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Tour Journal For Israel Study Tour with Pastor's Fam January 8-18, 2014

From Galilee to the Mediterranean

From Galilee to the Mediterranean

We set out early from Galilee today, getting one last look at the beautiful scenery as we set off toward an area formerly known as the Decapolis. Our destination was the city of Beth’Shean, an important location on the crossroads of the major north-south and east-west routes in the land of Israel. We climbed the ancient tel, the hill upon which the ancient city was built, and heard about King Saul’s defeat at the hands of the Philistines upon the hills nearby. We then crested another hill, and you could hear the gasps of amazement as a massive Roman city spread out before us in the valley below – the rebuilt city of Scythopolis, capital of the ten Roman cities, the Decapolis. The evidence of a massive urban center was evident, replete with massive columns, wide marketplaces, the largest bathhouse ever discovered, and a huge Roman theater.

The contrast between this center of wealth and pleasure, hallmarks of the Roman world, and the small Galilean villages we toured in recent days, was clear. What a clash of cultures, and what a threat to the values and faith of local Jews who were drawn to this city! This visit was a clarion call to attend to the messages of the surrounding world, and to recognize the impact of the occupation of Israel by foreign powers throughout the years.

Our trip then took us further into the Jezreel Valley, to a hilltop city and fortress known as Megiddo, the site associated in the book of Revelation with a massive battle, commonly known as Armageddon (meaning the “hill of Megiddo”). We discussed how the fertile land surrounding Megiddo has seen countless battles (and at least 26 layers of development on the tel itself!) throughout the centuries, and how it became a symbol of conflict and protection over the important swath of land. Perhaps most impressive, we toured the tunnels that delved deep into the mountain to draw water into the city, allowing occupants to survive sieges by invading armies.

We continued on, past the nearby city of Nazareth, and came to a well-known Biblical site – Mt. Carmel. Upon the mountain, gazing out over the valley, we discussed the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. How moving to hear the encouragement to continue on in our ministry callings while sitting upon a mountain where God proved his faithfulness. Carmel, the “vineyard of God,” became for us a moment to reflect on the importance of righteous obedience to God and the confidence we can take in His power and provision.

Our final leg of travel took us to the Mediterranean coast, where King Herod built up one of the largest port cities of the 1st century – Caesarea. Like many sites we have visited, this important site has been uncovered fairly recently, but already sports a theater, massive hippodrome (think of the Coliseum in Rome), and the evidence of a grand palace built out onto the Mediterranean. This city would be where Paul began his missionary journeys, and he was imprisoned here before testifying before Caesar in Rome. Today, we can look at the size and splendor of this city that, like Beth’Shean, shows the strategic and economic value of this land during the 1st century. This was the world in which Jesus was ministering and reminding people that God’s kingdom was of far more value than the kingdom of Herod and Rome that displayed such strength and grandeur.

We ended our day on the beach taking in a portion of an ancient aqueduct that would have brought water to Caesarea, the sun quietly setting over the waters of the Mediterranean. As we now move toward our final destination, Jerusalem, I think we can all appreciate the overwhelming history of the land of Israel, and how God has uniquely called His people in different seasons and eras to stay steadfast in faithfulness.

Josh Raskin
Pastor of Student Ministries
First Baptist Church of Amherst, MA

Today's Photos

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