DAY 3--TUESDAY, MARCH 28
Our third day together took us north of Tiberias, passing the town of Magdala (what is today Migdal) where we would return later in the day. Driving around the western shore of the Sea of Galilee we made our way to Tel Hazor, a huge city (the largest ancient Canaanite city known) on the Via Maris, the road between Egypt and Syria that was destroyed by fire (see Joshua 11:11). The excavations at this active dig have unearthed an Israeli tower used for lookout until the Assyrians captured the city in 732 BC, and in older levels of excavation that reveal remains from the 15th century BC, corroborating the Old Testament accounts of destruction by Barak and Deborah (Judges 4). The palace of their king Jabin is being restored as well as gates from king Solomon of Israel. To learn more, go to http://micro5.mscc.huji.ac.il/~hatsor/.
From Hazor we travled further north to the foothills of Mt. Hermon to the town of Caesarea Philippi, the northern-most destination we know Jesus to have traveled. This area is very close to Syria, located in the contested area known as Golan which was taken by Israel from Syria in the 1967 war. Caesarea Philippi is where the headwaters to the Jordan River begin, and there is a lot of water! The setting is simply breathtaking, and the significance of the site is even more amazing. The town is nestled up against a huge rock wall that dominates the whole area. Carved in the rock wall are niches where idols and temples were placed in honor to a plethora of gods including Pan, Hades, and many others. Why is that so important to know? Because after retreating to this remote area, Jesus took this opportunity to ask the important question: among all the opinions that exist, "Who do you say that I am?" (Matthew 16:13). After seeing many signs, hearing Him teach with authority, standing there as he was being opposed by religious rulers, and now being reminded of the "many gods" options within their culture, the disciples needed to sort out in their thinking what they really believed about all this. This question posed by Jesus still demands a choice. To learn more, go to http://www.bible-history.com/biblestudy/caesarea-philippi.html.
We hiked for about a mile from Caesarea Philippi along the river coming from Mt. Hermon as we prepared to head further north. It was a beautiful walk through wooded areas along a trail, but it was challenging enough to create an appetite! Our next destination was Tel Dan, the ancient site of the tribe of Dan. You may have read in the Old Testament the description, "from Dan to Beersheba," which is one way of saying from top to bottom, the whole of Israel. Here we walked to a cultic shrine where king Jereboam made golden calves and constructed a "high place to worship other gods" complete with an altar and priest's housing. It is truly amazing to walk among these ruins from so many hundreds of years before Christ and see that even today we still make the same mistakes of choosing to worship what we want. To learn more, go to https://teldan.wordpress.com/.
After surveying many places and sharing God's Word together, we finished our visit to Tel Dan by exiting through the Canaanite city gates to visit another set of ancient gates that date to Abraham's era and have been protected through the millennia. Truly remarkable!
En route to our hotel we stopped to visit the recent discovery of Magdala and the only first century, Jewish synagogue that has been unearthed. We were greeted by Father Kelly, a gregarious and delightful priest from Ireland who walked us through the uniqueness of this site--complete with fish processing tubs and Jewish ritual baths--and introduced us to the Roman Catholic church that has been built on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. In the new basement chapel we learned that the stones used for the floor are the original stones from the 1st century port of Magdala. Regardless of our convictions about theology or your experience with Roman Catholoicism, it was evident that Father Kelly loves the Lord and his work there in Magdala. You can learn more at http://www.magdala.org/visit/archaeological-park/synagogue.
At the end of a long day, we were all tired but ready to rest well in preparation for tomorrow.
WHAT DID OUR FATHER TEACH ME TODAY?
We live in a world of choices. And in our American culture we have been spoiled through consumerism to believe that it is normal to choose whatever we want. But in light of a sovereign God having revealed Himself through creation, His Word, and His Son Jesus, some choices may be wrong choices. How do we know what to believe about God? What is the evidence that He is real? What are the implications if Jesus is who He says He is? What our Father taught me today was to always recognize the importance of choosing to affirm what He declares to be true. I'm tired of all the opinions (even mine). Today I reaffirm my confidence in Him by faith. That's one choice I don't ever want to get wrong.
Wouldn't it be helpful to read someone's story of belief, how they moved from well-educated atheist to well-educated Jesus follower? If you haven't, pick up a copy of Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.