Devotion 5-16-14, from Northern Galilee

1 Kings 12:26-33,13:33-34

26Then Jeroboam said to himself, ‘Now the kingdom may well revert to the house of David. 27If this people continues to go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, the heart of this people will turn again to their master, King Rehoboam of Judah; they will kill me and return to King Rehoboam of Judah.’ 28So the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold. He said to the people,* ‘You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.’ 29He set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. 30And this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one at Bethel and before the other as far as Dan.*

Today we went into the northern parts of Galilee, above the Dead Sea, and visited archeological ruins of Corazim, Dan, Caesaria Philippi, and Bethsaida. We had not visited these sites on my previous vist, and it was quite interesting. There are connections – from Old Testament to new – It has been said, several times here, that the land itself is the fifth gospel.

At Dan there are two important archeological finds, both fairly recent. The wall and gates of an ancient city have been unearthed – dating to 1900 BC – to the time of Abraham. In Genesis (14:14) we find Abraham seeking to rescue Lot from a group of kings who had captured him, pursuing them as far as Dan. So – Abraham himself may have gone through those very gates!

But the second site at Dan is fascinating as well – the army wanted to build a defense site here in this high place, but the antiquities authorities made them bring in archeologists first, because it was known that the ancient city was in the area. What they found is incredible – it is the “high place” that Jeroboam built at Dan, where he had put the golden calf he had put up to substitute for God, so the people of Israel did not need to go to Jerusalem to worship. Interesting that Jeroboam knew the people needed to worship, but he was fearful of losing power, and apparently he had no knowledge or love of the true God. He just thought, people need a god, I’ll give them one. Sometimes we go to the high places to find God, but we accept the wrong god. We find fear and greed, selfishness – Our society, which places so much emphasis on self, sometimes makes even spirituality a selfish thing, a “finding self” instead of a “giving self”. The thing is, it is in giving self that we are found. It does no good to go to the high places to worship, if it is self we worship.

Matthew 16:13-18

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ 14And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ 15He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ 16Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah,* the Son of the living God.’ 17And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you, you are Peter,* and on this rock* I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.

Caesarea Philippi was also fascinating – a great cave is there, from which a spring flowed (it no longer flows from the mouth of the cave, but below). It was a worship site for the god Pan, who was the god of shepherds. But he became angry sometimes and shook the earth, and the people would throw children into the mouth of the cave to appease him – it was called the Gates of Hades. Around the cave there are niches where various gods were worshipped. Jesus came to this region, and it was here that he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” and “Who do you say that I am?” Notice that he tells Peter that even the gates of Hades will not prevail against his church. He was using something nearby for his example. And he was pointing out that God, with and through him, is more powerful than all the idols and gods that people have worshipped through time. God is also more powerful than anything human beings can invent today, any idols we may set up in the high places.

Photo 1 is the gates of the ancient city at Dan. Archeologists built a roof over it to protect the ancient bricks that were uncovered.

photo 2 is the "High Place" at Dan.

#3 is the cave near Caesarea Philippi – called the "Gates of Hades"

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