The Cohort actually made good time. Four days out from the Phoenician city, Cornelius could just make out the inland sea, the Sea of Galilee. Of course, the sea was really a great lake of fresh water. From North to South, it is about thirteen miles in length then eight miles at its widest. The column of three hundred soldiers have been traveling on a caravan route following the tributary, Jordan River, which feeds the north side of the lake. The column halted and the men were lying about on the sides of the track getting some well earned rest. As they rested, Cornelius was standing on a shelf just above the track with a panoramic view. To the north were the Lebanon mountains. To the east was a wilderness of rocky hills, canyons and deserts. Then to the south toward the inland sea on the east side of the river, lies the lush green farm lands of Bethsaida. They were on the west side of the river following the rough craggy hills of the Galilee region. Though he could not make it out yet, his destination is a fort made by the first expeditionary Legion that conquered this land some fifty years ago. The fort lies about a few miles east of Bethsaida.
Cornelius saw Jacob climbing the shelf to join him.
“Look there, Jacob,” Cornelius pointed. “You are almost home.”
“I think I still have kin in Betsaida, farmers and fishermen both. I wonder if my brother is still living in Capernaum?”
“I have important work to do here, Jacob. They are your people and I am coming here as their conqueror and as another Roman oppressor.”
“An oppressor, yes. But that is not new for the people especially for those of us in the north part of the old kingdom. After the last exile into Babylon, those of my people who returned to Judah to rebuild the Holy city also remembered the lands of Zebulun & Nephtali, the lands of our ancestors. So, when the holy city was done, my family and many more returned to this area but the lands were already occupied by gentiles. There were some of the Israelites that were not exiled, the Samaritans, but they forgot the traditions of our people and generations of them intermarried with gentiles. Today, there is still deep enmity between our peoples. Anyway, we did re-establish the many settlements that were lost to us but had to learn to live with the gentile communities for they were protected by Persia at the time. Eventually, we became an independent province again but we were conquered by the Greeks, Egyptians and finally the Romans. So, we are not strangers to oppression but yet there is hope.” Then Jacob noticed Cornelius’ brooding look. “I have known you since your childhood. I have watched you grow into the man that you are today. I have surmised the difficult task you have to undergo to fulfill the orders of your superiors. I know you will be torn inside. All I can say is that when I chose bond servitude to you, it means I will support you. Does that help?”
Cornelius nodded and smiled.
“Now, how goes your study of the Prophet Isaiah?
“I have to reread the first quarter again. I did read something odd, though. ”
“What is that?”
“King Ahaz was king of Judah and it was reported to him that the king of Aram had made an alliance with the king of Israel. Both kings waged war against Jerusalem at that time. The Lord had prophesied to Ahaz that Judah will prevail against them and revealed a future that sixty five years from then both Aram and the north kingdom of Israel will be no more.”
“Yes, I recall that passage.”
“Right after that, God spoke to Ahaz again and gave him an opportunity to ask the Lord for a sign… which Ahaz foolishly did not ask, inviting a scathing rebuke. Then God gave him a prophesy anyway of ‘a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.’* I’m a little puzzled by this prophecy. I am not sure if this is literal or figurative.”
* Isaiah 7:14 NASB
“When it comes to prophecy, my boy, expect it to be both.”
“If it is literal, how can a virgin be with child?”
“I’m afraid I cannot answer that. It is an impossible mystery. However, when it comes to the impossible, it clearly belongs in the purview of the Spiritual. To be candid, I don’t think you or I will ever be a witness to any of the prophesies. I have been in this life for over sixty years, I have not seen any fulfillment. But I can hope.”
The story continues on in my next post a week from now.
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