Israel Study Tour with Northway Church

Jun 14-25, 2021

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The God of Unconditional Kindness, Victory, and Providence

Today we got to walk through and visit sites that reminded us that our God is in total control, He loves us even though we don’t deserve it, and he continues to be faithful and provide for his children. As a current reminder, when we finished our day and arrived at our hotel in Jerusalem the hotel staff were so kind, welcomed us with snacks, and room upgrades! We have been treated so well by everyone we have met thus far on our trip and it has been a practical reminder in the midst of the Land of Promise that our God continues to give good gifts to his children.  

Beth She’an

We started our morning at a site with twofold importance. First, it is the site of the ancient city Beth She’an where King Saul and his sons died after fighting the Philistines in the Jezreel Valley. As 1 Samuel 31 and the beginning of 2 Samuel tell us, after losing to the Philistines, Saul falls on his sword and later the his body is beheaded by the conquering Philistine army and taken to to the city of Beth She’an to be displayed. However, the people of Jabesh Gilead heard of the treatment of their fallen king and marched through the night to salvage Saul’s body and bury it properly with respect and honor. Mike told us that the Hebrew word "hesed", which means unconditional kindness, was used to describe the people’s treatment of their fallen king. They risked their lives by entering the newly conquered territory to bring back Saul’s body and to make sure that their leader who had helped them previously (see 1 Samuel 11 for that story) was treated with the respect and care he deserved. Mike went on to remind us that we too have a King who has treated us with unconditional kindness (hesed) by making a way for us to be reunited with God through the sacrifice of the Son. 

The second reason this site is significant is because it is the location of Scythopolis, the capital city of the decapolois, the 10 major Roman cities of the time. This city, a booming center of trade, Roman culture, and entertainment, was home to Hellenistic Jews during the days of Jesus. In these cosmopolitan ruins we learned about the Roman design for a city, their love of theater, walked in the ruins of the marketplace, and walked through the remains of a Roman bathhouse complete with an exercise space, toilets, and a steam room. 

Megiddo

Next, we headed to the Megiddo, a large mountain where the ruins of 26 different civilizations have been uncovered. This site was likely utilized as a military stronghold from 7,000 to 330 BC. Situated on a wide valley, it has been speculated that more battles have been fought on at the base of this stronghold than anywhere else in the world. On and around this mountain many Biblical stories have taken place: Joshua claiming the promised land, Gideon fighting the Midianites, some of Saul’s battles, Solomon had a stable of 1000 horses here, and more. However, Shea called our attention to this site not because of its history, which is extensive, but because of its future. The Hebrew word for mountain is "har"; when this mountain is called by its full name "Har Megiddo", those of us who don’t speak Hebrew fluently have misheard the name and dubbed it Armageddon. As Shea walked us through the promise of Jesus’ second coming, (did you know 1 out of 25 verses in the New Testament talk about Jesus’ return?) he explained how this site is where the greatest event, the end of the world, will lead to our greatest hope. As believers, we do not need to worry about the end of the world, about Armageddon, because we have a Savior who came first as a sacrificial lamb and who will return as a king in glory to claim his people and his world. The big battle will be no battle at all because our God has already won and will return to establish a new heaven and a new earth! 

Mount Carmel

This is the site of the great showdown between Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal. As we sat looking at the beautiful view from the top of this mountain, Mike reminded us that we serve a jealous God. God tells us that he will not share his glory; He will have our whole heart, our whole lives, or we will have no part of Him. It was a powerful reminder to surrender our whole lives to to our God who wants it all, at the place where he displayed his power in such a mighty way. 

Caesarea Maritima

We finished our day on the shore of the Mediterranean, at the ruins of a palace Herod built. This was another major city with lots of trade and the largest harbor in the world at the time of Herod. This site is even more important for us because it is the city where Gentiles were introduced to the Gospel. Here Peter spoke with Cornelius, a Roman centurion, Philip preached here, Paul used the harbor when leaving on missionary journeys, and eventually Paul was imprisoned in the palace, where we sat today, as he awaited his trial in Rome. As we sat looking at the cell where Paul was imprisoned for 2 years before leaving for Rome, Shea reminded us that we serve a big God who cannot be stopped by the chains of man. Although Paul was in prison, his message and the Gospel continued to spread to the soldiers guarding him, to the cities where he was kept, and throughout the world. While the authorities could keep Paul in chains, the message of Jesus Christ and what He has done for us could not be stopped by chains, prison walls, or any means of man. 

 

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