I am pretty sure I have now experienced what they call an “out of body experience”. As I sit here drafting up the first of many posts about our trip to the Holy Land, I have only been back in the good Ol’ USofA for about 20 hours, and I almost can’t believe I even left. As a first time Christian traveler to Israel, I am feeling all of the feelings. Everything my more traveled friends told me about Israel is so very true. And I am beyond grateful to have had the opportunity to go. Let’s just call it “Life Changing”. Now enough blabbering, let’s talk about the trip!
After arriving in Tel Aviv and enjoying a nice long night’s rest in Tiberias, we began our tour. The best part – we didn’t have to lift a finger, Inspiration Tours and PTV took care of all of the details! This was especially nice for me as I was in charge of Mom since Dad couldn’t come ;) As we hopped on the bus, our entire group was shocked by how lush the surrounding area was! We saw all sorts of animals, greenhouses, vineyards, citrus trees and other varieties of trees.
Our first stop, and most immersing site, was the YMCA Nazareth Village. Talk about traveling back in time! They have a wonderful site preserving what little is left of the tiny village of Nazareth. In the words of Nathanial “Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:43-51), but let me tell you, the SAVIOR of the world came from there!! God truly uses our weaknesses for his glory, and we could see this through the tiny speck of Nazareth on the map.
Next, we climbed to the Tel of Megiddo. [A “Tel” is a fortified city, and today, is usually a hill. Ancient civilizations would pick a location to build their kingdom based on water, protection, and food. If the kingdom was destroyed by natural disaster or conquering humans, they would rebuild on the same site, on top of the older civilization. Thus the newest ancient ruins are at the top of the hill over countless older ruins] Megiddo may not be familiar to you, but if you have read Revelation, you will most definitely remember that the final battle between the forces of good and evil will take place here at “Armageddon” before the Judgment Day (Revelation 16:12-16). Armageddon is merely a different way to say “Megiddo”.
Once we got to the top of the Tel, we could look out over the Valley of Armageddon (also known as the Jezreel Valley), and picture the great battle taking place here! Pastor Jeffress gave his first of many powerful sermons from this vantage point over some of the key events in Revelation.
Before leaving, we climbed down through the tunnel built by the ancient residents of Megiddo. This tunnel was built to allow the people to access water when the city was under siege without being seen outside of the city walls. This city is also mentioned various times in the Bible, including when King Solomon fortified the city (1 Kings 9:15), King Ahaziah died here (2 Kings 9:27), and Josiah unwisely tried to stop Pharaoh Neco and his army when they were marching through (2 Kings 23:29-40)
At this point, we had only accomplished half of the items on the agenda, so we had lunch. We went to Caesarea Maritima (by the sea). I absolutely loved this location, as it was my first time to visit ancient Roman ruins (besides Bath in England). Here we saw so many interesting sites, including ancient ports combined with pagan temples, a hippodrome, and a theater. Here, we also saw a very important piece of history that once again provides further historical evidence corroborating what is in the Bible. While excavating the theater, a stone was found on the ground that wrote of Pontius Pilot. Before discovering this stone, there were no historical artifacts or writings that mentioned him, outside of the Bible.
Caesarea Maritima is mentioned multiple times throughout Acts as it is where Philip the “Evangelist” lived (Acts 8:40, 21:8-9), and it was visited by Luke, Peter (Acts 10), and Paul (Acts 9:30, 18:22, 21:8-16). Additionally, Herod Agrippa I was struck down by God at the hippodrome (Acts 12:19-24), and it is where Paul spent nearly 2 years under house arrest (Acts 23-26).
Our last stop of the day was to Mount Carmel where Elijah and the prophets of Baal had a contest. And in case you forgot the story, God won! (1 Kings 18) Pastor Jeffress gave yet another powerful message on this story and the powerful prayer.
And that was the end of the first day! To be continued…
Read about Day 2 here.