On top of Mount Carmel, Elijah did pray
Day 6 began in a rather unexpected manner. Just as we were taking off for our first destination a student feel ill. But after a brief trip back to their room, a heartfelt group prayer, and a bottle of Gatorade—all was well. God has been soooooo good on trip. He has carried us through every hiccup. Great is his faithfulness.
Soon we arrived in Jesus’ hometown, Nazareth. It was quite a metropolis. Many of us were surprised to learn that the city’s population is split 70% Muslim and 30% Christians. It was Sunday so we had an opportunity to worship with a portion of that thirty percent. We worshipped at the Baptist Church of Nazareth. The service was wonderfully tailored to all these new English-speaking visitors. The sermon was on Hebrews 10 and it reminded us to put our hope in God alone.
Situated inside a bowl atop the Nazareth ridge north of the Jezreel valley, Nazareth was a relatively isolated village in the time of Jesus with a population less than two hundred. Today Nazareth is home to more than 60,000 Israeli Arabs; Upper Nazareth is home to thousands more Jewish residents.
We also visited a Roman Catholic Church erected around the house of Mary, mother of Jesus. It was a quiet and contemplative space. The perfect setting to try to absorb the reality of the incarnation.
We ended our time in Nazareth with lunch on the Mount Precipice. Afterward we heard two presentations. One regarding the significance of the city of Nazareth from Sam Kim and the other was about Mt. Tabor (which was just in the distance) by Kizzy Thomas.
Our next stop was Mt. Carmel. As we all sat at the top Hilary and Duane Smith gave a fun and edifying presentation on the story of Elijah from 1 Kings 18. We concluded with singing these words written by Duane (in the tune of “On Top of Spaghetti”):
“On top of Mount Carmel, Elijah did pray,
and the fire of God fell on that awesome day.
All the people shouted, the Lord, he is God,
and then pouring rain came soaking the dry sod.
So if you take delight in the true God alone,
Take note of his power, and make his name known.
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 last destination before Jerusalem was Caesarea Maritima. I could have sworn we were in Greece. There were Greco pillars and edifices all about. The biggest structure remaining was the Temple of Augustus. This was a place of pagan worship. Yet this place holds great significance for Christians. We were reminded by Brendan and Robert’s presentation that this is where the gospel first reached a group of gentiles. Acts 10 tells us that after Peter received a vision from God, he traveled to Caesarea to evangelize to Cornelius the Centurion and his household. The rest is history. Our history.
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). 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.
Our time in Caesarea ended with dipping our toes in the Mediterranean before getting on the bus for Jerusalem. Now unto rest before we embark on the final chapter of our trip.
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