Today, we have departed from the area of the Galilee. If you have been to Israel, you probably understand my sadness on a couple of levels. On the one hand, we have left the place of the early ministry and even childhood of Jesus Himself. Second, we have departed the “comfort zone” of the Gospel: that area where growing took place and, although sometimes confronted with argument and difficulty, the place where many of our familiar New Testament stories of healing and deliverance occurred. On a much more worldly level, however, we have also had to pack our bags in the area where we have slept for four nights and now move on to an area where we will be for ONE night- Arghhh!
We are south of the Galilee and have actually visited some of my (J) favorite archaeological places today.
Our first stop was Beit Shean, an ancient city that saw much occupation although none of it Hebrew occupation. Biblically, it figures in with the story of King Saul as this is the place where his head was displayed after it had been severed from his body. It was definitely a place of much occupation however because there is a huge Tel here (which I (J) climbed this time.) It was well worth the journey (although my hips and knees were throbbing afterwards.)
Atop the Tel was an ancient home of an Egyptian leader and, as fascinating as all of that was and is, the best part for me was found in seeing the recorded cylinder in that home and its recording of the name of King David. In this day of scoffers among the scholars who are telling the world that the Davidic and Solomonic reigns were Hebrew myths, evidences such as this one provide a little excitement (although such IS NOT necessary for my faith.)
Cheri wandered around the “spa” and theatre just sharing, viewing the ruins and sharing. It was a nice time.
Our next stop was one of my two all time-favorite non-religious Israeli stops and that was Qumran. Of course, this is the place of the initial finds of the Dead Sea Scrolls and good-old Cave 4 provided a great backdrop for teaching from Melva and me (J.) I taught briefly three things: 1) that it does take “mad-men” to follow God into such a desert wilderness as this. But 2) God mightily used those madmen and the desert’s harsh conditions to preserve His Word and to illustrate to the world His ability to faithfully preserve what He has inspired. He brought it back to us in His perfect timing. (In fact, I shared that the same God who inspired the writing of His Words preserved those words … and the same God who inspired the writing and the protection of those Words, inspires our reading and doing of those Words. Selah.)
3) I shared regarding the mikvahs that are found throughout the Qumran community. It is probable that John the Baptist had served there in Qumran (or at least among its residents.) These individuals practiced ritual cleansings (mikvaot) probably twice per day: each time as a cleansing before undertaking a holy deed. It then becomes important that John the Baptist then went to baptize (Mikvah- ritually cleanse) Jesus in order to “launch” His ministry. Now, baptism can be seen as a “launching of our next undertakings for Christ.”
Finally, I shared that we were truly standing upon Holy Ground itself because of the great preservation and launching that God had done … and for this people’s stand for righteousness.
We left Qumran and headed to our evening destination, Le Meriden on the Dead Sea. I am so exhausted, I simply want to take a shower, eat, and sleep … but we will see what happens while Cheri gets her well-needed and well-deserved spa treatment.