Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Walking Where Jesus Walked - Part Three

Today our group made a trek from the Sea of Galilee to the northern most reaches of Israel.  We ended up about two miles from the Syrian border at an Israeli memorial site for soldiers who lost their lives in a 1973 battle to protect Israel from Syrian invasion.  Our tour guide engaged us in a fascinating conversation regarding the history of the region and why Israel is such a source of interest with respect to rival nations.  

So there we were - two miles from a country that is currently involved in a civil war - a country that despises Israel - a country that doesn't care for any allies that Israel has, like the United States.  Even though that might have been a little disconcerting to think about, add to that the presence of an Israeli troop of soldiers who were preparing the site for a commemoration of the event and a memorial to the soldiers.  The Israeli soldiers gave us a little breathing space when they sent a drone camera right over our heads, looking down at us.  When we waved at it, they burst out in laughter.  It helped to defray an otherwise tense moment.  If these soldiers who were in harms way were not concerned about being two miles from the Syrian border, then why should we?

The thing that impressed me about today's theme was the number of wars and skirmishes and disputes Israel has had to deal with over thousands of years.  We can believe that Israel's geographically strategic position is key for some of its unruly neighbors who don't have access to water.  It's a valid point.  But I wonder if the battle hasn't been one of a spiritual nature - and continues to be.  Let me say a bit more...

We were at Caesarea Philippi just before traveling to the border.  This location is mentioned in scripture as a place that Jesus and his disciples came to just before heading toward Jerusalem.  This location was a place where the residents were not God followers.  They worshipped the god Pan.  The city, which sits at the foot of Mount Hermon, butts up against a large cliff, referred to as the ‘Rock of the Gods’, in reference to the many shrines built against it.  Shrines to Caesar, Pan and another god (possibly the fertility goddess Nemesis) were all built up against this cliff. 

In the center of the Rock of the Gods is a huge cave, from which a stream flowed (after 19th century earthquakes, the stream began flowing out from the rock beneath the mouth of the cave).  This cave was called the “Gates of Hades”, because it was believed that Baal would enter and leave the underworld through places where water came out of it.

Jesus asked the disciples to tell him who do people say that he was.  After their response, Jesus asked them who they say he was.  Peter said he was the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  The verse following that one is telling... here is what Jesus said to Peter: 
"And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." - Matthew 16:18.  
We can take that to mean that in that location, Jesus is defying the gods of the world and saying they will never win.  Can you see the spiritual battle?  No matter what "god" we serve, it will not be enough.  We can only prevail in life when we place the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob first in our lives.

What is our spiritual dilemma or the gods of today that we serve?  We have to know - they will never prevail.  Only the Lord God.  Only through Jesus Christ.  None other.  At no time.  In no place.

It's your decision.

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