Israel Study Tour - Rod VanSolkema

Jun 22 - Jul 4, 2014

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Little did Herod know

From the desert to luxury. During the first four days, our team was learning by foot the testing and humbling of the people of Israel. But today took a turn for the world’s best. We visited Caesarea, not to be confused with Caesarea Philippi. Caesarea was the amazing city feat of human ingenuity brought to us by king Herod. You may have heard about this Herod in an earlier blog post, when we went to Masada. Just as he pulled off the impossible, by building a fortress palace on a mountain top in the desert, so he did by building a palace and sea port along and into the Mediterranean Sea! So what though?

Why would we come to this city to learn about such accomplishments and see all the leftovers of history’s feast on this ancient city? Because this city, which Herod erected to be an idol to Caesar, really served to be the birthplace of the spread of the gospel to the gentiles and also as the launch pad for the gospel to the “ends of the earth”. It was here that Jesus told Peter in a dream to go meet with the Gentile Roman Centurion, Cornelius. It was here that Cornelius first heard the gospel and believed in Jesus Christ. It was here that the apostle Paul set sail every time he departed to go around the Mediterranean Sea…like when he was on trial here in Caesarea and appealed to Caesar to go on trial in Rome! And this is just like God!

Caesarea Maritima

The city and harbor were built under Herod the Great during c. 22–10 BC near the site of a former Phoenician naval station known as Stratonos pyrgos (Στράτωνος πύργος).[2] It later became the provincial capital of Roman Judea, Roman Syria Palaestina and Byzantine Palaestina Prima provinces. The city was populated throughout the 1st to 6th centuries CE and became an important early center of Christianity during the Byzantine period, but was mostly abandoned following the Muslim conquest of 640. It was re-fortified by the Crusaders, and finally slighted by the Mamluks in 1265.

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It’s just like God to take the things that the world erects to worship itself and use it to fulfill His redemptive gospel purpose for Himself! You better believe that devout Jews were concerned when they saw this pagan city being built with its’ theatre, pagan temples, gymnasium for Greek academics, and Herod’s palace and sea port. Rod pointed out to us that we often can do that ourselves, as Christians. I personally think that this could apply to the recent biblical movies that have hit the scene in Hollywood. But then again, we also can be like classic Gentiles and see places like the desert as places of death and loneliness…but as we’ve learned by foot with our Jewish forefathers, the desert is a place of life and fellowship with God.

I found it fitting that in my devotions today, I read Romans 12:2. Here, Paul wrote, “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may be able to test and approve what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” May God help us recognize with boldness the redemptive gospel purposes that God is fulfilling among us when the “pagans” around us are building their idols to themselves. May God help us also recognize our own worldliness to see delight in that the deserts in our lives are places of life and where we meet with God.

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