Experiencing God's Greatness
As I write this, our morning in Tel Aviv feels like 2500 years ago. After an amazing breakfast spread, our Up To Jerusalem pilgrims boarded the bus and headed out of the city by way of Rothschild Blvd. Ruven, our bus driver patiently dealt with rush hour traffic while we watched a very busy metropolis head to work for their first day of the work week.
Dan Dark, a Ministry Advancement Representative at FOI, led devotions and a beautiful rendition of "Thank You Lord". Dan reminded us that Jesus, fully God and fully man, without relinquishing His deity, left all of heaven's glory to come to Earth and be our savior because He loves us.
It wasn't long, but it was quite hot, by the time we reached Caesarea Maritime https://www.bibleplaces.com/caesarea/. We explored the ruins of the great port city built by Herod the Great around 25 BC. After Herod's death, Caesarea became the seat of the Roman government in Judea, and Pontius Pilate resided there during his term as procurator. The group got to view a replica of a stone inscription of Pilate's name that was excavated at the site. This was the first non-scriptural proof uncovered proving Pontius Pilate's actual existence.
Jim spoke to our group in the ancient theater on the significance of Peter's paradigm shift (God making the unclean clean) and subsequent trip to Caesarea Maritime told in Acts 10. Through Peter's obedience to God, he traveled to Caesarea Maritime and brought the Roman Centurion, Cornelius, and his entire household, to faith in Jesus Christ. Cornelius was a Roman and a gentile. Because of Peter's radical obedience to God, Jim reminded us that we are living stones- a living testament to the story in Acts 10 as the gospel then spread throughout the world through the gentiles. The whole world has not been the same since that day.
After sweltering heat, and possibly sunburn, we were able to dip our feet in the cool Mediterranean Sea at the nearby Roman aqueduct.
The bus took us to our falafel or schnitzel lunch at a restaurant owned by a Druze family near Mount Carmel. Afterward, we ascended to the highest point of the Carmel mountain range https://www.bibleplaces.com/mtcarmel/, where we heard a message from FOI field representative from the United Kingdom, Trevor Stewart-Sweet. We revisited the story of Elijah calling down fire on the bull sacrifice, proving the power and existence of the one true God of Israel. The view from the top of the Carmelite building was spectacular.
We made our way down the mountain into the Jezreel Valley https://www.bibleplaces.com/jezreelvalley/. On our way down the mountain, Ruven slowed down enough to let us get a good view of tombs carved into the limestone with a rollaway stone. I think we all wished we could have stopped, but it was exciting to see this style tomb.
Before making our way to our hotel on the Sea of Galilee, we made one more stop in the Jezreel Valley at the Tel Megiddo https://www.bibleplaces.com/megiddo/. This mound sits on the southern side of the most famous battlefield in the world. The mound, itself, has been extensively excavated and covers 13 acres. It has been an important military stronghold because of its water system, which dates back 2800 years. Those of us brave enough to traverse the water system tunnel, descended 120 feet down a shaft into a tunnel and emerged out the other side.
Remarkably, the very first war ever fought on earth is recorded as happening at Megiddo, and Revelation tells us that the last battle, Armageddon, will be fought near Megiddo (Rev. 16:13-16). As my colleague Melissa pointed out—the Alpha and Omega—it only makes sense that God would stage the first war and the last war here, as well as many significant battles in between.
Looking out over the immense plain, I envisioned just how this crossroads between the four corners of the Earth would make for the perfect battlefield between the forces of God and those of evil. Fortunately we know who wins! Amen
Armageddon will open the door to the greatest prosperity for the Jewish people and the world (Gen 12:3, Zech 8:23).
Our arrival at the Sea of Galilee https://www.bibleplaces.com/seagalilee/ was a welcome sight to my tired eyes. This is one of my favorite places in Israel. The tropical climate, the natural environment, the gracious hospitality of the Israeli people, and the immersion in the true and unchanged places of Jesus' ministry speak to my heart in a way that many of the other holy sites cannot. The waters that Jesus walked on, calmed the storms, and the beaches he walked on are still here and virtually unchanged. Many things in Israel sometimes seem smaller than my mental image inspired by my childhood picture Bible, however, the Sea of Galilee does not disappoint. It is much larger than my imagination thinks it should be even though this isn't the first time I have been here. It's size is always a surprise.
Yet, exploring the Galilee will wait until tomorrow evening! Tomorrow we venture much closer to Lebanon and Syria as we ascend the Golan Heights. I hope to share some other perspectives from our first-time Holy Land pilgrims tomorrow. Although, I assure you, the second trip does not disappoint!
Laila Tov! (Goodnight!)
Blog author: Amy Westphal
Ministry Initiative Specialist
The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry
Photos: Melissa DiLiberto
Ministry Services Supervisor
The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry