Today we started out in the city called Caesarea which is also by the sea (pictured above). This was where Cornelius was at when he sent for Peter (who was in Joppa) in the story I mentioned yesterday. Caesarea was a capitol of the region for many years throughout history.
It is also famous for a passage about Paul found in Acts 25.
Three days after arriving in the province, Festus went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem, where the chief priests and the Jewish leaders appeared before him and presented the charges against Paul. They requested Festus, as a favor to them, to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem, for they were preparing an ambush to kill him along the way. Festus answered, â€œPaul is being held at Caesarea, and I myself am going there soon. Let some of your leaders come with me, and if the man has done anything wrong, they can press charges against him there.â€ After spending eight or ten days with them, Festus went down to Caesarea. The next day he convened the court and ordered that Paul be brought before him. When Paul came in, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him. They brought many serious charges against him, but they could not prove them. (Acts 25:1-7)
A few days later King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to pay their respects to Festus. Since they were spending many days there, Festus discussed Paulâ€™s case with the king. He said: â€œThere is a man here whom Felix left as a prisoner. When I went to Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews brought charges against him and asked that he be condemned. (Acts 25:13-15)
The next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp and entered the audience room with the high-ranking military officers and the prominent men of the city. At the command of Festus, Paul was brought in. Festus said: â€œKing Agrippa, and all who are present with us, you see this man! The whole Jewish community has petitioned me about him in Jerusalem and here in Caesarea, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. (Acts 25:23-24)
Our next stop was Mount Carmel. This was an especially cool experience for me because one of the coolest stories in the Bible happened here. This is where Elijah the prophet taunted the prophets of Baal and proved in an extraordinary way that his God was the one, true God.
So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah. When he saw Elijah, he said to him, â€œIs that you, you troubler of Israel?â€ â€œI have not made trouble for Israel,â€ Elijah replied. â€œBut you and your fatherâ€™s family have. You have abandoned the Lordâ€™s commands and have followed the Baals. Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebelâ€™s table.â€ So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. Elijah went before the people and said, â€œHow long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.â€ But the people said nothing. (1 Kings 18:16-21)
This story is too long to quote all of it here, but it is so unbelievably good. If you have a few moments, click here to read the rest of it.
Our next stop was an ancient city called Megiddo which was especially interesting to me because it is the sight that the book The Source is based on. (On a side note, this book has proved to be my most helpful that I’ve read thus far). On this site you get a glimpse at a handful of different cultures that have all lived on this spot throughout the last few thousands of years. Each layer that they have dug down into the earth reveals an older civilization than the one above it. Because this spot was a strategic location for a city they simply rebuilt on top of the old whenever a natural disaster or war tore down the existing structures.
We learn that this was a site that Solomon had built a city on (although it goes farther back than him). We read about this in the book of 1 Kings.
Here is the account of the forced labor King Solomon conscripted to build the Lordâ€™s temple, his own palace, the terraces, the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer. (1 Kings 9:15)
It’s also historically been a site of battle due to where it was positioned on the main roadway. We see a reference to the great battle in the book of Revelation happening on this spot.
The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. Then I saw three impure spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are demonic spirits that perform signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty. â€œLook, I come like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed.â€ Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon [Megiddo]. (Revelation 16:12-16)
There were a few more things that I randomly saw at different spots along the way that each held significance. The first is an example of what Jesus describes in the beginning of one of His parables found in Mark chapter twelve.
Jesus then began to speak to them in parables: â€œA man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place… (Mark 12:1)
Once He has set the scene for His story He continues on to make His point. The picture above which includes the proper setting is from Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth. Another great moment at this site was when they showed us how they make olive oil. The process involves three separate “pressings” to get all of the oil out. Our guide showed a parallel to when Jesus is in the garden of Gethsemane (the origin of the word “gethsemane” means oil press). Here Jesus is pressed down upon through the weight of what is coming (the text says He “he began to be deeply distressed and troubled”). We also read that Jesus goes to pray three separate times while He waits in the garden. Very cool connection of imagery that I would never notice on my own.
Finally, I’ll close this post with two other pictures that were eye-opening for me. The first is a horse trough (or manger) built during the time around Solomon. This could be very similar to the one that Jesus was laid in when He was born. The second picture is a recreated synagogue where the Jews would gather. This one would have been near the spot where Jesus gets the scroll and reads from Isaiah and then fulfills the prophecy in their midst. It was much smaller than I’d always imagined.
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: â€œThe Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lordâ€™s favor.â€ Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, â€œToday this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.â€ (Luke 4:14-21)
Click here to read all of my posts from this Israel trip.