Today I started my day by sitting out on the balcony at 5 AM, Bible and Journal in hand, and camera on tripod in order to observe one of the most incredible sun-rises I have ever seen. I caught it in a pretty much stop-motion fashion and, as beautiful as my pictures are, they in no way give justice to what I saw.
Then, after breakfast, we went north in Israel to see some of the sites of the Northern Kingdom.
Our first stop was Tel Dan which is both an ancient site from the time of Abraham where he had followed the captors of his people (from way down in southern Israel, around the southern end of the Dead Sea) and where he had given tithe to King Melchizidek … on to the time of King Jeroboam where he had set up strange altars to Yahweh and to foreign gods. It is actually very sad that the King had strayed so far away from the laws and plans of God … and they he drew the entire Northern Kingdom with him.
It is also sad that his chosen place of doing such acts was in the midst of such beauty. In fact, Tel Dan sits at one of the main source streams for the Jordan River and surrounding it is lush foliage including many figs and olives.
Our next destination was Caesarea Philippi/ Banias, where Peter uttered his famous profession, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” One of the incredible aspects of this site is that it was a huge cultic worship area. All along the face of the cliff are niches where sacred idols were placed and worshiped. Even more important, however, is the large cave where water emerges as it flows from various mountains. This cave was known as a “mouth” of Sheol and was thusly the site of many sacrifices, including animals and humans, in order to appease the gods. Because it was know as the “mouth of Sheol,” it also became known as “the gateway to Hell.”
Now place in perspective Christ’s words to Peter after his great confession … “and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” When those words were delivered in that physical context, the fruit would have to have been highly effectual.
This area, too, was very beautiful and the contrast between the ugliness and sinfulness of the worship there and the beauty both of God’s creation and of His recognition of inspired mankind’s confession was astounding. Added to that was the depth of Melva Lea Beecham’s teaching on the revelation of the Messiah to his chosen people through the prophetic words of the Old Testament prophets made this encounter and memorable and life-changing event.
From there, we travelled toward the Golan Heights where we saw the both the Lebanon and Syrian borders and were made aware of the need to Israel to keep the land for, if nothing else, self-preservation. Especially telling was our visit to Mount Bental which allowed us to see miles and miles into Lebanon and Syria.
Lunch time brought us to a Druze village where we again had falafel and a new item (for us), lebneh. It was a delightful experience and the Druze people were a wonderful people. They are an Arabic people who do not worship Allah, but also have a peculiar manner of practicing Judaism, Jethro-worship, and reincarnation. They are also fiercely loyal to Israel, even serving in the IDF military forces. (Cheri and I had our picture made with this beautiful Druze lady … whom I later embarrassed by kissing her on top of the head.)
We spent the rest of the day by travelling to a live Olive press and observing the mechanisms and fruit of such.
It made for a nice end of the day … until we saw this over the Sea of Galilee.
Finally, we all celebrated Shabbat together.
We ended the evening with a time of sharing among the group. There is not any way we could put into words on this blog the AWESOME, INCREDIBLE work God is doing in the hearts of every member of this team!