Continuing a short mini-series of blog posts about what I saw and experienced in Israel. Thank you for continuing to check these out. I felt necessary to post these for two reasons:
- So that I wouldn’t forget (i’m getting older, sigh).
- So that we could learn together because there was so much to see. I hope you enjoy today.
Day 2 Notes:
This is the perceived spot where Gideon (Judges 6-8) separated his army down to the 300 God wanted to use to deliver His people out of the hand of Midian. It was a beautiful spot. I had to kneel down in the posture of the men chosen for a drink myself, of course! But I’m reminded point of the story is NOT about the qualities those 300 men had which made them fit for fighting. God used something totally random – how they drank from the spring – to select them. The point was clear: ONLY GOD is our help. He alone is the one who empowers people to accomplish His purposes. God can use you with whatever you have, whatever you know and wherever you are. Trust Him.
The story also comes with a warning. Gideon went from totally NOT believing in himself to perhaps believing in himself too much after God provided the victory (see Judges 8). We often fall into the same trap. It is then we must learn to thank God for humbling circumstances that bring us back to dependence upon Him. He is always the source. He is always enough.
I have to say, Nazareth was a huge disappointment. It was a spiritually dark city that has become Muslim dominated over the last 3 decades. On top of that, there is nothing to see except a church built about 50 years ago by the Catholics marking the place where Jesus grew up. The church is beautiful and they have a first-century house set up (man-made, not original).
In the house, we see the “Kataluma” – the Greek word for “Inn” where there was no room for Jesus when He was born. Contrary to common belief, there was no “hotel” with a no-vacancy sign. The “inn” was a room adjoining the living quarters of a first-century Jewish house where cattle and sheep were kept. Since the inn was full of adult people the only place to put the baby was in the “manger” – a stone feeding trough for animals.
On our way out of the city, the Muslim call to prayer bellows over the buildings from an amplified megaphone system in the middle of the city. Soon after 100s of young Muslim men are gathered to hear Islamic preaching. I cannot describe how dark and angry it sounded even without understanding the words. On top of that, there are no women to be found, and the men look downcast and empty.
Upon leaving Nazareth our bus travels through what is “New Nazareth”, a place where most of the Jews and Christians are relocating from the old city. The difference in presentation is absolutely striking. Old Nazareth looks downtrodden and dark, the streets are dirty and uncared for. New Nazareth looks beautiful and clean. If anything, these two areas reveal the stark contrast between Judeo-Christian values and Muslim values.
I begin to realize just how fortunate our Country has been for so long to reap the benefits of a Judeo-Christian heritage. Anyone thinking we need to eliminate that heritage would do well to take a short visit to any Muslim dominated country. No, we do not disregard these people, we want to reach them with the love of Christ. The good news is God is moving in the hearts of many Muslims, bringing them to Christ. Let’s pray it continues.
From Nazareth, we enter Cana, the site of Jesus’ first “sign” miracle in John 2. Scholars are divided as to whether it is His actual first miracle or the first of 7 “signs” that John uses to reveal Jesus as the Son of God. Again there is a Catholic Church signifying the location. In the basement, we see a recently excavated enormous stone jar possibly from the first century. Could this be one of the 6 stone vessels in which Jesus transformed water into wine? The thought is captivating.
Mount of Beatitudes:
Our day closes out with a visit to yet another Catholic Shrine area on top a Galilean mountain where it is supposed Jesus preached the Sermon from Matthew 5-7. I will say this is the most serene spot we’ve visited yet. There is a peaceful silence on this mountain I cannot fully describe. On the slope facing the Sea of Galilee is a natural amphitheater where the acoustics would have been perfect for our Savior to speak to thousands. Seeing these sites in Galilee makes scripture come alive for me as never before. These things happened! They are not just stories. Amazing.