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Tel Dan

In the north of Israel, almost to the border with Lebanon, is some of the most beautiful landscape in Israel. Here one can find the head waters of the Jordan River, and some very important places in the history of the people of God.

You may not know this, but Dan is the name of one of the 12 tribes of Israel. When each of the tribes was given its portion of the promised land by lot in the Book of Joshua, the portion given to the tribe of Dan was in the south of the country. A portion of the land given to Dan bordered the coast of the Mediterranean, but unfortunately, to the south of the land given to Dan lived the Philistines, arch enemies of Israel. Because they were unable to defeat the Philistines and ended up in constant conflict with them, the Danites decided to relocate to the north to a city previously known as Laish.

Dan was part of the Northern Kingdom (Israel) when the kingdoms were divided after Solomon died. They worshiped idols including a golden calf which was located at Tel Dan.

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Spring at Tel Dan

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Spring at Tel Dan

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Beautiful greenery and water at Tel Dan

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2020 with the rains, the water flow was tremendous at Tel Dan

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Head waters of the Jordan River

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Snow melt from Mt Hermon (Head waters of the Jordan River)

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Head waters of the Jordan River

The pictures above show you how green it is in the Spring at Tel Dan and the tremendous flow of water. This water will end up flowing in the Jordan River.

Below are photos of the site where the altar was in Dan. It was a pagan altar and not a place sanctioned by God for worship by the Israelites. The northern kingdom was ultimately destroyed by the Assyrians which God clearly stated was because of Israel’s idolatry.

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Altar site at Tel Dan

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Altar Site at Tel Dan

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Altar remains at Tel Dan

Also at the Tel Dan Nature reserve are the remains of the ancient city of Laish and the gate of the city which is sometimes called “Abraham’s Gate” because it is believed that this is the city gate that Abraham would have come through when he was looking for Lot and his family who had been kidnapped. (See Genesis 14) That will be addressed in a future post.

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The Incomparable Christ

For He has rescued us and has drawn us to Himself from the dominion of darkness, and has transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,
Colossians 1:13 (AMP)

Sometimes the short verses can pack a big wallop. Colossians 1:13 is such a verse. As I unpack it, I find

Rescue
He rescued us. It is a completed work. But why was it necessary? Because we were in danger. We needed help. We couldn’t save or help ourselves.

Relationship
He didn’t stop at pulling us out of the mirey clay, back from the abyss. He drew us to Himself. He sought closeness with us, relationship with us. This, I would suggest, is the heart of God. He desires to be in relationship with us.

Relocation
He didn’t leave us where we were. God relocated us. He took us from the dominion of darkness–where we were threatened–to the Kingdom of His Son (Jesus). In the kingdom of His Son, our sins have been paid for. In the kingdom of His Son, I am an adopted son, I am grafted in to a rich history with God and a future that has no end.

Hallelujah!

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Pilgrim’s Passageway

So you know you have a fabulous tour guide when you get into a site that isn’t open to the public yet.

We were able to get a brief look at the Pilgrim’s Passageway in February of this year. The passageway is being excavated under a street in an Arab neighborhood close to the city of David. There is quite a stir and much excitement among archaeology and Bible history buffs about this discovery.

The Pilgrim’s Passageway leads from the pool of Siloam up to the Temple. Pilgrims coming to give their sacrifices would have made their way along this paved road in the 1st century. It would have been a route that Jesus could have taken when coming into the city and making His way to the Temple.

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Pilgrim’s Passageway Jerusalem

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It is clear in the pictures that the ceiling had to be braced with steel brackets. Above the passageway are homes and a street. In the picture above, you can see the small booths that lined the passageway where vendors sold their goods to pilgrims entering the city.

The project has been slowed recently because a large portion of the passageway was gone and either needs to be restored or other provisions made before the site can be opened to the public. Despite all that is going on in the world today, in Jerusalem and all over Israel, the past is coming to light.

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:4-7 New King James Version (NKJV)

It is in times of trouble we most need a reminder to rejoice. It is more natural to rejoice when things are going well, when we are being blessed, experiencing success, and healthy. It is far different and more challenging to rejoice when we are afraid, isolated, or sick.

But God in His wisdom has commanded that we should rejoice in the Lord always. We are not rejoicing in the trouble, but in the One who is able to protect us and guide us through the trouble.

Rejoice Always
Does always really mean always? Yes. But we are not just rejoicing–we are rejoicing in the Lord. He is always good and always sovereign. He is always with us.

Paul repeats it. Because it is worth repeating. It is a super truth. It is a truth that stands the test of time and circumstance. It is a truth that is virus-proof.

Be Gentle
He goes on to say that we should let our gentleness be obvious–visible to others. We should be known as gentle. They should see Jesus in me, gracious, gentle, unselfish, merciful, tolerant and patient just to name a few of His character traits. When everyone else is falling apart, panicking, self-seeking, self-preserving and out for their own interests, we should be visibly and audibly gentle.

Let Nothing cause You to Lose Faith
Paul tells us, “be anxious for nothing.” Does he really mean nothing? Maybe if he were here with us watching this virus take over nations, crush healthcare systems, take lives, he might said something different . . . No he wouldn’t.

We are to be anxious for nothing because there is no real threat to us. Nothing that can separate us from the love of God. There is no person, no principality, no circumstance, and no illness or disease that can separate us from the love of God. And if the Ruler of the Universe loves you and me, what is there really to worry about. He spoke it all into existence, and He can surely take care of us. We need to banish fear. We need to feed faith. We need to do all to stand in this day.

Prayer is the cure. By prayer and supplication and making our requests (and our fears) known to God, we engage in the great exchange. We give our concerns to God and He gives us peace–a type of peace not available in the world–the peace that passes understanding–peace from God. This peace that God gives us will protect us. It will protect our minds. It will allow us to grow in faith. It will allow us to stand.

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Magdala was an ancient city on the eastern shore of Lake Kinneret, several miles north of Tiberias. Today, if you visit the area, you will find the ancient city has been excavated and the ruins of the city reveal volumes of information about Jewish life in the first century in this area.

Magdala is in my top 5 favorite spots for New Testament insight. It is one of the few places in Israel where you can say with almost certainty that Jesus was here. In fact, he may have been here many times during his life and ministry. He may have even read and taught in this very synagogue.

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Magdala 1st Century Synagogue

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Magdala 1st Century Synagogue

As the pictures above reflect, the synagogue is largely intact. It was never built over, it appears much as it would have in the 1st century when Jesus of Nazareth would have visited and probably taught there on a Sabbath.

One of the the significant artifacts found at the site was a box (see images above) on which there were carvings of the menorah in the Temple. It was likely that there were members of the priestly family in Magdala who would have served in the Temple and been familiar with the menorah.

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Mosaic on the floor of 1st Century Synagogue in Magdala

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Plaster on walls with decoration from 1st Century Synagogue in Magdala

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Plastering of a pillar from the 1st Century Synagogue in Magdala

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Mosaic from the floor of 1st Century Synagogue in Magdala

 

 

 

As with all things Jerusalem, debate exists over the place where the tomb of Jesus would be located. Everything has been rearranged and built over because of the destruction of the city and most holy sites by invading conquerors over the past centuries. One is left to rely on the geography, the customs of the time and the New Testament passages that describe where the trial, the crucifixion and the tomb were located.

In the first century, the historians tell us that the graves in Jewish communities would have been located in caves and rock faces that were not close to centers of commerce or living areas given the prohibitions against touching the dead or things associated with the dead. The graves from the first century look like the graves in the pictures below.

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Circular tomb from 1st Century located in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

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Circular tomb from 1st Century located in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. This view is looking directly into the tomb.

 

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Circular tomb from 1st Century located in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. This tomb is sealed, so you can’t see into it.

The following are photos of a complex of 1st Century graves in system of caves on the Mount of Olives called the Tombs of the Prophets. This is not a likely location of the grave of Jesus, but it is the type of tomb he was likely to have been buried in at the time. The photos are to help the reader understand what the graves looked like.

 

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Entry to the system of caves of the Tomb of the Prophets in Jerusalem.

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1st Century Tomb in the Tomb of the Prophets on the Mt of Olives, Jerusalem

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1st Century Tomb in the Tomb of the Prophets on the Mt of Olives, Jerusalem

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1st Century Tomb in the Tomb of the Prophets on the Mt of Olives, Jerusalem

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1st Century Tomb in the Tomb of the Prophets on the Mt of Olives, Jerusalem

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These photos help you to see that the graves were hewn into the rock face. They were cylindrical (circular/oval openings). They were on the level of the ground, so that one would have to stoop to look into them or bend down to enter or exit the tomb.

This is consistent with Luke 24:12 (NKJV) which providess, “But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened.”

 

Sufficient

We who love Jesus
are flawed
broken
jagged
sharp

We are the Mary Magdalenes,
the women at the well,
the women with the issue of blood
the women caught in adultery
the impure
the unclean
the tax collectors
the prostitutes

Others reject us
hate us
are repulsed by us-
the proof of our sin
woven into our garment
but no longer tarnishing our souls.

We fall short
we disappoint
we’re harsh
we’re weak
we hurt others
we hold grudges
we back-bite
we defame
we’re difficult
we’re hypocrites
we’re human

But God
separates us
sets us apart
in Him
we find our sufficiency

In God
is our bond
we call out, “Abba”
the children of God
He loves us
planned for us
bled and died for us

He restored us
He justified us
He made a way for us
became the way for us
He is sufficient

We are not orphans
He will return for us
Our Great God
Our Good Father
Our Savior and Redeemer
Jeshua

He has never–
not for one moment
never–no never
lost sight of us

We are His
He is ours
He is sufficient

We grow weary
we give up
we run away
leaving chaos in our wake
ignoring the pain we cause
the slights
the cuts
the dagger pushed in
to its hilt
pulled out, dripping crimson

We hate
we kill
we kill hope
we kill ourselves
we hide dreams under burial mounds

we resist righteousness
we resist goodness
we resist gentleness
we resist kindness
we resist all that would bring us peace
nevertheless He is faithful

We are insufficient
But He is sufficient

 

Mary Mullin, Copyright 2020