Jericho—Joshua’s Battle Continues Today

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—The City of Palms and Pilgrims

(Photo: Palm trees at Jericho. Courtesy of Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.)

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.

I’m Taking a Break on Labor Day

Here in the United States, today is Labor Day—a national holiday. According to the US Department of Labor:

Labor Day . . . constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions [American] workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

I hope you also have the day off and can enjoy a day with family, in the yard, or with a good book.

(Photo: By Geraint Owen from Llundain/London via Bangor a Caerdydd/Kierdiff. Paradwys. CC-BY-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

(Photo: By Geraint Owen from Llundain/London via Bangor a Caerdydd/Kierdiff. Paradwys. CC-BY-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Question: What did you do today on Labor Day? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Here’s the Title of My New Book

Not long ago, I asked you to give me your opinion on a title for my new book that I’m writing on the biblical character of Joseph. Many of you gave me your opinion on the options sent by my publisher, Baker.

Well, drum roll . . . here’s the final title:

Waiting on God: What to Do When God Does Nothing

Thanks so much for your input! But most valuable to me were the encouraging words many of you gave me in the comments section of that survey post.

I will also ask your opinion when the cover ideas come to me.

My request: Please continue to pray for the writing as I complete the manuscript by October 15! You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Tiberias—There’s More to See than Just Hotels

The New Testament never records Jesus visiting Tiberias. However a number of His followers came from there (John 6:23). Today, most of His followers go there to sleep in hotels.

Tiberias Has More to See than Hotels

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

Mentioned only once in the Bible, the city of Tiberias rested along the western shore of the Sea of Galilee (John 6:23). For this reason the lake sometimes has been called the “Sea of Tiberias” (John 6:1; 21:1). Although Christ may never have passed through Tiberias, He would have seen it many times from the lake.

For most Christians who visit Tiberias today, the city serves as little more than a place to sleep. Modern hotels cling to the northwestern shores of the Sea of Galilee.

But there is more to see in Tiberias today than hotels.

The Greatest Danger of God’s Blessings in Your Life

Sometimes our blessings get piled so high, it’s difficult to see around them. Blessings are ours in abundance—and tempt us to forget God. Of course, this is nothing new.

The Greatest Danger of God’s Blessings in Your Life

(Photo by Photodune)

As the redeemed Hebrew nation anticipated entering Canaan, the Lord issued them an important warning:

When the Lord your God brings you into . . . great and splendid cities which you did not build, and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you shall eat and be satisfied. Then watch yourself, lest you forget the Lord who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. —Deuteronomy 6:10-12

Notice God’s emphasis by the repeated phrase: “which you did not.” The blessings His people would receive would come from God’s hand—not from their own wits or wisdom.

Moses warned his people of the greatest danger from God’s blessings: to forget God.

We have that same vulnerability, don’t we?

Take a devotional break for a moment and watch the beautiful words of King David’s Psalm 23 come to life.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.  —Psalm 23:1–3

Sometimes I think God created particular creatures simply to provide potent metaphors He could use to teach us with. Picture yourself as one of these sheep—and the Lord as your shepherd.

Question: How does seeing these words visually help you internalize their truths? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Video from SourceFlix.com

Exploring Israel’s Timna Park

Earlier this year I visited Israel’s Timna Park for the first time in years. Most visitors to Israel never see the southern part of the country since most of the biblical record occurred farther north.

Exploring Israel's Timna Park

(Photo: “Solomon’s Pillars” at Timna Park. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

So I thought I’d share a few photos, video, and maps to give you a taste of this seldom-seen site in southern Israel.

Between the copper mines, the formations called “Solomon’s Pillars,” and a replica of the Tabernacle, there’s plenty to see.

Let’s take a look.

Make Your Mark: Getting Right What Samson Got Wrong

Make Your Mark: Getting Right What Samson Got Wrong [Book Review] (FaithWords, 2014)

In Make Your Mark: Getting Right What Samson Got Wrong, Brad Gray walks us through the life of the strong man who lived a life of weakness and failure. But it’s more than a cautionary tale.

The book employs a surprising blend of history, geography, archaeology, linguistics, and culture—what most folks might consider dull and dry—and explains how Samson’s struggles often mirror our own.

  • Learning from the pride and lust and unforgiveness (and faith) of this weak judge allows us to get right what Samson got wrong.
  • I enjoyed learning about how the author of the book of Judges used the theme of Samson eyes as an example of what “everyone in those days” did—what was right in their own eyes.

Brad Gray combines many personal illustrations along with his explanation of Samson’s life to produce a potentially life changing resource for all of us who have failed (that’s all of us). Samson’s presence in Hebrews 11 reveals that God can still use us—even when we fail Him.

God doesn’t want our failures to remain failures. He wants our failures to become investments in learning to get things right. He want us to learn from our mistakes and to keep moving forward. —Brad Gray

Make Your Mark: Getting Right What Samson Got Wrong has pulled Samson from the Sunday School flannel graphs and revealed him as the flesh-and-blood Hebrew he was. Human, frail, desperate, alone, failing—and yet, believing.

Just like us.

You’ll enjoy the book. You can grab it here.