I’m currently sitting in a hotel room in Israel. We are on a trip with a group of people from Central and we are touring the Holy Lands for the next week or so. I’m going to try to blog highlights from each day along with pictures. I’m most excited to experience real places from the Bible and to make the connections to real life. The Bible isn’t a book of make-believe stories but real places with real people that God moved through.
In preparation for the trip I read The Way of the Lord and The Innocents Abroad. I’m currently reading The Source (at over 900 pages I’ll be reading this one for a bit) and Start-Up Nation. All of these have enhanced my experience here already in one way or another.
We left on Tuesday morning but I’m combining Tuesday and Wednesday into one day for reflection purposes and because most of our time was spent sitting in an airplane chair. Today we got off our plane and drove around Tel Aviv and Joppa on our way to our hotel for the first night. Our “Ferguson” (as Mark Twain used to call all of his guides) is a man named Kobi and knows the Bible with incredible detail. Already in the few hours with him he has connected some dots on things that I’ve never ever thought of. (For example, did you know that many Jewish couples get married on Tuesdays because that is the third day of the week and in the creation story the third day was the only day that God said was good two times instead of only one? Mind blowing, right?)
There are two passages I want to point out from the city of Joppa. The first is the famous story of Jonah and the whale. For many people, this story seems too outlandish to be true. What you’ll notice when you read the passage is that it is loaded with specifics and one of which I happened to see for myself today.
“The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.’ But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.” Jonah 1:1-3
I stood at the very waters where Jonah began his defiant act of disobedience to God.
A second passage is when Peter is told to speak to a man named Cornelius. This is an incredibly significant passage as it shifts the followers of Jesus away from the strict dietary laws they had been following as Jews. Here are a few sections of that story:
“At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, ‘Cornelius!’ Cornelius stared at him in fear. ‘What is it, Lord?’ he asked. The angel answered, ‘Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.’ When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa.” Acts 10:1-8
“The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the believers from Joppa went along. The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. ‘Stand up,’ he said, ‘I am only a man myself.’” Acts 10:23b-26
“Cornelius answered: ‘Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.’ So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.’” Acts 10:30-33
There is now a church where tradition holds that this event with Peter happened. This is what it looks like:
It’s an amazing experience to stand where these and many more events happened throughout history. The overwhelming feeling I’m left with is that God moves in places time and time again. Jonah’s story likely happened more than 700 years before the story with Peter and Cornelius yet both involve the same city. The same city where I walked today. God is alive and it is easy to see His movements in a place like this. I can’t wait for our first full day tomorrow!
Click here to read all of my posts from this Israel trip.