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Kavode Tour: Isreal 2019 - Day 1

Updated: Apr 11, 2019

Back in 2013, I met Cliff Graham at Atlanta Fest, and he introduced me to his writings about King David and his mighty men. His Lion of War series has impacted my life significantly. Shelby and I have been blessed with the opportunity to experience the Holy Land with Cliff as our guide through his Kavode tours. After a long day of travel from Columbus to New York to Barcelona to Tel Aviv and then a good nights sleep, we set out on our first day of experiencing the Holy Land.

We descended from Jerusalem and headed south to Jericho. When we arrived in Jericho we saw three biblical locations. First, we stopped and looked at a sycamore tree on the main road of Jericho. While this tree isn't old enough to be the sycamore tree from which Zacchaeus was called down from by Jesus, it gives you a visual of what the scene could've been like in Luke 19. Next, we stopped at the base of the Mount of Temptation, where tradition tells us that Jesus fasted for 40 days while being tempted by the devil. After buying some of the best dates I have ever tasted (actually they're the only dates I've ever tasted), we drove to the archeological site of the old city of Jericho for a quick look at where Joshua and the Israelites won their first battle in the conquest of the land (Joshua 6).

We then traveled to the ancient city of Beit-She'an and the Roman city of Scythopolis. Beit-She'an plays an important role in the fall of King Saul and the rise of David to the throne. We climbed to the top of the tell in Beit-She'an and looked out over the places where 1 Samuel 28-31 played out, and it was there that we read the story of Saul's demise. To the west is Mount Gilboa where Saul and his army encamped. In the east is the land of Endor, where Saul disguised himself and sought out a witch to conjure up the prophet Samuel from the dead. It was in this Valley of Jezreel that David was kept from fighting for the Philistines and was sent back to his town of Ziklag, which kept David from seeing Jonathan one last time. It was on Mount Gilboa that Saul and his sons would die fighting the Philistines, opening up the throne for David to ascend. While we looked over this valley where so much blood has been shed, there was something more eerie about where we were standing. The place in which we were standing was the place where the Philistines hung the dead bodies of Saul, Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchi-shua from the walls of Beit-She'an. This land is filled with history all around, and it is humbling to be in the land where God worked out his plan of redemption.

About a thousand years later, the Romans came along and built a large city next to the tell in Beit-She'an. The city was called Scythopolis, and it was the leading city of the Decapolis mentioned in the Gospels, and it was often referred to as the "gateway to paradise." However, Sycthopolis is never mentioned in the New Testament, and there is no record that Jesus ever traveled there. The reason for this is due to the city being steeped in paganism. However, several centuries later, the city became a Christian city until it was occupied by Muslims in the 7th century AD. The city was eventually abandoned after a destructive earthquake shook the region in 749 AD. Because the city was abandoned after the earthquake, the Roman city is very well preserved and offers us a glimpse into a Roman city within the region of Judea.

View of Roman city from the tell in Beit-She'an

After leaving Beit-She'an and grabbing lunch, we traveled to the town of Capernaum. In Matthew 4:13, we are told that Jesus moves to Capernaum, and it was here that Jesus begins his Galilean ministry as the Messiah. This would remain his and his disciples’ base of operation for the duration of his three-year ministry, and because of that Capernaum becomes known as the town of Jesus. In this town, we were able to examine both a synagogue and a church that were in close proximity to one another. Both of these structures were most likely in existence during the 4th or 5th century, which would be a rare occurrence in the early church. What will never cease to amazing me is standing in the city where Jesus lived, preached, healed the sick, cast out demons, and called his first disciples. I walked through the synagogue where Jesus taught, and it was here that it all started. Jesus discipled Peter, James, and John, along with the others, and from here the Good News began to be preached to the ends of the earth.

From Capernaum, we drove up the hill to where Jesus preached his Sermon on the Mount and fed the 5,000. On the Mount of Beatitudes, Jesus sat teaching in a natural amphitheater that looked out over the Sea of Galilee. While we were there, we took time to read the beatitudes and just reflect on the teaching of Jesus. We also visualized the space in which Jesus preached this sermon. As I looked out over the sea, I imagined what it must have been like to sit near Jesus and to hear him preach this sermon on the mount. How hundreds and thousand flocked to this man who preached good news to them.

Next, we stopped at the city of Magdala, the hometown of Mary Magdalene. In recent years, archeologists uncovered a synagogue from the time of Jesus. This is the oldest know synagogue in all of Israel that is still preserved. Jesus would have often passed through Magdala as it was on the way to Nazareth from Capernaum. It is likely that Jesus himself would have taught in this synagogue many times. What is even more fascinating is that there is a stone pulpit preserved in this synagogue, and it would've been from this pulpit that Jesus opened up the scrolls of the Tanak and taught the people of God. The city was one of the first cities to be conquered by the Romans in the Jewish revolt of 67-73 AD. It most likely fell in 67 or 68 AD, and has been preserved for the last 2,000 years. While we were in Magdala, we were able to experience something that hasn't happened since the fall of the city. In the city, archeologist uncovered 7 mikvehs. Mikvehs are ritual baths where Jews dunk themselves three times to become ritually clean (normally for Sabbath or other Jewish holy days). These mikvehs have been empty and dry since the city fell to the Romans in 68 AD and were filled in. Because of the heavy rain we received today, the mikvehs were filled for the first time in almost 2,000 years. It was truly a special experience (our tour guide cried at the sight of them being filled in).

We finished our day on a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee. Today wasn't as clear as my first time on the Sea of Galilee two years ago. And yet, there I was, in the middle of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus stopped a storm, where Jesus walked on water, and where Jesus did a lot of his discipling of his inner 12, and l was filled with emotion. Our night ended with the beginning of a storm. As we were about to get off the boat, a flash of lightning lit up the sky and thunder crackled through the air. We were blessed to get a glimpse of what it was like being on the Sea of Galilee with a storm moving in quickly.

Overall, today was packed with Biblical truths and places where God has moved profoundly. My hope and prayer is that God would continue to bless us on this trip and move profoundly in our lives.


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