Today I woke early (though not intentionally) and so decided to watch the sun rise over the Sea of Galilee.
After breakfast we set off for Nazareth were we were given a tour of the site where the village farm from the 1st century has been excavated and partially re-created, along with people acting as if they were 1st century Nazarenes.
Today Nazareth is a large, affluent city, but in Jesus's day it was a small village with a communal farm growing wheat for the community, an olive grove for making oil, and a vineyard with wine press. Looking at the environment Jesus grew up in it is easy to see where many of his parables and word-pictures came from.
We then spent some time in downtown Nazareth. The city is 30% Christian and 70% Muslim and so, it being Friday, there was an open air Islamic service going on. Hundreds of men gathered to chant set responses and then they listened to a sermon. I also listened to the sermon but didn't understand anything, so now I know what its like for WCF Sunday by Sunday! Having said that, can you imagine what it would be like to have open air gospel services in Britain every Sunday?
Our last stop was Meggido, which is a key, strategic plain overlooked by a 'tell'. A tell is an artificial hill made up of layers that have been created through history by people building on the ruins of the previous owners. Archeological digs at Tel Meggido have revealed 30 distinct layers, showing just how desirable this particular site was.
What made it so valuable? All trade between Egypt and Mesopotamia had to pass through the plain of Meggido, and whoever held Tel Meggido could charge a road tax!
As a result, Meggido was the location of a huge battle in the 15th century BC between Egypt and an alliance of Cananite kingdoms who were ultimately defeated. The battle was so devastating that in the New Testament the name of Meggido has been modified to Armageddon, and is referenced as the place where the final battle between God and His enemies will take place. The last day of history will come, and the good news is that God's victory is a certainty.
And that's the end of my tour of the Bible lands. It's been an amazing opportunity to fill in so many gaps in my understanding, and to go from reading about something to seeing and experiencing it has been well worth it. It has been a privilege to be here and I'm truly grateful for the opportunity, and to WCF for releasing me to take a Sabbatical so I could come.
I look forward to using the phrase 'when I was in Israel' every sermon from now until the end of my ministry!