Just recently, I watched Sidney Poitier’s 1967 movie, To Sir, with Love. One of my favorite scenes was when Sidney Poitier’s teacher character brought an unruly class of teenagers to the London Museum for the very first time. Seeing the fascination on their faces, brought back my own memories of my first time.
We were living in Santa Rosa, California, around the mid sixties. I just had a cast removed from my last corrective orthopedic surgery and I was again up and walking on my wobbly legs. My father announced that he had a treat for me. And so, he packed up the entire family into our brown Pontiac Bonneville station wagon and off to San Francisco, we went. When my Dad was pestered relentlessly (not by me, of course) on where he was taking us, there was a loud collective sound of ‘aw’ in the car, when he said the museum. Some of my siblings were hoping for a day at the zoo or at the Embarcadero where they can eat fresh crab and shrimp cocktails on the wharf. But my dad wanted to take us to the California Academy of Sciences and natural history museum which was located within the vast Golden Gate Park. It was my first time in a museum. I was 8 years old. The exhibits that were foremost in my memories were the animals of the Sierra Mountains. One in particular was the display of an eight foot tall ferocious grizzly bear towering over me. A lot of the stuffed animals that I have seen that day were giants to me. I could not get enough of it. When I got home, I made a promise to visit as many different museums that came my way. To this day, I have no regrets except that I had not established a small museum of my own… yet.
When was the last time you visited a museum? I sincerely hope that you will visit one soon and bring your kids. Why? Well, if you look closely at the definition of the root word, ‘Muse’, a museum was meant to provoke long and careful thoughts in you. I get some of the best inspiration whenever I go to a museum… any museum.
My wife and I once went to Friday’s Harbor, a quaint island town in the San Juan Islands in Washington. While walking through the town, next to the harbor, I came upon the Whale Museum. It was not a large museum. In fact, it was in actuality, a single room. But it was packed with artifacts specifically dedicated to the mammals of the Puget Sound. I spent 2 hours in that place learning about seals, humpback whales and the orcas. I enjoyed my time in that small museum so much that I was inspired to adopt an orca.
These days, I am mostly bedridden but I do make a point to seek out virtual museums on the internet. The effect is still the same.
Visit a museum soon before the cobwebs get thicker.
Welcome to Module 2 of the Google Maps Tour of the Bible: Christmas Edition. Here, we will continue to follow the Christmas timeline. We will take a better look at familiar holiday scenes that we grew up with and explore the unadulterated version based only on what the Bible describes. We will also cover the darkest part of the Christmas story, however, I promise that we will end the tour with a joyful scene.
When I mention Nativity, what images come to your mind?
In every Nativity display I have ever seen whether on top of a building, a public square display, in a school/church production and even as miniatures on your own table top, we will always find the Holy family in a humble stable flanked by shepherds on one side and the wise men on the other; at least a cow, a donkey and a few sheep here and there; and an angel as well as the star of Bethlehem. I grew up with this display and I even collected miniatures of the nativity.
It is very interesting to note that tradition’s version of this event was established not back in 1AD. Believe it or not, Christmas was not celebrated by early Christians. You can almost say that the first Christmas celebration was celebrated in 1223 AD led by St. Francis of Assisi, according to legends, of course.
1: FRANCIS OF ASSISI
Francis of Assisi, originally known as Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, was a mystic Italian Catholic friar. He founded the Franciscan Order, and was one of the most venerated figures in Medieval Christianity. He was inspired to lead a life of poverty and itinerant preaching. Pope Gregory the 9th canonized him in 1228. He was usually depicted in a brown homespun robe with a rope as a belt.
Welcome to Santuario di Greccio, a mountainous area in the heart of Italy. Francis of Assisi longed to do something to help the people of nearby small Italian town of Greccio to feel close to the infant Jesus who was born for them in a stable in Bethlehem. The Saint knew these good folks would never have a chance to visit the Holy Land so he wanted to make the Nativity a real and personal experience for the faithful.
Before this church was built, in this spot was an open cave where Francis of Assisi orchestrated his Christmas tableau.
Witness the singular Christmas in the mountains, which Francis wanted to celebrate in Greccio – a place so dear to him – on December 25, 1223. To Giovanni Velita, lord of Greccio, Francesco said: “you have had a manger placed with hay and brought you an ox and a donkey just as they were in Bethlehem. On Christmas Eve I will come up there and, all together, we will pray in the grotto ”.
Christmas Eve arrives: everything is ready in the cave. The nativity scene and a small altar. It was as if Bethlehem, that year, had taken itself to the top of the mountain of Greccio. The priest began the Christmas Mass. Francis sang the Gospel.
The culmination of the celebration: Francis took in his arms that child placed on the hay who, by the faith of Francis, seemed to come to life and be reborn in the hearts of those present. [www.santuarivallesanta.com]
I must admit that I had always found all those Nativity pageant versions quite magical but were they biblical? I mean, was it presented the way the Lord God intended? Let us see…
2: THE RIDE, THE INN & THE STABLE
So, we pick up the Christmas story where we stopped in Module 1. Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem. Let us eliminate a myth right now – a very pregnant Mary riding on a donkey.
Now Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was betrothed to him, and was pregnant. (Luke 2:4,5)
The verses above only narrated the journey of Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem with no other clear description on what was their mode of transportation or the conditions of the journey. It may be that they did travel by donkey as tradition suggests. Afterall, this was a common way of traveling at the time and donkeys were popular among all classes of people. However, there are other considerations found in Scripture that may add to their journey story.
Nazareth is found in the region of Galilee which is about 60 miles as the crow flies to Bethlehem. At most traveling there by donkey using the established roads would take about 2 days. But Joseph and Mary being Jews were faced with a more arduous journey. Why? Let’s look at this map of Israel at the time of Jesus’ birth.
Joseph and Mary could not take the shorter and more direct route because to do so, they would have to travel through the region of Samaria. Jews avoid traveling through Samaritan territory. Why? The people of Samaria were hated by the Jews. [To fully understand the enmity between these two people, you can open your Bible in several books of the Old Testament.]
So, what would be their route? As Jews, they would have skirted the Samaritan territory by taking the much longer and risky route. This would mean at least a week’s journey time through a hazardous country. To give you an idea of the environs that they went through, take a look at the link below.
Considering this, I really doubted that Mary could have ridden on the bony back of an ass 20 miles a day for a week or so. More than likely, she rode on a cart accompanied with other folks making the same trek to Judea.
Welcome to the plaza just outside the Church or Basilica of the Nativity. This basilica is located in the center of Bethlehem in the West Bank, Palestine. This place holds a prominent religious significance to Christians of various denominations as the birthplace of Jesus.
While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:6-7)
In all the stories told, Mary and Joseph always arrived in desperation to find lodgings because of extreme labor pains. But if you consider closely the words of Luke 2:6, ‘While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.’ I believe that what was implied was that they were already in Bethlehem for at least a day or so and that they were already lodged.
What about thatthere was no room for them in the inn (v7)?In modern way of thinking, an Inn is a country hotel, in the business to rent out rooms. But in first century Bethlehem, the inn just meant a lodging place or a spare room. Besides Joseph, who was born there, would not have to rent a room because culturally he would have stayed with family. But because of the census, Joseph’s ancestral home would have been already crowded with kin including the spare room which would have been located on the second floor.
The Nativity Grotto is thought to be the cave in which Jesus was born. Around AD 248, Greek philosopher Origen of Alexandria wrote the following about the grotto:
In Bethlehem the cave is pointed out where He was born, and the manger in the cave where He was wrapped in swaddling clothes. And the rumor is in those places, and among foreigners of the Faith, that indeed Jesus was born in this cave who is worshiped and revered by the Christians. [wikipedia.com]
Such as tradition believes but was Jesus really born in a stable?
And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)
Of course, people got the idea of the stable mainly because the baby was laid in a manger. Tradition was half right. Where the Bible only offered conjecture, archaeology may shed some light.
Based on archaeological digs in Bethlehem, the average houses looked almost like the image below.
Most Judean houses had two levels. The upper level comprised of an open area where the household would sleep under the stars during hot nights and an extra room (aka the inn) reserved for guests. The main floor is divided into two areas. The entire family occupied an elevated living area 3 feet off the ground where they did chores, supped and slept. The living area was about two-thirds of the ground level. The other third, that is the sunken area, was where animals like sheep were kept especially during the winters.
Because the upper room or inn and the main living were already occupied, Mary (with the help of a midwife & other household women) would have given birth in that lower level. She would have wrapped Jesus in swaddling cloths and placed Him in a stone manger just like below.
5 – SHEPHERDS
On that very same night, on the hills surrounding the sleeping village, were flocks of sheep tended by shepherds.
The Shepherds’ Field Chapel or the Sanctuary of the Gloria in excelsis Deo is a Roman Franciscan chapel built in 1953. Located in the area of Beit Sahour, southeast of Bethlehem, this chapel marks the place where, according to Catholic tradition, angels first announced the birth of Christ. It is known for biblical murals & topped by a glass dome & bronze angel.
In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock at night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood near them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. And so the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army of angels praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among people with whom He is pleased.”
When the angels had departed from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem, then, and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” (LUKE 2:8-15)
Let us put one other myth aside. Tradition says that Jesus was born in December, that is, during winter time. December is the first month of winter in Bethlehem. Temperatures in Bethlehem can reach an average highs in the region of 57.2 degrees Fahrenheit (14 degrees Celsius) while the lows hover around 44.6 degrees Fahrenheit (7 degrees Celsius). December is also the first month Bethlehem sees snow. That means that the sheep & shepherds would be in-doors than out in the fields. Bible scholars agree that Jesus may have been born around September.
Why would God send the angels to appear to shepherds? Why not the religious leaders of the day – the Pharisees, Essenes, Sadducees, and Rabbis?
God has a history of using ordinary people and at times, even less than ordinary.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the meek (gentle), for they will inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:3,5)
Shepherds can relate to being poor in spirit, for Jewish society considered them as having the lowest of jobs. Interestingly enough though, only the shepherd had the right skills and gentleness to raise unblemished lambs which were highly valued by the priests for sacrifices. It is no wonder that the Lord God trusted to them (whom society considered foolish) the sacred privilege to reveal the advent of the Lamb of God who will take away the sins of the world.
…God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. (1 Corinthians 1:27)
According to the traditional way of telling this story, the shepherds would always knowingly head to a stable to find the Christ child, but picture this. First century Bethlehem probably had a population of about 15-20 thousand (double that during the census). What were the chances that Mary was the only one giving birth that night? Not likely. There must have been several hundred babies born at that time. So, how were the shepherds able to find the baby Jesus. Remember this?
And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. (Luke 2:12)
The shepherds more than likely searched every household with a newborn babe in it until they beheld Jesus wrapped in swaddling cloths lying snuggly in bed of hay in a manger.
6 – SIMEON & ANNA
According to tradition, as part of the Nativity pageantry, the Holy family had other important visitors besides the shepherds and they brought 3 significant gifts. In other words, all of the Christmas events occurred that same night of the birth. Again, was it all biblical? Apparently, NOT!
God’s story shows us a lot more. Let us pick up the story in Jerusalem…
You are standing at the Wailing Wall of Jerusalem. The name “Wailing Wall” or “Place of Weeping” stemmed from the Jewish practice of coming to the site to mourn and bemoan the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 AD and the loss of national freedom it symbolized. The wall is in actuality an ancient limestone wall; a relatively small segment of a far longer ancient retaining wall, known also in its entirety as the “Western Wall”. It was originally erected as part of the expansion of the Second Jewish Temple begun by Herod the Great, which resulted in the encasement of the natural, steep hill known to Jews and Christians as the Temple Mount.
And when the days for their purification according to the Law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord: “EVERY FIRSTBORN MALE THAT OPENS THE WOMB SHALL BE CALLED HOLY TO THE LORD”), and to offer a sacrifice according to what has been stated in the Law of the Lord: “A PAIR OF TURTLEDOVES OR TWO YOUNG DOVES.” (Luke 2:22-24)
It is important to note that after Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph could not bring the baby Jesus to the temple until after 40 days, which was the required time of purification.
Do you see the covered walkway at the far end of the wall? It leads up to the mount. At the time of Jesus’ birth, some 2000 years ago, there was a grand stair-case that went up to the south-west corner of the Temple mount. It was so wide that 10 men-abreast could have climbed it. The holy family would have used these stairs and when they reached the top, the Lord God wanted them to meet 2 persons.
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. e She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:25-38)
7 – THE MAGI
Again… in every Nativity movie and Christmas Pageant I have seen, the Three Kings or Wise men from the East would arrive in their lumbering camels just right after Jesus’ birth in the stable.
On the golden screens, they followed a visible and very bright star in the night sky. That same star would also send down a single ray of golden sparkling light to pinpoint the spot of where the babe was born. The movies always made it look so magical. That’s Hollywood for you. But what does the Bible really say?
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:1-2)
Who were the magi from the east? To answer this, we go to the middle of modern day Iraq to where once existed an ancient city next to the great river Euphrates.
Welcome to where, once upon a time, stood the ancient city of Babylon. Babylon was the capital city of the ancient Babylonian Empire. What you see are the remains of the city are in present-day Hillah, Babil Governorate, Iraq, about 53 miles south of Baghdad.
On 14 February 1978, Saddam Hussein began the “Archaeological Restoration of Babylon Project”: reconstructing features of the ancient city atop its ruins. These features included the Southern Palace of Nebuchadnezzar, with 250 rooms, five courtyards, and a 30-meter entrance arch. The project also reinforced the Processional Way, the Lion of Babylon, and an amphitheater constructed in the city’s Hellenistic era. In 1982, the government minted a set of seven coins displaying iconic features of Babylon. A Babylon International Festival was held in September 1987, and annually thereafter until 2002 (excepting 1990 and 1991), to showcase this work. The proposed reconstruction of the Hanging Gardens and the great ziggurat never took place. [wikipedia.com]
Why in Babylon? The obvious answer is that the wise men did come from the east and of course, Babylon is east of Jerusalem. But that is not the reason why we are starting here. In Matthew 2, we have to ask, how did they know to come to Jerusalem? How did they know about the King of the Jews? Well, the answer to that can be found in the Old Testament, especially when I researched the word magi or magician. The result eventually led me to the time of the Judean exiles in Babylon in the book of Daniel. The reigning king was the famed Nebuchadnezzar. In a nutshell, the Lord had orchestrated one of His chosen prophets, Daniel, to become the trusted minister to the Babylonian king. Daniel was strategically placed to head the court of the magi and he retained this position under several kings up to the Persian Empire. Scholars have speculated that the magi of the New Testament were more than likely descendants of that same order of wise men.
Since the magi were meant to find the King of the Jews, then it is not hard to conclude that the Lord had installed in His plan a way for them to get guidance from the written word of the prophet Daniel.
8 – THE STAR
Do you remember the Christmas carol, “A Star, A Star… Shining in the Sky”.
The Bethlehem Star is represented in practically every Christmas decoration throughout the world. Just look at most Christmas trees and you’ll find at its crown a sparkling star. In nativities, you’ll find a star above. In the Philippines, the ornamental lantern parol which can be found outside every building and house represent the star of Bethlehem.
Some say that the Bethlehem Star was a comet or a distant supernova. There are many theories. But was there really a single star that the Magi followed?
This view is from an undisclosed location somewhere in the mountains of modern day Iran. I actually found this spot accidently. I chose it because if I was a first century Persian astronomer, then being in these mountains would give me the perfect way to study the signs in the stars. This would be their view.
And the Magi did read signs in the night sky. Guess who placed those signs in the heavens.
And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to distinguish between the day and the night, and let them be signs to mark the seasons and days and years. (Genesis 1:14)
The heavens tell of the glory of God; And their expanse declares the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard. (PSALM 19:1-3)
So, when the Magi of Jesus’ time read the signs in the night sky, they connected the signs to Daniel’s writings and understood the timing of the Messiah’s birth and the sign that would lead them to the place where He would be born. So, months or even a year after Jesus was born, the Magi arrived in Judea.
“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”
When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: ‘AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH, ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH; FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.’”
Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared.
And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.”
After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. (Matthew 2:2-10)
How did I know that the wise men were not following a bright star in the night sky?
Some may argue that the star they followed was visibly spectacular. All I can say is that the Bible says otherwise.
Look at the reaction of Herod in Matthew 2:3 when the magi asked “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” (vs2).
vs3 – When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
If there was a comet or any cosmic spectacle in the night sky, Herod and his own wise men of Jerusalem would have taken heed. But instead he was quite surprised and troubled mainly more because they inquired about another King of the Jews.
I wish we could spend more time in exactly what the magi saw in the night sky. However, if you click on this Youtube video link: THE BETHLEHEM STAR where an astronomer will guide you on what the Magi actually saw in the night sky. I invite you to watch it. It will blow your mind away.
Meanwhile, let us get back to Bethlehem and pick up the story when the Magi left Jerusalem.
Chapel of Saint Catherine is a religious building that is affiliated with the Catholic Church and is located adjacent to the northern part of the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem in the West Bank in the Palestinian territories. It works as a parish church and Franciscan monastery. Underneath this chapel is a complex of caves and ruins that may also mark the birthplace of Jesus. In the chapel is this beautiful stained glass window depicting the magi presenting their gifts to the King of kings.
And after they came into the house, they saw the Child with His mother Mary; and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11)
Based on the Bible, when the Magi came before Jesus, he was not a baby anymore. The Greek word used for ‘Child’ here was PAIDION which means an infant between the age of 6 months and older. Clearly, upon their arrival, Joseph and Mary had upgraded their living situation from the animal pens to a house of their own. It made sense. The census would be over by then and the population of Bethlehem would decrease back to normal. Joseph decided to stay in Bethlehem and moved his family to an available house or he built one. Afterall, he was a carpenter and mason. Either way, they were in a house.
So, when the Magi laid their eyes on the Child Jesus, they being from the eastern kingdoms of Persia, Medes and Babylon prostrated themselves before someone considered as a Great One worthy of divine worship.
Gift of GOLD
In those days, Gold had the greatest monetary value among the rare elements of the earth and was mostly given exclusively to royalty. And Jesus is royal enough! Afterall, He is Lord of lords and King of kings (Revelation 17:14).
Gift of FRANKINCENSE
What exactly is frankincense? It is an aromatic resin used in incense and perfumes. More importantly, it was the incense used by the priests of Israel in the Holy Temple. A few times in the year, a priest was chosen to enter ‘the Holy Place’, the biggest chamber of Israel’s Temple, to burn incense on the Altar of Incense as a way of presenting the prayers of the people to God. So, why did the Magi present frankincense?
Jesus is not just the King of kings, He is also the Priest of all priests (Zechariah 6:13; Hebrews 5:6).
Gift of MYRRH
Myrrh has been used throughout history as a perfume, incense and medicine. Its monetary value was high, but you have to wonder what is its connection to Jesus in this context? It will be interesting to note that as Jesus was being buried after his death on the cross, his body was prepared for burial with spices and myrrh.
Was Myrrh given to honor His death? Well, not so much his death but more to honor His sacrifice. Remember, He was the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)
Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)
9 – HEROD
We come to the hardest part of the Christmas story. It is rarely told around the Christmas tree for it depicts a dark event. But I believe it must be told. To do this, let us go to…
Welcome to the Tower of David. It is the northeast tower of the Citadel of Jerusalem. Other towers named Phasael, Hippicus and Mariamne were situated in the northwest corner of the so-called First Wall, the Hasmonean and Herodian city wall protecting the Western Hill of Jerusalem. They were situated close to where the Jaffa Gate is today and were built by Herod the Great at the same time he built his immediately adjacent royal palace.
Like in every story, there is always a BAD guy. In our Christmas story, the bad guy was Herod the Great.
Though Herod was king of Judea, he was not a Jew. He was actually a puppet-king of Rome. Herod was not loved by the Jews but he gained their grudging respect mostly because he renovated their Temple. One other thing about him was that he was extremely power hungry and not willing to share it. So, when the Magi from the east came looking for the new King of the Jews, the despot in him wanted Jesus dead and he’d do anything to get it done.
Now, the Magi found the Christ child and we will pick-up the story from here.
When it was time to leave, the Magi returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod. (Matthew 2:12)
So, when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent his mercenary soldiers to kill all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. This horrendous event was actually foretold.
Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “A VOICE WAS HEARD IN RAMAH, WEEPING AND GREAT MOURNING, RACHEL WEEPING FOR HER CHILDREN; AND SHE REFUSED TO BE COMFORTED, BECAUSE THEY WERE NO MORE.” (Matthew 2:17-18)
Ramah, by the way, is the area of Bethlehem.
But God knew what was to come…
Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.” So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. (Matthew 2:13-14)
So, let’s get back to why I believe this part of the story should be told around the Christmas tree; yes… even to little kids. How can kids and adults really appreciate the light unless they realize that darkness affects them.
What Herod did was an aftereffect of the original sin. Our history is filled with it. We are constantly surrounded by the darkness of sin.
One thing about darkness though, it cannot stand up to light. For several years, that light… our hope was kept safe in Egypt.
Welcome to the ruins of the ancient Egyptian city of Alexandria. This city was built on the coast of the Mediterranean and had a fair sized Jewish Quarter. The Bible is silent on where the Holy family hid in Egypt, however it can be speculated that they would easily find refuge here especially since they have financial means due to the gifts of the magi.
But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord *appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, “Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.” So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, and came and settled in a city called Nazareth. This happened so that what was spoken through the prophets would be fulfilled: “He will be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2:19-23)
That light grew and 33 years later, He said…
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
Christmas Season is the time to show that the light of Jesus is there. All you have to do is walk in it. How?
Google Maps Tour of the Bible: Christmas Edition – Module 1
by Johann Quisumbing
Welcome to Module 1 of the Google Maps Tour of the Bible: Christmas Edition. During the Holy Week, a group of us picked up our virtual passports and went on a 7 itinerary modules of discovery and faith building. We vicariously traveled through time & space; journeyed to where Abraham, Jacob, Moses, the Judges of old, David, the kings & the prophets, as well as Jesus Christ and those that faithfully followed had tread through the Land of the Bible. We did all this online and from the comforts of home. So, we covered the sites from the Old Testament to the New except that I purposely left out the places of the Advent story. Well, Christmas is just around the corner again.
Are you ready for another adventure?
Storytellers who tell the Christmas tale usually start either inside the Jerusalem Temple or in a quaint village home of a young Nazareth girl. But not us. Now, Christmas is supposed to be the story of the Advent of the Messiah or the Birth of the Savior. So, it is logical to ask…
Why do we need a SAVIOR? What is the MESSIAH saving us from?
This is where we begin our Christmas tour, not in Holy Land, but in a garden outside time and space.
Welcome to the Botanic Garden in Rio de Janeiro. Of course, this is not the fabled Garden of Eden. I chose this venue because this garden was the closest representation that Google Maps provided. I want you to walk around for a couple of minutes or so. Look around and use your imagination and see Adam and Eve walking through a similar garden minus the pathways and other man made objects. The Garden of Eden was probably a million times beautiful than this place. But what really made Eden special was that it was where mankind had a very close relationship with God. With all the great things that were created, mankind was special to Him, after all He created us in His image and much more.
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. (Psalm 8:3-5)
So, in the beginning, we had it made. But then something went wrong. Mankind sinned.
You remember what caused Adam and Eve to fall out of Paradise. They fell because they disobeyed God’s one and only commandment.
The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:17)
They ate and sinned! When they did, something in them changed. Mankind was created to be with God, but now there is a chasm between those of mankind still in sin and God. But that is not the worst of the news. Because of that SIN, mankind has to face death! The first death is a separation of the physical body from the spiritual self (that is the soul). Then what comes next for those who die in SIN?
2: LAKE OF FIRE
And just as it is destined for people to die once, and after this comes judgment… (Hebrews 9:27)
For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the FURY of a FIRE which will consume the adversaries. (Hebrews 10:26,27)
Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:4)
Imagine being in that molten lake, not being consumed to oblivion but instead experiencing eternal torture and unquenchable regret. Yes, regret! All sinners will realize that they were meant to be with God and that they have foolishly rejected the only ONE who could have saved them.
That is the essence of the BAD NEWS. Now, let us look at the GOOD NEWS.
God had implemented a great PLAN. In the Old Testament, God had set the stage for our salvation and left for us clues as proof of His intentions. They were called prophecies. And just before the coming of the Messiah, He prophesied the coming of a forerunner and a herald to point the way to the Savior.
You are looking at a close-up of the beautiful scale model of the Jerusalem Temple. If you zoom out, you will see the entire model of the city which is about 22,000 square feet and is located at the Israel Museum about 2 miles west from its original location. Keep the Temple structure in your mind and let us go to the actual site about 2 miles east from here.
Welcome to the Temple Mount. You are standing on what was once called the Court of the Gentiles. Before you is the Muslim shrine called the Dome of the Rock. Imagine the Temple structure laid out in that same spot. Imagine an old man in priestly robes approaching that Temple some 2000 years ago.
…there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years. (Luke 1:5-7)
Does this sound familiar to the story of Abraham and Sarah? Well, it should. In the Bible, there are no coincidences. One of the Lord’s way of getting us to take notice is for us to recognize patterns in Scripture.
Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering.
And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John.” (Luke 1:8-13)
What would be special about John?
“You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb.”
“And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:14-17)
Luke’s phrase ‘TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN’ was not the first time these words were uttered.
“Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. He will turn the hearts of the fathers back to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and strike the land with complete destruction.” (Malachi 4:5,6)
4: LEGITIMACY OF THE MESSIAH
If I were an enemy of God, I would make it a point in casting doubt on the credibility of Jesus of Nazareth. I’d especially challenge his messiahship. By the way, this is exactly what the Devil was doing even at Christmas time. But God who is by far wiser than all had already thought of this. Do you recall His Plan? Yes, ‘The Plan’ for our salvation.
We already saw part of His plan come into fruition with the angel visiting Zecharias. The next stage was set in the northern village of Nazareth some 64 miles from Jerusalem…
Welcome to the Church of Annunciation. It is a Catholic church in Nazareth, in northern Israel. If you look around, you’ll find on the perimeter walls enclosing the courtyard a gallery with icons (mainly colorful mosaics, some of which are made of ceramic tiles) representing some of the most important Marian devotions in different countries. Now, look at the main building. Inside is no ordinary church. Let us go in.
As you look around, the church’s interior has 2 levels. You are standing in the upper level of the shrine. The lower level contains the Grotto of the Annunciation, believed by many to be the remains of the original childhood home of Mary. It was here that God had sent His angel.
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:26-28)
Why was Mary important? She was part of the Lord’s Plan.
But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”
Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:29-35)
Let’s talk about the virgin birth. First, it was planned…
… the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)
Second, it was crucial for our salvation. How?
Let’s understand that God had set only one way for mankind to avoid eternal damnation. Since, it was a man that brought Sin then it should be a man to pay for it through sacrifice of life. The problem is that the one who is to be sacrificed must be completely without Sin, but every human born of man and woman was born in sin. This is why we are not qualified to pay for the penalty of sin.
But then Jesus, on the other hand, was conceived by the Holy Spirit. He is without SIN!
You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. (1 John 3:5)
Why would God choose Mary, of all people?
As part of God’s intricate plan, He had chosen a specific family… a family line that went from Adam to Noah to Abraham to Isaac to Jacob to Judah then many generations later to a shepherd boy who slew a giant and became the greatest king of Israel. Of course, we’re talking about King David.
Now, we already know that Joseph was a descendant of David. But he is not the true father of Jesus. Some may question Jesus’ legitimacy by this. Of course, God’s Plan covered this.
Let us look at both Mary’s and Joseph’s genealogy.
5: MARY VISITS ELIZABETH
As soon as Mary received the news that her cousin, Elizabeth, was miraculously pregnant for 6 months, she convinced her parents that she should visit Elizabeth & Zechariah at their home in a mountain village just 5 miles southeast from Jerusalem.
This is an aerial view of Carem. There is a stream that runs through the village hence the Hebrew name Ain Karem which translates “Spring of the Vineyard” or the “Spring of Carem”. Now, there are 3 churches in the village from different denominations. According to tradition, one of them was built over the remnants of the home of Elizabeth & Zechariah.
A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”
The monastery, which is over a mile away from where he was born, commemorates the “wilderness” in which John the Baptist lived as an orphaned child and throughout the years which prepared him for public ministry.
6: JOSEPH’S DECISION
After John’s birth, Mary, who was 3 months pregnant, returned to Nazareth. When she got there, God’s Plan seemed to be in danger of being derailed.
…Mary was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 1:18)
Near the Church of Annunciation at Nazareth is a chapel dedicated to Joseph. Let’s go there, shall we?
Mary was found to be with child but it was not Joseph’s. If the conception by the Holy Spirit is not believed, people can only conclude that Mary was unfaithful and cheated on Joseph. Mary was already 3 months pregnant and obviously showing. This was a problem for her, the unborn Messiah and God’s plan.
If there is a man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, one who commits adultery with his friend’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10)
According to the Law, Mary could have been stoned to death. However…
And Joseph, her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. (Matthew 1:19)
But sending her away was not God’s will.
But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.”
And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife… (Matthew 1:20-25)
7: GOD’S WILL BE DONE
Imagine, if you will, God going over His checklist of things that are done and things yet to be done.
Sent angel to Zecharias.
Blessed a barren woman named Elizabeth to become pregnant in her old age.
Indwelled the child of Zecharias & Elizabeth with His Holy Spirit while still in the womb.
Sent angel to Mary.
Conception in Mary’s womb by the Holy Spirit.
Sent a dream to Joseph to protect Mary and unborn child.
Then God looks at the next item to be checked, but then He pauses for the next item that was supposed to happen.
Messiah’s birth in Bethlehem
“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.” (Micah 5:2)
But there was a problem! Mary and Joseph were still in the northern village of Nazareth. Bethlehem, on the other hand, is located far to the south; about 3-4 days of arduous traveling time. Not too safe for a woman to travel in her second trimester.
So, what is the problem if Jesus is born in Nazareth? What’s the big deal?
The big deal is that the Lord God declared that he was to be born in Bethlehem. Scriptures can not be rewritten. So, what was to be done?
In truth, God saw all this before it ever happened. His solution was to use a most unlikely person, the emperor of Rome. So, let’s go to Rome which is about 1,400 miles from Nazareth.
Welcome to Rome. What are we doing here at the Trajan Forum? Well, we are here looking for a particular emperor. Did you see the statue? That is the statue of Caesar Augustus, also known as Gaius Octavian. He was officially the first Roman emperor who reigned from 27 BC until his death in AD 14. And his maternal great-uncle was Julius Caesar. Octavius was named in Caesar’s will as his adopted son and heir; as a result, he inherited Caesar’s name, estate, and the loyalty of his legions which guaranteed his ascension to the throne.
What did this emperor do exactly?
Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. (Luke 2:1-3)
By the way, the census was not his idea.
For the kingdom is the Lord’s and He rules over the nations. (Psalm 22:28)
Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. (Luke 2:4-5)
And so we come to the final site of our Module 1 tour.
Every year, except during Covid, this plaza in Bethlehem gets geared up for another festive Christmas. The people would string out Christmas lights from building to building, making a twinkling canopy over the Manger Square. At the center, would stand an adorned 30 feet tall Christmas tree and by it a life-sized nativity. Sometimes, they use actors to play the Holy parents. As Palestinian guides lounge and drink coffee at numerous cafe stands, tourists and pilgrims go in and out of the Nativity Church to see the gold-plated star marking the spot where Jesus was born. The makeup of the visitors would mostly be Christians, of course, Muslims and the non-religious who are there for the sights. Regardless of their reason, you have to wonder if they realize what truly happened in this place. Here are a number of clues.
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and she will name Him Immanuel… (Isaiah 7:14) …which translated means, “GOD WITH US.” (Matthew 1:23)
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be upon His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him not even one thing came into being that has come into being. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us; and we saw His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-3,14)
Immanuel was not meant to be a personal name. Instead, it was seen as the fulfillment of the Eternal and most Holy God humbling Himself by stepping down from the infinite into the finite; from Spirit into flesh. Read the words of a better storyteller than me, Max Lucado.
It all happened in a moment, a most remarkable moment. For through that segment of time a spectacular thing occurred. God became a man. While the creatures of earth walked unaware, Divinity arrived. Heaven opened herself and placed her most precious one in a human womb.
The Omnipotent, in one instant, made himself breakable. He who had been spirit became pierceable. He who was larger than the universe became an embryo. And he who sustains the world with a word chose to be dependent upon the nourishment of a young girl.
God as a fetus. Holiness sleeping in a womb. The creator of life being created.
God was given eyebrows, elbows, two kidneys, and a spleen. He stretched against the walls and floated in the amniotic fluids of his mother.
God had come near.
He is God but chose to be an ordinary man. For what reason?
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, as He already existed in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself by taking the form of a bond-servant and being born in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death: death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)
This Christmas, your virtual tour guide, Johann Quisumbing (who is me, by the way), invites you to a merry visit to the Bible sites of the birth of our Messiah. During the Holy Week, I took a group of 25 or so folks to vicariously visit the Holy Land. We covered the sites of both the Old and New Testaments except the sites of the Advent story which we will visit this Christmas.
For those of you who live in the Philippines or in the UTC/GMT +8 hours region, join me LIVE via Zoom in the latest Google Map Tours Of The Bible: CHRISTMAS EDITION on two Saturdays (Nov 19 & Dec 17) 10AM & 2PM.
Or you can independently tour it yourself and lead a group of your own via Zoom, Skype, Messenger or and any other chat platforms by using 2 Itinerary Modules that I will again provide in my website. These modules will provide you with many pertinent guide maps, images and multiple Google Map links based on the script which is written & compiled by me.
As we continue to follow the Christmas timeline, we will take a better look at familiar holiday scenes that we grew up with and explore the unadulterated version based only on what the Bible describes. We will also cover the darkest part of the Christmas story, however, I promise that we will end the tour with a joyful scene.
Live Tour Participants:
Tour Dates: Nov 19 & Dec 17
10AM – Module 1: SITES OF CHRISTMAS PROPHECIES CAME TO LIFE
2PM – Module 2: THE REALITY OF THE NATIVITY SCENE
Guided tours will be conducted via Zoom. Viewing of Google Map links will work better on Laptop/Desktops. Cell phone viewing is possible, however keep in mind that you will be navigating on 2-3 open windows.
Schedules: Each module session may run up to 1-1.5 hours (max 2 hours)
Register by QR-code:
Or, contact the Rhon Bautista at the UCM Library at 8812-6062 local 219/221 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Module 6 – Google Maps Tour of the Bible by Johann Quisumbing
In module 6, we will visit the Bible sites of where the Holy Spirit led followers of the Way from Asia and then through Europe during the early years of the church. So, let us start in the…
1 – Middle East
Before ascending to Heaven, Jesus Christ gave His disciples the Great Commission.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
The question is, how did they do it? The chosen twelve disciples still had SIN issues. Simon Peter, the leader, said he would never abandon Jesus but he ended up denying Him three times. Except for one, ten of them abandoned Him and was not even there when He was crucified. And sadly, the one who betrayed Him, did not believe enough that he could still have been forgiven, if he did not commit suicide. Everyone of them (like all of us) could not fulfill the Great Commission by themselves. With Jesus in Heaven, what were they to do? Well, as promised, God sent help. For this, we go back to the…
I hope you don’t mind, but I’m making an assumption that you already know that you are inside the Cenacle, also known as the Upper Room. And if you went through Module 5a, you would also know that this place is located on Mount Zion, just outside the Old City walls, west of the City of David. I guess that I don’t have to remind you that the Upper Room was where Jesus held the Last Supper (John 13). As special as that was, this room was witness to an even more spectacular event. For true Christians all around, it was called Pentecost.
The Christian Pentecost
For the Jews, Pentecost is the Feast of Harvest which is mentioned in the five books of Moses. This feast came during the months of May and June. It was at this time, that the Chosen Twelve (including Judas’ replacement), Jesus’ mother and siblings, with a 100 or so other believers were gathered together in this room to pray. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:1-4)
This filling of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost was different than the Spirit filling that occurred during the Old Testament. In the Old Testament it was mostly temporary. But Jesus said in John 14, that this time, the Holy Spirit will be with them (and yes, with us who believe) FOREVER (14:16).
What exactly happened here? Jesus said that they (& us) became born again (John 3:3-8). Everyone who were filled with the Spirit became NEW creations (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Being filled with the Holy Spirit meant change. What kind of change? And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability (Acts 2:4). Peter especially showed a great change and we will see this at our next site.
You are looking at southern side of the Temple Mount of the Jerusalem Model. I chose this site as a probable location of where the Apostle Peter (newly Spirit filled) may have addressed for the very first time a large crowd about the Gospel of Christ. Meanwhile, let us go to to the actual site of the Temple Mount’s south wall.
You are standing before the south wall of the Temple Mount. Of course, this is not actual stone wall. The first century structure is really underground. But imagine that this street was the plaza before the southern entrance into the Temple complex.
In Acts 2, after the Holy Spirit entered the disciples in the Upper Room, the Holy Spirit made such a big noise, the people of the city heard it. Among the people were Jews from foreign lands that spoke the languages of the Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamia, Cappadocia, Pontus, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Libya, Cyrene, Rome, Cretans and Arabs (2:9-11).
When the Spirit-filled disciples came out of the upper room, the Jews from the different land heard the disciples speaking their languages. They were amazed and astonished, saying, “How is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born?” (2:7) Many thought that they were drunk out of their minds.
Enter the Apostle Peter who boldly exposed the good news of Jesus Christ to them. The entire sermon can be read in Acts 2:14-36. Here is the amazing point, Peter never thought that he could ever give a sermon like this ever. He probably felt that he was inadequate especially since a few months back, he denied the Lord. But he did give the sermon and guess what, because of the Holy Spirit in him, about 4000 new believers were added to the church.
Let’s jump a few years ahead. The church in Jerusalem grew and grew and grew. To most, this was a good thing. But then the Holy Spirit never intended the church to be in just one place. After all, Jesus did tell His disciples that…
“…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and as far as the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
As the church grew, so did the persecution. Non-believers clashed with members of the Way (early Christians). Then, when the religious leaders came into play, it became deadly.
2 – Stephen, a Man of Grace
There was man named Stephen who was chosen by the Apostles to be one of seven deacons of the church in Jerusalem. In Acts 6, he was a man filled by the Holy Spirit with grace and power. He had performed great wonders and signs among the people. Some tried to debate with him, but they were unable to cope with his wisdom and the Spirit by whom he was speaking. So, they made up false accusations of blasphemy against him and turned him over to be tried before the religious leaders, the Sanhedrin. He testified before them with a summary oration of biblical history starting with Abraham leaving his home in Mesopotamia to the time when Solomon built the Temple for God. At first, some members of the Sanhedrin were loving what they were hearing until his defense of his faith in the Jesus being the Son of God whom they crucified enraged his Jewish audience. He was taken out of the city, through what tradition claim is the…
The Lions’ Gate, a.k.a. St Stephen’s Gate, is one of the Gates of the Old City of Jerusalem. It is associated with the ancient Sheep Gate. After the trial, Stephen was forcibly taken out and they began stoning him…
They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then he fell on his knees and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:59-60)
More persecution hit the church which actually caused Jerusalem believers to leave the city to foreign lands bringing the Gospel with them which Jesus intended when He gave out the Great Commission. Among those that were scattered was…
3 – Philip the Evangelist
Philip the Evangelist was one of the seven deacons appointed to tend the believers of Jerusalem, thereby enabling the Apostles to freely conduct their missions. His energetic preaching, however, earned him the title of the Evangelist and the Holy Spirit led him to minister successfully in Samaria. So, let us go to what was once a…
You are standing on some ruins of a Samaritan city on top of Mt Gerizim. This archaeological excavation is part of the nearby Samaritan Museum, which is an Ethnographic Museum that explores and present the culture of the “Samaritans” people. The museum is the only museum in the world dedicated to Samaritans and their language.
Philip began proclaiming Christ to the Samaritans. The crowds were paying attention with one mind to what was being said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing. For in the case of many who had unclean spirits, they were coming out of them shouting with a loud voice; and many who had been paralyzed or limped on crutches were healed. So there was much rejoicing in that city. (Acts 8:5-8) Among them was the conversion of the infamous magician named Simon Magus (vs9–13). Philip was so successful that when the apostles heard what he did, they sent Peter and John to pray for them that they would receive the Holy Spirit. When they began laying their hands on them, they were receiving the Holy Spirit. (vs14-17)
Then an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Get ready and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (Acts 8:26)
You are on one of many National Trails of Israel, west by south-west of Jerusalem. This is not exactly the actual site where the angel told Philip to go to, but it does parallel a modern highway that will take you to Gaza.
So, it was like on this dusty road that the Holy Spirit guided Philip the Evangelist to rendezvous with an Ethiopian official riding on a posh 4-wheeled chariot. Coaxed by the Spirit to get closer, Philip heard the official reading out loud a Messianic passage from Isaiah 53:7. Philip saw an opening to use the passage to share who Jesus Christ was to him. The official was so convinced that he asked Philip why he should not be baptized (by water) right there and then.
The work of the Holy Spirit is never done and even an Apostle need to learn from Him. Let’s go to a church at the coast. Let’s go to…
Welcome to the inside of the St. Peter’s Church which is a Franciscan church in the historical part of Jaffa. Jaffa was once known as Joppa, a trading and fishing port where once the Prophet Jonah tried to run away from God by going to sea. About a block from the pier, the church was constructed on its present location because of the significance this city has to Christianity. It was in Jaffa that the Apostle Peter raised Tabitha, one of Jesus’ disciples, from the dead according to the Acts 9:36–42.
Zoom-in onto the painting behind the Altar. That painting depicts the lesson that Peter needed to learn. You see, the Holy Spirit had to break Peter away from choosing tradition to obeying the Lord. In a vision, a sheet of all sorts of animals were presented to him including non-kosher* ones. God then told him to kill and eat. But Peter refrained siting that he had never eaten anything unholy and unclean. Then a voice would say that, “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” To make sure he got it, this test happened three times. (Acts 10:9-16)
Peter was perplexed in mind to what it all meant. But the Holy Spirit made it all clear.
[* Kosher means food satisfying the requirements of Jewish law]
You are virtually standing among the archaeological ruins of Caesarea which is an affluent town in north-central Israel. It inherited its name and much of its territory from the ancient city of Caesarea Maritima. It was built by Herod the Great about 25–13 BCE as a major Roman port and it served as an administrative center of the province of Judaea in the Roman Empire.
In Acts 10:1, we meet an unusual God-fearing Roman centurion named Cornelius. And he too received a vision to send for Peter. Four days later, Peter was knocking on his doors. After which, he confessed that he understood the lesson that the Holy Spirit was teaching him. Peter proceeded to share the Gospel to Cornelius and his entire household, but before he could lay his hands on them, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message (v44).
When it came to the Gospel, the Lord uses even the most unusual people.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” [Isaiah 55:8,9]
4 – The Apostle Paul
We first met Paul back in Acts 7. Of course, at that time, he was known as Saul of Tarsus, a young Pharisee on his way up the ladder into Jewish leadership. Saul was there when Stephen was stoned to death. He was there, not as a spectator, but as an honored participant (v58). That was when the great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and leading the attack was a very zealous Saul. He ravaged the church, entering house after house; and he dragged away men and women and put them in prison (Acts 8:1,3). It did not stop there. When he heard that members of the church escaped to as far as Damascus, he intended to chase them down and drag them back in shackles.
So, we will g0 north, about 133 miles from Jerusalem to an even more ancient city of…
Welcome to the House of Saint Ananias also called the Chapel of Saint Ananias. It is an ancient underground structure located in old Damascus, Syria. This site is said to be the remains of the home of Ananias. We’ll get to his identity in a sec, for now, please zoom-in on the three framed relief sculptures above the altar. These reliefs depict how the Spirit chose the most notorious person in early Christian history and converted him to become the most influential Apostle who wrote 14 out of the 27 books of the New Testaments. Let us start with the right one.
Relief 1 [Act 9:3-9]
On the road to Damascus, Saul was struck by a brilliant light, fell to the ground, heard a voice from heaven identified as the voice of Jesus asking, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” After receiving instructions, Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
Relief 2[Act 9:10-19]
Enter Ananias of Damascus, a believer who left Jerusalem to escape persecution. One day, the Lord told him to go to Saul and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight. Ananias was reluctant, for he knew Saul’s reputation. But the Lord revealed that Saul was to be a chosen instrument of His. So, Ananias came before Saul, regained his sight and was filled with the Spirit.
Relief 3[Act 9:20-24]
Saul began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” He kept increasing in strength and confounding Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ. When many days had elapsed, the Jews plotted together to do away with him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were also closely watching the gates day and night so that they might put him to death; but his disciples took him at night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a large basket.
Antioch was a Hellenistic city by the Orontes River. Its ruins lie near the modern city of Antakya, Turkey, to which the ancient city lends its name. Antioch was one of the largest cities in the first-century Roman world, accommodating a population between 100,000 and 300,000. The city was home to a wealthy and thriving Jewish community. The first mention of Antioch in the New Testament is in reference to Nicolas, a Gentile convert to Christianity who was one of seven Greek-speaking (Hellenist) leaders chosen to serve as deacons at the church in Jerusalem (Acts 6:1–7).
The church at Antioch played a crucial role in the book of Acts. Here believers were first called Christians (Acts 11:26). With its mixture of Jews and Gentiles, the church at Antioch became fertile ground for the growth and spread of Christianity and a model congregation in the early days of the new Christian church. It was from here that Paul and other believers were sent on a mission by the Antioch church… inspired by the Holy Spirit, of course… to bring the Gospel to all of Asia Minor (Turkey).
Now there were prophets and teachers at Antioch, in the church that was there: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set Barnabas and Saul apart for Me for the work to which I have called them.” Then, when they had fasted, prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. [Acts 13:1-3]
The Apostle Paul traveled over 10,000 miles proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His journeys on land and sea took him primarily through present day Israel, Syria, Turkey, and Greece. Paul walked the roads built by the Romans to facilitate their control over their Empire. In 2 Corinthians 11: 25-27, he described being shipwrecked; in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from his own race, dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea; experienced toil in hardship, through many sleepless nights, through hunger and thirst, through frequent fasting, through cold and exposure.
I wish we could visit all the places that the Holy Spirit led the Apostle Paul to. One of these days, I’ll create a detailed itinerary tour specifically of his journey. For now, we can only visit 6 particular sites starting on the island of Cyprus at…
St. Barnabas Monastery near Famagusta is dedicated to the patron saint of Cyprus, St. Barnabas. The church is now an icon museum housing a stunning collection of Cypriot artefacts dating back as far as the 7th Century BC which are kept in the monks’ old cells. Barnabas was Jewish and hailed from Salamis. He travelled to the Holy Land to study law and whilst he was there studying, he met Paul, the apostle, and was converted to Christianity. He was made the Archbishop of Salamis and when he returned from the Holy Land to Cyprus, he became a preacher, taught others about Jesus Christ.
According to the Acts 13:5-12, after landing at Salamis (eastern Cyprus) and proclaiming the Word of God in the synagogues, the prophets and teachers, Barnabas and Paul of Tarsus, traveled along the entire southern coast of the island of Cyprus until they reached…
You are standing on the ruins of the archaeological site of Nea Paphos which is located in southwest Cyprus. Nea Paphos was founded on the sea near a natural harbor. It was here that Sergius Paulus, the Roman governor, was converted after Paul, who was filled with the Holy Spirit, confronted and rebuked the Sorcerer Elymas who was advising the Roman governor to not listen to Paul’s teaching. The Holy Spirit caused Elymas to be blind.
Welcome to the ruins of Antioch of Pisidia which was a city in the Turkish Lakes Region. This ancient city was at the crossroads of the Mediterranean, Aegean and Central Anatolian regions, and formerly on the border of Pisidia and Phrygia, hence also known as Antiochia in Phrygia. The site lies approximately 1 km northeast of Yalvaç, the modern town of Isparta Province, Turkey.
Paul the Apostle and Barnabas, as recounted in Acts 14, visited Antioch of Pisidia in the course of Paul’s first missionary journey, and Paul’s sermon in the Jewish synagogue there caused a great stir among the citizens and the ensuing conflict with the Jews led to Paul being stoned and then their expulsion from the city. They returned later and appointed elders for the Christian community there. Paul also visited the region in both his second and his third journeys. Paul’s “persecutions and sufferings” at Antioch are spoken of in 2 Timothy 3:11.
During Paul’s second mission in Acts 16, the Holy Spirit, strangely enough, actually blocked him from preaching the Gospel in the northern regions of Asia Minor (Turkey). Instead, he and his companions were (more or less) herded toward the west coast. (By the way, it was here in verse 7 that the Spirit of Jesus was used in conjunction with the Holy Spirit.)
You are virtually standing amongst the ruins of Alexandria Troas. This is the site of an ancient Greek city situated on the Aegean Sea near the northern tip of Turkey’s western coast, the area known historically as Troad, a little south of Tenedos (modern Bozcaada, Turkey). It was here that Paul understood why the Holy Spirit was blocking his way to bring the Gospel north.
And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and pleading with him, and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” When he had seen the vision, they immediately sought to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called them to preach the Gospel to them. (Acts 16:9,10)
6 – Macedonia/Greece
So, from Troas, they ran a straight course to Samothrace, and on the following day to Neapolis, Macedonia; and from there to…
You are looking at a 360 aerial view of the ancient amphi-theatre of Philippi. These ruins were once a major Greek city northwest of the nearby island, Thasos. Its original name was Crenides but was renamed after Philip II of Macedon in 356 BC. The present municipality, Filippoi, is located near these ruins and is part of the region of East Macedonia and Thrace in Kavala, Greece. It was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2016.
The New Testament records a visit to this city by the Apostle Paul during his second missionary journey (likely in AD 49 or 50). On the basis of the book of Acts and the letter to the Philippians, early Christians concluded that Paul had founded their community. Accompanied by Silas, by Timothy and possibly by Luke (the author of Acts), Paul is believed to have preached for the first time on European soil in Philippi. One story stuck out for me…
Conversion in Jail [Acts 16:16-34]
During their time here, a slave woman who had a spirit of divination would hound Paul day after day. Annoyed, Paul commanded (by the authority of Christ’s name) that the evil spirit come out of her which it did. Then Paul got trouble from the master of the slave woman. Apparently, the woman’s fortune-telling ability once brought much profit to the master. Without the spirit meant no more profit. They were brought before the magistrate, convicted, beaten with rods and thrown into prison with their feet fastened into the stocks.
That night, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s chains were unfastened. The jailer thought that all the prisoners had escaped and was about to kill himself when Paul called out that they were all still there. This act of Christian behavior and faith eventually led the jailer and his household to saved.
The Holy Spirit led Paul down the Greek peninsula through Amphipolis, Apollonia, Thessalonica, Berea until they reached the center of Greek culture & philosophy, the great city of…
Welcome to Mars Hill, best known as the Areopagus. It is a prominent rock outcropping located northwest of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. (Look east – That’s the Acropolis up there on the mountain.) Mars Hill was sometimes used as an open air council or court of justice.
According to Acts 17, while he was waiting for his companions, Silas and Timothy to arrive, Paul was distressed to see Athens full of idols. According to a commentator, Paul’s soul was troubled and his heart was grieved, …he was exasperated and provoked to the last degree… he had a burning fire in his bones, and was weary with forbearing, and could not stay; his zeal wanted vent… and he gave it [by John Gill]. So, Paul went to the synagogue and the Agora (market) on a number of occasions to preach about the Resurrection of Jesus. Some Greeks then took him to a meeting at the Areopagus, the high court in Athens, to explain himself.
Imagine Paul standing on this rock surrounded by a people who considered themselves as philosophers & stoics. Wise men in their own sight. Paul knew that the Athenians needed to be made to see that what they believed lacked a true foundation before they would accept his teaching. So, he started with something that they were familiar with. He started with one of their altars that had this inscription, ‘TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.’ He used what they didn’t know about this unknown god to introduce GOD.
Paul conveyed to them that the unknown God was not Zeus or some other deity, but the true God, Jesus Christ, who created all things and every man. The sermon ended with the mention of the resurrection of the dead. Some scoffed but a lot more wanted to hear more. and many believed. [Acts 17:22-34]
7 – Paul’s 3rd Mission
The church grew and Paul went amongst them again during his 3rd mission. And one of the places that he visited was…
Ephesus was an ancient Greek city located about 2 miles southwest of present-day Selçuk in İzmir Province, Turkey. It was built in the 10th century BC by Ionian Greek colonists, when the western coastal region of Turkey was under Greek influence. During the Classical Greek era, it was one of twelve cities that were members of the Ionian League. The city was famous in its day for the nearby Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BC). The city came under the control of the Roman Republic in 129 BC.
Acts 19 – It was here that Paul found some disciples of John the Baptist. Paul asked them if they received the Holy Spirit when they believed. They answered that they had not even heard of the Holy Spirit and also that their baptism was the baptism of repentance. So, Paul completed their education by sharing the full Gospel to them, which they accepted willingly. So, when he laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.
Since, we are here in Ephesus, we might as well visit one other site that is a favorite of many pilgrims.
8 – Apostle John & Mary, Mother of Jesus
According to tradition, Ephesus also became the final home of the Apostle John and the mother of Jesus. If you recall at the crucifixion, Jesus had handed the welfare of His mother, Mary, onto the hands of John. Jesus did this because He knew that His brothers as well as the Apostles (except John, of course) would eventually be martyred. So, the Holy Spirit (I assume) inspired John & Mary to leave Judea and migrate to Ephesus which already had an established church.
So, they had to have lived somewhere and… guess what I found???
The House of Mary is a Catholic shrine located on Mt. Koressos in the vicinity of Ephesus, about 4 miles from Selçuk in Turkey. Catholic pilgrims visit the house based on the belief that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was taken to this stone house by the Apostle John and lived there for the remainder of her earthly life.
By the way, the Gospel of John may have been written here… well, not exactly in this place, but close.
8 – Journey to Rome
Let us leave the vicinity of Greece and Turkey… and go across the Mediterranean Sea about 750 miles to the island of…
Welcome to eastern side of Malta. Malta is a tiny nation made up of 3 islands. It is located about 60 miles south of Sicily and is about 160 miles from the boot tip of Italy. What are we doing here? Well, for now, I want you to be a tourist and explore this side of the island. Meanwhile, allow me to quickly summarize how the Holy Spirit led Paul to here.
At the tail end of Paul’s third mission, he called to himself the elders of the church in Ephesus and said this…
And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that chains and afflictions await me. [Acts 20:22,23]
So, Paul went back to Jerusalem knowing full well what to expect. And sure enough, while completing a Jewish purification rite, he was seized by the Jews that opposed his teaching to the Gentiles. They wanted to put him to death but the Romans intervened. The Jews were persistent and tried to get custody of him several time. But by the Lord’s grace, Paul’s Roman citizenship kept him away from their clutches. From Acts 22-26, he was tried before his own people, before 2 Roman governors and a Herodian king. Each time, his defense was the Gospel of Christ. Though his testimony won over the hearts of the judges, they could not resolve his case mainly because he, as a Roman citizen, demanded to be brought before the Roman emperor. So, off to Rome he went… and by ship.
Now, like every sea going adventure, they were bound to hit a storm… and so, they did. With their keel broken and leaks throughout the hull, Paul’s crippled ship limped into what today is called…
You are virtually standing in-front of the Church of St Paul’s Shipwreck. I am not making this up. This little place is a Roman Catholic parish church in Valletta, on the western side of Malta. It is one of Valletta’s oldest churches. The Apostle Paul is considered the spiritual father of the Maltese. His shipwreck on Malta reads like an adventure story in Acts 27:14-44.
Now, the Holy Spirit has a funny and even strange way of giving us an opportunity for the Gospel. How?
When Paul, the crew and passengers landed on the beach, the Maltese showed them extraordinary kindness, for they kindled a fire and took them all in because of the rain that had started and because of the cold. As Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened itself on his hand. When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, and though he has been saved from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.” However, Paul shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm. Now they were expecting that he was going to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had waited a long time and had seen nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a god.
You are standing in-front of the Basilica of St Paul in Rabat, about 5 miles from the bay where they shipwrecked. Annexed to this church is the smaller chapel of St Publius. Publius was an island leader whose father was afflicted with a recurring fever and dysentery. Paul, who was guest, prayed over him and healed him. The word of the healing got out and the rest of the people on the island who had diseases were coming to him and being cured. [Acts 28:7-9]
Sorry that it is a little dark down here. This underground grotto is the place where, according to tradition, Paul lived and preached during his three months stay in Malta in 60 A.D. Then Paul took ship for…
9 – Rome
Rome is the capital city of Italy. According to Wikipedia, Rome’s history spans 28 centuries. While Roman mythology dates the founding of Rome at around 753 BC, the site has been inhabited for much longer, making it a major human settlement for almost three millennia and one of the oldest continuously occupied cities in Europe.
Saint Paul’s Outside the Walls, is one of Rome’s four major papal basilicas. The basilica was founded by the Roman Emperor Constantine I over the burial place of Saint Paul, where it was said that, after the Apostle’s execution, his followers erected a memorial, called a cella memoriae.
The Bible did not record the death of Paul. But in his last epistle addressed to Timothy, he knew his time was close.
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. [2 Timothy 4:6-8]
But let’s go back a little. When Paul entered Rome, he was allowed to stay by himself, but always with a soldier guarding him. Essentially, he was still under arrest. Now, Paul called together the leading men of the Jews, and when they came together, he explained to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening. For the people who listened, some were persuaded while others did not believe. So, as those who did not believe were leaving, Paul called after them with this prophetical warning…
“The Holy Spirit was right when he said to your ancestors through Isaiah the prophet,
‘Go and say to this people: When you hear what I say, you will not understand. When you see what I do, you will not comprehend. For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes— so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.’
So I want you to know that this salvation from God has also been offered to the Gentiles, and they will accept it.” [Acts 28:25-28]
The final verses of the book of Acts spoke of the Apostle Paul spending the next two years, welcoming all who visited him including members of the elite Roman Praetorian guards, boldly proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. And no one tried to stop him. According to tradition, Paul never got to go before the emperor. When Emperor Nero increased persecution against the church in Rome, he ordered Paul’s execution.
Now, about 3 miles from Paul’s Tomb is one more site to visit.
You are standing on the Piazza San Pietro or St. Peter’s Square located in the center of the Vatican City. Before you is the majestic St. Peter’s Basilica which was built in the Renaissance style.
Catholic tradition holds that Peter, after a ministry of thirty-four years, travelled to Rome and met his martyrdom there along with Paul on 13 October 64 AD during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero. His execution was one of the many martyrdoms of Christians following the Great Fire of Rome. According to Jerome, Peter was crucified head downwards, by his own request because he considered himself unworthy to die in the same manner as Jesus. The crucifixion took place near an ancient Egyptian obelisk in the Circus of Nero.The obelisk now stands in St. Peter’s Square and is revered as a “witness” to Peter’s death.
9 – Apostle John & Revelations
Before we end this module, we have one last stop. Let’s go to…
Patmos is a Greek island in the Aegean Sea. It was the location of where the Apostle John was sent when he was arrested in Ephesus during the height of the persecution of Christianity. The white building is the Monastery of St. John. It located approximately halfway up the mountain, along the road between the villages of Chóra and Skala. Within the monastery is a memorialized grotto called the…
This grotto marks the spot where the Spirit of Christ gave distinct visions of the future to the Apostle John. From those visions, he wrote the Book of Revelation.
The Book of Revelation – also called the Apocalypse of John, Revelation to John or Revelation of Jesus Christ – is the final book of the New Testament and consequently is also the final book of the Christian Bible. Its title is derived from the first word of the Koine Greek text: apokalypsis, meaning “unveiling” or “revelation”.
The book of Revelation provides the clearest biblical portrait of the events of the tribulation, dealing with the specifics of that terrible time (chapters 4–18). The tribulation will be a time of judgment, a time when those left on the earth after the rapture will suffer deeply for their nonbelief. John pictured this judgment as a series of twenty-one events—inaugurated by the breaking of seven seals, the blowing of seven trumpets, and the pouring out of seven bowls. This grand judgment on the sinfulness of humanity shows the seriousness with which God views sin—payment will be exacted from those not covered by the blood of Jesus Christ. [www.insight.org]
Revelation is not all bad news. Chapters 19–22 portrays Christ’s future triumph over the forces of evil and His re-creation of the world for the redeemed. Ultimately, the book—and the world—end in a final victory for truth and goodness and beauty. As Christians, we look forward to this and joyously shout…
This ends our tour of Module 6. Thank you for joining me in Trailing the Acts of the Holy Spirit.
This is a 360 aerial view of the southern side of the metropolitan city of Jerusalem. The drone that took this shot was hovering over the Mount of Olives. Look east. Then, look past the cluster of trees. Two thousand years ago, the village of Bethany was located there. And in that village was the home of some people that Jesus loved dearly.
You are inside the Church of St Lazarus. There are four frescoes painted under the four arches; north, west, east & south. Each of the frescoes represent a biblical scene of Jesus’ relations with Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Let’s start with the western fresco.
West – Luke 10:38-42 – Jesus met the 2 sisters, Martha & Mary for the first time. Mary was intently listening to Jesus. Meanwhile, Martha was working frantically to prepare and serve the meal for her quests. Frustrated, she scolded Him, asking Him whether He cared that her sister had left her to fix the meal alone. Jesus, in-turn, pointed out in a calm voice, that her need was not to be a perfect hostess but instead, to be spiritually fed by Him which was her greatest need.
North – John 11:1-34 – Lazarus had died and was buried. Jesus had purposely stayed away. On the 4th day, He returned. Martha went to meet Him first. Her words to Him may have sounded more like a reprimand for being late. Jesus consoled her that Lazarus will live again. She mistakenly thought He was referring to the final resurrection. Then Jesus said these crucial words: “I am the resurrection and the life; the one who believes in Me will live, even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (v25,26) When Mary came to Him next, her words mirrored Martha but her tone was that of a grieving young girl. Jesus wept with her and went to the tomb.
East – John 11:38-45 – When they came to the tomb, Jesus again was deeply moved. He ordered the tomb to be opened but Martha tried to stop it. Jesus reminded her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (v40) This was His intent. After He prayed out loud, Lazarus came out of the tomb alive and many believed.
South – Matthew 26:6-13 – Jesus’ final task was near. Jesus and all His followers were in Lazarus’ house for supper. Mary approached Jesus with a bottle of expensive aromatic oil which she lovingly dribbled on His head. Then, when Judas made a fuss about the perfume not being sold and given to the poor, Jesus acknowledged the righteousness of Mary’s deed and declared that what she did was to prepare Him for burial.
The next day, Jesus went to Jerusalem riding on a young donkey which was prophecy-come-to-life thing. The people lined the road waving palm fronds at Him. They recognized it as the coming of the King (Zechariah 9:9). When they went over the Mount of Olives, this was what was waiting for them.
You are looking at a beautiful scale model of the ancient city of Jerusalem circa 63AD. The model is about 22,000 square feet and is located at the Israel Museum about 2 miles west from the Dome of the Rock. From this viewpoint on the observation deck, you are looking at the eastern side of the city. Note the image below of what you are looking at.
The scaled facsimile Temple you see was based on the Second Temple built by the returned Judean exiles, then opulently refurbished by Herod the Great. In Mark 13, when standing on the Mount of Olives, the disciples pointed out the lavishness of the Temple complex and was awed by it. But for Jesus, all it brought was tears to His eyes, for He saw its destruction (v2) which did occur 35 years from then. But we are getting ahead of the story. Let’s go to the…
You’re virtually standing on the eastern slope of Mt Moriah. Yes… the same mountain that Abraham almost sacrificed his son, Isaac (Genesis 22). What you are looking at, is the remnant of the east wall of the Temple Mount. Now, look east. That’s the Mount of Olives and that pyramid-topped monument is Zechariah’s Tomb, who was a priest whose stoning was recorded in 2 Chronicles 24:21. Below that is the Kidron Valley.
Imagine on that valley road, some 2000 years ago, hundreds of people waving palm fronds leading a man riding on a white donkey. The people were joyously shouting…
“Blessed is the King, the One who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38)
Among the crowd were Pharisees who were demanding that Jesus stop them of their praise. But Jesus came back with this, “I tell you, if these stop speaking, the stones will cry out!” (v40) Then, Jesus entered through the east gate which was also called the ‘Beautiful Gate’ into the Temple Complex. It was called the ‘Beautiful Gate’ in expectation of the arrival of the promised Messiah.
Welcome to the southside of the Temple Mount. You are standing on what was once called the Court of the Gentiles. This courtyard was vast and was able to hold thousands of people. Now, what you see before you are the broken crowns of the columns that once surrounded the entire courtyard. They were called Solomon’s Colonnades.
When Jesus entered, it was during the beginning of the annual Passover Festival which was the celebration of what God did to free the Israelites from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 12). Jews from all over would congregate here to offer their sacrifices to the Lord and they would have to purchase the animals required. But here lied the situation, the money changers, with the blessings of the Temple establishment, would routinely cheat the people. Hence, whenever Jesus came to the Passover Festival, He would drive away the animals and turn over their tables, spilling their coins on the ground. Then, He declared, “My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!” (Matthew 21:13)
As Passover approached, Jesus sent two of the disciples into the city to find a man carrying a pitcher of water and follow him. That man led them to our next site…
You are inside the Cenacle, also known as the Upper Room. It is located on Mount Zion, just outside the Old City walls, west of the City of David. The Upper Room was where Jesus held the Last Supper (John 13). Of course, this room is not the actual room. That room was destroyed with the city back in 70AD.
The original Upper Room had witnessed, on that same night, the Son of God wrapping a towel around His waist then proceeded to wash the disciples’ feet (13:5-12). Besides all the spiritual lessons for His disciples, Jesus revealed that He would be betrayed by one of the Twelve (vs21-25). Of course, that would be Judas Iscariot whom the Devil entered (v27). We’ll see him again at…
Gethsemane is a garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives, east of the Temple Mount. Jesus went there after the Last Supper. It was a favorite place of His to pray as was His habit to seek isolated places for this purpose.
Going Through An Oil Press
According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Gethsemane is translated from the Greek to mean “an oil press.” Jesus going to Gethsemane to pray because of what awaited Him can be compared to Him going through an oil press… a spiritual and emotional press, that is.
Filled with anguish and deep dread over what He would soon experience, Jesus withdrew with His inner circle, the three disciples closest to Him, and took refuge here. Alone on His knees in the dark night beneath the shelter of olive trees, where He sweated blood, Jesus cried out to His Father God with these words.
“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39)
Jesus passed the final test. The set for the final scene was staged.
Jesus woke up His companions to tell them that His betrayer was here and sure enough, Judas Iscariot arrived to betray Him with a kiss (26:49). After which, Jesus was arrested and brought to our next site.
Before you is the Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu which is a Roman Catholic church located on the eastern slope of Mount Zion, just outside the Old (walled) City of Jerusalem. According to tradition, this church was built over the ruins of Caiaphas’ house. Joseph ben Caiaphas was the Jewish high priest who, according to the gospels, organized a plot to kill Jesus. He famously presided over the Sanhedrin trial of Jesus.
You are now standing in the church’s courtyard and are facing a sculpture of Peter. Interestingly enough, the church took its name from the Latin word “Gallicantu” which means a ‘cock’s-crow’. Take note the small statue of the rooster above Peter. The sculptures depict a servant recognizing Peter as Jesus’ follower but he denied knowing Him three times. Then, the cock crowed as prophesied by Jesus a few hours before.
Meanwhile, Jesus was standing beaten and spat on, before Caiaphas and his ‘kangaroo court’ which he secretly assembled for one purpose. He wanted to declare Him as a blasphemer and have Him killed. (Matthew 26:65-68) But they could not kill Jesus themselves, so they brought Him to the Romans.
You are standing on the west side of the Jerusalem model. Centered on your screen, left of the man in a suit, is the Fortress Antonia which was built by Herod the Great for Mark Anthony. It was built attached to the northwest corner of the Temple Mount as a constant reminder to the Jews that it was Rome that was in control. It is not clear if Pontus Pilate held residences here but according to tradition, Jesus’ public trial was conducted before the main entrance into the fortress which takes us to the…
You’re in the courtyard of the Church of the Flagellation which is a Roman Catholic church and Christian pilgrimage site located in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. It is part of the Franciscan Monastery of the Flagellation, which also includes the Church of the Condemnation and Imposition of the Cross. This church was built on the same site of the Roman fortress.
Imagine some 2000 years ago, Jesus stood before the Roman Governor awaiting the verdict of the highest judge of the land. And that verdict was ‘NOT guilty’! (John 18:38) But the High Priest and the worked-up crowd wanted Him dead. So, Pilate , trying to appease the mob, brought out a notorious criminal named Barabbas and had them choose between them for release. But the crowd chose Barabbas to be free. Pilate was still not willing, so he had Jesus cruelly flogged. After which, He was brought before the people again. He was bloodied from the scourging and cruelly imbedded on His head was a crown of thorns. But it did not appease the crowd which kept insisting for His blood. So, Pilate washed his hands on this affair and sent Him to His death. (John 19:1-16)
This narrow bricked street is the Via Dolorosa which is Latin for the “Way of Suffering”. Every Holy Week, this street becomes the processional route of the cross in the Old City of Jerusalem. It represents the path that Jesus would have taken, forced by the Roman soldiers, on the way to His crucifixion. Pilgrims, some carrying heavy crosses, would work their way through this cr0wded and winding route, from where the former Antonia Fortress was, to the place that tradition say was the hill of Golgotha — a distance of about 2,000 feet. Along the way, they would pause at nine (9) ‘Stations of the Cross’, each one commemorating the events of Jesus as He carried the cross based on Luke 23. Below is 4 minute music video of the Via Dolorasa.
Then, after walking the Via Dolorosa, the procession would end at what… today, is the…
This is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is located in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. According to traditions dating back to the fourth century, it contains the two holiest sites in Christianity: the site of Calvary or Golgotha, and the tomb that belonged to Joseph of Arimathea which was supposedly be nearby.
Nailed to the Cross
As a prisoner, Jesus was stripped of His outer garments leaving just a loin cloth enough to cover Him. Then, He would have been roughly shoved down onto the cross. He would have winced as His bare torn back touched the rough surface of the cross. He braced himself with expectation as His arms were stretched out onto the cross beam. Strong calloused hands pinned His forearms down with his palms facing up. The executioners then simultaneously set the tips of nine inch iron spikes over the prisoners’ wrists. They then, simultaneously pounded those nails through his wrists, expertly missing the arteries with no bones broken. The pain would have been indescribable.
The executioners turned their attention to His feet. First, they tied His knees together. Then, they bent His legs a little to the left about a quarter of the way up. They rested His feet on an anchored triangle shaped wooden block. With one foot over another, they drove another long spike through, pinning them securely on the sloped block.
Just as He was bearing up to the pain of those spikes being driven into His skin, His own cross was lifted up and manhandled into position. The jarring effect brought even more excruciating pain bringing Him to tears and then blacked out.
The Bible recorded Him giving 7 statements on the cross. For our purposes, we’ll focus on the two that best spoke of His character.
The Son of God spent almost 4 hours nailed to that cross but yet His voice reflected His heart – “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
At the end of His final hour on the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished.” [John 19:30] In Greek, it would say ‘tetelestai’. Jesus was declaring for all to know that the task He set out to do… that the reason of His birth… was completed! Our debt of SIN was paid for by His blood.
You are standing under the big dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. When this part of the church was being built in the fourth century, the rock-slope that the empty tomb was under was mostly excavated. What was left was the chamber and it’s opening. Then, they built this shrine over the tomb.
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead has been at the heart of the gospel message from the beginning. Paul expressed what most believe to have been a creed of the early church.
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. (1 Corinthians 15:3-5)
The empty tomb tells us that the grave could not hold Jesus. That He bodily rose from the grave. Jesus demonstrated his mastery over death and it holds promise for believers as well; that we also will have victory over death. And it’s all because the tomb of Jesus is empty. [www.christianity.com]
For I handed down to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time… (1 Corinthians 15:3-6)
You are just outside the Benedictine monastery in Abu Ghosh (a.k.a. St Mary of the Resurrection Abbey). Who was St Mary? In Matthew 28:1, when Mary Magdalene went to see the empty tomb, she was accompanied by another woman also named Mary. Mary was a very common name among the Jews. It had been determined though that this particular Mary was none other than Mary the mother of James and Joses (Matthew 10:3 and Luke 6:15).
This monastery is about 7 miles from Jerusalem. By the way, there are 3 other sites that is being considered as Emmaus. Whichever is the true destination, what was significant was what happened on the road to Emmaus.
Two disciples, downcast by the death of Jesus, and confused by reports that His body was missing, were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They encountered a stranger who listened to their concerns, then gave them a Scripture lesson that made their “hearts burn within them”. (Luke 24:32) That stranger was the risen Christ whom they failed to recognize. And He said to them…
“You foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to come into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the Prophets, He explained to them the things written about Himself in all the Scriptures. (24:25-27)
5 – Final Instructions
In John 14:19, Jesus told His disciples that the world no longeris going to see Him. What He meant was that He was going to return to His Father in Heaven. But first, instructions needed to be given. So, we head back north to…
You are standing on a beach at the northwest side of the Sea of Galilee. Behind is the Church of the Primacy of Saint Peter which is a Franciscan church located in Tabgha. Yes, we are very close to where Jesus fed 5000 men.
What was special about this place?
Look out at the water and go back in time about 2000 years. Peter and the other disciples went out fishing all night. It was almost morning and they hadn’t even caught a minnow. Suddenly, a man on the shore shouted to them to cast their nets on the right-hand side of the boat. Peter probably shrugged his shoulders but decided to do it anyway. To their surprise, the nets got heavy with fish. Then, John peered hard at the figure on the beach and his eyes went wide and he told Peter that the person was Jesus. Without hesitation, Peter jumped into the water and swam to the shore where Jesus had hot coals and fo0d waiting for them.
Now when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again, a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was hurt because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.” (John 21:15-17)
Essentially, Jesus had reinstated Peter as chief among the Apostles.
Matthew 28:16…the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated to them.
You are virtually walking on a hiking trail on top of Mt Arbel. Elevation is about 594 feet above sea level. That body of water is the Sea of Galilee. Just below this mount is the town of Migdol once known as Magdala (home to Mary Magdalene).
It was here that Jesus gave the Great Commission to His Apostles… and as you read this now, this is your marching orders now.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
There is still one last mountain we have to climb.
Welcome to one of the most visited sites on the Mount of Olives, the Chapel of the Ascension. It was here that eleven men got the best news, not just for themselves, but for all of us who believe.
Acts 1:6-8And after Jesus had said these things…What things?
Well, the disciples asked Him, “Lord, is it at this time that You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus told them, “It is not for you to know periods of time or appointed times which the Father has set by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and as far as the remotest part of the earth.”
After saying this, Jesus was lifted up while they were watching, and a cloud took Him up, out of their sight.
And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, then behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them, and they said… “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)
Jesus Christ will return!
This ends our tour of Module 5a. Thank you for joining me in Walking the footsteps of Jesus – Part 2.
Click here to go to MODULE 6: Trailing the Acts of the Holy Spirit
Module 5 – Google Maps Tour of the Bible by Johann Quisumbing
In module 5, we will visit the Bible sites of where Jesus Christ walked during His first 2 years of His ministry. Now, the Son of God covered a lot of ground.
1 – Start of His Ministry
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom He also made the world. (Hebrews 1:1,2)
The prophets said He was coming… and it was to a prophet that He made Himself known. So, we go to a place where the Prophet John the Baptist was crying out loud saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2)
You are virtually standing on the eastern bank of the Jordan River. On this side as well as the more modern looking site across the river is the traditional site of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist which is about 6 miles east from Jericho.
For 400 years, the Israelites have not heard from God. For 400 years, they had to contend with the conquests of the Persians, the Greeks and now… the Romans. Then, a voice of one calling out in the wilderness (Matthew 3:3) made his appearance dressed like another prophet-of-old (who was Elijah). Jews from all over came to the Jordan River to see the wonder of God’s latest messenger. But little that they knew, One among them was the Messiah himself. He looked quite ordinary, like someone you’d not even notice.
…He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. Isaiah 53:2
He came from Galilee… from Nazareth, to be exact. Why was He here? To be baptized like everyone else? Well, not exactly…
Why did Jesus, the Son of God, need to be baptized?
John the Baptist asked the same question. “I have the need to be baptized by You, and yet You are coming to me?” (3:14)
Jesus responded, “…it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” (3:15)
Righteousness? The ‘righteousness’ He spoke of was that John had to witness what came next.
After He was baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove andsettling on Him, and behold, a voice from the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (3:16-17)
The Judaean Wilderness or the Judaean Desert stretches from the northeastern Negev to the east of Beit El (Bethel), and is marked by naturalterraces with escarpments. It ends in a steep escarpment dropping to the Dead Sea and the Jordan Valley. This particular canyon is about 11 miles from where Jesus was baptized. Now, I’m not saying that our Lord was here. But it does give us an idea of the environment that Jesus was in when he was tempted by the devil. You can read the entire story in Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13.
After that time of temptation, Jesus went north. Why north? Why not straight to Jerusalem first? The answer is, He’s following God’s plan.
In earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He will make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them. (Isaiah 9:1,2)
So, we go to…
2 – Galilee
Galilee was the venue for most of Jesus’ 3 year ministry. It is located in modern-day Northern Israel, which in Jesus’ day was part of Roman jurisdiction. One of three Roman provinces of ancient Palestine, it included the whole northern section of the country, the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee forming the Eastern border. Lower Galilee, with its great plain and hill country running down into the Jordan, was one of the richest and most beautiful sections of Palestine. Upper Galilee, known biblically as “Galilee of the Gentiles,” was mountainous.[www.biblestudytools.com]
But before Jesus got to work, He had a wedding to attend.
You are standing in-front of the Wedding Cana Church located in Kafr Kanna which is an Arab town in the Galilee, part of the Northern District of Israel. This Catholic church is a favorite destination for weddings and tourists. However, is this town the actual biblical site of Cana? Many believe not. Six miles north of KafrKanna is a hill with ruins of a Jewish village. It is believed that this may be a good candidate for Cana.
[By the way, there are 2 other sites being considered as well.]
In John 2, Jesus Christ, His mother and His disciples were invited to a wedding (probably of a close relation). When His mother noticed that the wine had run out, she turned to her son. He knew what she wanted. Jesus gave her a loving and gentle rebuke saying, “What business do you have with Me, woman? My hour has not yet come” (2:4). But He relented by changing water into the best wine ever made. The Gospel writer had written that this act was the first sign of Jesus’ divinity.
Well, enough of parties, let us go on a boat ride.
The Sea of Galilee, also called Lake Tiberias, Kinneret or Kinnereth, is a fresh water lake in Israel. It is the lowest freshwater lake on Earth and the second-lowest lake in the world (after the Dead Sea, a saltwater lake). [wikipedia.com] You know what made this lake special for me personally. It is the only body of water where Jesus walked on water (Matthew 14:25). By the way, here’s some trivia for you, Jesus was not the only one who walked on water. Peter the fisherman also walked on water, if only for a few steps anyway before sinking (14:29,30).
One other thing needs telling. One night, Jesus and his disciples were crossing the lake in the middle of a raging storm. The disciples were afraid that the storm would swamp their boat. As they panicked, Jesus was at the stern sound asleep, like one who had no worries at all. Finally, they shook him awake pleading to be saved. With a word, He calmed the sea. His words to them was, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” (Matthew 8:23-27)
Since, we’re on the lake, let us go to the north end to the shoreline village of…
This is a 360 aerial view of where the fishing village of Bethsaida once was situated. If you look north, at the copse of trees on the waterline, archaeologists had excavated there and had found remnants of the fishing village.
Bethsaida was best known in the Bible as the birthplace of three of Jesus’ disciples: Phillip, Peter, and Andrew (John 1:44–45; 12:21). Bethsaida was the scene of several miracles. One of those miracles performed was when Jesus restored the sight of a blind man (Mark 8:22–26).
This is a 360 aerial view of the area where the biblical Capernaum was located. Capernaum was one of the main trading towns in the Gennesaret area. It was a vibrant and prosperous part of Galilee. Many travelers, caravans, and traders passed through Capernaum on the Via Maris. It was a main trade route connecting Damascus in the north and Egypt in the south. It was no wonder that Jesus used it as His home base during His first 2 years of His ministry.
Below you is the Kfar Nahum National Park. If you zoom in, you can just make out archaeological excavations of this ancient town. The circular structure is the museum with see-through glass floors for visitors to get a better look of the ruins.
It is a modern Catholic church which is part of the Franciscan monastery. Archaeological excavations carried out in this place discovered another layer of residential structures, on which the first half of a first century church was built. It is believed that it was built over the house of Peter’s in-laws.
Jesus stayed mostly in the house of Peter’s in-laws. His healing of Peter’s mother-in-law’s fever was the start of a daily influx of the sickly, the lame and the possessed. One story in particular was when a group of friends tore an opening through the roof of that house and lowered their paralytic companion to the floor before Jesus. Seeing their faith, He said to the paralytic that his sins were forgiven. But some thought this as blasphemous. Perceiving their thoughts, Jesus justified His authority by healing the man (Mark 2:1-12).
To the right of the museum (white structure) was the location of the Synagogue.
This synagogue that you are currently viewing may have been built around the 4th or 5th century. Beneath the foundation of this synagogue lies another foundation made of basalt, and it was suggested that this is the foundation of a synagogue from the 1st century.
According to Luke’s Gospel, the Capernaum synagogue at the time of Jesus’ ministry was built or funded by a Roman centurion based there. He was the same centurion who’s beloved ill servant was healed by Jesus in Matthew 8.
One other event that happened here was when Jesus was teaching, He controversially healed the withered hands of a man on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:10-13).
Jesus had taught much in this town. When He went to the shoreline followed by a crowd, He found Peter and Andrew cleaning their nets after a failed night of fishing. Jesus climbed onto their boat and taught the crowd the parable about the farmer sowing his seed unto 4 types of soils (Matt 13:1-9). [The lesson, of course, was that the Word of God cannot work in our lives unless we have receptive hearts.] After the lesson, Jesus convinced Peter and Andrew to push their boat out back onto the lake to go fishing. Peter was skeptic until they started to haul in a net full that almost swamped their boat. That was when Peter really believed and followed Him (Luke 5:1-11). Now, speaking of fishing…
A Fish of a Tale
Have you heard a fishing yarn* lately? Well, I think some fishermen would probably love this biblical story in Matthew 17:24-27, except that this was no yarn.
Some tax collectors came to Peter one day inquiring if Jesus ever paid the two-drachma tax. He told them yes. When Peter went to ask Him about it, Jesus asked him first, “whom do the kings of the earth collect poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?” After Peter gave his answer, Jesus rightly said that He and him should pay their taxes anyway. How? He instructed Peter to go fishing and in the first catch he got, just inside the fish’s mouth he found four-drachma coins.
[* Yarn – a long or rambling story, especially one that is implausible.]
Speaking of tax collectors, it was also here in Capernaum that Jesus called Levi the tax collector to leave his counting table and follow Him. Levi was renamed Matthew and became one of the chosen Twelve. He also wrote one of the 4 Gospels of the New Testament.
A little over a mile, west from Capernaum is a mountain top where Jesus gave His…
Again, you are looking at a 360 aerial view 0f what tradition claim to be the site of where Jesus gave His sermon. Technically, this is not really a mountain but a large hill known as Karn Hattin. Below is the Church of the Beatitudes.
The Sermon (Matthew 5-7)
So, one day while He was traveling near the Sea of Galilee, Jesus decided to speak to His disciples about what it means to follow Him. Jesus went up on a mountainside (5:1) and gathered His core disciples around Him. The rest of the crowd found places along the side of the hill and at the level place near the bottom in order to hear what Jesus taught His closest followers.
The Sermon on the Mount is by far Jesus’ longest explanation of what it looks like to live as His follower and to serve as a member of God’s Kingdom. In many ways, Jesus’ sermon represent, even today, the major ideals of a true God-centered life.
For example, Jesus taught about subjects such as prayer, justice, care for the needy, handling the religious law, divorce, fasting, judging other people, salvation, and much more. The Sermon on the Mount also contains both the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) and the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13).
In the end, Jesus made it clear that His followers should live in a noticeably different way than other people because His followers should hold to a much higher standard of conduct — the standard of the love and selflessness of Jesus Himself.
By the way, in this same neighborhood, to my surprise, is a place that I thought was located south-southeast from Bethsaida. But according to tradition, it was located a lot closer to where Jesus gave His sermon. What site was that? I’m speaking of the event of the…
Welcome to the Tabgha Church of the Loaves and Fish. Neat name for a church, isn’t it? It was named after the biblical reference of the boy who had a lunch basket of 5 loaves and 2 fish.
In Mark 6, John the Baptist was just executed by Herod Antipas. When Jesus heard, He withdrew in a boat to a secluded place. People followed Him on the land. When He came ashore and saw all the people who followed Him, His compassion only saw sheep without a shepherd (6:34). When the disciples wanted to send the multitudes away to the nearby villages for food, Jesus saw a lesson opportunity for them on how God provides BIG time. A lesson that Jesus used to drum into them repeatedly.
[Note: Scripture said ‘5000 men’ were fed, but if you add women and children in the mix, there may have been over 10,000 that were fed.]
After the mass feeding, Jesus had His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side… to Bethsaida (6:45). He went up to what I call…
You are standing on Ein Nur Observation which is the closest hill to the Tabgha Church. This hill is the logical site where Jesus went to pray and to get a high vantage view of His disciples straining at the oars—for the wind was against them (6:48). Jesus walked on water to give them a hand.
Now, Jesus’ ministry was not limited around the Sea of Galilee. Sometimes, He went home.
Set on the outskirts of old Nazareth, the Nazareth Village is built on ancient agricultural land that boasts the area’s last remaining first-century wine press. The original farm has been restored with its ancient wine press, terraces, irrigation system and stone quarry, and exact replicas of first-century houses, a synagogue, a watchtower, mikveh and olive presses have been carefully constructed using the original building methods and materials.
At Nazareth Village, bible scenes are brought to life by “villagers” who populate the farm and houses, living and working with the same type of clothing, pottery, tools and methods that Mary and Jesus would have used. Gifted and knowledgeable guides lead visitors through a living representation of the parables of Jesus within their original context before offering the opportunity to seal the experience with an authentic biblical meal.
You are standing on the edge of a cliff on Mount Precipice located just outside the southern edge of Nazareth. What are we doing up here? It may be that Jesus may have climbed up and down these cliffs once upon a time. He did have a practice of going up to high places like this to pray in solitude. We just don’t know, but what we do know was that He was almost thrown off this precipice.
One day, Jesus and His disciple came home to Nazareth. As was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath and He read a famous Messianic passage from the Prophet Isaiah. After that, Jesus rocked the very foundation of that synagogue when He boldly declared that what was just read had been fulfilled. Everyone there knew what was implied. It was an incredible thought. Is Jesus the Messiah? At first, the people spoke well of Him, but surprise and admiration soon gave place to a spirit of unbelief. Was he not a local boy? …a rather insignificant one being just a son of a carpenter? How had he gained such eloquence, such learning and poise? However, when, as he continued speaking, he pointed to their disbelief and compared it to stories of earlier biblical prophets, their puzzlement turned to anger. In the end, they vainly sought to throw him from a cliff near the town. But He passed through their midst and went on His way.
Six miles southeast from Nazareth is the biblical site of…
Nain was a fortified town built on a hill. From our high vantage point, Nain was located at the modern day Arab village of Nin just ahead.
It was there, according to Luke 7:11–17, Jesus raised a young man from death and reunited him with his weeping mother. According to Luke’s account, this young man was the only son of an unnamed widow. When Jesus saw the dead son being carried out and the mourning widow, he felt compassion for her. He walked towards the bier or stretcher, touched it, stopped the funeral procession and told the man: “Young man, I say to you, arise!” The man came alive, sat up, and began to speak. The people who were standing around were all struck by the event, seen as a sign that ‘a great prophet’ had arisen among them, and the report of it spread widely across Judea and the surrounding region. [www.wikipedia.com]
Nearby is another mountain… a very important high-place… for this was where Peter, James and John were allowed a vision of who Jesus really WAS, IS & IS TO COME.
You are virtually standing before Church of the Transfiguration which is a Franciscan church located on Mount Tabor some 6 miles east from Nazareth.
The Transfiguration was the glorification of the human body of Jesus. On this occasion His body underwent a change in form, a metamorphosis, so that it shone as brightly as the sun. At the time of the Transfiguration, Jesus’ earthly ministry was coming to a close. He had acknowledged that He was the Messiah and predicted His death and resurrection. Now He was to reveal, to a select few, His divine glory. [Don Stewart – http://www.blueletterbible.org]
Jewish villages and enclaves were not the only places that Jesus made His appearances.
You’re standing on the ruin courtyards of what was once the Sanctuary of Faunus (Pan). It was a Roman pagan worship center of the Roman city of Caesarea Philippi which was about 26 miles north of the Sea of Galilee.
It was in this area that Jesus asked the question that needed to be asked of His disciples. It was the question of, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ Only Peter got it right with the answer that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:13). Then Jesus declared that upon this rock… that is, the FAITH expressed by Peter (as well as all believers)… He shall build His church (16:18).
These are the ruins of Tyre which was an ancient Phoenician city in modern-day Lebanon. It was in this vicinity, that Jesus brought His disciples for a ‘weekend get-away’. But Jesus’ healing reputation had preceded Him even here deep in Gentile country.
Upon entering a house of an acquaintance, He was noticed by a woman of Greek descent* who had a daughter inflicted by a demon. She loudly pleaded for His help but Jesus said nothing until His disciples urged that she be sent away. Then, I believe, Jesus saw a teaching opportunity for His disciples; a lesson of grace and relentless faith. So, Jesus and her had an exchange of what can only be described as banter.** He said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she countered with an undeniable and logical reply that even the dogs feed on the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table. I can just imagine Jesus with a pleased expression on His face when He told her that her faith was great. She went home to find her child free of possession.
[* Syrophoenician woman; ** banter: playful and friendly exchange of teasing remarks.]
Again He left the region of Tyre and came through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, within the region of Decapolis. (Mark 7:31)
The Decapolis in Greek translate into the TenHellenistic cities established during the post days of Alexander the Great. They were also known as the Free cities, that is, independently governed outside Roman rule. And one of those cities was located on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. It was called…
As you can see, Hippos was a city built on a high hill overlooking the inland sea. On that shore, Jesus freed a gentile who was tormented by a legion of demons (Luke 8:28-30). Unfortunately for the residences of Hippos, there was a shortage of pork when the demons that were in the man went into a herd of pigs that went crazy and drowned in the lake (8:33). The man freed from the demons became a missionary for Jesus to Hippos and the surrounding region (8:38,39). It was probably because of his testimony that when Jesus returned, that people from throughout this region brought their sick and impaired to Him. For 3 days, He ministered and taught them. Just like the feeding of the 5000, He fed 4000 men in this location (Matthew 15:29-38).
One other place, we must visit is not exactly Gentile. However, to the Jews, it was worse than worse than being Gentile. Our next stop is to…
You are virtually inside an Eastern Orthodox church and monastery, in the Palestinian city of Nablus in the West Bank. The well of Jacob can be viewed in a chamber under this chapel. Jacob dug this well back when this town was once called Shechem. During Jesus’ time, it was the Samaritan village of Sychar.
In John 4, Jesus and His disciples were on their way back to Galilee. Instead of going back via their traditional route, Jesus surprised the disciples by leading them through Samaritan country which to a Jew was somewhat taboo. Why?
Here’s a quick background. There was great animosity between Jews and Samaritans. You see, the Jews considered the Samaritans as ‘half-breeds’; that is, half Israelites, half Assyrian exiled rejects (2 Kings 17). Back when Solomon’s Temple was rebuilt by the returned Judean exiles, the Samaritans were rejected as true Israelites. So, they went their own way. The Jews took great pains to avoid their territory.
Jesus arrived just outside Sychar where Jacob’s well was. While the disciples went to find food, a Samaritan woman came to draw water. She was there to quench her thirst but instead got an everlasting lesson on ‘Living Water’. She became a believer and her testimony convinces an entire town to believe, too. [4:15-42]
For over two years, Jesus focused His ministry in the north country. For Him to complete the work for the salvation of us all, He had to take…
You are facing what is called the Tree of Zacchaeus which is located at the Al-Jummezeh Square in the City Center of Jericho. Is this the remains of the tree where a short tax-collector by the name of Zacchaeus climbed to get a glimpse of the Messiah? Well, this particular sycamore tree is more than 2000 years old. Even if it wasn’t, it was alive here in Jericho when Jesus walked the streets.
Imagine, if you will, Jesus walking the streets of Jericho, surrounded by a crowd. As He was walking under a tree, He looked up to find a rich man straddling precariously on a big branch. With a chuckle, He called him by name and told him that He was dining at his house. During the meal, there were critics that questioned Jesus’ wisdom of being a guest of a sinner. Well, Zacchaeus surprised them by testifying out loud that he was giving half his possessions to the poor and making it right for those he cheated. Then Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house… For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:9,10)
Module 4 – Google Maps Tour of the Bible by JQuisumbing
Welcome to Module 4. Here we will visit the Bible sites where God influenced the lives of the Kings and the Prophets that He sent to them during the Kingdom era. In Module 3, we ended the tour with God rejecting Saul as king and God secretly sending Samuel to choose David to replace him.
1 – Young David
When the anointing oil of Samuel touched upon the brow of David, the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward (1 Samuel 16:13) and through out his entire life, even when he faltered, David was always the apple of the Lord’s eye.
Keep me as the apple of the eye; Hide me in the shadow of Your wings… (Psalm 17:8)
And we will see this as we follow David’s life from one adventure after another. Starting at…
You are looking at a 360 degree view of where a young David bravely confronted Goliath from Gath who stood over 8 feet tall.
Imagine if you will, the forces of King Saul gathered on the hill on the north side of the valley and the Philistine army were arrayed on the opposite hill. Then Goliath would come forward from the army encampment of the Philistines to mock the God of Israel and challenge the Israelites to send out their champion to fight him one on one. Everyday, the Israelites cowered and no one came to challenge him until David came to visit. And when he saw and heard Goliath insulting his God, David cried out…
“Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he has dared to defy the armies of the living God?”(17:26)
With King Saul’s doubtful consent, David, with no armor and shield, armed with only a shepherd’s sling and five smooth stones, bravely went down to fight this giant. From the Philistine’s side, they expected a slaughter but were shocked to see their champion quickly brought down by a well aimed stone striking him between the eyes. When they witnessed Goliath’s head chopped off and the army of Israel charging their lines, they panicked and was defeated.
After David killed Goliath, Saul was compelled to place young David at the head of his army (I Samuel 18:5) and eventually became part of the household when David married his daughter Michal. David was successful in all that he did and so his fame rose with the peoples making this praises, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” (18:7)
Not long after, an intense rivalry developed between David and the king. Saul began to try to have him killed.
2 – Saul Pursued David
So, David fled the presence of the king. After he and his handful of men received nourishment from the priests of a nearby village (21:1-6), he hurriedly left and went to a hidden stronghold. So now, we come to our next site…
The Cave of Adullam is located at the south end of the valley of Elah about 20 miles away from Saul’s palace at Gibeah.
It was there that David’s father and brothers joined him to also escape Saul’s rage. Not long after, everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him; and he became captain over them. They numbered about four hundred men (22:1,2).
But Saul found out where David was, when he and his men went to rescue a nearby village that were harassed by marauding Philistines (23:1-5). So, David had to escape to another stronghold farther south which takes us to our next site.
You are virtually standing atop of Masada that scholars believed was the Rock of Escape mentioned in verse 28. But being found out where he was, Saul tried to trap him but he had to give up the pursuit to face a Philistine army threatening his borders. So, David had to move again to another stronghold…
En Gedi is the largest oasis along the western shore of the Dead Sea. It served as one of the main places of refuge for David as he fled from Saul (23:29). One time when David was fleeing from King Saul, the pursuers searched the “Crags of the Ibex” in the vicinity of En Gedi. In a cave near here, David refused to kill the Lord’s anointed but instead he just cut off the corner of Saul’s robe (24:1-7). This was not the only time that Saul’s life was spared. David hated the thought that as long as he was still within the kingdom, Saul would continue to go after him and maybe in one of those encounters, he would have no choice but to strike down the Lord’s anointed. So, he and his followers left Saul’s domain (1 Samuel 27,29).
Now, let us shift focus to King Saul for awhile…
3 – Last Days of King Saul
In 1 Samuel 28, the Philistines had come up to fight with Saul again and when Saul saw their camp, he was afraid and his heart trembled greatly. So Saul inquired of the LORD, but the LORD did not answer him. He was so desperate for guidance but Samuel the Prophet had passed away back in chapter 25. So, Saul secretly went to a medium/witch at the outskirts of En-dor.
You are standing on highway 7276 (8 miles from Nazareth). The road to the right goes to the modern village of Ein Dor. If you look at the signs at the corner, one of them says ‘Archaeology’ indicating that this village may be the ancient site of where the only ghost story told in the Bible occurred.
When Saul (in disguise) came before the medium, he demanded the she summon the spirit of Samuel. She was startled when her conjuring suddenly worked and an apparition of an old man appeared like a god coming up out of the earth (28:13). Saul, seeing that it was Samuel, fell to the ground. When asked why he was called back, Saul shared his fears. The response he got back was not good news.
Saul was reminded that the LORD had left him and had become his enemy. The LORD has done just as he said he would. He had torn the kingdom from him. And on top of that, the LORD will hand him and the army of Israel over to the Philistines, and he and his sons will be dead. (28:16-19) Saul returned to his encampment like a condemned man.
Beth Shan or Beit She’an (in Hebrew) is a city in the Northern District of Israel, which has played an important role in history due to its geographical location at the junction of the Jordan River Valley and the Jezreel Valley.
Five miles from Beth Shan, on the slopes of Mt Gilboa, the army of Saul clashed with the Philistines and they were badly defeated as prophesized. Wounded and seeing his sons killed, Saul purposely fell on his own sword. When the Philistines found the bodies of King Saul and his sons, they hung them on the walls of Beth Shan (31:10-12).
But when the people of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, all their mighty warriors traveled through the night to Beth Shan and took the bodies of Saul and his sons down from the wall. They brought them to Jabesh, where they burned the bodies. Then they took their bones and buried them beneath the tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and they fasted for seven days (31:11-13).
After Saul died, David eventually became King of all Israel. And as his capital, he chose to rule in…
This is a 360 aerial view of Jerusalem today. It currently occupies an area of about 78 square miles and has a population of about 1 million. For the past 3000 years or so, this city had been destroyed and rebuilt countless times.
During the early days of David, it was known as Salem, the city of the Jebusites. A small remnant population of Canaanites that managed to keep their city from being conquered by the Israelites in Joshua’s time. Outlined below and shaded in yellow mark where the small city was located.
According to 2 Samuel 5, David had laid siege on the Jebusite city which was fortified with high walls and situated on a mountain spur which made it practically difficult to capture. The Jebusites even bragged about it to David saying, “You shall not come in here, but even those who are blind and those who limp will turn you away” (5:6).
You are standing on the observation platform that overlooks the archaeological site of the Millo (5:9) remnants of the original Jebusite ruins. Under the ruins was the well that tapped the underground Gihon Springs. It was through the well, that David’s men penetrated the Jebusite defenses (5:8) and captured the city.
David expanded the city and it became the City of David.
You are standing on an observation platform on where tour guides would start their tour to an underground labyrinth of structures including Hezekiah’s Tunnel (a favorite for exploration). This platform is also over a part of David’s royal palace which makes it an ideal setting for a sad story of David’s SIN.
David’s royal chamber probably had a high vantage view of the city just like this observation platform. As you look down unto the houses below…
Story of David & Bathsheba [2 Samuel 11-12]
…imagine a bone tired king, home instead of being with his men in a military action against the sons of Ammon (11:1). It was Spring in Jerusalem. He had just eaten his dinner and was about to go to his bed, but that night, he was restless. He poured some wine for himself and wandered up unto the roof of his chamber. As he gazed around at the starlit valley below, his eye was attracted to a house below and there she was. Her name was Bathsheba.
Allow me to sum up what happened. David went from temptation to temptation to sin. The result was a pregnancy of woman who was someone else’s wife (11:3-5). David sent for the husband, Uriah the Hittite (one of his own men off at war) to return. He had hoped that Uriah would have relations with his wife, but out of a sense of loyalty he did not. Then David arranged that Uriah died in battle. After the mourning period, David took Bathsheba as his wife and a son was born to them. (11:6-27)
Then God sent Nathan the Prophet to David. After his rebuke, David repented greatly (Psalm 51). God forgave him (12:13) but he had to live with the circumstances of that sin. The son that was born to him & Bathsheba died (12:15-23); and then much later in his life, his other son Absalom took his throne and tried to kill him as well (chapter 15). But for David, the worst was that because of the blood he shed, the Lord denied him the privileged to build His Temple (1 Chronicles 28:3).
Mt Zion is the high hill opposite from the City of David across what was the Tyropoeon Valley. You are virtually standing before a sculpture of King David holding a lyre, an iconic symbol because of the many psalms that he wrote since he was a simple shepherd boy. A short distance north from here is the Tomb of David.
We say our good-byes to David here, but before we continue on, it is right to remember that though David faltered in his sin, the Lord helped him to amass such great wealth that it will be used to erect the first Temple which by the way was built by his son, Solomon, whose mother was also Bathsheba. And before he died, the Lord reiterated to him that his kingdom will go on forever.
5 – Solomon’s Temple
Solomon became king after David and with the help an old Phoenician allay and king, he expanded the city (below in blue). And on Mt Moriah, he erected the first Temple.
There was great fanfare when the Temple was finished. But when the Ark of the Covenant was placed in the innermost room called the Holy of Holies, the entire Temple was filled with God’s glory to a point that even the priests could not enter (1 King 8). I invite you to watch this 3 minute video of Solomon’s Temple in 3D.
6 – The Divided Kingdom
After Solomon died, his son, Rehoboam, became king. And in 1 King 12, due to an act of foolishness, Rehoboam lost the loyalty of the northern tribes and the kingdom was divided. Rehoboam ruled the southern kingdom of Judah with the tribe of Simeon who lived more in tents and were mostly nomadic. Jeroboam, an Ephraimite, became king of the 10 northern tribes of Israel.
The Lord allowed it for as long as ALL of Israel & Judah remained faithful to Him which meant that they still go to the center of worship at the Temple at Jerusalem. But Jeroboam, the king of Israel, feared losing his rule if his people continue to go to Jerusalem. So, he made 2 golden calves and declared, “behold your gods, Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt” (12:28). One idol, he set in Bethel. The other, he set at…
Once, the tribe of Dan were situated in the south. They were suppose to push out the Philistines during the conquest era of Canaan, but failing that, the tribe moved to this area of the north.
Tel Dan is one of the most important sites in the ancient Near East, in general, and for biblical archaeology, in particular. Situated at the base of snow-capped Mount Hermon on the headwaters of the Jordan, Dan has major fortifications and what is apparently an Israelite temple from the Iron Age II (ca. 1000-700 BCE) where Jeroboam placed one of the golden calf idols. [www.teldanexcavations.com]
The steel beams you are looking at was where a massive four-horned altar once stood for the offering of animal sacrifices.
What Jeroboam had d0ne had set a precedent for all the kings of the northern kingdom. Nineteen kings ruled over Israel and all of them did evil in the eyes of the Lord. Eventually, the northern kingdom was overthrown by the Assyrian Empire then exiled. As to the southern kingdom, 19 kings & 1 queen ruled over Judah. A few of them did right in the Lord’s eyes, but most sent the kingdom on a downward spiral until it too was handed over to exile.
Now, the Lord God sought repentance from the kings and so, He would send men to them to be His mouth. They would either be their guide to redemption or a thorn on their sides. These men were known as…
7 – Prophets
From the divided kingdom era, one of the most famous prophets of the Bible, mentioned both in the Old and New Testaments, is Elijah. And when it comes to him, one place always come to mind.
Mt Carmel is a coastal mountain range in northern Israel. Its name is derived from the Hebrew “Karem El” which means “vineyards of God.” You are standing on the observation deck of the Deir Al-Mukhraqa Carmelite Monastery. The vast valley before you is the Jezreel Valley which will be the future site of the prophetical-end-time battle of Armageddon.
‘High places’ were frequently considered to be sacred, and Mount Carmel was no exception. A high place of Mount Carmel was devoted to Yahweh during the Israelite monarchy, but it had fallen into disuse by the time of Ahab, king of northern kingdom of Israel, when it was devoted to Baal, a god of Phoenicia.
Carmel’s greatest claim to fame was the battle that took place there between the prophet Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal, together with 400 prophets of Ashera, to decide which deity was more powerful. Underlying the contest was the question of why neither Baal nor Yahweh, both supposedly capable of producing rain, had not done so during a long period of intense drought (1 Kings 18). Here, the mountain, located in a kind of coastal no-man’s-land between Israel and Phoenicia, represented a strategic high ground where the Phoenician Baal and the Israelite Yahweh contended for superiority. After repairing the old altar of Yahweh, Elijah put the prophets of Baal to shame when he was able to produce fire from heaven to consume his sacrifice to Yahweh, while the prophets of Baal failed to produce fire from Baal to consume their offering.
Having proved his point spiritually, Elijah proceeded to a physical conquest as he ordered the assembled crowd of onlookers to slaughter the prophets of Baal in the valley below. He then prayed to the Lord to end the drought and a rain cloud appeared in response to his plea. [http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org]
Elijah’s whole story can be read from 1 Kings 15 to 2 Kings 2.
Now, Elijah had a protégé, who used to maintain a dwelling place here at Mt Carmel. His name was Elisha which means ‘My God is salvation‘. In the biblical narrative, after Elijah was taken up in a whirlwind, he gave Elisha a double portion of his power and he was accepted as the leader of the sons of the prophets (2 Kings 4).
Interestingly enough, though Elisha went on to perform twice as many miracles as Elijah, he seems to be the least thought of. And what is funny yet is that, compared to other Old Testament characters, Elisha’s miracles seem to be a precursor to Jesus’ own miracles. Oh sure, he may have not walked on water, but he did make an iron axe head float (6:6,7). For one particular miracle, I think we should go to…
You are on the north-end side of the modern day village of Sulam, but back in those days, this used to be the village of Shunem. Unfortunately, there were no archaeological site in the area. However, the houses of the neighborhood would be as posh as the prominent Shunemite woman’s house back then (2 Kings 4). She often invited Elisha to stay in her house during his ministry circuit of the area. This woman had no son and her husband was too old, so, he prophesied that she will give birth to a son next year, which she did. Then a few years later, the boy died. He prayed to the LORD. Then he got up on the bed and lay on the child, and put his mouth on his mouth, his eyes on his eyes, his hands on his hands, and he bent down on him; and the flesh of the child became warm. The boy came to life and returned to his mother (4:33-37).
So far, we talked about Elijah and Elisha. God had also sent other prophets like Amos and Hosea to minister in the Northern Kingdom, calling on the kings and the people to repent. At the same time, even the prophets of Judah like Isaiah and Micah, also warned the people of the Northern Kingdom of their coming destruction if they did not repent. But God also sent a prophet (a reluctant one anyway) to the enemies of Israel. His name was Jonah. To tell his story, let us go to…
You are standing at the end of a jetty protecting the small harbor of Jaffa. During Jonah’s day, this coastal city was known as Joppa. Joppa is a very old city. You can see the contrast by its old world architecture to the ultra modern style of skyscrapers of Tel-Aviv on your far left.
Imagine yourself as Jonah on that jetty boarding on a ship bound for faraway Tarshish which was in Turkey. He was very jittery, knowing full well that he was doing wrong. You see, God had commanded him to go to Nineveh, the great city, and cry out against it, because their wickedness had come up before Him (Jonah 1:2). But Jonah feared what God had intended. The people of Nineveh was the enemy of His own people and if after he spoke to them that they repent their sins, he knew God will forgive them. So, he decided to run away from God. But he had a problem.
Psalm 139:7-10 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.
God sent a storm and to make a long story short, Jonah ended up being in the belly of a fish for 3 days (1:4-17). After his prayer of repentance, out he came (2:1-10). He did go to Niniveh, and sure enough, after hearing him speak, the people repented. So, God forgave that generation and delayed the city’s inevitable destruction for another time (3:10). Meanwhile, God had a lesson for Jonah who went outside the city to… ahem… pout (4:1-5). At his camp, God caused a plant to grow quickly to give shade to his shelter but then it withered. At first, Jonah was overjoyed but when it died… then the Lord said…
“You had compassion on the plant, for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. Should I not also have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 people, who do not know the difference between their right hand and their left, as well as many animals?” (4:10,11)
Even with the warnings of the prophets, both kingdoms fell. The northern kingdom was destroyed by the Assyrians and the population deported as per Assyrian military policy (resulting in the so-called Lost Ten Tribes of Israel). A hundred forty years later, as prophesied by Isaiah, Jeremiah and even Ezekiel who was already at exile, Judah fell to the Babylonians with their most influential citizens exiled to Babylon. Seventy five years later, exiles returned to Judah to rebuild.
8 – The Prophet for the ‘Kingdom Come‘
Within the message of the prophets, God had implanted… clues (so, to speak)… of the ultimate hope of a future kingdom for the faithful. Everyone of them put together points to the promised Messiah. One prophet, in particular, had written in his book some details that was not found in any of the other books of the Old Testament. Who was the prophet? Well, first, we go to…
You are standing on the site of the ruins of ancient Babylon located by the Euphrates River 53 miles south of Baghdad, Iraq. Before you is the archaeological site of the city central. If you look west, on top of the hill, you’ll see one of Saddam Hussein’s abandoned palaces. It was probably built on top of the royal palace of Babylon’s kings. Turn again towards the south, you’ll see a replica city built for the tourists.
Why are we here? Well, on the first conquest of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, a group of young noble Hebrews were brought here to be trained and then serve the kingdom. One of them was Daniel and like the patriarch, Joseph, he too gained a very high position in the government because the Lord had given him the ability to interpret the king’s dream. Through time, Daniel maintained a high position through three other kings and went through the transition from the kingdom of Babylon to the great Persian Empire.
Beloved and chosen by God to foretell future events, Daniel prophesied through visions and dreams about what was going to happen throughout history, including what would happen to Daniel’s people in the ‘latter days’ (Daniel 10:14) and to the whole world.
In the repetition of the prophecy about human world-ruling empires, Daniel further noted: “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14). He saw the Messiah.
In Daniel 9:24-27, we find a prophecy that predicted the year [A.D. 27] that the Messiah would begin His ministry. The prophecy also predicted his ministry to ‘confirm the covenant’ would be cut off ‘in the middle’ of the 70th prophetic week. The New Testament shows that this occurred after 3 1/2 years, just as Daniel had prophesied.
From Daniel’s prophecies, we get a peek of where we will go from here. We say goodbye to the sites of the Old Testament and end our tour of Module 4. The next step for you is…
Module 5 – Walking the footsteps of Jesus– Part 1 – where He went fishing with his disciples; gave the Sermon on the Mount and changed water into wine
Module 3 – Google Maps Tour of the Bible by JQuisumbing
Welcome to Module 3. Here we will visit the Bible sites where God moved the lives of the Judges that saved the early nation of Israel from themselves.
We will start taking up this tour…
after the time when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt & slavery;
after Joshua took over leadership and led them into the promised land;
after Israel successfully (more or less) conquered the Canaanites and other inhabitants;
and after the land was divided into the Twelve tribal territories.
Welcome into the time of the Judges.
1 – Judges
Before Israel had a king, it had a series of tribal leaders called judges. But why ‘judges’?
When Joshua and his generation died, so did the Israelites’ knowledge of God (Judges 2:10). They began to worship other gods and forgot their vow to Him. So, the Lord God handed them over to plunderers, and they plundered them (Judges 2:13) until they could not stand up to their enemies no longer. So, God raised these judges to save them from their enemies but mostly lead them back to Him.
The Book of Judges mentions twelve leaders. For our purposes, we will visit the sites of where the Lord raised three of them to do His bidding. We will also include a fourth leader who was not menti0ned in the Book of Judges; mainly because the Bible mentions him in two other books named after him.
Welcome to Tel Hazor. You are looking at a 360 aerial view of the archaeological site of this ancient city which is located north of the Sea of Galilee.
Hazor was the royal city of the Canaanite King Jabin (Joshua 11:1). This city, before the Israelite conquest, seemed to have been the seat of wide authority in this region (Joshua 11:11). It was taken by Joshua, who exterminated the inhabitants, and it was the only city in that region which he destroyed by fire (11:11-13). At a later time though, the Jabin Dynasty recovered power and restored the city after the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD (Judges 4:2). King Jabin had his army commander, Sisera, who’s army was well equipped with nine hundred iron chariots to oppress the sons of Israel severely for twenty years. Enter Deborah, a prophetess, who was already judging Israel at that time. And she called Barak, from the tribe of Naphtali, to lead the fight against Sisera. But Barak was timid in his faith. Even when Barak was promised victory (Judg. 4:6–7), he resisted, saying that he would go only if Deborah went with him (v. 8). So…
Deborah said, “I will certainly go with you; however, the fame shall not be yours on the journey that you are about to take, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” (Judges 4:9)
Well, the Lord helped Barak route the Canaanite army in a valley south of Hazor. But the victory was not complete. Sisera had escaped Barak, however, as prophesied by Deborah, he ended up being killed by a woman. As for the Canaanite King Jabin, he was eventually subdued and eliminated.
We go now to our next site which is about 35 miles south.
Welcome to the Ma’ayan Harod National Park. This national park is located at the eastern end of the Jezreel Valley just south of Mt Moreh. You are facing a pool that is called the Spring of Harod. The water comes from a copious stream of clear cold water rising from within a rocky cave just behind you. (Note the white block house up the hill.) This spring is more famously known as Gideon’s Spring.
The story of Gideon in the Bible is from the Book of Judges chapters 6-8. He was known as the reluctant warrior who eventually earned the position as a hero of faith referenced in Hebrews 11:32-34.
Again, like every situation in the Book of Judges, Israel had greatly sinned against the Lord. So, here in chapters 6 & 7, Israel suffered under the hands of the marauding tribe of Midian for 7 long years; after which, as expected, they cried again out to Him. Enter Gideon…
The Story of Gideon in a Nutshell
Gideon was a farmer whose hometown was Ophrah, in the Valley of Jezreel. He was of the tribe of Manasseh. In Judges 6, we find him hiding from marauding Midianites in a wine press beating out wheat. God appeared to Gideon as an angel and patiently encouraged him to lead the Israelites, promising He would be with him. I said patiently because God allowed Gideon to test Him thrice even after he witnessed His power at work (6:20-24;36-40).
So, Gideon managed to gather almost twenty thousand warriors to him. But God had some thing else in mind. He declared, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to hand Midian over to them, otherwise Israel would become boastful, saying, ‘My own power has saved me.’ “ So, Gideon brought them to the spring of Harod to test the men of Israel. Those that did not lap the water with their tongues like dogs will fight the Midianites. Only three hundred men were chosen. With the help of God, Gideon with his 300 men routed an army of about 130,000.
And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon… who by faith … quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. (Hebrews 11:32-34)
You are standing within the remnants of a Philistine village once called Timnah located just within the border of the territory of the tribe of Judah. At this time of the Book of Judges, all of Israel again had sinned greatly against the Lord. So, the Lord had allowed the northern tribes to be oppressed by the Ammonites and the southern tribes to be bullied by the Philistines. The Philistines had made several infractions into Judah’s fertile lands establishing farming communities. Timnah was one of those communities and it was the setting of where the Philistines were introduced to Israel’s most colorful & controversial Judge, Samson.
You can say that Samson was Israel’s superhero because he displayed such inhuman strength. Well, according to biblical accounts, Samson was repeatedly seized by the “Spirit of the Lord,” who blessed him with such incredible strength. What made Samson so privileged? That story in itself is a story worthy for reading on your own. [Click here > Judges 13] Meanwhile, let’s go back to Timnah…
The Marriage at Timnah
In Judges 14, Samson, who was just a young man, went down to Timnah and saw one of the daughters of the Philistines. He impulsively wanted to marry her. His parents were not happy because they preferred he marry one from their own people. Of course, what they did not know was that this was of the LORD, for He was seeking an occasion against the Philistines. [v4]
Let’s jump forward. At the wedding feast, Samson gave a riddle to his thirty groomsmen who were all Philistines. If they can solve it, he will give them thirty pieces of fine linen and garments, but if they cannot they must give him thirty pieces of fine linen and garments. After failing to guess, they were infuriated by the riddle, so much so, that they threatened the bride and her family to discover the answer. In tears, she implored Samson to gives her the solution, which he eventually did. Knowing the answer, they surprised Samson with right answer.
Samson knew where they got the answer. Then the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him, so, he traveled to the Philistine city, Ashkelon (roughly 30 miles away) where he slayed 30 Philistines for their garments; he then returned and gave them to his thirty groomsmen.
The story then went sideward when Samson found out that his bride was given to one of the groomsmen. Samson then went out, caught 300 jackals, and tied them together in pairs by their tails. He then attached a burning torch to each pair of foxes’ tails and turned them loose in the grain fields and olive groves of the Philistines. The Philistines learned why Samson burned their crops and they burned Samson’s bride and her father to death in retribution. Samson in return retaliated by ruthlessly slaughtering a great number of them to a point that the Philistines assembled an army to go after one man.
Other biblical accounts showed Samson displaying his immense strength by the slaying of a lion with his bare hands; massacring an entire army of Philistines using only the jawbone of a donkey; and the tearing down of the gates of Gaza, then carrying them on his shoulders about 40 miles into the hills. He judged Israel for 20 years until his weakness of lust caused him to lose his super strength. But forgiveness and divine restoration prevailed when his final act was the demoralization of the Philistines as Samson, this one man of the True God of Israel, chained & blind, brought down their temple killing tens of thousands.
So, we finish the Book of Judges, but by no means was Samson the last Judge of Israel. For this, we go to two other books.
5 – BOOKS OF SAMUEL
Samuel was the principal author of the Books of Samuel. He was also both Judge and Prophet of Israel. He was a key figure who, in the narratives of the Bible, played a key role in the transition from the period of the biblical judges to the institution of the Kingdom. Based on these books, we will visit these following sites.
In the beginning of the first Book of Samuel, we shall go to the place where the people used as their center of worship. Let us go to…
In 1st Samuel 1, our story started with Hannah, the second wife of Elkanah, an Ephraimite. Hannah came to the Tent of Meeting, to desperately plead for a child to end her shame of being barren. She begged for a son with the vow that she will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head (1:11). Eli the priest was watching her and thought the she was drunk. He started to rebuke her when she tearfully explained of her desperate prayer. He relented saying, “Go in peace; and may the God of Israel grant your request that you have asked of Him.” (1:17) And God did!
Hannah gave birth to Samuel and when he was weaned she brought him back to Shiloh where he grew up as a Nazarite*.
By the way, the Lord had blessed Hannah even more by giving her three other sons and two daughters. (2:21)
[* According to Numbers 6, the Nazarite was one who was consecrated to serve the Lord. He was required to abstain from all wine and anything else made from the grape vine; refrain from cutting the hair; and to stay ritually pure by avoiding contact with corpses or graves, even those of family members.]
Now the boy Samuel was attending to the service of the LORD before Eli. And word from the LORD was rare in those days; visions were infrequent. (3:1)
Samuel was being raised to serve the priesthood. But the Lord intended him to be a prophet charged with announcing His word to Israel. Ironically, his first prophetic act was to announce to Eli the Priest of his fate.
When Samuel was asleep in the temple, God called out his name. Thinking that Eli called him, he went to wake him. Eli thought he was dreaming and sent him back to sleep. But the Lord called his name again. This happened three times.
On the third time, Eli surmised that it was the Lord calling Samuel’s name. So, he told him to answer the Lord, which he did. God revealed very bad news for Eli and his family and instructed Samuels to speak what was told to him. In that morning, he was reluctant to talk to Eli, but Eli insisted. So, Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And Eli said, “He is the LORD; let Him do what seems good to Him.” (3:18)
Now Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him, and He let none of his words fail. And all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the LORD. And the LORD appeared again at Shiloh, because the LORD revealed Himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD. (3:19-21)
Before we go to our next site, there is one other incident that we need to talk about and it is related to the prophetical fate of Eli and his family.
Eli had two sons who were serving as priests but they had greatly sinned against the people. But the real problem was that Eli allowed them to continue even after the Lord warned him. Then, there was war again with the Philistines. After the Israelites were badly defeated in the first battle, they sent for the sons of Eli to bring the Ark of the Covenant to their camp in the hope that the Lord would grant them victory. But the Philistines won the battle, killed the sons of Eli and worst of all, they captured the Ark of the Covenant. When Eli the Priest finally heard the news about the Ark, he literally dropped dead as was prophesied by Samuel.
6 – The Ark of the Covenant & The Philistines
So, victorious from the war with the Israelites, the Philistines brought the captured Ark of the Covenant back to their cities.
To set the stage for the next story, let us go to the ruins of…
The ancient site of Ashkelon is now a national park on the city’s southern coast. The walls that encircled the city are still visible, as well as Canaanite earth ramparts. The park contains Byzantine, Crusader and Roman ruins. Here’s an interesting note – the largest dog cemetery in the ancient world was discovered in Ashkelon.
When the Philistines brought the Ark into their cities, they placed it at the feet of their idol god Dagon. The next day, they found Dagon face down before the Ark. So they took Dagon and set him back in his place. But, again the next time, the head of Dagon and both palms of his hands were cut off on the threshold; only the torso of Dagon was left.
Meanwhile, where ever the Ark was brought, the hand of the LORD was heavy on them, and He made them feel devastated and struck them with tumors (5:6). Therefore they sent word and gathered all the governors of the Philistines, and said, “Send away the ark of the God of Israel and let it return to its own place, so that it will not kill us and our people!” (5:11) So, the leadership, advised by their priests, placed the Ark on a wagon with a guilt offering of 5 golden mice & tumors corresponding to the number of the governors & the cities devastated by plague.
Now, to see, if the plagues were really from the God of Israel, they hitched two milk cows (which recently just had calves) to the wagon and let them go on the road that went up into the hills of Judah. If the cows strayed off the road, then they will know that the plague were not from God. Bellowing as they went, the cows did not turn off to the right or to the left. And the governors of the Philistines followed them to the border.
You are looking at the 360 degree aerial view of the ruins of the ancient biblical city of Beth Shemesh within the territory of Judah. It is an archaeological mound situated immediately west of modern town, Beit Shemesh.
Now, look west where the highway runs past this mound and imagine the Israelites seeing the Ark of Covenant on the road with nobody driving the wagon. The cows drew the ark up to the village of Beth-Shemesh, where the people were reaping their wheat harvest on the hillsides. They saw the Ark and were glad.
The cows stopped beside a great stone in the field. Then the men of Beth-Shemesh cut up the wagon, and with it made a fire, and on the stone as an altar offered the two cows as an offering to the Lord.
But the men of Beth-Shemesh opened the ark and looked into it. This was contrary to God’s command, for none but the Levitical priests were allowed to touch the Ark. God sent a plague upon the people of that place and many of them died, because they did not deal reverently with the Ark of God.
They were filled with fear and sent to the men of Kirjath-jearim, asking them to take the ark away. They did so, and for twenty years the Ark of the Covenant stood in the house of a man named Abinadab in Kirjath-jearim (1 Samuel 7:1,2).
They did not take the Ark back to Shiloh, for after the death of Eli, the place was deserted, the Tabernacle fell into ruins, and no man lived there again.*
Today, Gibeon is known as the Nebi Samuel National Park. Nebi Samuel is translated to the Tomb of Samuel. The park is situated atop a steep hill at an elevation of 908 meters above sea level. You are virtually standing on the ro0f of a blocky structure that is both Synagogue & Mosque.
From the high vantage point of where you are standing now, if you look southeast between the cell tower and the watch tower, you can see the fringes of Jerusalem, though during Samuel’s time it was called the city of Jebu. Look east and zoom in a little. Can you spot a light-blue water tank? The hill behind it was the site of Ramah where Samuel was born and where his house was. South of Ramah on another hill was the biblical site of Gibeah which I will tell you more about later. Unfortunately, Google Maps does not provide any 360 degree scenery of any archaeological ruins of both Ramah & Gibeah. However, take note of their vicinity to Gibeon.
Israel Demanded a King
From the day that the ark remained at Kiriath-jearim, the time was long, for it was twenty years; and all the house of Israel mourned after the LORD. (7:2)
Samuel had been ministering to the people mostly from his hometown of Ramah during the time that Shiloh fell into disarray. He was known as the Seer. It was said that he would often go up the ‘High Place’ which was Gibeon where he built an altar. As he grew old, he had appointed his 2 sons as judges over the people. But they turned out to be disappointments to Samuel. They went after dishonest gain, took bribes and perverted justice (8:3). The people were not happy. So, they came to Samuel at Ramah to demand for a king. This did not please Samuel but then the Lord said to Samuel…
“Listen to the voice of the people regarding all that they say to you, because they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being King over them. Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day—in that they have abandoned Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you as well. Now then, listen to their voice; however, you shall warn them strongly and tell them of the practice of the king who will reign over them.” (8:7-9)
And a warning he did give them in 1 Samuel 8:10-18. But yet, they refused to listen to him and the Lord. Enter Saul, from the tribe of Benjamin. According to the Bible, he was not just a young and handsome man. He was described as more handsome than among the sons of Israel; from his shoulders and up, he was taller than any of the people (9:2). Based on mankind’s standard, he was the ideal choice for King.
On a nearby plateau about 5 miles northeast of Gibeon, at the place called Mizpah, Saul was chosen by lot to be the first anointed king of all Israel. He was apparently reluctant to be king, for the Lord had to reveal to the elders where he was hiding (10:22).
Saul’s fledgling kingdom had a rocky start, for not all wanted to follow him as king (10:27). Then his first test as king came in 1 Samuel 11 when the Israelites who lived at Jabesh-gilead which was east of the Jordan River came under siege by the Ammonites. To complete this story, let’s go to our next site.
This site of Gilgal, which is just west of the Jordan River, is in actuality one of several Gilgals mentioned in the Bible. This place, in particular, was designated as a permanent encampment for religious & national rites. Gilgal means in Hebrew “circle of stones” hence the reason why, in this modern day, you can see a circular tower of large block stones built for tourists rising about 20 feet high. Now, if you look north at the mountain range, you’ll see a dip on the horizon. Just a little beyond that was Jabesh-gilead.
What happened here in Gilgal?
When Saul heard the call for help by the people of Jabesh-gilead, the Spirit of God rushed upon Saul (11:6) and he assembled a fighting force of about 300 thousand. He attacked the Ammonites and destroyed them. Then, all of Israel was behind Saul. After which Samuel summoned the entire congregation to the encampment of Gilgal where they offered sacrifices of peace offerings before the LORD and Saul’s kingship was renewed (11:14,15). From there, Saul returned to his own hometown of Gibeah and built a fortress where he reigned. But his reign will be short lived.
In 1 Samuel 15, Saul had greatly sinned against the Lord. His commandment to Saul was… ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, in that he obstructed him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and completely destroy everything that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’ But in a nutshell, Saul disobeyed God by sparing Agag, king of the Amalekites, & the best of the animals for his own gain. But when Samuel confronted him, Saul used the lame excuse that those choice animals were for sacrifices. God saw through his lies and Samuel spoke…
“Does the LORD have as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than a sacrifice, And to pay attention is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as reprehensible as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as reprehensible as false religion and idolatry. Since you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king.” (15:22,23)
So, here at Gilgal, Samuel hewed King Agag into pieces (v33), completing the task assigned to Saul. Samuel returned home to Ramah mourning for Saul.
You are virtually standing on a rock outcrop that overlooks Bethlehem. Above it is the Shepherd’s Field Chapel dedicated to a supernatural event of the New Testament. But I felt that this would be a good background for the tale of an ordinary shepherd boy who would become king.
Now, God does not look on us as we see each other. We might think that God blesses those who are strong, but the Lord blesses those whom He will strengthen and who will accept His help. [from http://www.jareddees.com]
And the story below will reflect it.
Samuel Anointed David (1 Samuel 16)
God was disappointed in Saul, the king of Israel. So, He secretly sent the prophet Samuel to Bethlehem, to the house of Jesse and anoint another person as king. When he arrived, he invited Jesse and his sons to a blessing ceremony. Samuel requested that Jesse present his sons one by one.
Jesse brought forth his oldest son, Eliab. Samuel saw the young man and thought to himself, ‘Surely this is the one the Lord wants me to anoint as king.’ For he was tall & strong. But the Lord said to Samuel…
“Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God does not see as man sees, since man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (16:7)
Now, Jesse presented seven of his sons before Samuel, but the Lord said that none of them fitted His criteria. Finding out that there was still one more son, the youngest, tending sheep out on the hills, Samuel sent for him. When Samuel first set his eyes upon David, the shepherd boy, he saw a gangly but handsome lad in his teens. He saw one that no one would ever c0nsider kingly.
The Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is he.” (16:12)
Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed David in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel set out and went to Ramah.
Here is food for thought for you.
God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong. [1 Corinthians 1:27]
Samuel returned to Ramah and after a long time, he died was buried at Ramah (25:1). According to tradition, his remains were later moved to the cavern under Gibeon.
Google Map Tours of the Bible – Module 2 guided by JQuisumbing
In this module, we will visit the Bible sites significant to the books of Exodus & Joshua – mostly the sites where God used Moses and Joshua to lead the nation of Israel through the wilderness into the promise land.
In module 1, we ended our tour in Egypt… and it is there that we have to pick up the trail.
1 – EGYPT
In the end of Genesis, Israel brought his entire family and household to Egypt. At that time, a different king ruled over Lower Egypt. This was the same king that made Joseph, son of Israel, Prime Minister of his kingdom.
Exodus 1:7 But the sons of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly, and multiplied, and became exceedingly mighty, so that the land was filled with them.
Historically, at the time that Joseph was Prime Minister, Lower Egypt was dominated by an Asiatic group of people known as the Hyksos. Centuries before, they over threw the original Egyptians and pushed them deep south to Upper Egypt. Where they abided their time to return and claim the kingdom they lost. And sure enough, after Joseph passed…
Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.Exodus 1:8
And at that time, Pharaoh saw both a military and economic threat in the growing number of the people of Israel. The Egyptians’ solution was to enslave and dishearten them. This went on for 400 years.
Except for the pyramids of Giza, Google Maps does not offer us much virtual scenery of the archaeological sites of the cities built by the enslaved Hebrews in Lower Egypt . So, we start our tour at an ancient city of Upper Egypt.
As you look at the grandeur of Karnak & Tanis, you can well picture the type of structures that these Egyptians forced the Israelites to build. Four Hundred years, they had to endure under the cruel whips of slavery. For 400 years, the Israelites pleaded for God to intervene… and after 400 years, God did.
2 – THE EXODUS [Route 1]
Putting Exodus 5-13 in a nut shell, God sent Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt especially after God forced Pharaoh’s hand with 10 devastating plagues.
Our virtual tour will take us on the Exodus trail of almost 3 million displaced Israelites marching to the legendary mountain of God, Mt Sinai. We will explore two possible routes ending onto two different Mt Sinai locations [please refer to map below].
From 500AD to about the 1990s, the traditional route (note the black line on the map) of the exodus of Israel was always believed to end on a mountain top near the tip of what today is called the Sinai Peninsula. Unfortunately, Google Maps does not provide any other visual reference of any biblical or archaeological sites along the traditional route except the location of …
You are virtually standing on the top of Mount Sinai (1), traditionally known as Jabal Musa (means Mount Moses in Arabic). It is actually the name of a collection of peaks, sometimes referred to as the Holy Mountain peaks, which consist of Jabal Musa, Mount Catherine and Ras Sufsafeh. For climbers, there are two principal routes to the summit of Jabal Musa. The longer and shallower route, Siket El Bashait, takes about 2.5 hours on foot, though camels can be used. The steeper, more direct route (Siket Sayidna Musa) is up the 3,750 “steps of penitence” in the ravine behind the St Catherine’s Monastery which most visitors are brought to first.
But is Jabal Musa the actual legendary location of where Moses received the Ten Commandments?
For many scholars today, they have found undeniable evidence that the mountain in the peninsula may not be the true mountain of God. So, we will take a closer look at some of the other sites discovered.
3 – THE CROSSING [Route 2]
Let us again refer to the map below but this time we will follow the exodus trail in red to the site of Mt Sinai 2.
Along this route, we will find a number of signs that seem to satisfy biblical accounts. Let us go to where they may have crossed the Red Sea.
As you look across the waters, imagine what happened here.
Exodus 14 8 So the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he chased after the sons of Israel as the sons of Israel were going out boldly. 9 Then the Egyptians chased after them with all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, his horsemen and his army, and they overtook them camping by the sea, beside Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon. 10 As Pharaoh approached, the sons of Israel looked, and behold, the Egyptians were coming after them, and they became very frightened; so the sons of Israel cried out to the LORD.
13 But Moses said to the people, “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will perform for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again, ever. 14 The LORD will fight for you, while you keep silent.”
21 Then Moses reached out with his hand over the sea; and the LORD swept the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided. 22 So the sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea on the dry land, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right and on their left.
How do we know that the Israelites crossed the Red Sea from Nuweiba?
A very wise man, King Solomon himself, placed a marker here.
When crossing the Red Sea, the Israelites knew that the Egyptians were just behind. They knew their danger. If the Egyptian battle ready army reached them, it could have been a great slaughter and return to slavery. But instead, true to the words of Moses, “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD…The LORD will fight for you…” (Genesis 13:13,14), the Israelites saw the closing of the sea on the Egyptian army and could not help but sing.
The Song of Moses and Israel
Exodus 14 1 Then Moses and the sons of Israel sang this song to the LORD, saying: “I will sing to the LORD, for He is highly exalted; The horse and its rider He has hurled into the sea. 2 The LORD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; This is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will exalt Him. 3 “The LORD is a warrior; The LORD is His name.
19 For the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his horsemen went into the sea, and the LORD brought back the waters of the sea on them, but the sons of Israel walked on dry land through the midst of the sea.
20 Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took the tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing. 21 And Miriam answered them, “Sing to the LORD, for He is highly exalted; The horse and his rider He has hurled into the sea.”
Then Moses led the people from the Red Sea. After three days, water became scarce and then when they did find it, it was a stagnant pool of bitter water. After the people grumbled against Moses, he pleaded to God. So, God showed him a tree which Moses threw in the waters and became sweet. Then God gave the people this statute to consider.
And He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God, and do what is right in His sight, and listen to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the LORD, am your healer.” (Exodus 14:26)
Exodus 14:27 Then they came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms, and they camped there beside the waters.
The Elim Oasis is about 27 miles south from where the Israelites made landfall.
Jethro the Midianite
Before we get back on the trail of the Israelites, southeast from the Elim oasis about 14 miles as the crow flies over a series of mountain ranges is a large valley where Jethro, the priest of Midian once lived. Jethro was Moses’ father-in-law. But I am getting ahead of the story.
As a baby, Moses was saved from Pharaoh’s edict that all newborn Hebrew males must be put to death, by Pharaoh’s daughter. Moses grew up in a privileged life but he always remembered that he was Hebrew. As a man, he saw their hard labors. His first action was to secretly kill an Egyptian who was beating a fellow Hebrew and then buried him in the sand. But Pharaoh found out what he did and attempted to have him killed. Moses fled Egypt in fear for his life and ended up in the lands of Midian. To this same valley, where there was a well.
Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters; and they came to draw water and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. Then the shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and helped them and watered their flock. (Exodus 2:16-17)
It was in this arid environ that Israel grumbled again to Moses.
“If only we had died by the LORD’S hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread until we were full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this entire assembly with hunger!” (Exodus 16:3)
But even after this, God provided the people with a bread & meat. The people called the bread manna, for it was like coriander seed, white, and its taste was like wafers with honey. The manna came in the morning dew. At night, the Lord blew in quails which covered the camp. The people gathered a regular portion for each family every 5 days. On the sixth day, the Lord provided double the portion, for on the seventh, there was none.
The double portion was meant to remind and emphasize that they must keep the Sabbath.
Exodus 17 1Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel journeyed by stages from the wilderness of Sin, according to the command of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, and there was no water for the people to drink. 2So the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water so that we may drink!” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?”3But the people were thirsty for water there; and they grumbled against Moses and said, “Why is it that you have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”
4So Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, “What am I to do with this people? A little more and they will stone me!”5Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pass before the people and take with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.
It was also here in Rephidim that Moses built an altar and named it ‘The LORD is My Banner’ after they were victorious against Amelek. [Exodus 17:8-16]
6 – MT SINAI (Arabia)
Exodus 19 1 In the third month after the sons of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 When they set out from Rephidim, they came to the wilderness of Sinai and camped in the wilderness; and there Israel camped in front of the mountain.
What you are looking at is a satellite view of Mt Sinai in Arabia. Northeast of the mountain is the vast valley of the Sinai Wilderness where the Israelites camped for a year. Unfortunately, Google Maps had no 360 views on the mountain. The photo below is the view of the eastern side of the mountain.
Again, can this site be the true Mt Sinai?
Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the entire mountain quaked violently. (Exodus 19:18)
Talking about evidence: It would be interesting to note that geologists had found evidences of scorched materials at the mountain top and that Mt Sinai was not even volcanic.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and you shall worship at a distance. Moses alone, however, shall approach the LORD, but they shall not approach, nor shall the people come up with him.” (Exodus 24:1,2)
After which, Moses reported to the people all the words of the LORD. They responded with one voice that they will obey. Then he got up early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain with twelve memorial stones for the twelve tribes of Israel.
Exodus 24 5And he sent young men of the sons of Israel, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed bulls as peace offerings to the LORD. 6Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and the other half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar.7Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it as the people listened; and they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!” 8So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
So, in verses 9-11, Moses went up the mountain with Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel. He took them to a large level area about halfway up the mountain. (Note the Speaking Platform pinpointed on photo above.) There, they worshiped and saw a vision of God majestically standing on a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself.
Then God called Moses to come higher up the mountain to receive the tablets of the Ten Commandments.
Exodus 32 – Beyond 40 days, as Moses was still on the fiery mountain, the Israelites went to Aaron and said, “Come, make us a god who will go before us; for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt—we do not now what happened to him.” So, Aaron fashioned for them a golden calf.
Then, the people worshiped the idol even after they vowed as one voice in Exodus 24.
Moses came down and condemned their revelry and three thousand men lost their lives for their sins. The full story can be read in Exodus 32:19-35.
For a year, the Lord inspired Moses and the people to construct…
The Israelites called it mishkān which means ‘residence’ or ‘dwelling place’. It was also known as the Tent of the Congregation and also Tent of Meeting. The Tabernacle was the portable earthly dwelling place of God. It was where He manifested His presence and communicated His will. It was the closest way for the people to approach a Holy God without dying via specific rituals of animal sacrifices. It was The Place to seek FORGIVENESS.
Details of it’s construction can be found in Exodus 25-30, 36-38.
Exodus 28, 29 – Consecration of the Priesthood
Exodus 40 – The glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle
The Cloud on the Tabernacle
15Now on the day that the tabernacle was erected, the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of the testimony, and in the evening it was like the appearance of fire over the tabernacle until morning. 16That is how it was continuously; the cloud would cover it by day, and the appearance of fire by night.17Whenever the cloud was lifted from over the tent, afterward the sons of Israel would set out; and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the sons of Israel would camp.18At the command of the LORD the sons of Israel would set out, and at the command of the LORD they would camp; as long as the cloud settled over the tabernacle, they remained camped.
7 – The Forty Year Journey
Now in the second year, in the second month, on the twentieth of the month, the cloud was lifted from above the tabernacle of the testimony; and the sons of Israel set out on their journeys from the wilderness of Sinai. Then the cloud settled in the wilderness of Paran. (Numbers 10:11,12)
Link 13 is a 360 aerial view of what was once the Paran Wilderness. We are near the modern day border between Israel and the state of Jordan. North from here, through the distant haze, is the Dead Sea. A little to the left is the Negev Desert. To the east is a line of mountains once called the Seir Range. In those mountains, the descendants of Esau (Jacob’s other son) made their home. Look south, do you see the flat area between the mountains? That is where God told the Israelites that they will wander the wilderness for 40 years.
Why did the Israelites have to wander the wilderness for 40 years?
In Numbers 13, God commanded that 12 leaders, one from each tribe, to spy out the land of Canaan.
“Go up there into the Negev; then go up into the hill country. See what the land is like, and whether the people who live in it are strong or weak, whether they are few or many. And how is the land in which they live, is it good or bad? And how are the cities in which they live, are the people in open camps or in fortifications? And how is the land, is it productive or unproductive? Are there trees in it or not? And show yourselves courageous and get some of the fruit of the land.” (Numbers 13:17-20)
After 40 days, they successfully returned laden with the fruit of the land. When they gave their report to the people, ten out of the twelve gave bleak and very negative analysis of what they saw. In Numbers 14, the congregation reacted in fear and in despair to the point that they grumbled greatly. Joshua & Caleb, the two spies that had positive outlooks tried to encourage the people…
“The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us—a land which flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the LORD; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection is gone from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.” (Numbers 14:7-9)
The people reacted even more badly by wanting to stone them including Moses and Aaron. So, God had enough. He told Moses that He was going to destroy the nation, but Moses pleaded for them (vs 13-19). God did relent. However, those that grumbled against Him must pay a price.
“As I live,” declares the LORD, “just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you; your dead bodies will fall in this wilderness, all your numbered men according to your complete number from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against Me. Also, your sons will be shepherds in the wilderness for forty years, and they will suffer for your unfaithfulness, until your bodies perish in the wilderness…” (vs 26-35)
S1 – Numbers 13 – God condemned Israel to wander the wilderness for 40 years.
Vs2-13: Waters of Meribah – Israel grumbled again about no water. God instructed Moses to ‘speak to the rock before their eyes’ and water would come forth. But Moses struck the rock with his staff in anger, against God’s specific words to speak to it, so God told him & Aaron that they both will not enter the promised land.
You are on the Jordan Valley Highway. The mountains before are the Seir Range which was the territory of the kingdom of Edom. The Edomites were the estranged cousins of the Israelites. They were the descendants of Esau, the twin brother of Jacob.
S3 – Numbers 20:14-21 – King of Edom denied the Israelites passage through their territory.
S4 –Numbers 20:22- 29 – Aaron died as prophesied and was buried on Mt Hor.
You are virtually driving on the Aqaba Highway which cut through the bottom end of the Seir mountain range in the state of Jordan. The Israelites went through this area to avoid conflict with the Edomites.
S5 – The Bronze Snake
Numbers 21:6-9 Israel grumbled again which angered God enough to send venomous snakes among them. Moses pleaded with God… God commanded Moses to make a bronze snake, mount it on a pole and erected it at the center of the camp. The instruction for the people was that if one was bitten by a serpent, all he/she had to do was look at it and he/she will be healed.
The bronze snake is also a New Testament lesson of FAITH
8 – Journey’s End
We come to the end of the 40 year journey of the people of Israel led by Moses who was 120 years old. During the 40 year period of wandering, God inspired Moses to write the five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers & Deuteronomy.
You are looking at a 360 degree panoramic scene from the high vantage view of Mount Nebo. Moses ascended this mountain, which was in the land of Moab (today in Jordan). In Deuteronomy 34, God allowed him to see the Land of Canaan (the Promised Land), which God had said he would not enter. Unfortunately, due to air pollutant haze in the distant west, we do not see what Moses saw back then. It must had been a spectacular sight. Now, if you gaze down a little, you’ll see the Jordan River Valley. Imagine Moses watching a mass of about 3 million Israelites filling the east side of the river. But he did not watch them cross. According to verse 5, Moses then died there and only the Lord knows where he was buried.
Now, if you look south and up a little, you will see the next site for you to visit.
After Joshua got intelligence on Jericho, he led the people to the Jordan River. At that time, the Jordan River was much more wider than what you see here and the rushing water was overflowing the banks making the river dangerously inaccessible. God commanded Joshua that the Levites carrying the Ark of the Covenant must precede the congregation into the river. When they did, the river stopped and literally stood in one heap. Then the people crossed.
The ruins of Jericho or Tel-Jericho is located on the western edge of modern day city of Jericho, a Palestinian city on the West Bank.
Joshua 6 tells the incredible story of how Jericho fell without a single Israelite dying. In a nutshell, God had them circle the city 7 times then they stopped to face the walls and they all shouted. The walls came down.
The rest of the Book of Joshua tells of the conquest of Canaan by Israel.
Again, thank you for walking with us through the wilderness. It has always been important for me to point you to the Gospel. After all, the Old Testament goes that way. So, I invite you to another video about the Gospel. Enjoy…
This ends our tour of Module 2. Thank you for joining me in A Walk through the Wilderness.