Israel Study Tour with Cornerstone University

Jan 3-13, 2016

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Entering into the world of the Bible

David Alcook writes:

“It Is Done.”
Today marked the fifth day of our journey in the land of Israel and the trip has been an incredible experience. I am learning to read my Bible geographically and am beginning to understand how the climate and topography of the land has helped shape the story of scripture. More importantly, I am drawing closer to the Lord as I learn how to read his word more carefully. It has been a blessing to explore the land of Israel and soak up the scenery of where Jesus did ministry while he was here on earth. The stories of scripture are coming alive in new ways and I’m truly entering into the world of the Bible!

We began our morning by loading our luggage and departing from our hotel, Nof Ginosar. After hitting the road the first site we visited was Megiddo, which is located near the Mount Carmel range overlooking the Jezreel valley. Dr. Greer began his lecture by describing the extensive history of the site. He explained that archeological evidence was found at Megiddo that linked the existence of civilization to the Neolithic period, which is 5,000 years before Christ! The main focus of our time, however, was on the late Bronze Age and Iron Age. Dr. Greer explained how Megiddo was a thriving Canaanite city that was likely very wealthy. Furthermore, he explained that Megiddo was the guardian city to the most important route through the Mount Carmel range, the Aruna pass. Because of its strategic location and advantage for trade/travel, foreign armies would often try to overtake Megiddo. Battle after battle after battle would occur. The Egyptian King Thutmose III said, “Capturing Megiddo is as good as capturing 1000 cities.” The city was very valuable, but the Israelites rarely controlled it until shortly before the reign of Solomon. When Israel was powerful and expanding its borders Megiddo was often under their control. The history of the site is full of intense battles all because of the strategic advantage it provides.

But where is Megiddo mentioned in the Bible? And what significance does this city have in scripture? One of the most well known references is found in the book of Revelation. Revelation 16 discusses the seven bowls of God’s wrath that will be poured out on the earth. In verse 16, a brief reference is made, “And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.” The “them” referred to in the passage are the kings of the earth with their armies, and the place “Armageddon” is where the final battle will occur. The Hebrew for Armageddon, however, is actually two words. Har, which means mountain or hill, and Megiddo, which is the place I visited today. The two words together form Armageddon, which is the mountain of Megiddo. Now, whether or not the final battle will truly occur at that specific location is unclear because Revelation is a highly symbolic book. But it is significant that a historically war torn site like Megiddo is mentioned as the location for the final battle. The original readers of Revelation would most likely understand the significance of that location and know the conflict that took place over time. It provides a great example of the value of understanding the geography and history of the land.

The most important lesson I learned today, however, was not about the site of Megiddo. It was about the power of Jesus. In the midst of the greatest battle of all time Jesus firmly establishes his Lordship. We might expect an epic battle waging back and forth where evil looks like it might have the upper hand, but Jesus enters into the chaos and proclaims, “It is done.” I take great comfort in knowing that our Lord is able to take the war torn areas of our life and bring them into order and provide healing. The power of the resurrection is the hope we cling to when the world seems to be deteriorating before us. Jesus Christ is Lord of Megiddo, Israel, the Middle East, and the world. One day he will come back and the ruin of sin will be done away with. We will be with our Lord and he will speak those victorious words given in Revelation 21:6, “it is done.”

Megiddo

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.

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Anita Gordon writes:

Hello friends and family, God is amazing! We have spent six days in Israel so far. Dr. Stowell reminded us about the reason we are fighting. Two kingdoms, one light and the other dark, and good versus evil. We are learning about everything in between from Dr. Jonathan and Jennifer Greer. The sites we have witnessed are full of historical jewels. When we went to site David slew Goliath; it was unreal. I could hear the words David yelled at Goliath as I envisioned Israel on one side and the Philistines on the other. Each site has been incredible as our tour guide, Yahudah, explains continually. We have taken away several suggestions to serve in our ministries to and for God, not for self, and to have compassion for others. I have floated or sailed on the Sea of Galilee, heard the sound of a donkey braying for the first time in Nazareth, climbed down the Masada mountain from where King Herod the Great, the magnificent builder, lived. Tel Dan exposed the ruins of the temple and there we saw the different sections of the temple. I’ve seen this in books before, but walking there and seeing how the priests worked in each section was amazing. All of this was an act of worship. My mind went up to the Holy of Holies, no more animal sacrifice; Jesus was the sacrifice. Now we can approach God ourselves without a priest and talk to Him on our own. Because of his blood we can come boldly to His throne. Thank you Jesus! And, since we are living in the last days, you light want to put a trip to Israel on your list before the rapture…list of things to do. And to the top of Masada was a feat many of us chose not to climb, so we took the cable car up. But coming down was the challenge, yet we all made it. The church of Magdala was my favorite site because it contained the road Jesus walked on and the entrance of a church that was called an Atrium to Women. Most of the women who helped fund Jesus’ ministry were named among several columns circling the room. The respect and honor given to women was so awe inspiring that everyone was moved emotionally and spiritually. Today we will see Jerusalem and I can’t imagine how special this will be. In the meantime we all know that the kingdom of light triumphs and that we win; Jesus wins in the end. Revelation tells us so, but what an experience to walk through the land to see and hear the Bible unfolded before your eyes. Walking the land of the Bible will make me treasure my Bible more than ever. Amen!

Magdala

Magdala, the birthplace of Mary Magdalene, was a prosperous fishing village at the time Jesus was active in this region. The ruins of this Roman village is now enclosed within a wall. The archaeologists uncovered the remains of the village dating from the time of Jesus, and a Byzantine monastery. A mosaic floor featuring a fisherman's boat was found at the place.

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Sherita M. Barnes writes:

After visiting an ancient tomb which was located on the side of the road, we arrived at the Discalced Carmelite Order which is a Sanctuary and Monastery in Muhraqa. Muhraqa is the famous site of where Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal (1Kings 18) and it is situated on the northern part of Mt. Carmel. Personally, I was so excited to go to Mt. Carmel, because nineteen years ago I made a commitment to follow Jesus Christ at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Norfolk, Virginia. Who would of ever thought that one day I would actually visit the actual site of "Mt. Carmel," where the one true and living God who answers by fire showed himself strong and mighty. I felt so honored and blessed to be there.

As we entered the Sanctuary and Monastery there was a large monument of Elijah standing with one foot upon the prophet of Baal getting ready to slay him. This image of Elijah standing tall and his enemy under his feet was so momentous. It reminded me of the authority and power that Jesus has given us over our enemies; and Scripture states “but you give us victory over our enemies, you put our adversaries to shame" (Psalm 44:7 NIV). Hence, as Dr. Greer eloquently stated "It's Done!"

Also, I must admit that while I stood before the monument of Elijah I began to see Scripture in a whole new light, the people and places of the sacred text have became more luminous. Nonetheless, we were very thankful that the rain had stopped and that the sky was clear thereby allowing us to view the Jezreel Valley, thus allowing us to see Megiddo, Mt. Tabor, Mt. Gelboe, Mt. Arbel, and the Mediterranean Sea. Oh, what a beautiful and breathtaking site, God is so awesome!

Next we went to Caesarea Maritima which was a city built on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea by Herod the Great. We were able to explore some of the headless Roman Byzantine Statuary, which represented deities and/or local dignitaries. I must admit that I used my creative mind to imagine all of the beauty of Herod's Palace. As I looked and listened to the gushing waves from the Mediterranean Sea, I marveled over the fact that Herod the Great was truly a great builder and obviously was a master mind as he creatively built a powerful new city and harbor. Nevertheless, tears came to my eyes as our guide, Yehouda took us to the hippodrome and enlightened us about the number of Christians that were martyred at the hippodrome for entertainment purposes.

While we were sitting in the Amphitheater in which some of the original stones were still in place, Dr. Greer shared the Biblical narrative as to why this city was so important to our faith. The Apostle Paul was sent to Caesarea and he was also imprisoned there for two years under house arrest (Acts 23, 24). Nevertheless, though Paul was imprisoned he never stopped sharing the gospel message. So therefore, the gospel message continues to still go forth from a prisoner named Paul, and as Dr. Greer stated "in a very unlikely way."

We ended this part of our journey with Dr. Stowell leading us in a moment of silence for all of the Christians that were martyred at Caesarea; and we prayed for Christians today who have been and continue to be martyred because of their faith in Jesus Christ.

As I have reflected on the Apostle Paul, and the other Christians that were martyred in Caesarea, and even the Christians who are currently in hostile territories, I can not help but to think about the words that Jesus spoke to his disciples. Jesus said “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:12‬). So, I end with this, no matter what we are faced with, even if it's death, we are to remain committed and faithful to Jesus and the spreading of the gospel message just like the Apostle Paul did while he was in the ancient city known as Caesarea.

May God bless you as you continue on this journey towards kingdom building...

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One of Hadrian's aqueducts from the 2nd century-the 100sCE. #grtsisrael

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Inside a 1st century tomb. #GRTSIsrael

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Caesarea Philippi. Read the New Testament-Acts 12:19,21,23 or Google it. I don't currently have the energy to provide a description! #grtsisrael

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Hippodrome, where many believers became martyrs for their faith. #GRTSIsrael

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This, my friends, is an ancient manger. It fed horses at the strategic fortress watching over the #Jezreel valley at #Megiddo. It is precisely the right size for a baby, at least when I judge it by the standard of babies born these days. I wonder if 1st century babies were even a bit smaller than the 21-inchers we see now. #grtsisrael #Nazareth

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Fishermen hauling in a net on the Sea of Galilee. Notice the rain in the background. Beautiful morning. #GRTSIsrael

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Morning light at the Sea of #Galilee. Even amidst touristy shops that capitalize on visitors like me and buses hauling people every which direction, the reality is that Jesus did indeed spend significant time around this body of water. It's surrounding towns, certainly including #Capernaum, were places that bore witness to his presence.

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