Scripture reading: 1 Kings 18: 20-40 & 19: 1-18
Wednesday, June 12
Our first full day in the Holy Land began in Caesarea. This area was named by Herod the Great for Caesar Augustus. We stopped at the Theater where Christians were fed to the lions. This rock theater is still used today for concerts and productions. The entire area was deserted for 800 years, covered by sand and overgrown with scrub brushes.
Have you ever wondered why the Bible talks about so many beheadings? This was a psychological maneuver of the Romans to remind the people that they were stronger than them and had overtaken their city. That is also why the heads of kings and military leaders in the Old Testament were taken into cities–to prove which side was the mightiest. The statues in front of the theater were all headless except one. The statue with its head intact is the one of the Good Shepherd–Jesus.
The site of Herod’s palace had a gorgeous view of the Mediterranean Sea. His pool below the cliff at the side of the sea was discovered by children digging in the sand and playing on the beach not that many years ago.
This is also where Paul was held captive for awhile. He was allowed to walk along the sea to a point about a quarter of a mile away. Herod built an aqueduct here to bring fresh water from the base of Mount Herman.
Our next stop was the Stella Maris monastery at the site of Elijah’s cave. This is believed to be the cave where Elijah hid out from Jezebel and where the Lord sent ravens to feed him and spoke to him.
We traveled on to the ancient city of Megiddo. This fortified city has been conquered twenty five times and each time the new conquerors built over the top of the previous city–another psychological trick.
Megiddo is strategically located at the crossroads of two highways so whoever controlled the city could reap the tax rewards. It is mentioned in 2 Kings as one of the cities that provided food for King David and King Solomon–also a money-making venture. It overlooks the valley where The Battle of Armageddon will take place. Perhaps not coincidentally it is within a stones throw of Palestine.
Lunch in Nazareth was falafel or shawarma–chickpea balls or chicken with fresh salad tossed together in a warm pita.
We walked up the hill to the Church of the Aunnunciation. This beautiful church is built over the site of the cave where Mary and Joseph and Jesus. All around the courtyard are mosaics of how the Virgin Mary is depicted in countries around the world. Inside the church the ceiling is shaped like a White lily which grows around Nazareth. In Isaiah it speaks of the Messiah as a “lily from the shoot of Jesse.” This is what this beautiful ceiling represents.
Our tour guide explained that, as Christians, we should be grateful to the Catholics for preserving all of these New Testament holy sites. The Muslim people and traditional Jews don’t care about these sites because they don’t recognize Jesus as the Messiah. One example–in the West Bank area there was an ancient Byzantine monastery that the Muslimns tore down and built a shopping center.
Tonight we are in Tiberius on the Sea of Galilee. Tomorrow we will take a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee and visit Cana before going to Jerusalem.
Heavenly Father–we thank you and praise you for your creation, for your amazing love and grace for us and for your sovereignty throughout eternity. Your plans throughout history are so well observed here in this land of your Chosen People. Pour out your Spirit on us, Lord, that we might all be drawn closer to you, not just through “religion” but in an intimate relationship with you. In your son Jesus’ name. Amen.