to Jericho, and wind up that evening at the Western Wall of the Temple. Another exciting day is closing and I look forward to another opportunity to see more of Israel tomorrow. I will be speaking on the road to Jericho so remember that in your prayers. We pray for you. Enjoy your coffee...more to come.
Love you all,
Gary W. Hall, Pastor of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church.