Dig into something

Each December brings lists of all kinds. If you are interested in what is being dug up in Israel, Todd Bolen has a list of the the Top 10 Discoveries in Biblical Archaeology from 2017

Ossuary (bone boxes) at Dominos Flevit Church in Jerusalem.

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For unto us a child is born!

The story is well-known, and like many familiar stories, the details become lost in that familiarity. Luke, the physician, records the birth of a baby as follows:

     In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone when to their own town to register.
      So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. Luke 2:1-7

Bethlehem was about five miles south of the city of Jerusalem. Its name means “house of bread” in Hebrew (Remember that “the one” born in the “house of bread” would say of himself, “I am the bread of life.) Bethlehem was also the city that raised the sacrificial lambs for sacrifice in the temple (Again, the irony that the “Lamb of God” would be born in Bethlehem and become a sacrifice in Jerusalem, the city of the temple where the sacrificial lambs from Bethlehem were sent for slaughter.)

One of the chief responsibilities of the shepherds of Bethlehem was to assure that the sheep they raised were without defect. In order to accomplish this, they would tend to them carefully, especially after their birth when they were susceptible to injury. One of the “tools” they used were strips of cloth that would be wrapped around the newborn lambs to keep them from injuring themselves. These strips would be kept handy, often in the caves that were used for sheltering the flock.

The Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible has the following footnote on vs. 7. “cloths. Parents and midwives wrapped an infant’s limbs in long strips of cloth to help them to grow straight. They could be used until the infant’s limbs became firm or for as long as two months.” Notice the coincidence. Again,

we have a tie between the cultural situation and the place of the newborn. So many signs pointed to the birth of the Messiah, both the lambs and the Lamb are swaddled.

There is one other tie in Luke’s narrative between the “swaddling clothes,” as the King James translation puts it, and the clothes that wrapped the body of Jesus after his crucifixion. He uses a similar word for both. So, the similar clothes that wrapped the newborn were used to place the body of Jesus into its temporary resting place. It is impossible to separate the birth and death of Jesus, since one led to the other, and we are eternally thankful for both.

Blessed Christmas

Oh little town of Bethlehem

We sing about it, we get holiday cards picturing it, we find ourselves confronted with news from that special town. The nativity story is a special one and more so when you can picture the places where it took place. Wayne Stiles has put together a video series that was taken in Israel and follows the Christmas story. I commend the videos to you. https://walkingthebiblelands.waynestiles.com/christmasvideos/?ck_subscriber_id=23057344

Super Moon over Dead Sea, Israel

As I left home this morning saw the super moon in the Western sky. It would have been nice to see it from the lowest place on earth, the Dead Sea.

Israel Tours

Yesterday I drove from Jerusalem down to Masada so as to be at the Dead Sea in the evening to see the supermoon rise over the Biblical mountains of Edom in Jordan. As a tour guide and photographer I can take you to places like this.

Supermoonrise

The technical details – the photo above was taken with a Nikon 5300 digital SLR camera and 18-200mm Nikon zoom lens at 6pm on December 3, 2017 (ISO 720, 16mm, F5.6 at 5 sec). I then shot the moon zoomed in as large as possible, 200mm (ISO 200, F11, 1/200 sec) and combined the 2 photographs, editing the image in Photoshop.

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Photographs on this website are © Shmuel Browns (unless marked otherwise) – if you are interested in buying or using one of my photos for your own project…

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A transactional relationship

By the end of today, October 31st, Americans will have spent 9.1 billion dollars on items related to Halloween. Kids and adults will head out for an evening of transactional relationship. What is that, you ask? “If you will, I won’t” or “If you won’t, I will.” That’s a transactional relationship.

500 years ago today, on a day long forgotten, but still having an impact on us, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses (Luther’s 95 Theses) to the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany. Contrary to some of the things that have been said about the theses, Luther had become convinced that the sale of indulgences was wrong. For Luther, those indulgences were a form of transactional relationship. If you buy an indulgence, God will release from Purgatory a penitent sinner. The saying at the time was, “When a coin in the coffer clings, a soul from Purgatory springs.”

In years gone by, our ancestors built temples to the gods in order to facilitate transactional relationships. If I sacrifice (chickens, goats, sheep, bulls, children, etc.), God will provide (rain, prosperity, fertility, etc.). During Luther’s time the transaction was a payment to the church so that a sinner could be released from Purgatory. Today, a financial provision to a particular ministry or individual will cause (force?) God to provide even greater wealth.

God wants a relationship with us, but not as a result of a transaction on our part. In fact, the transaction has already occurred and amazingly He was the one who provided it in His Son. God wanted a relationship with us and provided the transaction that allowed it to happen without any involvement on our part other than believing. There is no “trick” in that transaction only a true “treat” for us. That’s the type of transaction that truly causes me to worship—worship the King.

Ferdinand Pauwels [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

It happened, just like He said!

Doctor Luke records, “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known…they will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (19:41, 44b)
Today, the Israeli Antiquities Authority announced that a large area of the temple retaining wall has been uncovered and a Roman theater has been discovered. The theater dates to the period following the fulfillment of Jesus’s prophecy with the destruction of the temple by the Romans in AD 70. There is a good video in the article that shows much of what was found.  The article in the Times of Israel

Headed home

Today we turned in the rental car after putting over 1000 miles on it. Our route took us over dirt roads and high country in an attempt to prolong our days here in the west. We have seen some magnificent country that only a great and gracious God could have created. We praise Him!

Neither rain nor snow

Today, if we were mail carriers, the Post Office would have been proud. We started the day in light rain which turned to snow and 35 degree temperatures. The clouds hung low, obscuring much of the landscape, but we persisted. We did get some views from Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse State Park, but they were limited. We took a chance and drove about 50 miles south of Moab to Needles Overlook and were rewarded with clearing skies and majestic views. What an amazing world that God has created!