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Hanging on to every word…

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Everything’s gotta go

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A private word to the very lonely…

The Stuffed Bear Question

Israel Holy Trip tour 2018 Day 6: Slow it down!

1I woke up just before 5:30 local time and stretched quietly after a good night’s deep sleep.  A rooster crowed boldly somewhere near the hotel.  The sun was creeping up over the horizon over Tay Beh.  A few cars dribble by, their lights still on, crawling sleepily through the narrow streets of this village.

I came down the steps and was greeted with genuine smiles by Elena and her workers as they silently but quickly moved through the tables in preparation for a Korean group that had to be fed at 6:30.  I am amazed at the hotel staff’s efficiency as they bustle about the kitchen and furniture; there is no wasted motion.

I poured myself some of the delicious Arabic coffee I have grown to love.  I viewed the olive grove outside the floor-to-wall windows in the front of the hotel.  The day has begun in Tay Beh.

I am reminded of the early start we had yesterday, and by that I mean the first visit we had as we began the day’s journey.  Dr. Don Hudson stopped our tour bus/van less than two blocks away.

“I have to show you something,” he said.  He directed us through the courtyard gates of the Christ the Redeemer Roman Catholic Church onto a bright blue-and-whitish colored courtyard with a historical stone cottage tucked in a corner.  “I’ve got to get the key,” he said.  “Be right back.”

We walked up to the entrance and looked at the rough-hewn house dated from somewhere in the midst of the first centuries.  Dr. Hudson returned with an elderly nun who gave us a wide toothy smile and opened the door.  We stepped through the doorway.  “This is the Parable House,” he said, waving his arm widely and showing us the stone walls, rustic fireplace, dusty amphorae and spackled ceiling.  “Think of the man lowered through the roof in the Capernaum story.  Look at the roof.  You are looking at the type of architecture, the type of construction that would be very similar to that home where the crippled man was lowered by his friends through the roof.  The top of this home is a patio, a porch-like top with tiles that could be removed, and his friends could claw through the roofing material to open a sufficient hole to lower the man down into a room like this.”

It put the picture right in the mind of every one of us yesterday.

That would be most of what we did through the day.

One of the great sites that many people miss, we are told, is the Herodian.  What a find!  This was an amazing example of Herod the Great’s eye for great architecture and magnificent structure. The acropolis is about seven miles south of Jerusalem and contained a personal mansion for him in one stone tower along with three other adjacent towers for his visiting dignitaries.  We strolled through the remains of his banquet hall, hot bath pools, Romanesque outdoor arched theater, and secret passages.  We viewed the mighty cisterns that held thousands of gallons of water that the historian Josephus said was collected in a very ingenious method.  There is a mausoleum within, and expert archaeologists have argued whether Herod was ever actually buried here.  Whatever the answer, we were nonetheless impressed by the massive manpower involved to make this imposing creation, mostly using slave labor.  This was the only work done by Herod that was named for himself.  Rising above the Judean desert, this is an imposing site.

It’s also a testimony to futility.  Whether Herod was buried here or not, his body lies nowhere.  If he indeed was interred here, later zealots may have taken and destroyed his corpse during the revolt of the 130 A.D. era.  Where was the permanence?  Like everything we have seen these past days of exploring, it is crumbling away.

We went to the amazing Azekah site, location of a formidable fortress in its day, with an array of thick walls and an intimidating height over the Valley of Elah.  As we stood at the top and viewed what very well may have been the battle scene of David against Goliath, we realized that this fortress of earth and stone was overtaken and scores may have died on the very pathways where we walked.

We climbed the steps to Lackish, a small distance from Azekah, and encountered another acropolis of earthen mounds and once-high stone walls.  Even the remains of the front gate still impress – the design was indeed made to protect against any attack.  The walls once rose above at such a height so as to withstand any quick assault.

The Assyrians saw this when approaching and realize that a full-scale frantic attack wouldn’t work.

So they took their time.

Remember this:  they took their time.

We followed Dr. Hudson and were introduced to a siege ramp – in fact, the largest siege ramp in the Middle East.

“They patiently and methodically built this ramp to be able to hold a siege engine – a special combination of battering ram and giant shield to march up and pound the wall until it split,” he said.

We climbed up and stood where the split occurred.  We stood at the spot where the wall crumbled.  The Assyrians, like time itself, patiently went about the task of destruction.

Time is the great god of this planet, I am being taught in this trip.  The great desire we see here is obviously for both power and even riches, but let’s not forget the great lust of mankind to complete the triumvirate: time.

Herod wanted time to reward him with a stamp of immortality.  The Azekah construction wanted to intimidate and thrive for the ages to come.  Lackish wanted, I believe,  to be around for a very, very long time.

None of them got their wish.  Time is no respecter of humanity.  Those who wish to negotiate on their own terms will find a fruitless – and often humiliating – end to their plans.

That’s why Jehovah stands out so powerfully at each stop.  This Eternal Father’s fingerprint is all over every site we see.  If there is no preparation for the eternal, where is the purpose of man’s life?  We are inclined to agree with Solomon: “Pointless.”

“Empty.”

Vanity.

You might find it odd for me to say that I find the best part of this trip is the meaningless of it all, but I mean it.

Don’t be confused; if you read between the lines, you will gather the treasure of each of these trips we take here:  you can find meaning in the meaningless.

Civilizations have come and gone and we walk through their remains and take them as if it is one condensed volume right at our feet.  We study these and would waste this week if we came back to the States and relegated our trips to trinkets and tales of new foods. We see, ever so clearly, of God’s direction to be aware that time can be defeated if one comes humbly to El Olam  – “the Everlasting God” – and seek His eternal Kingdom.

We have been students of epochs.  We are disciples of eras and periods.

The classroom has been the Middle East.

God has been gently teaching us.

That’s what makes the Holy Land trip so special.

Israel Holy Trip tour 2018 Day 5: the oldest construction in the world

1

Yesterday was fun and fulfilling.

Fun, because once more we ventured through Jerusalem and took in some historical sites –  the Roman Cardo was one of them.  This is a main road that was lined with impressive stone columns along its length, many which are still standing in the Old City. Originating at the northern Damascus Gate and running to the Zion Gate, the Cardo takes you back in time to where the thoroughfare was filled with shops and soldiers moving about the city.

It was also fun because I did my first haggling over some items I was trying to purchase.  I am not a haggler by nature, but this was a pretty enjoyable experience – even though I walked away from one seller and was poked and told that I was a “bad person.”

Yes, it was a great time.

It was also fulfilling because, well, you take in so much in the day.

There are times during the course of this trip that you lay your head back on the bus seat and close your eyes; you’ll be asleep in about ten seconds.  There are other times when you cannot put your camera down; you want to photograph every square centimeter of the surrounding view.  Still other times you want to stand and listen to Dr. Hudson and just take it all in, a bit at a time.

But it’s like, as Dr. Hudson says, like trying to drink from a fire hose.  It’s coming at you full force.  This happens every day of the trip.  We step back, look at each other and raise our eyebrows.  We breathe deeply and shake our heads. Then we say something stupid, like

Wow.

Yes, it happened again yesterday.

We went to the Jericho Wall.

This is Pre-Pottery Neolithic period, which is to say safely that this was a construction earlier than 8000 BC.  In other words, this is the oldest man-made wall in the world.

We walked up the pathway along the dirt road

This is the Jericho of Joshua and the falling wall.  This is the Jericho of Zaccheus.

This is where we realize the significance of the past ages.  We could picture in our mind’s eye the advancement of Joshua and the Israelites, so noted in the Biblical book of Joshua in chapter 6.  We try hard to imagine the soldiers and citizens looking over the ramparts and trying to figure out this strange group of invaders who are approaching.  I look about the sections of excavated hillside and see the different time periods, as pointed out by Dr. Hudson, and see the deep early constructions and try to visualize the toilers of the early ages creating the altar, storage areas and protective walls.  I think beyond the brutality of battle and try to imagine the people of the land sitting down and chatting about the events of the day – this Jesus is dining with the notorious Zaccheus the tax collector in his very house!

Where did it happen?  How many people tried to peek through the window?  What change overcame the city?

This is the conflict of trips such as these:  the discoveries you make are at the same time exciting and exhausting. Your whole concept of the Bible passages you read get re-organized. You can now visualize things in a whole fresh light.  That in itself makes it exciting but it also renovates your pre-conceived thoughts about such stories you have read and heard over the years.  It is the mental equivalent of boot camp – you are hard-exercising cerebral muscles that you had let go into “cruise control” for so many years in your concept of a Bible event.  This new effort is hard but also profitable; you leave each site with a new, deeper, and maybe a bit stronger mental and spiritual grasp.

The mounds are huge.  The place is dry and dusty.  I cannot remember when I have been so excited about a mound of dirt.  God is the God of dirt and civilizations and history and victory.  God’s fingerprint is on this place.

This is deep Biblical history and, yes, I got excited.  And a bit overwhelmed.

So did we all.

I want to tell you about a special site at Tay Beh – a 1600 year old church named St. George’s – but the hotel lobby is filling up and some elderly but eager tourists from another group want to sit and have coffee and chat.

I must go.

Zockollthoughts

A year's blog as a Bible teacher

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