The Vineyard of God

From the hill country of Judah to the coastal plain to the shore of the Sea of Galilee in one day! The sunrise in Bethlehem this morning was colorful and gorgeous, and set a perfect backdrop for a day of continual blessing. We made the drive back into Israel from West Bank (and had to fight some traffic on the way), passing Jerusalem and taking us to Caesarea Maritima on the Mediterranean coast.
It was cool today, but dry, and a little breezy. The sun came and went, but we had a glorious day of seeing the sights. Our guide decided to delay our visit to the Temple Mount until the end of the week in order to use our time today more efficiently. So we’ll be visiting the Western Wall and offering our prayers there in a few days. We are all looking forward to that very holy part of our trip.

Caesarea met us with the sun shining, as we saw the beautiful Roman-style theater, the ruins of Herod’s palace and of the many other luxurious amusements he built there, and the prosperous port that he constructed. Caesarea was magnificent in its heyday, both commercially and culturally, and it was the seat of Pontius Pilate’s prefecture in the first century.
Just down the road, we saw a portion of the large aqueduct that brought fresh water into Caesarea. A section of it still stands in amazingly good condition. Some of us dipped our toes in the Med (brrr!), and we all got to reflect on the irony that such a great city could not sustain itself without the outside water supply brought in with the aqueduct. Life itself literally had to come from elsewhere for the “city that had everything.” Quite a theological message in there for all of us today.
We visited Mount Carmel, where Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18). Carmel means “vineyard of God,” and is full of life and growth and a spectacular view of the most fertile land here: the Jezreel Valley. The coastal plain of Caesarea warmed us up to enjoy the agricultural lands of the north, but the green, productive Jezreel Valley as seem from Mount Carmel was an overwhelming sight. What a land!
We descended to the valley to climb the ancient Tel Megiddo. Because of its strategic location, the city was fought over, destroyed, and rebuilt some 24 times. It is truly an archaeological marvel. Because it has been one of the most intense focal points of war in the world throughout history, it is depicted in the Book of Revelation as the site of the final battle. “Har Megiddo” (the mount of Megiddo) is rendered “Armageddon” in the Greek text of Revelation.

The drive across the valley, past Mt. Tabor (likely the Mount of Transfiguration), and into Galilee has left us eager to explore this area over the next couple of days.

We are lodging in Tiberius, a Jewish city right on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. The views of the Sea are incredible. We’ll be following in the footsteps of Jesus together as we learn about his life and ministry with the disciples around (and on) the Sea. Exciting!