Study in Israel this Spring!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Chronological Reading Plan for May 30, 1 Kings 3-4

Today's readings are 1 Kings 3-4. Tomorrow's are 1 Chron 1, Psalms 72.

1 Kings3 -4 detail Solomon's rise to power. Solomon has been faithfulbut  he marries one of Pharaoh's daughters, a questionable decision. Marriages back then, particularly among kings and leaders, were arrangements made between countries.  These arranged marriages were more political in nature than for intimate relationships. In marrying Pharaoh's daughter, Solomon signifies that Egypt and Israel can live in peace together.  None of this conforms to what God commanded Israel to do. Israel does not need alliances with pagan nations. God has promised to sustain and protect them.

Still, God grants him anything he desires. Solomon asks for wisdom, which God gives him, more than any man has ever had or will ever have. God also grants him great wealth and power. But, we see some chinks in Solomon's armor here. In spite of his great wisdom, he is prone to make selfish and prideful mistakes. 
Solomon's kingdom expands as he assumes the duties of king and priest, As king, he rules over the country and its people. As priest, he loves the lord and make sacrifices. He is  an imperfect shadow of the King and High Priest that is to come;
Inline image
2 Chron 1 adds a few details to the story. Solomon, as his empire expands, buys horses from Egypt, another questionable decision. The kings of Israel were not to inter-marry with outsiders nor were they to "buy horses from Egypt" (Dt 17:16), a warning not to engage in commerce with Israel's former oppressors but to trust in God alone.

Chronological Reading Plan for May 29

Today's reading is Psalm 119. Tomorrow's readings are 1 Kings 3-4.

Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. It is a tribute of appreciation for the Law and is written as an acrostic. There are twenty-two stanzas, one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Each stanza is made up of eight verses, each of those verses starting with the same Hebrew letter. This was done to make the Psalm easier to memorize and sing. 

Reading it in English loses some of that intricate structure. But the integrity of the writing and the awesome and total dedication to His word can be a moving experience. 

Reading through the Psalm (it should be done in one reading) the sheer weight of its impact begins the dawn upon the reader. It is a heart felt gesture of appreciation of God's word and is written to inspire His children to live lives that honor Him and put His character on display.

Find some quiet moments today and try reading this Psalm out loud. Let you heart engage in its beauty and your spirit be ministered to by its truth.  

Chronological Reading Plan for May 27

Today's readings are Psalms 111-118. Tomorrow's are 1 Kings 1-2, Psalms 37, 71, 94. 

Israel 2016, Day 18

We're staying at Ein Gev directly across the Sea of Galilee from Tiberias. This was the spot where I started my day.
Sunrise over the Sea of Galilee 
First order of business. Linda says a hearty,  "Thanks!" to all those who prayed for her. She's rejoined the group and is active but cautious in how she's moving around. Her doctors assured her she will heal up just fine. 
Linda & Mike
Today's agenda included the three cities of the "Evangelical Triangle", Capernaum, Bethsaida and Korazin. The term "evangelical" is loosely used here to denote the presence of the gospel. All three towns are mentioned by Jesus in Mt 11:20-24.

Jesus did numerous miracles in those three cities yet none of them repented. Jesus warns them that judgment is coming. He makes it clear that the consequences for rejecting Him are quite severe for those that have heard the truth and turn away from it. It's a harsh lesson but it must be taught.

However, there's another lesson here. Many seek a sign from God to either affirm or increase their faith. They think seeing a miracle will somehow give them comfort or assurance. Some believe signs and wonders are a necessary part of spreading the gospel. In this short passage, we find out none of that is true. These three towns had seen all kinds of sign and wonders and still rejected Christ. We would be far better off seeking the One who does the miracles rather than the miracles themselves. We don't need to be dazzled, brothers and sisters. We need to be changed, transformed. The only One who can truly change us is Jesus Christ .    

Capernaum is where Matthew was called to be a disciple. It was also the home town of Jesus for a while. It is situated on a major north/south trade route, the International Coastal Highway, and was a prosperous, large town. This is probably why Jesus moved to Capernaum. He knew that His teaching in this town had the potential to spread far and wide.
The modern site mimics the broad avenues and streets entering Capernaum.
The town was a busy trade center and port. Those two implements in the center were part of a grinding tool for grain. 
Peter lived in Capernaum too. These are the ruins of his house. A church was built over this site in the 3rd Century. The round part in the middle was par of that church. 
This synagogue dating back to the 4th century sits atop the foundation of a 1st century synagogue.

Capernaum sits on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee
Korazin, sometimes called Chorazin was a fishing village . It rose to prominence when Emperor Hadrian evicted the Jews from Jerusalem after 70 AD. Many of them moved north to Galilee and Korazin grew dramatically. It, too had a 4th century synagogue.

The synagogue in Korazim was a large one
One of the unusual features that started popping up in synagogues after the first century we signs of the zodiac carved into some of the ornamental stones. This is the sign of Medussa. Historians believe that this is evidence of creeping syncretism among the Jews in some regions. 

This synagogue also had a "Moses' seat". This was a chair that signified the authority the Scribes and Pharisees had in interpreting the Scriptures.  They were the self-appointed ones who would tell the people what the Law really meant. Jesus addressed their hypocrisy in Mt 23:2, telling them they told people how to live but were not living that way themselves.  

It made me wonder how often I assume Moses' seat and tell folks what they should do when I'm not doing it myself! Even more dangerous is sitting on Moses' seat in our thought lives. 
Dr. G. sits in Moses' seat!
Chuck & Paulette
 Bethsaida (also known as Geshur) was the 3rd city in the Evangelical Triangle. It was the home of Phillip, Andrew, Peter and one of David's wives, Maacah. In David's time it was a pagan town. By the time of Jesus, the northern migration of the Jews made it into a predominantly Jewish town. 
Another heavily fortified town.
Right at the gates are objects of pagan worship. There was a strong Jewish presence in the community. in the 1st century
The Gates are the older, 4 chamber type
 We moved on to the Mount of the Beatitudes. This bowl-like hill has excellent natural acoustics that would easily have accommodated the crowd who listened to the Sermon on the Mount in Mt 5-7.

The view from the top, where Jesus would have stood. 
The Mount is in the middle of the picture
Interestingly, a number of cites are visible from this spot. When Jesus mentions that we are "salt and light", Magdala lies right below the Mount. Magdala was famous for pickling and salting foods. The "city set on a hill" was Hippus which was directly across the northern end of the lake and plainly visible. Hippus was one of the cities of the Decapolis.

Site of Hippus
At the base of the Mount is the Church of the Primacy of Peter, an Orthodox chapel. There were large and diverse crowds dipping their toes in the Sea of Galilee and worshiping in the shade of the trees on the site. 

Prior to taking a boat ride, we visited a museum that displays a two thousand year old fishing boat recently discovered in the area. 
Then we boarded a "Jesus Boat", really not much like the boats of Jesus' time. This one had a motor. We traveled to Capernaum, passing by the "Sower's Cove", another natural amphitheater featured in Mt 13:2 where Jesus preacher from a boat.
Sower's Cove
The Golan Heights from the Sea of Galilee
After a beautiful day filled with incredible teaching and iconic vistas, we headed back to our rooms for dinner and an hour or two of relaxation. Here's how my day ended, in the same spot it began.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Chronological Reading Plan for May 28, 1 Kings 1-2, Psalms 37, 71, 94.

Today's readings are 1 Kings 1-2, Psalms 37, 71, 94. Tomorrow's reading is Psalm 119.

1 Kings begins with the David near death and Solomon about to assume the throne. All does not go smoothly as another brother, Adonijah, attempts to wrestle control of the kingdom while David is still alive. Bathsheba and Nathan intervene and Solomon gains the throne. 

Adonijah hears what's going on. How? 

Here's  map showing the location of En-rogel, a spring just beyond the City of David. The City of David lies at the base of the Temple mount. Gihon is the spring that feeds water to the City of David and Jerusalem.

Here's a picture of the Kidron Valley, where everything took place. En-rogel would be in the middle of the picture right about where the mass of buildings begins to thin out. of the picture. The place where Solomon was crowned king would be at the bottom right. 

Adonijah and his coronation party would easily have heard a much larger celebration about a mile up the hill.

All this happens just as God said it would. Solomon's opponents are executed and his reign as king begins.