Chorazin—Sitting in the Seat but Missing the Message

Jesus explains why leadership remains a privilege, not a prerogative.

Leadership in any form is a place of honor because of one reason only. You won’t see that reason in the world’s system where leadership often stands upside down. A small town in Galilee reminds us how to keep it upright. 

Chorazin—Sitting in the Seat but Missing the Message

(Photo: Chorazin’s ruins hide at center left. Courtesy of Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

From a distance, Chorazin seems like it’s hiding. I don’t blame it for trying. After all, it remains one of the three cities in Galilee that Jesus rebuked for failing to respond to His message. The basalt ruins of Chorazin appear little more than a pile of rocks among so many thousands of others. Clumps of grass and volcanic rock offer a variegated green and gray to the hillside above the Sea of Galilee.

Unless you look carefully, you may not even see the city.

But Jesus saw it. So should we.

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The Way to Make the Most Excellent Choices

Joshua’s secret to success is one we can apply daily.

Few choices last a lifetime. Most require daily, deliberate reminders. Joshua knew this well. Immediately after he and the young nation of Israel entered the Promised Land, they made a beeline to a particular valley between two mountains.

The Way to Make the Most Excellent Choices

(Photo: Where Joshua stood: Mount Gerizim, Shechem, and Mount Ebal. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

God had commanded half the people to stand before one mountain and the other half to position itself before the other. Each group was to shout either the blessings or the curses that Israel would experience as a result of their response to God’s Law (Deuteronomy 11:29).

As they shouted, their voices echoed in the city of Shechem, which lay in the valley between these hills. Before God’s people would conquer and settle the land, they affirmed their obedience to God in the very place where God had promised the land to Abraham (Genesis 12:7).

The significance of the place served to strengthen their commitment to God.

If we’ll listen, it can strengthen ours as well.

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How to Strengthen Your Vulnerable Buffer Zone

The foothills of Israel's Shephelah offer lessons on keeping spiritually alert.

Do you have a buffer zone between you and what can harm you? I’m talking about putting a safeguard between you and evil influences that can cause compromise in your walk with Jesus Christ. We see an illustration of this buffer zone throughout Old Testament history in the foothills of Israel’s Shephelah.

The Shephelah

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

Between the Philistine plain and the Hill Country where God’s people dwelt lay 10 miles of low rolling hills. This buffer zone was known as the “Shephelah.” The hills of the Shephelah served as a geographical buffer that represented a spiritual barrier.

You have a Shephelah in your life as well. Here’s how you can guard it.

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The Hinnom Valley – Redeemed Just Like You

Jerusalem's infamous valley reminds us nobody is too far gone for God.

Some people, it seems, are too far gone. We pray for them for years, but they still refuse to walk with God. After so long a time, we feel it’s hopeless. But Jerusalem’s Hinnom Valley gives us reason to hope.

The Hinnom Valley - Redeemed Just Like You

(Photo: The Hinnom Valley curves around Jerusalem’s southern side. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Some places in Jerusalem are as infamous as others are famous. The Hinnom Valley is such a site. It represented a place where evil atrocities occurred. Like, really evil.

One of the best places to see the Hinnom Valley is from a balcony in the southwest corner of the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu. Inevitably while I stand there, I think of King Manasseh and the horrific acts he committed in the area before my eyes.

The infamous valley reminds me of more than Manasseh. It also represents my redemption.

And yours.

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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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Nazareth—Jesus’ Hometown with a View to the Past and the Future

Not many people can say they grew up on a hill that overlooked the battlefields of history. But Jesus could.

Jesus’ hometown sat off the beaten path and high on a ridge that overlooked the International Highway and the prominent Jezreel Valley.

Nazareth—Jesus’ Hometown with a View to the Past and the Future

(Photo: Nazareth Mount of Precipitation. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The gospels tell us Nazareth rested on a hill with a formidable precipice (Luke 4:29). From here Jesus cold see the battles of Israel’s history.

The city’s name likely comes from the Hebrew term netzer, meaning “branch” or “shoot.” Some scholars believe this represents the faith of those Jews who returned from exile. Their hope focused on the coming Messiah, the “righteous Branch” of David, promised by the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15).

But when He did finally show up, they tried to throw Him over the cliff.

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Eilat—Israel on the Red Sea

More lies beneath the surface if we will simply explore.

When we think of the Red Sea, we tend to picture Moses holding up his arms and dividing the waters. This body of water parted like curtains in the opening act of Israel’s history. The parting of the sea set the stage for one of history’s most incredible escapes (Exodus 14:29-31).

Eilat—Israel on the Red Sea

(Photo: Eilat—Israel on the Red Sea. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

But this part of the Red Sea represents only half of its northernmost edges.

The sea has two fingers that point north, divided by the Sinai Peninsula. The more famous finger, the one that parted in the exodus, is the western one—today called the Gulf of Suez.

If the western finger of the Red Sea represented Israel’s beginning as a nation under God, the eastern section, or the Gulf of Aqaba, could embody Israel’s ongoing relationship with the Lord.

And it offers a spiritual lesson for those who will look below the surface.

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Kiriath Jearim—A Noteworthy Hill Nobody Notices

A reminder that God gave His Word for a reason.

It’s a place between important places. Few individuals, if any, journey there directly. Most would miss it, in fact, if they didn’t know to look. Yet Kiriath Jearim was profoundly significant.

Kiriath Jearim—A Noteworthy Hill Nobody Notices

(Photo: Kiriath Jearim, Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.)

Modern commuters along Israel’s Route 1 drive by the site every day, their minds on their routines. Even tour buses rarely point to the place, much less stop there.

The tourists who do pull over often do so only to snap pictures at the Elvis American Diner (also known as the “Elvis Inn”). A 16-foot-tall bronze likeness of Elvis Presley greets every visitor. Inside the diner, Elvis music is all they hear as they eat their Elvis Burgers. But Elvis isn’t what makes this hill noteworthy.

Around the corner from the offbeat diner, near the modern Israeli Arab village of Abu Gosh, sits the site so few see and even fewer visit—the biblical site of Kiriath Jearim.

You’d never know by looking, but the physical symbol of God’s presence in Israel rested for about a century on this overlooked hill.

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Joppa’s Greatest Export May Actually Surprise You

God's compassion to Gentiles launched here in both Testaments.

One of the best parts of going to Tel Aviv is strolling down the beautiful seaside boardwalk to ancient Joppa. Amazingly, very little remains visible to speak of Joppa’s significance. But history tells a different story.

Joppa’s Greatest Export—God’s Compassion

(Photo: Joppa’s modern port, courtesy of Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Only a few fishing boats float in Joppa’s modest harbor today, hardly representative of its significant past. Beyond goods and trade, Joppa greatest export was something else.

It may actually surprise you.

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Mount Tabor–A Panorama of Beauty and Praise

Only one thing could make it more beautiful.

Unmistakable. Majestic. Distinctive. Graceful. Descriptions all appropriate for an isolated hill wedged in the northeast corner of the Jezreel Valley—Mount Tabor.

Mount Tabor

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

Rising from the valley floor 1,843 feet, Mount Tabor’s smooth contours honor it with a distinguishing outline recognizable from any vantage point.

  • From the Plain of Bethsaida north of the Sea of Galilee, I have seen the top of Tabor peeking over the hills of Mount Arbel.
  • From the other side of the Jezreel Valley on Mount Carmel, I have studied Mount Tabor’s exceptional form in its geographical context.
  • Many times as I traveled in the Galilee, Mount Tabor would surprise me with its presence. “I had no idea you could see Tabor from here,” I would find myself saying.

From any direction, the mountain stands alone in both beauty and topography. The Prophet Jeremiah recorded,

As I live [declares the Lord] surely one shall come who looms up like Tabor among the mountains. —Jeremiah 46:18

No wonder Mount Tabor played a noteworthy role in history.  It offered a geographical landmark for travelers, a military advantage as the high ground, and it provided an illusory spiritual benefit as a high place.

It even served as a metaphor of praise to God.

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