Geographic Ironies of Jesus and Herod the Great

The Places Associated with Herod's Death Speak with a Twist

The Bible loves poetic irony. Think of Joseph’s brothers, hat in hand before the brother they betrayed. Or Haman—hanged on his own gallows. But one of my favorites has to do with the geographic ironies surrounding the death of Herod the Great.

Geographic Ironies of Jesus and Herod the Great

(Photo: The Herodium where Herod the Great was buried. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Like an ugly cover on a great book, the places of Herod’s death bookend the life of Jesus.

They give lasting lessons to us who walk through them.

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The Levitical Cities—God’s Word Made Accessible to You

Finding it is the easy part. The next step is the tough one.

I am convinced God is far more concerned that we know His will than we are. In fact, He has gone to great lengths to help us understand what we need to know. But we have a problem.

The Levitical Cities—God’s Word Made Accessible to You

(Photo: Tel Jokneam, one of the 48 Levitical Cities. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

We often treat the Bible as a simple reference book—kept handy on the shelf for those moments when we need inspiration but not something we see as essential for daily living.

But God’s will is found in God’s Word. If we want to find His will, we must read His Word. It’s often that simple—and yet, it’s also difficult. But it needn’t be.

In fact, God has always made His Word accessible to us—today more than ever.

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Kursi—Choosing Between People, Pigs, and Priorities

Why is it sometimes we regret the wrong things?

Sometimes in the swell of our emotions, we make promises we don’t mean. On one occasion, two individuals approached Jesus and declared they would follow Him wherever He went.

Kursi—Choosing Between People, Pigs, and Priorities

(Photo: The steep slope at Kursi beside the Sea of Galilee. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

But Jesus’ response to them indicated that their hearts were more devoted to comfort and to family than to Him (Matt. 8:19-22). It happened in Jesus’ day, and it happens in ours.

We’ve all done it. Sometimes we’ll express our spiritual desires in terms that really boil down to boasts:

  • I’ll have my quiet time every morning for the rest of my life.
  • I’m willing to follow God wherever He leads me.
  • I will love people more and need them less.

Overwhelmed by the moment, we’ll express our feelings in terms of commitments we’d like to do. But often, we come to regret our words.

The problem is we’re regretting the wrong thing.

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Mount Sinai—Why You Need God’s Word First

At first it didn’t make sense. God redeemed Israel out of Egypt in order to lead His people into the Promised Land. But the journey to Canaan began, remarkably, by God leading the Hebrews away from it.

Mount Sinai—Why You Need God’s Word First of All

(Photo: The Mountains of Sinai from Jebel Musa. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Instead of taking them east to Canaan, the Lord directed them southeast for three months to Mount Sinai. There God entered into a covenant with Israel and gave them His commandments.

True, God could have led them straight to Canaan. After all, what better place to receive the Holy Bible than in the Holy Land? But the Lord wanted them to have His Word before they walked in His plans for their future.

This principle hasn’t changed for us.

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The Plains of Moab—Remember What God has Done in Your Life

The time always seems right to receive God’s blessings. After all, we could use some—right? But sometimes we need to pause and remember what God has done already.

Plains of Moab—Remember What God has Done in Your Life

(Photo: Sunset from Mount Nebo, overlooking the Plains of Moab. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

With so much focus on the needs of the moment, we can lose sight of the fact that God has already brought us so far.

After wandering 40 years in the wilderness, Israel camped on the Plains of Moab, poised to enter the Promised Land. But before receiving the blessings ahead, they needed to remember the blessing that lay behind them.

So do we.

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The Transfiguration of Jesus—What Hope Can Do for You

Jesus had just dropped the bomb. At Caesarea Philippi, the Lord informed His star-struck disciples that He, the Messiah, would soon die and rise again. Amazingly, that didn’t hit them as good news.

The Transfiguration of Jesus—What Hope Can Do for You

(Photo: Mural in the Basilica of the Transfiguration of Jesus, Israel. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

To these men—who only understood the Messiah in terms of providing the good life of God’s kingdom—news of Jesus’ death came as a sucker punch to their dreams. It’s no wonder Peter blurted, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You” (Matt. 16:22).

Jesus’ reply should cause us all to pause and ponder:

If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. —Matthew 16:24

In wake of their confusion, Jesus took these disappointed disciples to a nearby mountain for a good dose of hope. They needed it.

As we struggle with our own disappointments, we can use that same hope today. We need it too.

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Saint George’s Monastery—The Value of Solitude with God

In our lives busy with people, it’s tough to appreciate the value of solitude. But one look at Saint George’s Monastery in the Wilderness of Judea gives us reason to pause and ponder the necessity of solitude with God.

Saint George's Monastery—The Value of Solitude with God

(Photo: Saint George’s Monastery. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

As I scanned the monastery’s blue domes and white arches that dot the colorless canvas of the wilderness, I marveled at the time and ingenuity it would have taken to build and rebuild these structures.  

I found myself wondering, Why would ANYONE want to live way out there? A friend of mine wondered if the monks in the monastery thought the same thing about us.

Sometimes in our hurry, it does us good to contemplate the value of solitude.

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Gibeah—Displaying the Integrity of God Where It Isn’t

Atop the site of ancient Gibeah in Israel today stands the skeleton of a building. Although it marks the ambitions of a king who never occupied its halls, the structure reminds me of a deeper emptiness.

Gibeah—Displaying the Love of God Where It Isn't

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

In 1964 King Hussein of Jordan began constructing a palace on the site of ancient Gibeah. The Six-Day War in 1967 put a permanent halt to the construction. All that remains today are the empty ruins of his intentions.

When we read the book of Judges, repeatedly the book notes Israel had no king in those
 days (Judges 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). They had no one to model and impose a moral standard—and thus had none.

Like the skeleton that stands on Gibeah today, God’s people had the structure of God’s Law but it was empty in their lives.

Here’s how that emptiness needn’t be true of our lives today.

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Connecting Archaeology and the Passion Week of Jesus

Easter and Christmas always bring a slew of television specials claiming to find some new archaeological connection to Jesus. Most are hype and even attempt to discredit the biblical account.

Ossuary of Joseph son of Caiaphas, from Jerusalem, 1st c AD

(Photo: Ossuary of Joseph son of Caiaphas. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

But occasionally archaeology gives us a true connection to Jesus, and the results are tremendously affirming. The Israel Museum in Jerusalem has devoted a small corner of the museum to archaeology connected to Jesus of Nazareth.

The good folks at SourceFlix.com put together a short video that highlights several of these archaeological finds that relate to Jesus Christ—and the Passion Week in particular.

I’ll also explain why they’re significant to us.

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This Passion Week and Easter the Dates All Align

Every Sunday celebrates Easter. First-century Christians transferred the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday. This year is special, for the days and dates of the Passion Week align with our calendars.

This Passion Week and Easter, the Dates All Align

(Photo: Jerusalem through the window at Dominus Flevit. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Because the Bible and history offer specific details, we know that Jesus Christ was crucified on April 3, AD 33.

It takes years for the calendar to roll around and allow for the exact dates of the Passion Week to align with our own calendars. This year it’s happening.

Here’s a simple chronology of the Passion Week’s events with the days and dates they occurred.

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