Where the Spirit Moves
Light mist was in the air as we loaded the buses and saying goodbye to the Galilee. It’s on to Jerusalem! The first stop was in the ruins of Beit Sha’en. Jesus might not have walked down these roads, but they were there when he was walking around. It was amazing to see the construction (and destruction from an earthquake in 729 AD) the far reaching effect of Greek and then Roman culture. We also saw the hill where Saul’s headless body was hung after being killed in battle with Philistines. The air was still as we toured around the streets, a reminder that in this place there might have been great human ingenuity and comfort, but the Spirit was not present.
Located 17 miles (27 km) south of the Sea of Galilee, Beth Shean is situated at the strategic junction of the Harod and Jordan Valleys. The fertility of the land and the abundance of water led the Jewish sages to say, “If the Garden of Eden is in the land of Israel, then its gate is Beth Shean.” It is no surprise then that the site has been almost continuously settled from the Chalcolithic period to the present.
We moved on to Nazareth and visited the precipice hill as well as a recreated example of a village during the 1st Century. The hill was the place where the crowd was dragging Jesus to throw him off in response to his teaching. In the village, we sat in a replica of a synagogue where Jesus was doing that teaching. These hillsides are exactly where Jesus walked. As we walked, the strong wind was obvious. This is a picture of the Spirit moving where He wants to go, which is exactly what we see in the Gospels as Jesus sets his face toward Jerusalem and the cross.
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.
While we were in the area, we went up Mt Carmel, across the Jezreel Valley from Nazareth, the sight of Elijah’s challenge to the profits of Baal. Again the wind was obvious reminding us that the Spirit moves, as we can see in the life of the profit Elijah. God is looking for obedience. This is the where true strength is derived. A good lesson for people calling on the name of Christ now.
The spacious Jezreel Valley spreads out to the north and east from Mount Carmel, providing convenient passage for international travelers in ancient times. The fertile alluvial soil makes this the country’s breadbasket as well. The Bible speaks of the gathering of armies in this valley at the place of Armageddon.
One last stop before arriving in Jerusalem. We went out to the sea, stopping at the ruins of the aqueduct built by Herod to bring water to the town of Caesarea. In Caesarea, we could see the battlements that the crusaders built to reinforce their stronghold. In the city was largest bay in the Roman Empire, which was completely man-made and can be seen now. Here God placed Paul in prison, giving him the chance to write to places like Ephesus and Corinth. In God’s plan, he used a place built out of human pride and an imprisonment that was intended to break a person to bring the Gospel to the first century and even now. The Spirit moves and guides.
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.
After a couple hour bus ride we arrived up to Jerusalem. Amazing to ride through the hills and see all that live here, approximately 800,000 people. The remainder of our time will be headquartered out of here, and we look forward to what we’ll see!
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Septemer 5-17, 2020
Experience Israel & Jordan for 11 days in the context of biblical history and personal faith.
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