TRIP TO ISRAEL
I want to share with you a couple of personal experiences that directly relate to my journey in Israel. I have read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation four times, and recorded the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, one time. Traveling to Israel, and being at the location of many major events that took place in the Bible, brought each event to life. In other words, my passion for the Holy Land became very real. For me, it was a trip that uncovered the glory, and history of ancient Jerusalem, giving honor to God, and provided spiritual blessings that created tremendous growth.
Every minute was filled with the manifestation of God’s glory, and presence, in my life. But I am sure, and very sure, there will be greater joy, and contentment in the New Jerusalem. New Jerusalem where John said he saw a new heaven, and a new earth. The New Jerusalem where I’ll be able to meet Jesus; Meet Jesus, and see Him face to face. Yes, I’ll get to see Jesus in the New Jerusalem.
In Revelation chapter 21 verse 2, John said, “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”
He said, “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”
I am going to wait, and endure to the end, until God calls me into the New Jerusalem. I want to hear Him say, “Well done thy good and faithful servant, you’ve been faithful over a few things, I’m going to make you ruler over many.” I’m going to be patient, endure to the end, and walk in New Jerusalem with Jesus.
The Lord put it on my heart to share a dream I had two days before the trip. I’m a dreamer, I have dreams almost every night. But this dream was different. It was different, because it put me right at one of the exact locations, on the journey.
We arrived at Bethsaida, the home of Apostle Peter. I didn’t recognize the spot going up the trail, but coming back down the trail, I noticed a steep curve, and along side the curve was a steep cliff going straight down. In the dream, at first, I thought I was falling, then suddenly, I was flying over the cliff.
In many of my dreams I am flying. But, at that moment, when I recognized the spot was in my dream, I realized it wasn’t a bad dream, but that it was the Will of God, unfolding right before my eyes in my life. It was the Will of God, to be able to have such a lifetime experience, I will cherish forever.
For me, this was an exciting, and very special trip to the Holy Land. It was my birthday when we arrived in Tel Aviv. I turned 64 years old. At dinner, I was given a surprise birthday cake by Joyce. When she brought it over to my table, everyone began to sing Happy birthday. I want to thank Joyce, and the group, for being thoughtful, and encouraging me on my birthday.
Excitement of the Holy Land began with realization of Biblical Prophecy that uncovered a promise God made to a righteous man named Abram (later renamed Abraham) about 4000 years ago. In Genesis chapter 12, God promised to give Abraham a special land. God promised to make him the father of a great nation, and cause Abraham to be a great blessing, to all nations of the earth, if he would leave his home. Abraham followed God to the land of Canaan.
The land of Israel offers beauty, and austerity. Israel promises peace, yet the winds of war continue to blow from neighbors on borders. It is a land that offers both past and present, we experienced both. Sand dunes, and farmland mark the Coastal Plains that run along the border of the Mediterranean Sea. The major cities of the Mediterranean Costal Plain are Mt. Carmel, Caesarea, Tel Aviv, and Jaffa.
The Central Highlands merge just east of the Mediterranean Coastal Plain. In the north, the forested highlands of Galilee merge with fertile green valleys further north. The rocky hills of the Samarian, and Judean mountain ranges, in the south, descend sharply to the semi-tropical Jordan Valley, and the arid Dead Sea. Several other valleys cut across the highlands roughly form east to west, the largest being the Jezreel Valley, also known as the Megiddo Plain. The major cities of the Central Highlands are Nazareth, and Cana in the Galilee, in the north, and Shiloh, Bethel, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Hebron, farther south. We walked to all Biblical sites in each area.
The boat ride on the Sea of Galilee was nothing less than inspiring. There is probably nothing more thrilling, and inspiring than sitting in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, in a boat, where you can see the whole Nation of Israel, surrounding the Sea.
The Sea of Galilee lies roughly 650 feet below sea level which makes it the lowest fresh water lake in the world. It is the major source of water for the entire country of Israel. It is fed by underground springs, but its main source is the Jordan River, which flows through it from north to south.
Except for narrow strips of fertile plains on its northwestern and southern shores, it is surrounded by steep slopes giving it the shape and character of a large bowl. Valleys that cut through the mountains on the eastern side channel winds that can produce sudden storms. Even more treacherous are the winds that come off the hills of the Golan Heights to the east. The disposition of the water can change drastically in just a matter of minutes as the winds suddenly stir up 5-7 foot waves.
The Sea of Galilee lies on the ancient Via Maris, the trade route that linked Egypt with the northern empires, so it has always played an important role in the history of Israel.
Much of the ministry of Jesus took place on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. At that time there was a continuous strip of settlements and villages around the lake, and most trade involved fishing. The first three Gospels describe how Jesus recruited four of his disciples from the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
Jesus famous Sermon on the Mount was taught on a hill overlooking the lake. Many of his recorded miracles took place on the water, or in the villages that lined the shores of this important body of water, in the Sea of Galilee.
Herod the Great designed a massive harbor with inner, and outer barriers using materials that allow concrete to harden underwater. It took twelve years to construct the harbor which Herod named “Caesarea” in honor of Roman, Caesar Augustus. The lack of fresh water at Herod’s new city required a lengthy aqueduct to bring water from springs, at the base of Mt. Carmel, nearly ten miles away. Herod built a hippodrome that held 20,000 spectators cheering for chariot races. He also built an amphitheater seating 3,500. According to Josephus, the amphitheater is where King Herod Agrippa died as recorded in Acts 12:19-23. Pictures of these locations have been uploaded on the Gospel World News, Inc website at https://gwn-12.org.
Once it was completed Caesarea took on great importance becoming the heart of Roman rule in Palestine. Potius Pilate ruled in Caesarea during the time of Christ. It was also home for a Roman centurion named, Cornelius, whose prayers were answered when Phillip brought him the good news of Jesus Christ, found in Acts chapter 10. Caesarea was the port, Apostle Paul, used during his travels, as well. Found in Acts 9:30, and Acts 18:22.
And then, Baptism in the Jordan River. In John chapter 1:25-28, we find the baptism of Jesus Christ. The Jordan River is the source of all holy water in Christianity, and has for centuries attracted pilgrims from around the world. The manifestation of God’s glory was upon each one who was baptized with tears of joy flowing freely. Those were moments I will never, ever forget, and I will cherish forever. Being a part of such a spiritual venture was very sobering.
Being at the Upper Room, where last supper with Jesus took place, was much different than what is seen in painting by Leonardo de Vinci. There were not any tables in the Upper Room. They sat on the floor, leaning back on one arm.
Almost immediately after Jesus’ ascension, the disciples or apostles “returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. And when they entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers” (Acts 1:12-14).
The upper room in this case may have only been used because it had adequate space for the apostles to meet in. This may have not only given them adequate space, but also the privacy that an upper room might have afforded. They needed a place to fellowship, to pray, and be of “one accord,” somewhat similar to the upper room experience when Jesus, and the disciples met for the Lord’s Supper.
Performing communion at the Garden Tomb, and walking in the Tomb, where Jesus lay, was an incredible spiritual experience, to say the very least. The presence of God is everywhere. There is a deep channel along the ground that has been identified as the groove for the rolling stone used to seal the tomb. The beauty, and tranquility in the Garden make it easy to pray, and contemplate on our Savior Jesus Christ. The empty tomb, with its open doorway, also provides an inspiring focus on Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.
And then, the last thing I want to mention is Via Dolorosa. It follows the path Jesus traveled while carrying his cross through the streets of Jerusalem to Golgotha while in extreme agony. This experience touched the very depths of my heart.
The route winds its way through the Old City of Jerusalem. It starts at a school near the Lions gate in the Muslim quarter (east side of the Old City) which is believed to be the place that Jesus was condemned by Pontius Pilate. It ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Christian quarter (west side of the Old City) which is traditionally believed to be the site of Golgotha.
There are 14 stations along this path where specific events are believed to have occurred. Some of them are based on accounts by the writers of the Gospels, others are rooted in tradition. There are nine stations along the road itself and five additional stations inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The Western Wall is another incredible place of serenity. The Western Wall is revered for its proximity to the sacred Holy of Holies that once stood behind it on the Temple Mount. When Herod’s Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, only the Western Wall remained standing. Once referred to as the Wailing Wall because of the many Jews who publicly, and loudly mourned the destruction of their temple, it is now referred to in Hebrew as the “Kotel,” meaning the “Wall.” It is the most sacred spot in Jewish religious, and national tradition.
Although it was a supporting structure and not part of the temple itself, the wall is all that is left f the edifice that once held God’s glory. For more than 1,900 years, Jews have risked their lives at the Western Wall to mourn the demise and pray for the return of their place of worship.
There is so much more to tell, but it would take over ten days to speak on everything I learned on this trip. So, I will continue to live out what has been received, in my daily walk with JESUS.
I took a lot of pictures. Pictures that will be posted on Gospel World News, Inc website, on my wife, Maggie Anna Duncan’s Facebook page, and Youtube, as well. Feel free, to log on, and take a look, anytime.
And again, I want to thank, Dr French Harmon, Pastor at First Baptist Church, Somerset, my Sponsors, and everyone who had a part in allowing me, to take this trip. It was a trip of a lifetime. God bless each of you. -Cornelius Duncan