After a long flight, the members of the Timothy Team Israel Tour landed at Ben Gurion Airport mostly bushy tailed if not totally bright eyed. Shortly before landing, Joseph who was sitting across the aisle from me with his wife and baby, asked… “Why are you coming to Israel?”
Thus began a remarkable conversation, overheard by the people around us. Not only was Joseph fully engaged, so too, were those sitting next to me. All of them are Ultra-Orthodox Jews. They were curious as to why we wanted to see the sites in the southern part of their country. “Wasn’t Jesus supposedly born in the Galilee?” “No, He was born in Bethlehem, He grew up in the Galilee,” I said. “His story is the story of your people. Without your story, ours is really just a fairy tale?” They had many questions. This is how our time in Israel began. We were on the road south from the airport by 10:15 AM. Here is the itinerary for the first day.
Tell Azekah / Elah Valley The city of Azekah guarded the western edge of the Elah Valley, the location where David and Goliath dueled to the death as representative combatants of both Israel and the Philistines. The city itself once stood on a high hill overlooking the valley below. There was a small brook running through it. The city marked the border between Israel and the Philistines, who lived predominantly on the coast.
1 Samuel 17, 19, 21
The Philistines camped on the slope of the hill where the city of Azekah was built. Saul’s army camped across the valley to the north, adjacent to Socoh.
Joshua 10, Joshua 15, 2 Chronicles 11, Jeremiah 34, Nehemiah 11
Mareshah / Guvrin The Guvrin Valley is one of five major valleys running east and west through the foothills between the coastal plain and the hill country of Judah. While the valley itself did not occupy a place of much importance during the biblical period, two cities named by the prophet Micah are in this area, Mareshah and Moresheth Gath, Micah’s hometown.
During the period of Judah’s exile in Babylon, the Edomites gained control of the land in this area. The city of Mareshah became part of their kingdom. In 113 B.C. John Hyrcanus captured and destroyed Mareshah. It had been abandoned by much of the very cosmopolitan population of that time, knowing they would be forced to either convert to Judaism, be killed, or leave the land. The area remained under strong Jewish influence until the time of the second Jewish uprising against Rome in A.D. 132-135. This revolt is often called the Bar Kochba revolt. At that time, the Romans destroyed the Jewish settlement in the area. A new city by the name of Eleuthropolis (Free City) sprang up and became one of the largest cities of the Roman and Byzantine periods.
References Joshua 15, 2 Chronicles 11
Big Ideas Here are two thoughts from this day. The first is that like David facing Goliath, Yeshua also fought as a representative combatant of both God and the people of His creation. As we submit to the leading and empowering of the Holy Spirit, He continues to fight this battle through us in the same way David fought Goliath. Many are watching. Some have already passed on to their reward for a life of faith on the battlefield we are all called to fight upon in response to what Jesus has already done for us. This idea was driven home in the amphitheater at Bet Guvrin as we remembered all of the great heroes of the Hebrew Scriptures who are now watching for the complete fulfillment of all the promises made to them. Someone is always watching and cheering when we step into the arena to face the enemy. Read Hebrews 11 & 12.
The second thought was covered at Tel Maresha, where the group became archaeologists for the day. It was so much fun to see the team digging into dirt that has remained untouched for 2,200 years. We found pieces of pottery, bones, and bricks. Then we “shlepped” the buckets of dirt and debris we to the surface. There they were sifted for items we may have missed in the cave below. The last thing we did was go cave crawling through one for the as-of-yet un-excavated tunnels in the area.
This is a big idea. The various stories of the Bible are all connected. If we remove them from their proper context, the teaching that God intended for them to produce is destroyed. Yet, that is the way most of Christendom approaches the Bible. Our amateur archeologists are beginning to understand why they must learn to tell the entire story of the Bible if they want the people they disciple to see and understand the real Jesus.
That is enough for today Here are a few pictures. Keep following these reports and please pray for God to meet us at every location we are planning to visit.
P.S. – in addition to this blog posting, you might like to check out the article written by Taylor about our second day. It was FANTASTIC!