Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | March 13, 2009

Galilee | Day 2

We spent March 12 visiting locations north and east of the Sea of Galilee. You can’t walk among these ruins without thinking deeply about the people who lived in these places. Their choices impacted generations. We can learn good lessons even from the worst examples set by these ancient peoples. Here is a quick overview of the places we visited today.

Extreme Devotion | This morning we hiked to the ruins of Gamla located on a steep mountainside east of the Sea of Galilee. The homes in Gamla were built on top of one another in stair-step fashion with the roof of one house serving as the front yard of the house above. We visited one of the oldest synagogues ever found there, a place where Jesus very likely visited as He “went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues” (Matt. 4:23).

Hiking to Gamla

Gamla is best known as the birthplace of the Zealot movement, founded by a man named Judas of Gamla. The Zealots were a group of fiercely independent Jews who opposed Roman rule and taxation and sought to overthrow Rome. Rome sent an army to crush this movement when the Jewish Revolts began around AD 66. The arrival of the army created mass panic and, rather than surrender to the Romans, more than five thousand people jumped to their deaths off Gamla’s northern cliff. Thus, Gamla is often called the Masada of the north.

Reflections | As I think about the Zealots and the price they were willing to pay for what they believed, I have to ask myself what I would have done had I been in Gamla. Would I have taken my family to the edge of the cliff and led us all to jump to our deaths for what we believed? It’s easy to say yes but harder to follow-through. On the night before the crucifixion, Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death” (Luke 22:3). However, Peter denied Jesus three times that night. I don’t know that I will ever die for Christ, but I should certainly be willing to live for Him.

Extreme Depravity | From Gamla we traveled to the upper Jordan Valley to Caesarea Philippi, a pagan city built by Herod Phillip, a son of Herod the Great. Caesarea Philippi was a religious center where people worshiped the Canaanite god Baal. Later, a shrine there was dedicated to the Greek half-man and half-goat god Pan. Worshipers expressed their devotion to Baal and later to Pan without moral restraint.

Gates of Hades

Perhaps one of the most interesting things about Caesarea Philippi is the cave that is located there. At the time of Jesus, pagans believed that caves were a door to the underworld — or the gates of Hades. And, the people who lived here also carved niches in the rock cliff and placed their pagan gods there. This rock wall was called the Rock of the Gods. Jesus took His disciples to Caesarea Philippi, a place that represented the worst evils of the day. It was there that Peter acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah (Mat. 16:13-16). In this context Jesus said to His disciples, “…on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matt. 16:18).

Reflections | Jesus challenged the disciples to deny themselves and follow Him. He issued this challenge at Caesarea Philippi, a place where people denied themselves nothing (Matt. 16:24). Our culture is not much different from that of Caesarea Philippi. Do we have the courage to follow Him in the midst of our pagan society? We will not change the world unless we do.

Extreme Departure | Not far from Caesarea Philippi is Dan, the city regarded as the northern border of Israel (2 Sam. 3:10). We hiked through a beautiful wooded trail to the ruins of Dan. The tribe of Dan was originally given an allotment in the Shephelah where Samson, a Danite judge, fought the Philistines. However, the people lost their resolve to deal with the Philistine threat so they left the land of their inheritance and moved to the northern part of the country.

The saddest thing about Dan is their step-by-step departure from God. King Jeroboam built a high place there and provided the people with two golden calves (1 Kings 12:28). Instead of worshiping God, the people began to worship idols, which invited trouble for Jeroboam (1 Kings 14:9-10). Later King Ahab encouraged the people to worship other gods. During Ahab’s time Dan became a regional center for Baal worship. King Ahab and later King Manasseh sacrificed their own children to Baal. Eventually, God allowed the Assyrians to invade the Northern Kingdom and it ceased to exist.

Reflections | I learned about cumulative error while helping a friend build a sidewalk. Compromising a fraction of an inch on the front end will eventually lead to a big difference in the width of the sidewalk at the other end. It is easy to move away from God one inch at a time as we make bad choices and compromises even in little things. We must align our lives to God’s Word and refuse to make compromises in the midst of our pagan culture.


Responses

  1. Thanks for Galilee 2,

    I am learning those things by reading your posts from Israel! Have a great adventuress in Israel! Is it great to visits our savior’s land, where had gave His life for our sins!!!

    Thanks ones again,
    Mortuza
    Bangladesh


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