Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | March 19, 2009

Galilee | Day 4

Around Altar at Megiddo

Team around the altar at Megiddo

No Regard | Early on the morning of March 14 we traveled southeast from the Sea of Galilee along Highway 65 toward Megiddo. This ancient city is strategically located near a critical mountain pass on the southern edge of the fertile Jezreel Valley. It was a military stronghold that guarded the well-traveled Via Maris trade route. The city was built on Mount Megiddo. The Greek name Armageddon, which refers to the surrounding area, is derived from the Hebrew Har (Mount) Megiddo. Armageddon is a symbol of the great battle between good and evil mentioned in Revelation 16:13-16. Over the centuries, numerous battles were fought for control of Megiddo because whoever controlled Megiddo exercised enormous influence over the ancient world.

Megiddo once served as a center for the pagan worship of Baal, the Canaanite god in charge of rain. Archaeologists have unearthed a bronze-age high place at Megiddo featuring a large round altar pre-dating the kings of Israel. We stood around this altar, contemplating the terrible things that took place here. The worship of Baal was characterized by all kinds of sexual acts performed to motivate Baal to send rain on the earth. These ancient worshipers regarded rain as Baal’s sperm. The most distressing aspect of Baal worship was the sacrifice of children. The statue of Baal that once stood on the altar in front of us had outstretched arms designed to receive children. The children placed in these arms were consumed by the raging fire built inside the statue’s hollow interior. The altar at Megiddo is a mute reminder that this was once a place where people had no regard for human life.

Reflection | It is easy to call the ancient people who sacrificed their children to Baal, and those who watched this happen, uncivilized brutes. But, are we any more civilized? If children in the womb are within reach of Baal’s arms, then how much longer will it be before children outside, or partially outside, the womb are silenced by those same arms? And, what will prevent Baal from ultimately consuming the elderly and infirmed? We must not remain silent or passive about the battle to protect the sanctity of human life. And, we must never forget that whoever controls Megiddo exercises enormous influence.

No Response | From Megiddo we traveled northwest along Highway 66 to Mount Carmel, the site of one of the most famous confrontations in the Old Testament. This beautiful part of Israel receives as much as thirty inches of rain a year, which is why the surrounding land was known as the breadbasket of Israel. However, things were different here during the time of Elijah the prophet. In Elijah’s day, the worship of God was in danger of being completely supplanted by the worship of Baal. Elijah appeared on the scene as a new Moses to deliver Israel out of the bondage of idolatry. He told King Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word” (1 Kings 17:1). A direct challenge to Baal, Elijah’s prediction was meant to accentuate Baal’s impotence. The drought was also God’s judgment on Israel for turning to other gods (see Deuteronomy 11:16-17).

View from Mt. Carmel

View from Mt. Carmel

Elijah challenged Ahab to gather all Israel at Mount Carmel along with the “450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table” (18:19), thus setting the stage for one of the most dramatic confrontations of all time. The rules of the contest were simple: two oxen would be prepared and placed upon wood (18:23), one by the prophets of Baal and one by Elijah. Each side would call upon their deity to set fire to the wood and consume the sacrifice. “The God who answers by fire, He is God” (18:24). Baal’s prophets called upon Baal from morning until noon, leaping about the altar. “But there was no voice and no one answered” (18:26). Elijah then prayed a simple prayer. “O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, today let it be known that Thou art God in Israel, and that I am Thy servant and that I have done all these things at Thy word” (1 Kings 18:36). God sent fire to consume the sacrifice (18:38). Contest over!

Reflection | Elijah asked the people to make up their minds regarding who they were going to follow, either God or Baal (1 Kings 18:21). Jesus said you cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). John said God cannot stand lukewarm Christianity (Revelation 3:15-16). God always calls His people to devoted and loyal commitment to Himself.

Aqueduct at Caesarea

Aqueduct at Caesarea

No Boundaries | After hiking down Mount Carmel’s steep slope, we headed east toward the Mediterranean coast to the ruins of Caesarea — not to be confused with Caesarea Philippi located in the northeastern part of the country. Herod the Great recognized Caesarea’s strategic location along the Via Maris trade route and built a magnificent walled city there, complete with temples, a theater, a sports arena, and more. Consistent with Herod’s other ambitious building projects, Caesarea boasted the largest harbor on the eastern Mediterranean coast. This man-made wonder was an amazing feat of engineering. Herod also constructed a palace where his guests enjoyed luxurious rooms, hot and cold baths, and a huge swimming pool, all with magnificent views of the Mediterranean. Elevated aqueducts supplied the city with fresh water from the springs of Mount Carmel. The city was covered with marble and could be seen from miles out at sea. Today, Herod’s magnificent city lies in ruins and the marble which once covered its buildings is gone. We found bits of marble as we walked along Caesarea’s rocky beaches.

Reflection | Herod crossed financial and engineering boundaries in order to build a city that would increase his wealth and power and make his name famous. He spared no expense so that the world would know there is a Herod. We all have a little bit of Herod in us — a desire to build, to acquire, to upgrade, and more in order to impress others and to make our name famous. Unlike Herod, Jesus built no palaces or temples or cities. Instead, He built something much more lasting out of “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5) — His church. As living stones we have a responsibility to tell our story so that the world may know that there is a God.


Responses

  1. Thanks for the “Galilee Day 4”

    I have read through all those verses & tried to learning about the country where Jesus was came into the earth for having salvations through His sacrificed!

    Is it great to see the place of Elijah, mount of Carmel…ect.

    Thanks for posted contue!

    Mortuza
    Bangladesh


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories