WE ARE AT WAR!
After pausing this morning to listen to the waves crashing on the Sea of Galilee one last time, we made the trek UP to Jerusalem. Everything in the land is considered up to Jerusalem. Check out the Psalms of Ascent (chapters 120-134) to see where our help comes from!
Our first stop is Megiddo looking over the “Valley Of Armageddon.” Let me break this down for you! This is where the FINAL BATTLE of the end times will take place. Say whaaaat?! The final battle against sin! Seeing this land has really made us zero in on not wanting to “fall asleep” but rather stay AWAKE, alert to the sin and slippage that can creep up in our own lives like it says in Revelation 16:15. In this battle He will come back for His bride, and we get to be co-heirs with Christ!
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.
In this “desert of life” it is God refining us over to be MORE LIKE HIM, to do even greater works than He did. It’s a test, we either learn to trust our Good Shepherd, or choose not too. This desert is called GRACE and we’re thankful for the desert of grace. From generation to generation we go from hardship to hardship, then we grow close to God, but then turn from God. It’s a cycle of pain, suffering and closeness again. Sound familiar?
We see where God is at war and continues to have VICTORY over VICTORY. We can’t win the war by ourselves, it’s why we need closeness with the Holy Spirit, because we too are still in this fight, what’s awesome is that at the end of this last EPIC battle that takes place at Armageddon will be a new heaven and a new earth!
Here we saw a HUGE Baal altar and how the battle continues to rage as the children of Israel make sacrifices, committing their firstborn into a fire pit while dancing and celebrating it. Lots of DARK stuff went on here.
We were told to be careful not to be too American Christian, because we too make our own “golden umbrellas.” How much of our heart does God really have? We too can find ourselves here very quickly.
Next we made our way to Mt. Carmel where we heard about the great prophet Elijah! On this very mountain is where the epic face off happened between Elijah’s LIVING God and Baal & Asherah. After just visiting a Baal altar makes this story ring that much louder! God raises up Elijah to take down 450 prophets of Baal, and 400 prophets of Asherah.
He is so full of valor, guts, and FAITH! The Israelites are in a three year drought, and Elijah has them douse his altar in water just to show how grand Our God is! We see what kind of courage he has and the stand he takes knowing his God is gonna see him prevail! Check out 1 Kings 19 for the full incredible story.
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).
The story takes a turn when we see that after one of the greatest victories comes one of the biggest attacks. After one of Elijah’s greatest moments in his life he is quickly brought to depression and fear, going into the desert of Beersheba finding himself running from Jezebel. The enemy wants nothing more than to take you down. Now Elijah is physically in the desert. But, what’s the theme through our time here in Israel? God speaks the loudest in the desert!
In the times that are the most crushing, depressing, hard, the times you want to give up....God breathes LIFE! He gives provision to Elijah who was a man just like you and me. What made him extraordinary was his PRAYER life and INTIMACY with God. It made him a hero! So when you feel under attack, remember the story of Elijah.
After lunch we headed to Ceasarea by the Sea, off the Mediterranean Coast. It is absolutely beautiful! This is where King Herod the Great built one out of his 8 palaces. There’s a fresh water pool and stones of marble brought in from around the world. The list goes on and on of its ‘extravagance’. He did this because he wanted everyone to remember the name Herod. He lived so the whole world would know Herod. At the end of his life they pushed as much of that marble as they could into the sea because the people despised him. We all reflected on the difference between the kind of stones King David used in comparison to King Herod. Herod’s stones were to make Herod known. But David’s stones were to make God’s name known! There is still marble to this day that washes up on theses shores! I promise you! We all collected some as a reminder to make sure we show the whole world this is not about us, but Christ.
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.
In Ceasarea by the Sea is also where men like Peter and Paul brought the LIFE-GIVING message of Christ and then out to the uttermost parts of the world. It’s just so cool to think that the powerful message of the gospel is still shining SO BRIGHT. We too want to take on the authority and kind of influence that Paul had in delivering the message of Christ.
As of this evening we are in Jerusalem, the City of Peace! We will spend our last two days here. We are tired physically and mentally, but our hearts are ready for Jerusalem! “We give you our head, our heart, our hands and our feet all to Christ!” Thanks for following us!