When the Bible includes geographical references, they appear as more than throwaway statements. Often they play a vital role in our understanding and application of the Bible.
For example, geography bears importance as to how Jonathan and his armor-bearer—only two men—could help rout the entire Philistine army.
The geographic descriptions given in 1 Samuel 14:4-5 describe two steep crags on either side of a great ravine separating Geba on the south from Michmash on the north. Here Jonathan and his armor bearer scaled the crags for a surprise attack on the Philistine garrison at Michmash.
Because geography does not change, these natural elements remain for us to easily imagine the story.
As well as its application.
Rise mightily against the first actings of thy distemper, its first conceptions; suffer it not to get the least ground. Do not say, ‘Thus far it shall go and no farther.’ If it have allowance for one step it will take another. It is impossible to fix bounds to sin. It is like water in a channel—if it once break out, it will have its course. Its not acting is easier to be compassed than its bounding.
I recently upgraded my iPhone and had a problem transferring the data from my old backup to the new iPhone. So I called Apple.
As I talked to the tech during the data transfer, he really wanted to screen-share so he could see what was happening on my computer, but the connection wouldn’t work.
Because he couldn’t see my screen, he continued to ask me every minute or so what the status was on the progress bar. Finally, I said something like, “Look, asking me about it isn’t going to speed up the process. Feel free to work on something else, and I’ll let you know when it’s done.”
Did he think when it was done I would say nothing?
Then it struck me. We do the same with God.
I chose to read this book because I love the grace of God and good books about God’s grace. The book’s title intrigued me: The One Jesus Loves: Grace is Unconditionally Given, Intimacy Must Be Relentlessly Pursued.
I love the title. The book, however, seems to take portions of the Bible and make application without careful attention to the larger context in which the passage rests. Two examples are enough to illustrate:
I discovered there isn’t time to ponder your reaction when propositioned by a prostitute. Your first response is your response. It happened to me in a Russian hotel.
(Photo: St. Basils Cathedral in Moscow’s Red Square. By Soerfm. Own work. CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
I went with some missionaries to Moscow to help train national pastors. On our first morning, I headed to the hotel lobby to meet our team. Stepping out of the elevator, I scanned the lobby for others in our group. I saw no one I knew.
A small group of ladies at the bar sat and chatted with each other. All of them, that is, except one. This one very attractive woman was smiling and staring—straight at me.
As our eyes met, I suddenly remembered someone told me that prostitutes sat in the bar, looking for customers. This woman kept smiling and then leaned forward—and a literal chill ran up my back. I can still feel it. I froze.
At that moment, I heard three very distinctive words in my head.
The headwaters of Israel’s Yarkon River form near ancient Tel Aphek (Antipatris) and flow westward until they surrender to the Mediterranean Sea at Tel Aviv.
Modern travelers who make their way along Israel’s coastal highway cross a bridge that carries them over the Yarkon River. But it wasn’t so in antiquity.
In biblical days, the Yarkon River was simply in the way. It forced a detour that gave strategic value to one site.
Significant biblical events occurred there that today most visitors miss.
This morning the national news was downright depressing. Political corruption. Religious hypocrisy. Sexual (dis)orientation. I confess, sometimes it’s tough to see God working in the world.
We seldom ask the questions out loud. But we all think it: Where exactly is God working in this fallen world? Why does He seem so silent—and even distant?
We know the answers in our heads. The Bible gives us good ones:
- God allows evil so that we may choose good. Yep. Got it. God is patient (2 Pet. 3:9).
- God uses evil for His good purposes. Yes, of course. God is sovereign (Rom. 8:28).
These answers give an explanation for what we see. But what about what we don’t see?
How come there seems so little of God’s work in the world?
I sat in the front row of my 8th grade math class and squinted at the chalkboard. A total blur. I had to face it. I needed glasses.
I’ll never forget the moment I put on my glasses for the first time. WOW! A different perspective entirely! I had no idea the details of life I had missed. They were there all the time, but I literally could not see them.
Glasses and contacts made a huge difference. Trees had leaves. Shapes had sharp edges. Colors were more vibrant. And, oh yeah, I could see in math class.
That worked great for about 35 years. But now I have another problem. As my eyeballs have aged, they have given me 2 choices:
- I can see far away (with my contacts).
- Or I can see up close (without contacts).
It was one perspective or the other—until my optometrist gave me a really weird solution.
You and I have the same challenge spiritually.
There is no music in a ‘rest’ but there’s the making of music in it. And people are always missing that part of the life melody.
Most students of the Bible know about Beersheba. It played a major role in Genesis, and yet, few pilgrims go there today. That’s strange, because there’s plenty to see at Tel Beersheba.
Visitors today can observe various remains, including:
- a typical Israelite four-room house
- a pillared building used as stables
- a major underground water system
As significant as Tel Beersheba is, it seldom finds itself on the tour itinerary of pilgrims to the land of Israel—probably because the site seems too far south. Beersheba has several neighboring sites that even fewer see (or have even heard of).
Let’s take a peek at these 3 sites and see their significance.