Two-Edged Swords and Tent Pegs

The Bible is full of unexpected stories! As some would say – you can’t make this stuff up! One chapter after we read about a left-handed warrior of God who fashioned an 18-inch long two-edged sword and sneakily stabbed it into the belly of a very fat, very bad king (so fat that the sword went all the way into the king’s belly, disappearing past the hilt, so that “the fat closed over the blade”) who happened to be sitting on his potty…we read about a woman who sneakily nailed a man’s head to the floor.

All in a day’s work.

And today, my thoughts kept coming back to these stories, because our first stop this morning was the Muhraqa Monastery at the top of Mount Carmel. (How do you say Muhraqa? In Hebrew, it’s Moo(throat clearing)-ra(throat clearing)-ka, and incidentally, the word means “place of burning” because it is the traditional site of Elijah’s fiery battle with the prophets of Baal.) From the top of Mount Carmel, you can see for miles. In particular, you see the fertile, coveted, often embattled Jezreel valley stretched out below, and several different mountains, including Mount Tabor, where we read the story of Barak, Deborah, and Sisera (Judges 4.)

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Beautiful panoramic view of part of the Jezreel valley – Mount Tabor is just partly visible on the far left – you can see it rising out of the ground

I thought about God’s patience and deep love displayed in these stories, because “the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” In Judges three and four alone there are four different times that I read about Israel again doing evil in the sight of the Lord. They ignored His instructions and did whatever they wanted to do, then found themselves suffering the consequences of their terrible choices, and then begging God for His help. And though He was angry, sooner or later He always came to their aid. This caused me to wonder how many times I’ve ignored His instructions because I think I can handle it myself, or I can figure it out better, or I don’t want to bother Him. I picture Him shaking His head in disappointment over my lack of faith or my discontent. I’m determined to be less like those children of Israel!

I thought about the lack of faith and the pride displayed in these stories. When Deborah delivered God’s message to Barak about his instructions to lead 10,000 men against Sisera’s armies, Barak would not go unless Deborah accompanied him. I’m not sure why. The only two possibilities I can surmise are these: Deborah’s fame throughout the land might have boosted his own honor as people saw them associated together. Or, he may not have believed himself capable of completing such a task. Yet God gave him specific instructions and assured him that He would “give him (Sisera) into your hands,” (Judges 4:7).  But would I not be frightened if given such a task? And am I always willing to take care of God’s work, even if I do not receive any of the glory? I hope to learn from Barak’s lack of faith and possible pride.

Then, I thought about the courage of the woman named Jael (Murray said it is pronounced Ya-ell, with the emphasis on the second syllable.) How did Jael know that Sisera was not a good man? The Bible says that Sisera’s king, Jabin, and Jael’s husband were at peace with one another. Yet she coolly invited him into her home, covered him, gave him a drink, lulled him to sleep, and then drove a tent peg all the way through his head into the ground.

Now, I’m not sure I want to be much like Jael, but I DO hope to be courageous enough to do what God needs me to do, even if it’s frightening.

Our day:

I began my day by spilling my coffee all over the table in front of Freddy. Sorry, Fred!

We met for breakfast at 7, and shortly after, we all sat in on a class John taught about Israel – it’s geopolitical location (fancy word that means, among other things, that the people north and west of Israel needed to be able to trade with the people southeast of Israel, and vice versa. Without access to the “land bridge” of Israel, of course their trade and standard of living suffered.

John’s class on the “Land Between”

We headed to Mount Carmel. On the way, Murray pointed out some “Druze” communities. He said that they are an offshoot from Islam, and believe that the Messiah will “pop out of the loins of an unsuspecting man” (at this point, I distinctly felt all of the men in the bus cringe) so they wear pants that are tight like leggings around the calves but are very baggy from the knee up (Doug said “Like MC Hammer pants!”)

The sky was hazy over Mt. Carmel, so the view wasn’t quite as spectacular as what I saw last year. To reach the roof of the monastery, you have to enter through the monastery’s gift shop, then climb two wide, whitewashed sets of stairs. The roof is also whitewashed, so it can be blindingly bright, but you emerge on top of this roof, unaware that the slow ascent up the mountain has brought you to quite a high altitude, and you are presented with a 270 degree view of the surrounding land from one of the highest points on Mount Carmel! There is a large map of sorts painted on the roof, and it points arrows to locations all around. Jon and John talked to us about many of the battles that took place in the Jezreel Valley below.

On the corner of the monastery rooftop (Angela doesn’t like heights!)
Hazy, but beautiful view!
Angela in front of the Muhraqa Monastery…the rooftop viewing area is partially visible up to the left
More discussion!

Leaving Carmel, we turned toward Megiddo. On the way, Murray told us more about himself. He was emotional as he talked about his parents, both Holocaust survivors who had been sent to Auschwitz and Birkenau. He said they were one number away from extermination when they were liberated from the camps. They moved to Brooklyn, where Murray was born, and where he said he experienced anti-semitism. In 1971, when he was 16, his mother brought him to Israel for a summer work permit. As they stood in the labor office waiting to speak with someone, he overheard a man say “I’ve got a Jew over here, he wants a permit.” At first Murray was terribly hurt, assuming it was more prejudice, but then he was given a work permit without further questions. It turns out, he received the permit because he was a Jew, and the labor department wanted to provide jobs for the Jewish people affected by the war.

Tel Megiddo is a fascinating 26 “layer-cake” of civilization – one of the oldest cities in existence. It was likely a chariot city that housed some of Solomon’s many horses. A HUGE altar is located deep in the tel, and John reminded us that altars were usually located on high places, so it was easier to understand that civilization after civilization had built on top of the previous resident, and that altar had likely once been the highest point in the city.

The entrance gates of old Megiddo
The huge altar – circular area toward the bottom – doesn’t look huge in the photo, but it is actually 26 feet in diameter and 5 feet high
Grain silo – how would you like to walk down those stairs you see going down on the right??? 😦
Yummy lunch served at Megiddo!

After lunch at Megiddo, we headed to Nazareth Village. Nazareth is a bustling, busy town with honking cars speeding around buses, large lighted signs advertising Coke, and noise everywhere. I was disappointed that Nazareth didn’t look exactly how I’d pictured it! But this little village gives you an idea of what Nazareth must’ve looked like centuries ago. Hard-packed dirt paths and rocky outcroppings make it a little difficult to get around. There are actors dressed up in first-century apparel who are just there to answer questions and demonstrate different tools. Our guide, Amer, had a thick middle-eastern accent and wasn’t as easy to understand as our guide last year.

Nazareth – looks like TX Hill country!
Josiah and some of the “locals” (actors) 🙂
Chelsea got up close and personal with some of the cute lambs

We ended our day at Mount Precipice, a high cliff just outside Nazareth. The Bible account tells of Jesus’ contemporaries in Nazareth growing angry with his words quoted from Isaiah. They were so angry they wanted to throw him down a cliff and stone him to death. Amer pointed out that Mt. Precipice would have been too high for the angry crowd to be able to reach Him with the stones.

Group photo on top of Mt. Precipice!
The Drippin’ folks (yes, we count Chelsea) 🙂

We then had about an hour drive to our kibbutz in Ginosar, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (yes, we’re staying in a kibbutz, but it’s much nicer than what I usually think of when I hear the word “kibbutz” {which is fun to say, by the way!}) We had a nice buffet dinner of all kinds of vegetables, chicken breast, pasta, fish, and hummus.

John, Jon, Wynn and I walked down to the water after supper. It was dark but we enjoyed the smells and sounds of the Sea in front of us. I thought of the fact that Jesus must have gazed at the same stars in the sky – but there weren’t any electric lights in surrounding towns to ruin the ambience around the Sea. We wondered how many conversations He’d had with His disciples while near this beautiful Sea of Galilee. I love this area. Hoping to see a sunrise from that same bench, but not tomorrow, because it’s nearly one in the morning here and I’m BEAT!

Terrible photo, but it’s the SEA of GALILEE, y’all!

Tomorrow: Chorazin, Caesarea Philippi, Dan, and if time permits, Bethsaida. And hopefully going to bed much earlier than 1 a.m.!



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