August 31, 2011

Greetings from Jerusalem. Today has been a very good day, with focus in the Shepheleh and Elah Valley areas

In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7), He said, “If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” (Matt. 5:41). Have you ever wondered what was meant by that? The NET Bible has a note explaining, “Roman soldiers had the authority to press civilians into service to carry loads for them.”

The Roman Empire ruled the world in the 1st century, and the Jews were a subject nation. Any of the Jews in Jesus’ audience could be thus compelled to carry a burden for a Roman soldier. But Roman law stated that you could not be made to carry it more than a mile. That raises the question of how one would know when a mile had passed. Would it be when you felt you had walked a mile, or when the soldier announced that a mile had passed?

One way to be sure was when you came across a milestone. The Romans were expert road builders, and they posted mile markers along the way.

Milestone near Beth Shemesh. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Milestone near Beth Shemesh. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The real question becomes why would Jesus make a requirement of this nature? While there may be many reasons, here are a couple of suggestions: [1] Jesus disciples are different. Not different just to be different, but different in the ways that the Gospel will make one different. Jesus’ disciples are different because they are like Jesus. See the verses of the context leading into this text.

[2] Living the kind of life envisioned by this text could very likely cause someone to ask you a reason of the hope that is in you, thus providing a teaching opportunity (1 Pet. 3:15-16).

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Be sure to check Ferrell’s Travel Blog also.

Grinding a Fool in a Mortar?

August 30, 2011

“Though you grind a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, Yet his foolishness will not depart from him” ( Proverbs 27:22, NKV). I suppose one could say, “It is possible to practice folly until it becomes a part of one’s nature.” But instead the wise man used a word picture.

Mortar and pestle. Antioch Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Do you see the imagery. Can you imagine a fool being ground up with pestle and mortar and yet retaining his folly?

The book of Proverbs is a book about wisdom. Our heart, our choices, our habits form character which then determines whether one is wise of foolish.

This post is being sent from Jerusalem. Ferrell Jenkins & I arrived this evening for a study & photographic trip. We’ll be posting photos as time permits.

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Millstones at Capernaum

August 26, 2011

Millstones were manufactured at Capernaum from the volcanic basalt which is so common in the Galilee. The coarse texture was very suitable for grinding wheat.

Such millstones were not only used in Israel, but were exported from Capernaum to many other places. Capernaum was located on a major trade route, the Via Maris.

Millstones manufactured at Capernaum from volcanic basalt. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

On one occasion when Jesus was here at Capernaum with His disciples, He said,

But whoever causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe in Me– it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea (Mark 10:42, CSB).

Capernaum was located on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. In this teachable moment Jesus was using word pictures the apostles could relate to: To have a millstone tied about one’s neck and then thrown into the sea to be dragged down by that heavy weight and die such a terrible death! But Jesus is saying that the worst kind of death would be preferable to one’s being the occasion of someone’s being lost eternally.

What a powerful lesson, taught by the Master Teacher.  All of us have influence, and for that influence we will give account unto God; make it good!

Jeroboam’s New Religion

August 24, 2011

The wisest man in all the earth fell flat on his face because he failed to give heed to God’s word.  The sad story of Solomon’s apostasy is narrated in 1 Kings 11:1-13.  As punishment God would “tear the kingdom” away from Solomon, and give it to Jeroboam (v.11). This took place when Solomon’s son’s effort to make a show of strength backfired, and all the northern tribes pulled away under Jeroboam, and made him king (1 Kings 12:1-24), leaving Rehoboam as king of Judah.

God had promised Jeroboam He would establish his rule in Israel, conditioned on obedience (1 Kings 11:29-38).  But the temple was in Jerusalem (Judah’s territory); people throughout Israel would be making regular trips there to worship.  Jeroboam thought that if he did not take matters into his own hands, Israel’s loyalty would shift to Judah. Therefore, he “devised in his own heart” four unauthorized changes in the divine pattern (1 Kings 12:25-33):

Object of worship. Jeroboam made two calves of gold and said, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem.  Here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt! (1 Kings 12:28).

Place of worship. God had established Jerusalem as the place to worship. The king set up those golden calves in Dan (north) and Bethel (south) (v.29). Shrines were established on the high places for their worship at both sites (v.31).

Persons who officiated in worship. God had selected the tribe of Levi, and within it the family of Aaron, to be priests.  Jeroboam “made priests from every class of people, who were not of the sons of Levi” (v.31).

Time of worship. God had designated the Feast of Tabernacles to be observed the 15th day of the 7th month; Jeroboam changed it to 15th day of the 8th month (v.32).

God was greatly displeased (1 Kings 14:9). Jeroboam sinned, and “made Israel sin” (v.14). Who would have thought that with those unauthorized changes Jeroboam was blazing a trail that would be followed by succeeding kings for 200 years? There were nineteen kings of Israel from Jeroboam to Hoshea; each of them “continued in the sins of Jeroboam.”

Our photo shows the high place at Dan where sacrifices were made to the golden calf Jeroboam installed.  The people give a sense of scale.

Jeroboam's High Place at Dan. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The square metal framework in center indicates the location and size of the altar. The shrine for the golden calf would have been in the area we are standing to shoot the photo.

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“Not one stone upon another”

August 22, 2011

During the final week of the Lord’s ministry, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, the Jewish rulers, for their hypocrisy and for their basic rejection of truth. His last words before leaving the temple area were

 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38 See! Your house is left to you desolate; 39 for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ (vv. 37-38)

As Jesus and the disciples left, the disciples pointed out the temple buildings to Him. His response no doubt greatly startled them: “”Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (Matt. 24:2).

Jesus crossed the Kidron Valley and came to the Mount of Olives and sat down. It was here that the “Olivet Discourse” occurred, in which the disciples asked Him to explain what He meant.

View of Temple Mount, Jerusalem from Mt. of Olives. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

From the Mount of Olives the disciples could have seen the temple area in Jerusalem as Jesus’ foretold its coming destruction.

Excavations which reached 1st century street level uncovered stones of the temple buildings hurled down from above. The destruction took place in AD 70, by Rome’s Tenth Legion.

Stones from temple buildings in Tyropoeon Valley in Jerusalem, from AD 70 destruction. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

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“A Shack in a Cucumber Field”

August 17, 2011

The prophet Isaiah said, “Daughter Zion is abandoned like a shelter in a vineyard, like a shack in a cucumber field, like a besieged city” (Isaiah 1:8). What is meant by that statement?

Zion, the city of Jerusalem, became David’s capital city. It was there that Solomon built the temple of the Lord Yahweh. Jerusalem, Mount Zion was central to Israel’s worship, and to their identity as a people. During much of Isaiah’s lengthy career (740-690 BC) Jerusalem was prosperous. “Their land has also been filled with silver and gold and there is no end to their treasures; their land has also been filled with horses and there is no end to their chariots” (Isa. 2:7).

But in saying “The daughter of Zion is left as a booth in a vineyard,” Isaiah speaks of their future desolation as though it has already occurred. Isaiah makes use of the prophetic perfect (perfect meaning “completed action”), a grammatical form used “to present future events as if they have already happened . . . the use of the perfect form to express completeness and factuality is so prominent that it is even used for a future event” (A Biblical Hebrew Reference Grammar.364).

Our photo below illustrates the imagery of the Isaiah text, and was taken near biblical Sardis. Some workers, perhaps family members, have constructed a shelter in the field to have a place to rest and refresh themselves before getting back to work.

Booth in Vineyard Near Sardis. Illustrates Isa. 1:8. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Because of the idols which had filled the land of Israel (Isaiah 2:8), God was going to reduce the magnificent city of Zion, Jerusalem the fortress city, to a hut.

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Shepherds in a Dry and Thirsty Land

August 11, 2011

In our last post we mentioned the obvious fact that sheep need shepherds. When you consider the terrain and climate of the wilderness of Judea, it becomes even more clear that shepherds were/are needed to lead sheep to pasturage and water.

Judean Desert. Shepherds are needed to lead sheep to grazing and water. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Over the years the sheep as well as goats carve out paths in the rugged terrain.

Trails worn by sheep & goat in Judean Desert. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Scenes such as this below are basically unchanged from the days of the patriarchs thousands of years ago.

Such scenes illustrate life in biblical times. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

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