Be Open Minded
Today we packed our bags and left the Sea of Galilee to journey to Jerusalem with many interesting and educational stops on the way. The first thing we did was to drive through Nazareth, the home town of our savior Jesus. The city of Nazareth sure looks different than what we imagined in biblical days. It has many concrete buildings stacked on top of each other up and down the hills of Nazareth. Surprisingly, the population is made up of a variety of religions with Jews not being the largest group, but Muslims being first, Greek Orthodox being second, Protestants next then Jews coming in fourth. We learned that the Muslims have grown their population by procreation... Like having 10 kids! Can you imagine 10 kids in your family? From the top of Nazareth, you can see the whole country of Israel. It was beautiful.
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.
Our next stop was Tel Megiddo. This had been a Chariot City which was essentially a fortified city. Megiddo has 26 layers that they have found... Which means 26 different cities built on top of one another! The last was developed by King Solomon. This was a city of GREAT prosperity. Below was the Jezreel Valley where hundreds of wars over thousands of years were fought and many Kings conquered. With such a great vantage point you can see why this was a mountain desired for its strategic location. From here you could control the land and the world at this cross road. This area is best know biblically for being the area of the last great battle mentioned in Revelation 16:14 (HarMegiddo =Armageddon)
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.
The third stop was Mount Carmel which means God's Vineyard in Hebrew. We took a short hike to a small view point where we looked over the Valley and Pastor Michael recounted the story in 1 Kings 18 where Elijah challenges King Ahab to a dual of the Gods. King Ahab's Gods of Baal and Asherah against Yahweh. Well, you probably can guess who wins... But if you don't remember the story you should read it in 1Kings 18. It's great reading!
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 stop of the day was at Caesarea. King Herod the Great built this city and by so doing controlled the port trade for the region. Caesarea really is an impressive city, a metropolis of its own kind built by the one and only King Herod. This city includes a spectacular theater that is still used today for concerts and plays, an extravagant palace built for the King with a fresh water swimming pool and an elaborate water aqueduct system, a complex harbor which was the biggest harbor in the 1st century, a great temple as well as a Hippodrome which was used for chariot races and later turned into an amphitheater for Gladiator fighting. It really is amazing to be in the places written about in the Bible. It was here that we read in Acts 10 that a Centurion by the name of Cornelius has a vision that he is to go find Peter and at about the same time Peter has a vision that the gospel is for all peoples. Those who have been the chosen people and the Gentiles.
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.
Today's lessons all dealt with being open minded to what God is telling you. In Nazareth we learned about how Jesus challenged the people of his hometown when he read the scriptures and told them that the scripture had been fulfilled in their hearing it (Luke 4:21). On Mount Carmel we asked ourselves the question "Is Jesus everything he claimed to be?". In Caesarea we heard about the gospel being for all peoples. Each of these lessons has the ability to challenge us in some way. What should we do about that? We are to search the scriptures with an open mind and see what God is telling us.
Today was a day of information overload- but the information is so good.... Can't wait for each of you to come to Israel and experience it for yourself- God will surely meet you here as he has met us!! Shalom
Danny and Crystal
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