Our final day at the Sea of Galilee began with another sparkling sunrise reflecting off the water. Two women in our group entered that water along with Ross to be baptized. Ross spoke of Jesus’ identification with us at His baptism and how our baptisms in turn proclaim our identification with Him. There were loud cheers and applause celebrating that special moment.
As we traveled back across the Jezreel valley, this time from east to west, we recognized many of the same landmarks we’d learned earlier in the week. Our first site was Megiddo- a critically important city that had been conquered and rebuilt 26 times through the centuries. Also called Armageddon, it will be a rendezvous point for troops at the final battle, and perhaps the site of the battle itself. Because of it’s strategic location, it’s thought that more battles have been fought here than any other place in the world. Matt taught us from 2 Ki 23 about Josiah’s death in battle there, Judah’s last good king. We looked ahead to Rev 1:7 where another king who also had been pierced would one day return- not in defeat but in victory.
In addition to the commanding view, a highlight of the visit was descending several stories below the city down a shaft that had been dug to reach a spring outside the city walls. That illustrated the primary reason the city was so susceptible to conquest- once an enemy stopped that water supply, the city would soon fall.
From the earliest times (EB) to the earliest historical records of the area (Thutmose III) to the future (Revelation 16), Megiddo assumes a prominent role. This is largely owing to its strategic location astride the Megiddo Pass (Wadi Ara) and inside the busy Jezreel Valley.
We then traveled on to Mt. Carmel where Eric reviewed with us the confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. He pointed out that the real hero in that story was the bull, the one who was sacrificed because of the persistent wavering of the people as to whether they would worship only the one true God. We had a commanding view of a major Israeli air base. We probably saw 15-18 F16’s land during our time on top of the mountain. We have felt very safe here! It was on to lunch in a Druse restaurant- the food was outstanding.
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 final stop before heading to Jerusalem this evening was Caesarea Maritima. This was the largest city in Israel in the first century- probably about the same population of Tyler. Herod’s brilliance as a builder was again in evidence as we saw the ruins of the largest harbor in the eastern Mediterranean in that day and his enormous palace. He had a fresh water pool lined with mosaic tiles that was within feet of the surf and miles from any source of fresh water. He built an aqueduct from the foothills of Mt. Carmel to supply water to the city. Paul, Luke and Philip all walked that city, and Matt and Ross reminded us of the challenge those men faced in such a thoroughly pagan place. No one in that day would have predicted that 2000 years later the message those first men declared would have reached the world while the great city would lie in ruins.
Another great day in the land that has so much to teach us. On to Jerusalem!
Craig and Lynn Radford for the group
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