On the monochrome landscape north of the Dead Sea, a conspicuous green splotch appears at the western edge of the Jordan Rift Valley. “The city of palm trees” exemplifies what we imagine when we picture an oasis.
Jericho’s date palm trees have roots that stretch toward a source of fresh water that has turned a desert into a garden. Visitors to Jericho, or Tell es-Sultan, can see the perennial spring that supported the city for centuries and provided a splendid irrigation system, distributing water to the plain as well as to all travelers in antiquity. Likely, Prophet Elisha purified this spring (2 Kings 2:21).
The “oldest city on earth” also sits as the lowest one—at more than 800 feet below sea level. Jericho owes its existence to the spring, to be sure. But the city also sits at the base of the primary roads that ascended from the Jordan Rift valley up to the Hill Country of Judea. Anyone crossing the Jordan River from the Plains of Moab had Jericho to face.
The walled city stood as a strategic roadblock that no one passing could ignore. Enter Joshua.
Archaeologists agree that the walls came tumbling down, but they disagree when it happened. In this video, Dr. Bryant Wood discusses the facts and confirms the biblical account.
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. That begins this evening.
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.
The event in Cana of Jesus’ first miracle of turning water into wine also occasioned the first gentle shove He would receive from His followers to get God’s kingdom rolling. The first of many.
Jesus’ mother, Mary, may have been the first to nudge Jesus toward dispensing the blessings of the kingdom—but she wouldn’t be the last. Many times, the Lord would have to rein in the pushing of others in favor of God’s timing for blessing.
It’s all about timing. God’s timing.
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.
In ancient Israel, a city wasn’t a city without a wall. The wall served as the primary means of protection from an enemy. Without a wall, you were a sitting duck.
In times of war, an enemy would surround a city wall and lay siege to it. This method purposed to starve the inhabitants of food and water—forcing surrender. Often a siege took months or even years. But it was very effective. All it took was time.
The sieges of ancient Israel serve as a fitting metaphor for what God often does in our lives when we erect walls to keep Him out. But there’s a key difference.
God lays siege to your life not to destroy you, but to restore you.
Sometimes it’s tough to serve God in the shadows. You show up faithfully. You contribute your part, but no one seems to notice. Matthias may have felt that way.
Ever since John the Baptist had prepared the way for the Messiah, Matthias had followed.
- He had walked in Jesus’ footsteps from the Jordan River to the rugged hills of Galilee.
- He had followed the Savior with passion and persuasion.
But without recognition. Matthias was a willing unknown.
In those moments we beg God to rescue us from our insignificant lives, believing nothing important is happening with us, Matthias reminds us that just the opposite is true.
Sometimes what you expect is not what you get. You come to a situation that promises one thing, but you get another. Monday of Passion Week proved that way for Jesus.
The day before that Monday, on Palm Sunday, Jesus hopped on a donkey His disciples had borrowed from Bethphage (meaning “house of unripe figs”).
After His Triumphal Entry on the colt, Jesus entered the Temple area and found the Court of the Gentiles—the area for Gentiles to worship God—filled with markets and moneychangers. Jesus promptly cleaned house, saying:
It is written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer;” but you are making it a “robber’s den.” —Matt. 21:13
Monday morning, Jesus returned to Jerusalem along the same road He had traveled before. He saw a fig tree in leaf, which typically indicated that it would have unripe figs to eat. But the tree offered only leaves. No fruit for breakfast.
So Jesus cursed the tree. And His disciples heard Him. We should hear Him too.
His words indicate what Jesus is looking for in our lives.
Today, we spend our entire day traveling to, exploring, and returning from Petra. Fewer places on the planet offer a more suspenseful approach and rewarding visit than Petra in modern Jordan.
Rose-hewn sandstone, rugged hills, and monumental facades—all accessible through a twisting narrow gorge—serve to inspire and amaze every visitor.
(Photo: The Treasury facade at Petra, Jordan)
The Nabatean capital served as the home for thousands of people in the first century. But a devastating earthquake in AD 363 crumbled much of the city—a disaster from which it never recovered.
For centuries, the location of Petra remained a secret. And the locals tried to keep it that way. It’s strange to think that for centuries the residents tried to keep infidels away from the beauty of Petra.
Today, however, they try to get as many of as there as possible.
Life is full of moments that expose our doubts. In spite of all the Scripture we’ve learned and all the past victories the Lord has given us, occasionally something will happen that causes serious doubt.
Maybe it’s a financial situation that undercuts future security. It might be a miserable marriage. Perhaps it’s a pastor or a leader who has failed. Maybe it’s our own failure.
Whatever the reason, seasons of doubts and confusion can come even to the most committed followers of Jesus:
- John the Baptist struggled with doubts about his own beliefs about Jesus (Matt. 11:2-3).
- The apostle Thomas found the resurrection of Christ something he had to see before he’d believe (John 20:25).
- Some of the disciples had doubts about Jesus’ appearing to them, even at the Great Commission (Matt. 28:17).
I confess, I’ve had my doubts as well. Sometimes circumstances literally demanded I doubt God.
I will never forget one evening during my first few days in Jerusalem. A simple walk gave me an essential reminder that helped relieve my doubts.
Most days it seems we never have enough. Between the bills, the home upkeep, and the car repairs, it’s tough just to stay afloat. Often, amazingly, God rigs it this way.
This tension is nothing new for a people who believe God will provide. In fact, an unusual custom gives insight into why we are means seem so meager.
After settling in the Promised Land, God allowed His people to work the land. But every seventh year, God said, “the land shall have a sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord” (Lev. 25:4) and lie fallow.
- This Sabbatical Year allowed for the forgiveness of all debts, and any food that grew went to the poor and to the wild animals.
- Then every 50 years, on the year of Jubilee, the land not only rested but also returned to its ancestral owners. And all slaves walked free.
- However, in 586 B.C., after God’s people failed to observe the Sabbatical Year for 490 years, God exiled them for the 70 special years they failed to give the land (2 Chron. 36:20-21).
All this was to show that the land belonged to God, not to those who lived on it (Lev. 25:23). Although they worked the land, they believed God will provide, and He made them stop working to prove He would. For even when they rested, God supplied (Ps. 127:2).
Here’s why the same is true for us.