June 26, 2016
All of the spots that we were at today were of epic importance to our history. From all consuming fire coming down on Mt Carmel, to the sparkling marble Harbor of Caesarea, to finally getting to Nazareth; Jesus’ hometown.
After a fairly grueling hike halfway up Mt Carmel, we got to really understand the significance of an olive tree. There is so much to be learned about the olive tree in relation to our Christian faith, but the main takeaway from the olive tree was that branches have to be cut some times for future growth. We had multiple testimonies that would attest to that as people in our group have endured the loss of family members or people near to them. These losses were not easy, but to see where God has taken them from that loss is very impactful. God’s plan is not without purpose. We finished the rest of the hike and were able to sit on top of the mountain and hear the story of Elijah on Mt Carmel. Elijah stood on Mt Carmel and challenged the people with Hutzpah to stop wavering between their worship and allegiance of Baal and Jehovah! He implored them to go all in, wholeheartedly to God and stop messing around with idol worship, and letting the influence of the Greek’s draw them away from the God who loves them and had been leading them since their Patriarchal forefathers. Then, after God Himself came and consumed the offering, all the people in attendance (over 850 in total) began chanting “Elijah! Elijah!” which means: “Our God is Jehovah!”
Biblically, Mt. Carmel is referenced most often as a symbol of beauty and fertility. To be given the "splendor of Carmel" was to be blessed indeed (Isa 35:2). Solomon praised his beloved: "your head crowns you like Mount Carmel" (Song 7:5). But for Carmel to wither was a sign of devastating judgment (Nahum 1:4).
Our next stop was Caesarea. We walked around the ancient city of Caesarea, where Herod built a city that “shone like the sun” as sailor spotted in from the water. It featured Herod’s throne room (facing over the Mediterranean), a games arena, a theater, a gymnasium (school), and a temple to honor Caesar. Numerous Christians were martyred in the arena and over the time Herod held the games. As we sat on the same bleachers that the ancient Greeks once did, we were challenged with the thought of whether we would go all in for our faith and our God, if faced with certain death. The famous martyr Justin Marty came to know the Lord because he saw how joyfully the men, women, and children who followed Jesus went to their death for their savior. Their whole heart was in it.
This site was insignificant until Herod the Great began to develop it into a magnificent harbor befitting his kingdom. The harbor was built using materials that would allow the concrete to harden underwater. The forty-acre harbor would accommodate 300 ships, much larger than the modern harbor existing today.
The last stop 0f the day was at Mt Precipice in Jesus’s hometown of Nazareth. There he entered the temple and in his perfect timing, the scheduled scripture to read was such,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Jesus was the fulfillment of Isaiah 58 and 61.
He was the suffering servant, the one to open blind eyes, to free the captive, to bring Jubilee!
Jesus spent his boyhood years in Nazareth before beginning his ministry when he was about 30. After moving his home to Capernaum, Jesus returned to teach in the synagogue of Nazareth twice more, but was rejected both times. On one occasion the townspeople were so outraged at Jesus that they tried to throw him off a cliff to his death.