As the morning dawned we found ourselves in a sad place as we prepared to depart from the Sea of Galilee for the final time. Although there was never that much disappointment as the excitement of finally visiting Jerusalem was hanging in the air. We took a final drive around the Galilee, which only takes about forty-five minutes, and then we were on our way.
The first site that we visited was Nazareth. It was interesting because there was absolutely nothing left, at least that we saw, from the first century. We spent our time there on the edge of a hill overlooking the Jezreel Valley. This was the same hill that the Nazarenes tried to throw Jesus off of in Luke 4. We did not spend much time here, but it did set up a background for the rest of the day since we would be spending it in and around the Jezreel Valley.
Our next stop was one of interest, and I have to admit that it is hard not to be interested in the place where the Jesus will fight the armies of the earth when he returns. Armageddon comes from Hebrew’s Har Megiddo which means Hill of Megiddo. It is said that more war has occurred here than any other place on earth. It was fascinating to see it, and learn a little bit about this place. The Israelites never really managed to drive the Canaanites from this city and it became a prominent high place. Not only were people falling from the Lord in public, but they were also doing it in secret. Brad Bell challenged us at this point to consider what our high places may be, including the ones that we never let anyone in our life see. Somehow seeing the places where idolatry took control of the Israelites really shows how small compromises at one point or another can drag an entire nation from the God of the universe. I can’t say that there is one thing that we are being taught on this trip, but this concept of small compromises and following the culture around you seems to be appearing a lot in regard to the Israelites’ relationship with God.
After we had finished with Megiddo we visited Mt. Carmel. While we did not necessarily sit on the spot where Elijah had his showdown with the prophets of Baal in First Kings eighteen but it was interesting to look down on the valley and get a perspective of what it would be like to have been there. While we didn’t get into a lot of interpretive teaching like we have at other sites we enjoyed listing to the story and Elijah’s chutzpah. On this mountain Elijah called fire down from heaven, and killed all of the prophets of Baal. What is surprising is that he ran for his life right after this. The question, then, is where are you, and will you run from what God has for you? It may not look great, but will you trust him?
As we ate lunch we stewed on this and soon enough we were on the way to our last site for the day. It was a lovely drive to Caesarea, and was especially nice to be on the Mediterranean Sea. I can’t help but comment on how beautiful this city on the ocean must have been. It was built by Herod as a trade center on the Mediterranean Sea. At the time it had the largest harbor in the world, and was the largest city in Israel with 120,000 people. We had fun seeing what was left and doing some “archaeological digs” for pottery and mosaic tiles. We were also able to sit in the room where Paul proclaimed his faith the King Agrippa in Acts twenty six. Again we were faced with the question of where are you and will you give all that you have for the Gory of God? Paul gave up his freedom and his life, what are you willing to give? We ended our visit to the sea eating Magnum Bars, which are delicious ice cream bars that are sold here.
Now we approach Jerusalem for the final leg of our adventure here. Soon we’ll be traveling into the city for a whirlwind of activity that will build up to our departure. What I would like to leave all of you with is something that Kelly Hughes left us with this morning. She encouraged us to not forget what we’re here for. Sometimes we get so caught up in seeing all of the sites and taking in all of the information that Rich and the staff are giving us we forget that the whole reason we are here is to grow closer to Jesus. Really what does it matter if we’ve been to Israel if we don’t love God? What will make this trip special? It’s not the history, or the location, or people, it’s not even Joshua. It’s a desire to actively seek God, because you will find him wherever you look. We see God here because we expect to see him, so as you continue through life take a moment and see where god is in your life, and don’t stop looking.
Signing off from Israel,
Andy Schmidt and Chase Silver
Big thanks to the media team
On a side not we wanted to highlight all the people who have been making the blog updates happen. I know you guys have enjoyed them so here is the list of guys working every day on all the different pieces. Since we are the media team we also made a video of ourselves that we think you will enjoy
Austin B, Rich, Chad, Allan, Daniel, Josiah and Jen