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Early Rains Are Here!

Early Rains Are Here!

Every year, I tend to become more and more fascinated by the weather in Israel. In the fall, I begin looking to the digital sky and watch as the early rains begin to fall. Over the past several years, Israel has been experiencing a drought. This is evident not only in the data, but also walking around the land.

The water level in the Sea of Galilee has dropped several feet in the past several year. Places along the shoreline where I have taken my tour groups to board boats are no longer accessible. The water level is just too shallow for a boat to dock in those locations. In addition, as you visit different areas along the shore, more and more of the land is visible. This is especially evident along the northwest corner of the lake as there are many visual markers that show this fact with clarity.

But….good news…the rains have arrived. This morning, I took three screenshots from web cameras that are located in the northern part of the land. The first picture is from the city of Sefad, which sits a couple of miles north of the Sea of Galilee. On a normal day, you would be able to see part of the lake from this image. But, not today.

The second image is from the top of Mount Bental, about 50 miles north of the Sea of Galilee. Again, you will see that it is a rainy day. It is not uncommon to see visitors and families eating picnic lunches from this vantage point.

Finally, this picture is from Merom Golan, which is very near Mount Bental. Again, rain everywhere.

To me, these are beautiful views. These rains will fall through the Hula Valley and into the Jordan River. From there, they will flow into the Sea of Galilee and offset the water shortages that currently exist. In addition, they will make the land nice and green for us to see later next year.

“And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full.” - Deuteronomy 11:13-15

Rain In The Forecast

Rain In The Forecast

In speaking to the people of Israel, God says: 

“If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit." - Leviticus 26:3-4

Even today, Israel basically has two seasons: the dry season (May - October) and the rainy season (November - April). I have been trying to pay close attention to the ongoing rainy season due to the dry conditions that have persisted over Israel for the past 3-4 years. The good news is that within the past couple of months, Israel has received a good amount of rain. In fact, about two weeks ago, much of northern Israel received several inches of snow. Snow was even reported in the city of Zefat (Sefad), which sits just a few miles north of the Sea of Galilee. 

The effects of that amount of rain can easily be seen downstream. Rain that falls on northern Israel eventually finds its way into the Jordan River, which flows into the Sea of Galilee. Consequently, the level of the Sea of Galilee has risen several centimeters since November, including six centimeters in the last week. For those who have traveled to Galilee in the last couple of years, they have seen how low the water level is. The level of the Sea of Galilee still has a way to go. As of today, the elevation of surface of the lake is at -213.84 meters, which is still below the lower red line (the level at which water can be pumped out of the lake for irrigation). 

In looking at the weather forecast, the land is forecast to receive more rain this weekend. I am hopeful that this will help the level of the lake rise even more. 

(NOTE: The picture at the top of this post is from the top of Mount Bental, in the Golan Heights. This image was captured from a web camera during the snowstorm a little over a week ago.)

Walking like Jesus (Road through Galilee)

roman_road (NOTE: This is the third in a series of posts on "Walking like Jesus". In previous posts, I discussed the locations of the Southern Steps of the Temple Mount and the Shores of the Sea of Galilee.)

Luke tells us:

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph's son?” And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.” And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away. And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. - Luke 4:16-31

The picture at the top of this post is of the remains of a road built by the Romans in the first century. The Romans were known for many things. One of which was their impressive system of roads. Many of their roads ran through this area of the world. This road runs between lower Galilee and the lake.

Jesus walked here.

What lesson can we learn about Jesus walking here? We can learn that we should not let spiritual discouragement get you down.

Jesus had just visited his hometown, the town that he grew up in. He entered the synagogue and spoke the truth. As a result, the people rebuked Him and threatened to kill Him. These people were His friends and His neighbors. Surely, this would have been very discouraging to Jesus. But He did not let it get Him down. He left Nazareth and went to Capernaum to continue the work that His Father had given Him to do.

Being a Christian is not always easy. Many things that happen that can cause us to be discouraged. Sometimes even other Christians can get us down. How do you handle those type of situations? It is easy to just throw up your arms and say, "Forget it...I am not doing this any more!" But that is not the right response. We need to be willing to put those times behind us and keep focused on what we need to do for God.

Do you want to walk like Jesus? Then walk down this road in Galilee and do not let spiritual discouragement get you down.

One Year Ago - Northern Galilee and the Hula Valley

The ruins of the ancient city of Caesarea Philippi.NOTE: I am continuing my series of retrospective posts on the our tour one year ago. I invite you to start at the beginning and read through all of them. Waking up on the shores of the Sea of Galilee is an experience like none other. Before the sun rises, you hear the water lapping up on the shore. Then, the eastern sky gradually changes from a deep, dark blue to a golden yellow. All of the sudden, the first rays of the sun poke through the trees in the Golan Heights. Every time that I see it, I imagine Peter, Andrew, James and John seeing very similar sunrises after a night of fishing. It is a beautiful thing to see.

One year ago, we spent the entire day traversing north up the Hula Valley. Our first stop was at Hazor. The size of this city is amazing and something that doesn't come through in the Biblical narrative. It is no wonder why Joshua thought it was so important to seize this city.

We drop past Abel Beth Maacah and remembered the story of Sheba. We walked through the tel at Dan. There we visited the High Place built by King Jeroboam to keep the people in the nation of Israel from traveling to Jerusalem to worship God. We also visited Caesarea Philippi and remembered Peter's confession of Jesus as the son of God.

As we drove back to the Sea of Galilee through the Golan Heights, we were able to look over into the modern country of Syria toward the city of Damascus. Paul received his vision somewhere in this area.

Our day ended at et-Tell, the possible location of the New Testament city of Bethsaida. Another wonderful day in the books.

Tomorrow: A full day around the Sea of Galilee.

2015 Israel Poster B

Have you been enjoying these posts on last year's tour? Are you interested in traveling with me this year? Then, I would love to have you join me. Our 12-day tour is scheduled for October 12-23. We will stay one night on the Mediterranean Sea, three nights on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and five nights in beautiful Jerusalem. During the day, we will visit dozens of sites that will enhance your understanding of the land and of the Biblical stories that take place in them. Reservations are coming in, but we still have some availability! This is a first-class tour with many extras thrown in that many Israel tours overlook. If you are interested, I encourage you to read the itinerary and contact me personally for more details.

New Video from Satellite Bible Atlas

The Satellite Bible Atlas by Bill Schlegel and Todd BolenThis morning, I received an email from Bill Schlegel, who lives in Israel. He (and the people that work with him) have produced the Satellite Bible Atlas. I first wrote about this book when it came out over two years ago. Since then, my passion for this book has not changed. It is an invaluable piece of my library. Since that time, they have released about ten videos that relate to different maps in the book. The latest video came out today. And it is fantastic. I encourage all of you to watch it...perhaps many times.

Knowledge of the geography of the Bible lands enhances your understanding of the Bible stories. And, this atlas and the videos assist you in that process.

At the very end of the video is a fantastic overlay of a map from the Satellite Bible Atlas on top of a 3D representation of the same area from Google. This segment of the video helps you to better understand the land that a two-dimensional map in the back of your Bible can not do.

Naftali Mountain Range in Galilee and the Huleh Basin

1_Galilee_NorthRegion_2 This photo was taken in the Naftali Mountain Range where it looks out toward the Huleh Basin.  While the region’s forests are still recovering from the devastating fires of the 2006 Lebanon War, one can imagine the difficulty of crossing these heavily forested hills with a caravan or army.  This makes passes, such as the Huleh Valley invaluable to both travels and empires alike.

Chorazin, Overlooking Galilee

Chorazim The first-century remains of ancient Chorazin (modern Kerazeh) overlook the Sea of Galilee. This is a particularly striking city, built of black basalt, which creates an ominous mood as one walks through the crumbling ruins. Chorazin was mentioned as one of the three cities upon which Christ pronounced the woes of Matthew 11:20-21.

Arbel Fortress

04_Arbel_DruzeFortification The Arbel cliff is beautiful, but also strategic in its position overlooking the pass into Galilee.  This natural caves system was enlarged and used for inhabitation, first by Jews during the Hellenistic period, and later by Galilean Zealots fleeing Herod the Great.  The basalt fortification seen today is the handiwork of a 17th-century Druze emir, built to protect the surrounding area.  The Druze are a culturally Arab religious sect who reinterprets the teachings of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Being Thankful

Being Thankful


Now it happened as Jesus went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.” - Luke 17:11-19

Leprosy was a terrible disease. Outside of the disfiguring physical effects, the social effects were even more disheartening. Lepers were completely ostracized from society. No one cared for them and they were forced to stay away from everyone else. You can even see that in the passage above in the fact when Jesus first saw the lepers, they "stood afar off". So, when this man realizes that he has been given a great gift, he immediately stops what he is doing to turn around and say "thanks". What a wonderful and appropriate thing to do.

I'm thankful that I live in a country that pauses for a day to say "thanks". And, we have so much to be thankful for. Sometime today, in between the parades and the football games and the turkey and the naps take a few minutes to list the things that you are thankful for. It will be a humbling and satisfying experience.

Happy Thanksgiving.

(The picture at the top of this page is of the Jezreel Valley and the Hill of Moreh from the tel at Jezreel. In the passage, it is mentioned that Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem in the midst of, or on the border of, Galilee and Samaria. While we do not know for sure exactly where Jesus was, it was probably in the general area of this picture. Just beyond the Hill of Moreh is the hills of Galilee and the mountains of Samaria rise behind the picture in the opposite direction. NOTE: If you are reading this post from an email, just click on the title and view this post from a webpage to see the picture.)