Feb 8, 2023 | Gilbert's Journal



In less than a dozen hours, Day 1 of this year’s Bible Study Tour took us to four ancient biblical sites: Caesarea Maritima, Mount Carmel, Nazareth, and the Sea of Galilee.

Caesarea Maritima
The one-hour bus drive from Tel Aviv to Caesarea Maritima helped us appreciate the distance a Simon Peter would have covered on foot from Joppa (at walking distance from our hotel in Tel Aviv) to meet Cornelius in Caesarea as documented by Luke in Acts 10. Caesarea Maritima, a city built by King Herod the Great in gratitude to Augustus the Emperor, is mentioned 15 times in the book of Acts.
Our competent and talented Israeli tour guide qualified it as a type A archaeological site where Paul would have spent at least two years in prison under Felix, the location of Pontus Pilate’s residence (with sure archaeological proof), the place where the Gentiles were given access to God’s kingdom after Samaria and a lot more.
The history of Caesarea from the Roman times under Herod the Great, through the Christian/Byzantine period, the Muslim invasion, and the Crusaders was also marked by several wars fought to take control over this ancient strategic pagan city.

Mount Carmel
From there, we drove up to the highest point in the Region, where Mount Carmel towers 1500 feet above sea level – mentioned in the books of Kings and in Jeremiah. In addition to the geographical insights from our Israeli tour guide which led to a better understanding of what would have transpired between Elijah the prophet and the false prophets of Baal and Asherah, we had a deeply insightful devotional lesson from Dr. Douglas Jacoby. (Devo Talk on Mount Carmel).
For God’s will to be discerned, it often requires that truth be spoken respectfully to people in power, in an atmosphere of healthy and honest dialogue.
One of the key features of this Region is the scenic view of the Jezreel Valley which stretches across many ancient strategic locations like Megiddo, the Ocean front where the clouds would have formed in answer to Elijah’s prayer, etc.

Nazareth remains one of my favorite sites as we visited a re-enactment of what this ancient village would have looked like two thousand years ago. Interesting to note that Nazareth doesn’t appear in any Old Testament Scripture in order to explain the fulfillment of prophecy according to Matthew 2:23 – “He will be called a Nazarene”. Knowledge of the Hebrew word (netser) throws light into this apparent contradiction in Scripture.
Today’s Nazareth is a thriving Muslim and Christian Arab-speaking community of over a hundred thousand people compared to the approximate one hundred inhabitants who mostly might have lived in Cave stones back then.
We were treated to a first-century meal followed by a guided tour of the threshing floor, the resilient nature of the olive trees, the wine press, the oil press and its application to Jesus’s suffering agony in Gethsemane, a first-century clay making and weaving experience as well as a synagogue experience similar to what Jesus would have had in Luke chapter 4.
One of the nuggets that stood out during the weaving demonstration was the effectiveness of Jesus’ blood in cleansing our sins. No detergents could ever remove the crimson or scarlet colors of some of the ancient dyes. But God promised in Isaiah 1:18 that even if our sins were as red as crimson, he would turn them white as wool.

Sea of Galilee (Gennesaret)
Our concluding site for Day 1 of our tour took us to one of the lowest places on earth – the Sea of Galilee – about 200m below Sea Level. We had a coffee break and ended up with a boat ride on the sea inland fresh body of water where Jesus spent most of his ministry days on earth.
Apart from the meaningful geographic insights pointing to places like Capernaum, Tiberias, etc, where had a true experience of walking/sailing which Jesus did two thousand years ago.
James Becknell led us in a powerful spiritual exercise during the boat ride: relevant Scripture reading and devotional thoughts punctuated by great singing and personal prayers/reflections.
What a day in the Holy Land! The fellowship around lunch and dinner time has been divine and Spirit-led moments of deep connection.
To God Be the Glory for such a life-changing encounter with biblical history, geography, and culture.


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