Footsteps Through The Promise Land
By Lemuel Baker, PhD
In Israel the sites and sounds of the 6 million Jews and the 1.7 million immigrants provide apologetic evidence of the Christian Bible we as Christians read, love and cherish each day. During the most recent rocket firing from the Palestinian State of Gaza into Israel specifically into the Israeli cities of Ekron, Ashkelon and Ashdod I remember the numerous times the Old Testament records these exact cities regarding the Philistines and the trouble experienced then recorded in Jeremiah 25:20 "and all the foreign people there; all the kings of Uz; all the kings of the Philistines (those of Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and the people left at Ashdod);" These cities were targeted heavily by rockets from Gaza but the Jews living here are intimate with their history and vow never to leave these Israeli cities. These cities were taken by Joshua and Caleb from the giants of the land as a result of their faith but returned to their enemies by their offspring many centuries later. How Ironic? To the Christian these cities remind us apologetically that the Bible we read today is indeed historically accurate and can be entered into any court of law as strong primary evidence for the Christian belief system. As associates of mine risk their lives providing food and aid for Jewish and Palestinian families affected by the rocket fire we see a repeat in history of what the prophet Jeremiah recorded in his time.
There are quieter times in Israel for the most part and I made several trips into Jerusalem as I do regularly to the Kotel also known as the Wailing wall an archaeological remnant from the second temple 19 BC- 70 AD and according to Jewish tradition and Isaiah 66:1 a footstool of God to join in prayer and remember its history. The Temple Mount is most notable because the soil of this very real estate is the same soil God used to create man from the dust of the earth and breathed into man the breath of life and man became a living soul. I remember Genesis 2:7 "the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being." As I join in prayer I remember the history of creation, the God of creation, Mount Moriah where Abraham attempted to sacrifice his son Isaac and of course Calvary where Jesus was crucified. The thoughts of this deep verifiable history and to see, touch and interact with it all strengthens the believer in Christ.
As I traveled east of Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives where Jesus sweat drops of blood medically known as hematodrosis while praying in Gethsemane, I remember the intense agony of Christ as He agonized anticipating being separated from God the Father for the very first time as He took upon Himself the sin of the entire world. Hematodrosis or sweat mixed with blood occurs very rarely and only in extreme times of stress where tiny capillaries attached to sweat glands rupture due to intense pressure and mix with sweat. On the Mount of Olives the glory of the Lord rested as recorded in the book of Ezekiel and the spot to which the Lord Jesus Christ will return at His second coming.
Moving on to the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives to Bethany I remember Lazarus and the close relationship he and his sisters Mary and Martha had with Jesus and the raising of Lazarus from the dead. The impact of this miracle took place four days after Lazarus died because Jewish tradition of the time believed the soul lingered with the deceased body for three days then departed. If Jesus raised Lazarus during the three day period of the soul called the "nephesh" the impact would have been negligible to those looking on but all present knew the soul of Lazarus had departed on the fourth day and indeed the miracle was impacting. Jesus knew the tradition and wanted to help those around recognize He indeed was the promised Messiah. Friend in times when there are delays we remember to trust God because there are reasons for the delays not yet revealed to us for His glory.
I did some more filming in east Jerusalem from the roof top belonging to some new friends with clear view of Mount Scopus and remembered that before the Hebrew University Campus was built ancient Rome and the Crusaders after them used that very same mountain to launch attacks against Jerusalem. I remember thinking of the Psalmist King David as he wrote "as the mountains surround Jerusalem so the Lord surrounds His people." Psalm 125:2
I traveled to Bethlehem and then on to Hebron 10-15 miles south of Jerusalem stopping in each city to film and in Bethlehem it was easy to remember Ruth gleaning in the field before the more contemporary buildings were erected, Rachel giving birth to Benjamin, dying there and her tomb is still in Bethlehem until today. I especially remembered Mary and Joseph and giving birth to our Savior in an off the beaten path location as I too taped first in a very busy street in Bethlehem but then retreated to an off the beaten path location so I could hear myself think. I remember how the trip may have been for Mary especially as she journeyed from Nazareth eighty miles or so to Bethlehem traveling through or around the outskirts of Jerusalem. While filming in Nazareth I remembered the character of the virgin Mary when she said "be it unto me according to thy word." She could have said no but she said yes and that changed her life forever in a positive way. She was familiar with spiritual matters and was prepared for the angelic visit. Some theologians believe others were asked to be the mother of the Messiah but only Mary said yes because God gives man a free will.
While taping in Hebron at the field of Machpelah I saw the report of Genesis 23:9-19 in living color as Abraham purchased this burial plot for 400 shekels of silver. Today Abraham, Sarah, Rebecca and Isaac are buried there thus Hebron is very special to Christianity and Judaism because our Patriarchs and Matriarchs are buried there. I also remembered that the four locations most revered by Judaism are Jerusalem, Hebron, Tiberius and Safed. King David first ruled the two southern tribes from Hebron his first headquarters for seven and one half years before assuming full ruler ship that included the ten northern tribes at which time he made Jerusalem his new headquarters to complete a forty year reign. Jerusalem still emanates King David's primary anointing of peace, prosperity and war.
While on one of my several trips to Galilee to film I remembered Jesus spent over 90% percent of his ministry life in that geographical area. In Luke 4:18-19 Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah and the elders of the synagogue put Him out because He declared He was the Messiah. At that point Jesus moved His ministry headquarters from Nazareth to Galilee specifically to Capernaum one of the towns around the Sea of Galilee which is approximately 64 square miles. I filmed around the Sea of Galilee at Cana where Jesus turned water into wine, at Magdala where Jesus cast seven demons out of Mary from Magdala, in Bethsaida and Chorazim that rejected Jesus and in Capernaum by the Apostle Peter's lofty lake home now owned by the Catholic church. The tangible presence of Jesus Christ is most noticeable in Galilee, Jerusalem and Mount Hermon in far northern Israel. In Galilee I remembered Jesus walking on that very same water, the net breaking boat load of fish caught by Peter and the coin in the fishes mouth also came from the sea of Galilee. I filmed from the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus taught the multitudes and even the birds seemed to respond to the presence of Christ still there as they fluttered around me in joy as I spoke. I imagine this was a taste of heaven on earth and what the Garden of Eden was before the fall of man.
It was a cold and rainy day what the bible calls the latter rains in December as I traveled from Galilee to the furthest point north in Israel a stones throw from Damascus, Syria Mount Hermon snow capped mountain. It was at the base of this Mountain Jesus transfigured late at night with His disciples there. This was a place where I felt I didn't want to leave and return to civilization because the presence of God was like heaven on earth. My associates back in Jaffa - Tel Aviv said a noticeable light was on my face when I returned home. Although Israeli soldiers patrolled the DMZ between Israel and Syria today staring into my eyes as fierce warriors the presence of God was overwhelming as I prayed early that morning and as I filmed later on in the day. I prayed for the Christians in Damascus, Syria as well because they are in a turbulent war torn crisis and need our prayers. Peter, James and John did not want to leave Mount Hermon either but wanted to make tabernacles there because of the presence there not because they were selfish. Some theologians assign Mount Tabor on the way to Galilee as the location of the transfiguration. Tradition places satan and his evil angels to land on Mount Hermon when thrown out of heaven but what I experienced was an open heaven and a geographical area where heaven touches earth.
My apartment within range of rocket fire from Gaza was in the city of Jaffa for the three months in Israel 2011 and in the city of Haifa when I returned for another three months. In Jaffa, where I traveled out of, built approximately 4,000 years ago by Japheth one of Noah's sons, where Jonah sailed to Tarshish from and where logs from Lebanon to build the temple in Jerusalem were docked, is the home of Simon the Tanner where Peter had his vision of the clean and unclean animals. It was easy to deploy my camera equipment by walking over to the location and filming there. I could imagine Peter praying on the roof of the house at noon or the sixth hour as the bible records it. I drove about an hour by car to Caesarea and filmed in the vicinity where Cornelius was converted the first gentile to enter the Church. It was in Caesarea where Jesus asked the question "who do men say that I am." In my many visits to Caesarea I reflected on the perceptions of Jesus Christ by so many as a good man, a prophet but who deny His Deity. To me He is the undisputed, apologetically verifiable Son of God. Who is Jesus to You. As I drove 10 minutes east of Jaffa to the town of Lod formerly called Lydda I remembered Tabitha also known as Dorcas who Peter raised from the dead.
I took a quick 45 minute flight from Tel Aviv to Eilat in southern Israel a city that borders northern Egypt to reflect on the crossing of the Israelites over the Red Sea into Saudi Arabia then traveling up into the Dead Sea area into Israel. I also prayed for Christians in Egypt who are in turmoil. I filmed in Eilat on the Gulf of Aqaba also called the Red Sea and reflected on the God of Israel who participates in our lives because He is a living personable God unlike the gods of other belief systems.
I had to visit Qumran to rehearse the finding of the "Dead Sea Scrolls" the hallmark of evidence for validity of our Christian Bible" and a pillar for Christian Apologetics.
Sadly however I had to entertain just a mile or so across from Qumran, the Dead Sea and the five Plain Cities that included Sodom and Gomorrah and God's judgment of those cities making the area the lowest spot on earth below sea level due to the pounding it took. This area reminded me that God who is love will judge again at the close of this dispensation of grace as He has given man over six thousand years to come back to Him.
As I am living and traveling out of Haifa, Israel the second time around for three months with Hezbollah just across the border to the north in Lebanon, Syria and Jordon to the east, and Egypt to the south who have factions that keep Israel on perpetual alert it is obvious God Himself keeps Israel. I can see Israeli warships in Haifa Bay from time to time from my apartment alongside cruise ships but living on Mount Carmel where Judaism is flourishing, the Prophets Elijah, Elisha and the school of the prophets of 1 Kings 18:36-39 are revered ; you cant miss solid apologetic verification that the Bible we embrace both Old Testament and New Testament are indeed historically, archaeologically and scientifically valid using Empirical Validity Testing of available data, Power to explain Testing regarding Christianity's ability to meet all essential human needs, Logical Consistency Testing whereby Christianity is logical and sensible and Practicality Testing whereby Christianity provides meaning to our everyday lives.
Clive Staples Lewis or C.S. Lewis known to his friends as Jack wrote Jesus Christ is either a Liar, Lunatic or Lord. Any journey through the land of Israel by someone with an open heart will bring an individual to the conclusion Jesus Christ is indeed Lord after checking the evidence. All truth claims of the Old and New Testaments checkout using valid testing then the tiny leap needed to accept the critical truth claim from Jesus "I am" the Son of God is made easy and intended to be easy. Jesus provided strong primary evidence to include His resurrection and eyewitnesses to His resurrection so it would be easy for you and I to believe. Whether in Israel or away from Israel now that Jesus has risen He is only a prayer away from you for salvation and to meet the deep needs of your heart.
God Bless You Friend.