Israel Study Tour with Oakbrook Church, Faith Christian Reformed Church

Mar 7-17, 2016

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Christ in charge

The day began and ended with Christ in charge. Let’s go backwards.
After dinner, we and listened to the experience and perspective of an Arab Christian church planter living in Nazareth, named Saleem (yes, let all those descriptions sink in). It was apparent that God is at work in the Holy Land with the Good News. Saleem has the rare privilege of having been born to Christian parents and shares in ministry with others to minister and share the Gospel with Arabs living in Israel. Christ is being preaching and He is moving people to faith by His Spirit in ways that only He could do. Christ was in the City.

Before dinner, we had the treat of walking where Abraham walked at Dan. During the united kingdom of Israel and after the split, it was the furthest northern outpost. We read about Abraham’s rescuing Lot in the area and were able to see the ancient city gates that Abraham would have seen, nearly 4,000 years ago.

Tel Dan

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.

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Fast forwarding a couple thousand years in the same location, we walked around where the alter was erected by Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:26-30) in order to keep people from worshiping at the temple in Jerusalem and keeping them there. This was directly against what God commanded, however, and we were challenged with the question of how much compromise is too much (the answer is none!)? Christ is in the City.

A short distance away we had been in the New Testament at the sight of Caesarea Philippi. Much could be said of this sight with its extreme cultic worship, but this was the sight to which Jesus brought the disciples to ask them who they thought he was. Jesus brought the disciples to the far northern part of Israel and an extremely pagan city. It was most certainly unclean and a spot where they should not be as good self-respecting Jews. Christ was here though with this message: I am the Son of the one true God, not an idol. He called out “for what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:16) Christ was in the City.

Caesarea Philippi

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.

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On our way to Dan, we stopped in the Golan Heights to look out and consider the modern landscape politically and geographically. We looked down over a valley that looked green, dotted with houses. It also included a UN camp, an abandoned city used by the Syrian army, a large fence along the border and fields sectioned off with the simple, yet shocking, warning “danger mine fields”. Even in this mess of governments and disagreements over real estate, we are reminded of unrest as we wait for Christ to make all things right. Christ is in the City.

In the ancient city of Qatzrin, we saw an example of what life was like the first few centuries after Christ. We walked the streets, walked in rebuilt replicas of houses and stood in the footprint of a large synagogue. We even rolled dough out to back bread over a fire. Only a few fell on the ground! It was here that the account of the friends who bring the paralytic came to life. What an amazing picture as we’re sitting in a small house (by our standards) to think it was even more crowded and these men dug through the roof, just to see their sick friend well. In the end Jesus does much more than heal the man, he pronounces the forgiveness of sins. Christ was in the City.

Katzrin

The ancient Jewish farming village of Katzrin was built around a spring, which still flows. Although there were standing ruins on the site, archaeological excavations have increased the number of accessible ancient buildings. An ancient synagogue was discovered in 1967 and excavated between 1971 and 1984. Other parts of the village were excavated beginning in 1983. Some of the buildings have been reconstructed on their ancient foundations and furnished with replicas of household goods and tools

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After daybreak and breakfast, we journeyed a short distance to the region where Jesus stepped off the boat on the other side (East side) of the Sea of Galilee and was met by the demon possessed man. You could imagine a herd of pigs running down the side of the mountain into the sea. Amazing that Christ can transform lives, even of the people we think are least likely. It was a reminder of how we are to show love and care to even those on cast aside and difficult to love. Christ has the power to transform, even people possessed on the wrong side of the lake. Christ is in the city.

Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee is fed by the Jordan River, rainfall and springs on the northern side. More properly designated a lake, the Kinneret (the OT and modern name) is 13 miles long and 7 miles wide. At its deepest point the lake is only 150 feet deep. The rabbis said of it, “Although God has created seven seas, yet He has chosen this one as His special delight.”

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It was a full day filled with God’s provision for everything we needed. He has been good and we were able to see a few more pieces, add a few more perspectives the put visual context to the Word, and be encouraged the life of faith Christ has called us to. A great day.

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Experience Israel & Jordan for 11 days in the context of biblical history and personal faith.

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