Bethsaida—With God Your Past is Never Pointless

The hometown of 3 disciples reveals God never wastes our past.

It’s hard feeling embarrassed about where you grew up. Maybe your family had problems. Perhaps your hometown or church seemed nothing special. You’re not alone. Three of Jesus’ disciples felt that way too.

Bethsaida—God Can Use Your Lousy Hometown

(Photo: Plain of Bethsaida. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The slopes near the site of Bethsaida offer some of the most beautiful scenery in the Galilee. In the spring, wildflowers burst open to drink in the sun, and the surrounding meadows paint the whole area a bright green. From certain vantage points, I have looked at the Sea of Galilee from Bethsaida and observed no modern distractions.

Most modern maps, signs, and tourists point to the site of et-Tell as biblical Bethsaida. If so, then this was the place in which Jesus performed miracles.

Peter, Andrew, and Philip had this as their hometown. A hometown that rejected Jesus. But God would still use the boyhood home in the lives these men.

God can use your lousy hometown too.

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Tel Megiddo and What Megiddo Tells Us

Israel's most strategic site offers you a strategic lesson.

If the world wants something so badly, why not let them have it? The problem comes when what they want is what God has given you and commanded you to guard. It becomes a tug of war with your heart as the prize.

The strategic site of Tel Megiddo

(Photo: The strategic site of Tel Megiddo. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

If history ever compared the land of Israel to the game of “Monopoly,” the site of Tel Megiddo would be Boardwalk. It was the most coveted spot on the playing board. Location, location, location . . . 

Tel Megiddo’s tremendous value came from its strategic location as the sentinel of the most important pass through the Mt. Carmel range.

Whoever held Tel Megiddo in the ancient world controlled the traffic and trade along the International Highway to and from Egypt. That meant both military and financial security.

Taking Megiddo is like capturing a thousand cities. —Pharaoh Thutmose III

Its value simply can’t be exaggerated. It’s lesson for us has a daily application.

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Connecting the Rapture, Rosh Hashanah, and the Place of Trumpeting

A reminder of where our true hope lies.

Whenever I visit the Jerusalem Archaeological Park, I’m eager to walk to the southwest corner of the Temple Mount. I’ve never been to this corner on Rosh Hashanah or during the Feast of Trumpets, but I’d love to go there then. Archaeologists have uncovered a large portion of the first-century street that stretched north along the original Western Wall.

Echoes of Rosh Hashanah— To the Place of Trumpeting

(Photo: The southwest corner of the Temple Mount at left. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

One hundred meters north of the corner is the part of the Western Wall where locals and tourists pray. But beneath the ground, Jerusalem’s Central Valley has been filled in with the rubble of the Second Temple’s destruction in A.D. 70.  As a result, the beautiful modern plaza stands about 30 feet above the first-century street uncovered at the southwestern corner.

There at the corner lies a reminder of something Jesus predicted 37 years before the temple’s destruction.

And of a promise He made that could be fulfilled at any moment.

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Hezekiah’s Tunnel and Wall Give a Lesson from Archaeology

Scripture is supported by what we can dig out of the ground.

The ancient world had a bully system that worked in straightforward terms. A nation would conquer a region and demand tribute—annual payment of money and goods. If you didn’t pay tribute, they’d come and kill you. Pretty simple system.

Hezekiah's Tunnel

(Photo: Hezekiah’s Tunnel. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

King Hezekiah refused to pay tribute to the bully. So the Assyrians invaded Judah.

Archaeology has unearthed treasures that reveal Hezekiah’s faith in God. How does it strengthen your faith to see the Bible in archaeology?

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The Herodium—A Monument to God’s Sovereignty

How a hill devoted to a paranoid king offers comfort to our anxious lives.

Herod the Great is often remembered for the biblical account that never appears on Christmas cards. Hearing from the Magi that the “king of the Jews” was born, the paranoid Herod slew all boys under two years old in Bethlehem—a cryptic fulfillment of Jeremiah 31:15.

The Herodium—A Monument to God’s Sovereignty

(Photo: The Herodium, courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Of course, Jesus’ family got word of the impending threat and escaped by night to sojourn in Egypt until Herod’s death (Matthew 2:13-18).

When I visited the Herodium in March, I couldn’t help but remember the historical irony that Herod tried to kill Jesus—but failed. Instead, Herod himself died and was buried in the Herodium overlooking the very city where the true King of the Jews was born (Micah 5:2).

The Herodium offers a lesson of great encouragement in God’s sovereignty in our lives today.

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Lachish—Blending the Bible, History, & Archaeology

How biblical history weaves a unified story, supporting what the Bible says.

Screams of war had had occurred where I stood. Hebrew and Assyrian arrows spraying at each other. Sling stones crushing armor and skulls. Assyrian battering rams methodically picking apart the city’s outer wall. Finally, Lachish fell.

Tel Lachish—Mixing the Biblical, Historical, & Archeological

(Photo: Relief from Sennacherib’s Victory Over Lachish, in British Museum)

Of all ancient tells in the Holy Land, the Israel Antiquities Authority owns only one—Tel Lachish. It remained the most important city in the southern kingdom of Judah, except for Jerusalem.

Archaeology abundantly points to the biblical events here as historical.

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Tel Dan—Worshipping at the Altar of Convenience

In the end, we'll find God far more satisfying.

Shady walkways. Cool breezes. Abundant streams. Luxuriant foliage. The Tel Dan Nature Preserve draws the locals as well as the travelers. It always has.

Headwaters of Jordan River at Tel Dan

(Photo: Headwaters of Jordan River at Tel Dan. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

In natural beauty, Tel Dan has few rivals in Israel. For the ancients, it had everything necessary for abundant living.

While the Hebrews in the south worshipped in Jerusalem, the natural beauty of Tel Dan in northern Israel offered an irresistible alternative. It was picturesque. It was convenient. It was invigorating.

And it was a complete compromise of God’s will.

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Tel Dan Stele—Providential Ironies in Favor of King David

How a stone inscription offers encouragement to your spiritual life.

Sometimes archaeology offers marvelous vindications to biblical history. The ancient site of Tel Dan has a large, rock wall—a city gate from the time of Solomon’s temple.

Tel Dan Iron Age gate near where the stele was discovered

(Photo: Tel Dan Iron Age gate near where the stele was discovered. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Likely built by King Ahab in the 9th century BC, this Iron Age entrance helped to fortify the city of Dan. And for good reason. The ninth and early-eighth centuries BC saw many battles between the northern kingdom of Israel and the expanding kingdom of Aram.

In the courtyard of Tel Dan’s gate complex, archaeologists unearthed sections of a large engraved stone—an ancient basalt stele. Its discovery gave hard evidence that King David was no Robin Hood legend of Hebrew history.

It also offers encouragement to your spiritual life. Here’s how.

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Nebi Samwil—A Site with Wisdom Ignored

Solomon's defining moment can also become ours.

Most travelers to Jerusalem never think to come to Nebi Samwil. The minaret towering above the hill looks like a misplaced lighthouse searching for the sea. On a clear day, a visitor can spy the Mediterranean to the west.

Nebi Samwil

(Photo: Nebi Samwil. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Although few come here today, there were few more important places in David’s and Solomon’s time—if any. In fact, it signified Solomon’s most defining moment.

What’s more, it represents the potential for ours as well.

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What’s Your Motive? There’s One Way to Tell

How Tisha B'Av & the Burnt House Examine Us

I find it fascinating that when the New Testament talks about God judging our motives, it uses the metaphor of a burnt house. In Jerusalem, one site I pass always begs the question: “What’s your motive?”

How Tisha B'Av & the Burnt House Examine Us

(Photo: The Burnt House in Jerusalem. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Some call it coincidence. Some call it Providence. But according to tradition, both the First and Second Temples (in 586 BC and AD 70) were destroyed on the same date in history. Tisha B’Av marks the 9th day of the month of Av—the fifth Jewish month. During the exile, the Jews instituted a fast to commemorate the Temple’s destruction. After they returned to Jerusalem, they asked God a question about Tisha B’Av:

Shall I weep in the fifth month and abstain, as I have done these many years? —Zechariah 7:3

Their question made sense.

They had observed the fast in exile, but should they continue to fast on Tisha B’Av now that they were building the Second Temple? God’s answer to their question reaches beyond them to the heart of why we do what we do.

One question gets to the heart of our heart.

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