We ourselves were once foolish
Today marked the halfway point of our trip. It was heavier and more sobering than some of the other days of the trip, so far. We spent the day visiting sites of pagan temples and idol worship. We tracked through some mud and found ourselves at a place called Omrit, near the road to Damascus, and talked about Caesar Augustus and the imperial cult worship that was happening at the time of Jesus’ birth.
We visited Caesarea Philippi and hiked to a place where people would have worshipped the god, pan. The entrance of this temple would also have been referred to as “the gates of hell”. This is the place that Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus tells him, “You are Peter and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” - Matthew 16:18. It was sobering to see the darkness of the pagan worship that would have been happening right in the place where we were sitting, but praise God that even the gates of hell will not prevail against the church at the confession of Jesus as the Son of the living God!
This abundant water supply has made the area very fertile and attractive for religious worship. Numerous temples were built at this city in the Hellenistic and Roman periods.
The last place we visited today was Dan. This tribe of Israel did what was right in their own eyes and sought their own comfort and ease instead of following the plan that the Lord had for them. They were forgetful of God’s faithfulness and provision, and because of that, they tried to make their own way- it did not go well for them.
I was reminded today that in my flesh I am no different than these people who were disobedient to God. All too often I forget the Lord’s goodness and provision and look to other things to satisfy me. I seek my own comfort and try to work out my own plan. In reality, there is no good in me apart from Jesus. But God, in His kindness, keeps drawing me back to himself. Paul puts it this way in his letter to Titus:
On the northern frontier of the kingdom, Dan was particularly well fortified. This gatehouse was built in the ninth century BCE, probably by Ahab, and is part of a series of gateways discovered.
“For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Titus 3:3-7 (ESV)
I am thankful to have community to keep me on course, to point me back to the truth of God’s word, and to encourage me to abide in the Lord. It’s incredible to be in Israel and see God’s kindness and provision in the stories of the Israelites and in my life as well.
Written by Hannah Thacher