Day 01 - Plains of Moab: Mount Nebo, Madaba, Mosaic Shop
We woke up this morning in the city of Amman and began our morning still a bit jet-lagged, but energized and excited to see what God is going to allow us to see and experience in the coming days.
We gathered together after breakfast before setting off for the day for a bit of orientation. Randy reminded us that this land is the setting of our spiritual history. God began our stories here.
He encouraged us to keep our hearts and our minds open to “thin spaces” – those places and moments where the divine and earthly, the sacred and the mundane, intermingle in a unique way.
From there we made our way south to the town of Madaba. In the 1880s, Arab Christians settled in Madaba after fleeing persecution in Karnak. As this Arab Christians began to build homes, they discovered mosaics buried beneath the surface. We visited the most famous of these mosaics, the Mosaic Map, inside the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George. The Mosaic Map dates back to around 560 AD. This map, which centers on Jerusalem, provides us a beautiful and quite accurate picture of the region from that time.
We moved from Madaba to one of the most incredible biblical sites in Jordan – Mount Nebo. Mount Nebo is situated on the northeastern corner of the Dead Sea. On a clear day, you can see the Jordan River jutting north towards the Sea of Galilee, the ancient location of Jericho, and, in the distance, Jerusalem.
After orienting ourselves to the geography, we walked a bit of of the biblical history that stretched out before us.
There, in the Jordan Valley, Lot settled after he and Abraham went their separate ways (Genesis 13:1-13). There, within our sight, lies the ancient city of Sodom (Genesis 18:22-19:29).
It was right around here that Balak, the king of Moab, summoned Balaam to curse the people of Israel, after God had led them to victory over the Amorites. It was here that the Lord prevented that curse and, instead, gave Balaam a series of blessings to speak upon the Israelites. It was here that in his fourth and final blessing, Balaam predicted the coming of the Meshiach – the Messiah.
“I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near;
a star shall come out of Jacob,
and a scepter shall rise out of Israel.” (Numbers 24:17, ESV)
And it was here, on this mountain, that Moses was allowed to look out over the land of Canaan. It was here that Moses was able to glimpse the long-awaited fulfillment of the promise God had made to Abraham, even though he would not get to experience that fulfillment for himself. It was here that Moses died and, just below, somewhere in the plains of Moab, God himself officiated the funeral and laid His servant to rest.
Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. And the LORD showed him all the land, Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, the Negeb, and the Plain, that is, the Valley of Jericho the city of palm trees, as far as Zohar. And the LORD said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, ‘I will give it to your offspring.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.” So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD, and he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-peor; but no one knows the place of his burial to this day. (Deuteronomy 34:1-6, ESV)
Deuteronomy, then, closes with these words.
And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel. (Deuteronomy 34:10-12, ESV)
We ended our time on Mount Nebo reflecting on this servant of the LORD. He didn’t finish his race perfectly, but he finished it strong. His trust and obedience serves as an encouragement. I want to finish my race strong. I want to finish with lungs burning and legs cramping. It’s too late to finish perfectly. That ship has long since sailed. But it’s not too late – it’s never too late – to finish strong.
We then stopped off at The Tree of Life Mosaic Shop. There are many such shops lining the road that leads to and from Mount Nebo, but this one is unique in that forty-eight of it’s fifty-five artists are physically disabled. Three, in fact, were born without arms and so create this artistic masterpieces using only their lips and feet. It’s a special place.
We will stay tonight in Wadi Musa and, tomorrow morning, head to Petra before making our way further south for our last night in Jordan.
God has already begun to teach us, lead us, encourage us, and challenge us. We can’t wait to find out what He has in store for tomorrow.