Friday, May 6, 2011

From Masada to the Mount of Olives

It's hard to believe the trip to Israel is already more than half over. And yet there is still so much left to experience in front of us.

The day began with a trip to the top of Masada. We traveled via cable car to reach the peak.

As we toured the site, we learned how the Jewish rebels lived and died atop the desolate mountain.  One of the archaeological artifacts I found interesting was a grouping of catapault projectiles that the Roman 10th Legion used to assault the mountain fortress.

But the most extraordinary artificat found at the site was a scroll of Ezekiel 37.  It was the only Old Testament scroll found at Masada.

Our time atop Masada was a fascinating history lesson and the view of the Rift Valley and the Dead Sea were spectacular.

Our next stop was the caves at Qumran--the location where one of the greatest biblical archaeological discoveries of all time was found--the Dead Sea Scrolls. With the exceptions of the books of Ruth and Nehemiah, partial and complete copies of the entire Old Testament, dating as far back as 200 B.C., were found by a shepherd boy, in the caves.

Cave 4 produced the greatest amount of biblical documents, the most significant of which was the Great Isaiah Scroll.

Prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest known extant Old Testament copies dated back to about 1000 A.D. The Dead Sea Scrolls were dated 1,200 years earlier. The difference between the manuscript evidence of today's translations of the Old Testament, the 1,000 year old manuscripts, and the 2,200 year old manuscripts is negligible, which shows yet again the accuracy and veracity of the Scriptures we have today.

After lunch, we made our way to the City of David--Jerusalem. Along the way, we stopped for a few minutes at a West Bank Jewish settlement, which provided a panoramic view of the Judean Wilderness, with modern-day Jericho in the distance.

It is the area of the wilderness (pictured above) that is believed to be where Jesus was tempted by Satan for forty days and forty nights.

Considering the location, I shared a brief devotion from Mark 10:46-52, which is the story of the healing of the blind beggar, Bartimaeus. The focus of the devotion was the abandon with which Bartimaeus believed by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Before boarding the bus, we took a moment to take our first group picture.  I have no doubt that I'm making some new friends on this trip--friendships that will last a lifetime.

Our next stop was the Mount of Olives, which included a walk to the Garden of Gethsemane. In preparation for the experience, I read Jesus' Olivet Discourse (Matthew 25:1-26:2).

The view from the Old City of Jerusalem from the Temple Mount was awe-inspiring.

As I looked upon the Old City, with the idolatrous monument to the false god of Islam standing where the Temple of God should be, I thought of Jesus' lament for Jerusalem.

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord'" (Matthew 23:37-39).

There is so much more I can say about today's experiences. And maybe I will, in the future.

On another note: please keep the Production Team in your prayers. They are always a hard-working team; but I think the work they are doing, here, in Israel is really putting them to the test--physically and spiritually.

Oh, by God's grace, they are holding up well. That's just the kind of people they are. But again, please keep them in your prayers. The schedule and pace they are keeping in order to shoot thirteen episodes for Season Five of The Way of the Master is grueling.

And that's why you haven't seen any blogs from Chad. I'm sure when the dust settles (and there is a lot of dust in Israel), maybe when we get back home, you will hear much from Chad regarding his experiences and that of the team, during their time in the Holy Land.

Tomorrow we will visit the Israel Museum, which includes the Shrine of the Book where we will see the Dead Sea Scrolls. Then it is off to Palestinian controlled Bethlehem, where God became flesh and dwelt among us.

Until tomorrow.....