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).

Click on image for larger view.

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.

Click on image for larger view.

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.

Click on image for higher resolution.

“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.

Click on images for higher resolution.

“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.

Click on image for larger view.

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.

Click on images for higher resolution.

They Smell Like Sheep

August 10, 2011

In Dr. Lynn Anderson’s book, They Smell Like Sheep, he tells of a church member who cornered him after a lesson in which he repeatedly referred to the elders as “shepherds.” His suggestion was basically this: since we sophisticated Americans don’t usually have sheep and don’t work as shepherds, no one connects with that idea. So find a better way to communicate the spiritual leadership idea.

Anderson’s response:

Admittedly, the shepherd metaphor does sound strange in the cyber-world of our daily experience.  We don’t normally see these picturesque, rural characters rolling down the expressways or eating at our local McDonald’s. But, after carefully considering my friend’s suggestion and searching in vain for a contemporary metaphor that would better connect the biblical notion with our times, I finally had to explain, ‘I can’t find any figure equivalent to the shepherd idea in our modern, urban world. Besides, if I drop the shepherd and flock idea, I would have to tear about five hundred pages out of my Bible, plus leave the modern church with a distorted–if not neutered–view of spiritual leadership.’ God keeps pointing shepherds to the pasture to struggle with sheep (pp. 11-12).

The ultimate example of a shepherd is God Himself; in the New Testament Jesus is identified as the Good Shepherd who cares for His sheep (John 10). Anderson is correct to use the biblical image of elders as shepherds (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:2,3).

Without doubt one of the most well-known, if not THE most well-known scriptural texts using the shepherd metaphor is Psalm 23.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me (vv.1-4, KJV).

For today’s post we share a photo of a sheep who has been led to the still waters (quiet waters, NASB; refreshing water, NET).

Sheep lying down near green pasture beside refreshing water. Eastern Turkey. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

What a beautiful metaphor of God’s care for His people!

Click on image for higher resolution.

The French River, Ontario

August 8, 2011

In our recent preaching trip to Sudbury, Canada, we had the occasion to cross the French River.

French River, Ontario. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Wikipedia has this info:

The French River (Rivière des Français) is a river in Central Ontario, Canada. It flows 110 kilometres (68 mi) from Lake Nipissing west to Georgian Bay. The river largely follows the boundary between the Parry Sound District and the Sudbury District, and in most contexts is considered the dividing line between Northern Ontario and Southern Ontario.

The Wikipedia entry continues:

It was used as a transportation corridor by the Algonquian peoples of this region. The Ojibwa named this the “French River” because it became associated with French explorers of the 17th century, including Étienne Brûlé, Samuel de Champlain and Pierre-Esprit Radisson, and missionaries.

Other explorers who later followed this route included Simon Fraser, Alexander Mackenzie and David Thompson.

Together with the Ottawa and Mattawa Rivers, the French River formed part of the water highway from Montreal to Lake Superior in the days of the fur trade. It remained a major canoe route until about 1820. It was later settled as a summer tourist and recreation area. For this reason, the French River was designated a Canadian Heritage River in 1986.

Near the end of the 19th century, logging became the primary activity in the area. Because of the rugged nature of the Canadian Shield country surrounding this river, large parts of this river remain relatively untouched and it is now a popular location for recreational canoeing, kayaking, fishing and boating.

Following bouts of overfishing in the 1990’s, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources placed a partial ban on fishing in the river.

At a rest stop near the river my wife and I saw a sign you don’t see every day:

French River Snake Sign. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

In a previous meeting in Sudbury we had flown from Toronto to Sudbury, but driving that stretch allows one to see more of the country and have a better “feel” for the area.

Click photos for larger view.

Not a Prophet or a Prophet’s Son

August 3, 2011

In our last post we introduced the prophet Amos of Tekoa. God sent him from Judah to Israel to cry out against the idolatry there, centered in such locations as Judah. A false prophet named Amaziah tried to intimidate Amos, and told him to go back home to Judah, i.e., we don’t need your kind of preaching here! Amos’ response:

14 Then Amos answered, and said to Amaziah: “I was no prophet, Nor was I a son of a prophet, But I was a sheepbreeder And a tender of sycamore fruit. 15 Then the LORD took me as I followed the flock, And the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to My people Israel.’ 16 Now therefore, hear the word of the LORD: You say, ‘Do not prophesy against Israel, And do not spout against the house of Isaac.’ 17 “Therefore thus says the LORD: ‘Your wife shall be a harlot in the city; Your sons and daughters shall fall by the sword; Your land shall be divided by survey line; You shall die in a defiled land; And Israel shall surely be led away captive From his own land.'” (Amos 7:14-17).

Our photo below was taken on the road between Tekoa and Bethlehem. You can see the sheep in the distance, which illustrate the kind of work Amos would have done in this general area before being called to the prophetic office.

Sheep near Tekoa. Amos was a sheepherder. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Note also that Amos said that he was a “tender of sycamore fruit” (NASB: “a grower of sycamore figs” and NET: “I was a herdsman who also took care of sycamore fig trees”). Below is a photo of the biblical sycamore tree.

Sycamore tree, which produces figs. Amos tended trees like this. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Here is a close up of the fruit. The sycamore fig is inferior to the fig produced by the fig tree, and was eaten by the poorer people of the land.

Close-up of sycamore figs. Photo by Leon Mauldin.


A pleasant surprise: our friends John and Lisa Hains of Jordan, Ontario, invited us to spend the night in their home (when our Sudbury meeting concluded) and then get us to the Toronto airport for our flight home (to “Sweet Home Alabama”). John met us when I turned in our rental car at Toronto, and en route to his home took Linda & me to see Niagara Falls, which was our first time to do so. The Falls are only about 20-25 minutes away from his house.  John took this photo.

Leon & Linda at Niagara Falls. Photo by John Hains.

 Click on images for higher resolution.

%d bloggers like this: