City on a Hill

Traveling through Israel really opens up our understanding of scripture. As we drive back from our hotel in Tiberias, we look up at the residential area on the hill above us. Cities like this are all over Galilee. Jesus would have seen villages and cities set up on hills, too. 

This sheds light on the scripture in passages like this one: 

“Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Matthew‬ ‭5:14-16‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Day 3: Tel Megiddo & The Valley of Armageddon

It’s not every day that I wake up excited for Armageddon!  
Today, we left our hotel in Tiberias and traveled to the Valley of Armageddon. 

This valley is well-known for the reference in Revelation 16:16 which describes the kings of the world coming together “to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon” for “the battle in the great day of God Almighty (16:14).”  

The word “Armageddon” has become representative of the destructive events that surround the parousia, the return of Christ. It is often used to describe pure destruction. 

Never mind that the return of Christ is the greatest hope of all the faithful and a time of great renewal and the restoration of all things–Armageddon is not a word for destruction, but the name of a specific place. Namely the valley of the city of Megiddo, also known as thas Jezreel Valley. 

The Jezreel Valley is a fertile plain surrounded by the mountains of Galilee, Samaria, and Mt. Carmel. One of the major ancient roads, known as the Via Maris, entered the Jezreel Valley by the City of Megiddo. 

That’s where the fearsome name “Armageddon” comes from! The Mountain of Megiddo, in Hebrew, is Har Megiddo or Harmegiddon. Hence, the Latinized “Armageddon.”  

Now this valley does have a fearsome reputation. Because of its geography and strategic location, it was a fitting place for nations to hold their battles. Many nations did, including the Egyptians, the ancient Israelites, and even a WWI battle in 1918. 
It’s reputation makes it’s mention in Revelation 16:16 quite fearsome indeed. 

It is interesting to see runways for the modern, national military in the Jezreel Valley. 

Tel Megiddo overlooks the Jezreel Valley. A tel is a human-made mountain or hill resulting from the continual building of new structures on top of destroyed ones. The current excavation of Tel Megiddo reveals the remnants of an early Canaanite city, buildings from King Solomon’s era on top of them, and construction from King Ahab’s era on top of that. 

As we walked Tel Megiddo, we walked across stones that date far back into the time of the Old Testament. 

One of the more adventurous experiences was traveling down the well tunnel that King Ahab had dug to protect the water supply that was located outside the city gates. 

I know this is a lot of detail. To be honest, we see so much each day that it’s hard to keep up with it all. Writing it out for you is a great way to retain some info and share it at the same time. 

The experience is unreal. To stand on the place that Joshua desired in Joshua 17; the place fortified by Solomon himself in 1 Kings 9:15; and represents the clash of nations from Revelation–it is inspiring. 

Look for some personal reflections interspersed with these posts in the days to come. 

Day 1: Lift Off

On Monday, our tour group convened at the airport in Newark, NJ to fly to Tel Aviv, Israel and begin our 10-day pilgrimage of the Holy Land. 

We’ve got a wonderful group with South Georgia Methodists and Baptists alike coming together to share in a spiritual journey. Many are dear friends from the Isle of Hope and White Bluff United Methodist Churches. Others are friends from ministry experiences. Yet others are brand new friends!

Once everyone arrived in New Jersey, we quickly boarded our 10-hour flight into Tel Aviv. We met many great people aboard the plane. People of all nationalities. Children. Adults. Other tourists. Native Israelis. Pilgrims. 

Before breakfast was served, we were blessed to witness the Orthodox Jewish passengers faithfully carry out their morning prayer despite the many onlookers. They lashed their phylacteries onto their arms and heads and donned their shawls. It was a sign that we were entering into a different culture and a reminder that we share the Holy Land with others who’s lives are grounded in God’s work there. 

Many of us only slept for a few hours on the plane. We landed at about 9:20 a.m. Israeli time (2:20 a.m. EST). Despite our lack of rest, we went straight from the plane to security to our tour bus and then on to our first site: Jaffa. 

Over the next few days, I hope to share some of our experiences with you. I’ll do my best to share stories, pictures, and testimony along the way. I hope to supplement my stuff with info and pictures from their members of our team. Since I am working off of a phone, I’ll be posting these “raw” updates. When I get back home, I will correct spelling and errors, add new pics, supplement with personal stories, and add links. 

One thing that I want to emphasize right away: this is a trip centered around the land of the Bible, but it’s important to remember that every site we see is a place where relationship happened. Our group will enter into those stories and have our own relationship stories to tell about these places. We are on a pilgrimage together. And each member of our group is a vital part of this experience. We are doing this together. God has given us the gift of one another. We are already being blessed by the land and especially by those with whom we share this journey. 

You who are reading are sharing in this with us. Thank you for your blessing!

Day 2: Jaffa

Our first day in the Holy Land was connected by the narrative of Acts 10 and the cities of Jaffa and Cesarea Martima.

As we traveled north along the coast from Tel Aviv, we stopped in the Mediterranean town of Jaffa.

The city sits up on an elevation with gorgeous stone walkways and steps that lead down the the sea shore.

Our first stop was the Roman Catholic Church of St. Peter.

In Acts 10, Cornelius, a soldier of the Italian regimen stationed in Cesarea (Cesarea Martima), had a vision. An angel told him to send for Peter who was in Jaffa (spelled Joppa in the scriptures). The scene shifts to Peter, who had recently arrived in Jaffa in his travels about the country.

In Jaffa, he prayed over the dead body of Tabitha (also known as Dorcas), a disciple of Jesus who had recently died. With the words, “Tabitha, get up,” she “opened her eyes and …sat up.” This spread all over town. Peter stayed in town for a while in the house of Simon the tanner.

Peter received a vision while in Jaffa. (Acts 10 is connected by this theme of visions which lead to a remarkable conclusion…).

The Church of St. Peter remembers Peter’s vision. We entered through large, ornate doors which opened to a gorgeous sanctuary with a few chapels on either side. The pulpit sits on the right side, elevated and ornate with a sculpture of an olive tree rising from the top.

Overlooking the gorgeous altar is a large painting of Peter’s vision. He kneels with an angel in front of him. Above him, we see the sheet containing the unclean animals that Peter was commanded to kill and eat. (Acts 10:13).

As we enter into prayer we can remember the voice of Jesus tell Peter, “Do not call anything impure that God has made unclean.” And we can hear Jesus speak that into our lives as well, remembering that he has made us clean. We remember that this vision has opened the way for the gospel to be proclaimed to all people, even us.

The traditional home of Simon the tanner is a short walk from the church. While this may not be the place where he lived, it was likely in close proximity. Regardless, this place gives us an opportunity to remember the place where Peter received his vision, where he met the couriers from Cornelius, and where he decided to go to Cesarea. It also reminds us of the great grace of hospitality and its role for good in the Kingdom of God.

Jaffa is also a place that connects the Old and New Testaments.

Jaffa is a harbor town. Especially early on, before other major ports opened such as in the city of Haifa, it was a major entry point into the country. Today, it looks more like a marina that you would see in Coastal Georgia.

In Jonah 1:3, when Jonah is fleeing the call of God to go to Nineveh, he Chatters a boat out of the harbor in Jaffa. Standing on that place reminded me of all of the decision points in my life where I’ve had to choose whether or not to follow the Lord. I am grateful for when I have and especially thankful for God’s grace to correct and redirect me when I don’t.

King Solomon utilized the port of Jaffa to receive the cedar timbers that were used to build the temple in Jerusalem.

From Jaffa, we headed off to Caesarea Martima, to follow the Apostle Peter on his way to visit Cornelius.