Saturday, March 22, 2014

Israel Tour 2014: Day 9 at the Dead Sea

Nathan JonesBy Nathan Jones

Day 9 of Lamb & Lion Ministries' 2014 Israel Tour focused on the Dead Sea region, which is the lowest point on land in all the world. And, it isn't called the Dead Sea for nothing. When God wanted to wipe Sodom and Gomorrah off the map due to "their sin so grievous" (Gen. 18:20), He made the Dead Sea a wasteland. The mineral runoff into the Dead Sea has caused the water to be unlivable for any creature. Jewelry corrodes in just days and metal boats are eaten through in a matter of weeks. The adjacent cliffs are salt encrusted and barren. Fresh water is almost impossible to find. Flies buzz all around like on a carcass. The place even smells strongly of what one would imagine fire and brimestone to smell like.

The Dead Sea is a testament to the severity of God's judgment when mankind totally abandons morality. But, prophetically it will also be a testament to God's restorative power, which you can read more about at the bottom of this post.

Lion's Gate
On the way to our bus we went through the Lion's Gate in the Arab Quarter. See the little lions? It's also known as Saint Stephen's gate, the site where Stephen was stoned to death and became the first Christian martyr (Acts 6-7).

Church of Saint Anne
Just inside the Lion's Gate, where the Sheep Gate once stood, is the Church of Saint Anne and the healing Pools of Bethesda (Jn. 5:1-15). Judy shows off the beautiful gardens that lie outside.

Passing through the Judean Wilderness, we drive by the city of Jericho. With all that room on the surrounding plain, it's easy to imagine hundreds of thousands of Israelites marching around the ancient city walls until they all fell down (Josh. 6).

Dead Sea Cliffs
The barrenness of the Dead Sea region with its steep and rocky terrain covered in veins of white salt is a lonely spectacle to behold.

Ein Gedi
The one spot that isn't barren but is a font of life is En Gedi, the oasis among the desert and popular hideout of King David (1 Sam. 23:29). The falls deep within the rocky recesses provided life to David and his men.

Dead Sea Teaching
Nathan Jones at Ein Gedi teaching on the Dead Sea history of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by God and the way He will bring life back to that dead land once more during His Millennial Kingdom (see below).

Crown of Thorns Bush
Who plants a thorn bush once used to make the crown of thorns from Jesus' Crucifixion in the middle of a park?!?

Dead Sea
The Dead Sea may be absolutely dead, but the morning mist makes for a beautiful setting.

Masada Cable Car
What the people of the First Century would have given for one of these cable cars up to Herod's desert fortress of Masada.

Snake Path
The alternative way to Masada is by a treacherous and long walk up the snake filled, winding path. Kudos, Phillip!

Masada Heights
From these dizzying heights the last holdout of Jews fended off the Roman governor Flavius Silva (played by Peter O'Toole) in 73 A.D.

Siege Ramp
The Romans spent months building a siege ramp to get up to Masada. The Jews who had plenty of water from cisterns and food from their high perch mocked the dehydrated Romans. In the end, rather than be turned into slaves, the Jews committed mass suicide. The Roman victory was turned into defeat.

Caves of Qumran
The caves of Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls where discovered. All Old Testament books but Esther were found. It was the greatest archeological discovery of the 20th Century and proved that the Bible you have today has been divinely protected in the copying process over the millennia.

Jordanian Side
This view of the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea shows how fast the water has receded over the years as both Israel and Jordan use the water from the Jordan River that feeds the sea.

The waters are so full of minerals that people just float on the water's surface. The super salty mud is actually a skin curative, as long as you don't get it in your eyes, that is.

Odd Observations

  1. What does the Dead sea, aka brimstone, smell like? Go to the Dead Sea, or just find some sulfur and take a whiff.
  2. What does the Dead Sea feel like? Find some cooking oil and pour it over your hand.
  3. What does the Dead Sea taste like? Don't ask me! I wouldn't put that nasty stuff in my mouth.
  4. Women love Ahava productes, especially when purchased where they're actually made on the shores of the Dead Sea. "Ahava" in Hebrew means "love."

The Dead Sea in Bible Prophecy

Ezekiel 47 tells us about the promising prophetic future for the Dead Sea. During the upcoming 1,000 year reign of Jesus on Earth, water will pour from the Millennial Temple. This water will flow South into the Dead Sea, making it's waters fresh and alive once more. Ezekiel 47:8 states, "This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Sea. When it empties into the Sea, the water there becomes fresh."

The Dead Sea will no longer be dead, but it will come alive again. Verse 7 describes its new life. "When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river."

Verses 9-12 tell us that the barren terrain will be bountiful, life-giving, and inhabited once more. "Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live. Fishermen will stand along the shore; from En Gedi to En Eglaim there will be places for spreading nets. The fish will be of many kinds - like the fish of the Great Sea. But the swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt. Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing."

Everything we saw today - the death, destruction, desperation and desolation - will all be erased by Jesus Christ's return and reign. The Dead Sea is therefore also a living testament that, though our lives begin desolate by sin and death, Jesus can give us life by having a saving relationship with Him.

Tomorrow for Day 10 we will honor the dead who gave their lives to make Israel a nation once more.

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