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,
Gary W. Hall, Pastor of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church.