Fields White unto Harvest

April 30, 2017

Early in Jesus’ ministry, He traveled from Jerusalem to Galilee, and went through Samaria. It was at the well at Sychar (today’s Nablus) that Jesus had a conversation with a woman who had come to the well to draw water. Jesus skillfully led her from a starting point of a request for a drink of water, step by step, to the point of faith in Him as Messiah! (John 4:1-26).

Field of wheat in the Galilee. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

When the disciples returned, having gone into the city to buy food, this interesting conversation took place:

27 And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?” 28 The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, 29 “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” 30 Then they went out of the city and came to Him. 31 In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” 33 Therefore the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. 35 “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! 36 “And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. 37 “For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 “I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.” (John 4:27-38, ESV).

Today I photographed this field of wheat in the Galilee, near the Horns of Hattin. Jesus used the image of fields that were ready for harvest to illustrate lost souls that will be receptive to the call of the Gospel, with its hope and promises!

Click image for larger view.

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“Ye Kine of Bashan” (Amos 4:1)

April 29, 2017

The fearless prophet Amos was sent by Yahweh to the northern kingdom of Israel in the days of the Divided Kingdom. He cried out against the idolatry there. In this prosperous (albeit short-lived) time when Jeroboam II reigned (8th century BC), Amos also rebuked the luxury-loving women in Israel who cared nothing about God and His will: “Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria, which oppress the poor, which crush the needy, which say to their masters, Bring, and let us drink.” (Amos 4:1, KJV).

Cattle in Bashan, Israel. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

The word kine as used in the KJV is old English; it is archaic plural for “cow.” The ESV renders the text, “Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to your husbands, ‘Bring, that we may drink!'”

The women were not left in doubt as to the meaning of the imagery–they were behaving with no more concern for spiritual matters than a bunch of fat cows!

The background for Amos’ reference to cows of Bashan takes us back to Numbers 21, when Israel conquered the land of Og of Bashan, north and east of the Jordan (as well as the land of Sihon, to the south of Bashan). Then Numbers 32 tells how two and one half tribes (Reuben, Gad, and 1/2 tribe of Manasseh) asked that they might settle on the eastern side of the Jordan. That request was granted (conditioned upon the men of war helping with the conquest of Canaan). The reason given for the request: these lands “were ideal for cattle” (v.1, NET).

Land of Bashan, good for cattle. BibleAtlas.org.

The women Amos addressed did not live in Bashan, east of the Jordan. The text refers to their being in Samaria, which was the capital of Israel. But they were acting like cattle in that place which was so noted for its cattle.

Today I was in what was the OT land of Bashan when I photographed these cattle. I was put in mind of our text in Amos.

I do not know how the women in Israel responded to the preaching of Amos. We do know that the nation as a whole did not listen, and God would soon allow the Assyrians to destroy the northern kingdom. One can hope that at least some individuals may have responded appropriately and repented. Though they may have felt insulted, in reality Amos was their friend, their best friend.

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16,17).


The Jordan River

April 28, 2017

Today after leaving Jerusalem I made a stop at the Jordan before heading up the Rift Valley for the Galilee. This location is thought by many to be the area in the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized by John.

Jordan River. Traditional location of Jesus’ baptism. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

We had a safe late afternoon arrival at Tiberias, situated on the Sea of Galilee. While having dinner, Zachary Shavin, who is presently directing a tour, came by to visit a while and “talk shop.” Zack served as our guide for my Israel tour in November. His website is www.landofisraeltours.com

Leon Mauldin and Zachary Shavin.

To view my previous posts about the Jordan River, go up to search box and enter “Jordan.”

Click images for larger view.


Jesus Walked through Bethphage

April 27, 2017

In the Final Week of Jesus’ ministry, Bethany and Bethphage (cities located on the slope of the Mount of Olives) are mentioned. It was from here that Jesus arranged for the donkey on which He would ride triumphantly into Jerusalem (Mark 11:1ff.). That final week would find Jesus walking back and forth from Bethany to Jerusalem.

Fig close up at Bethphage. Photo © Leon Mauldin.

An interesting event happened in this area at this time:

And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there. In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. (Matt. 21:17-19).

Unlike our photo above, that fig tree in our text received a curse because though it had a pretense of leaves, it was barren; there was no fruit. This was a great object lesson for Jesus’ disciples.

Here is a view of the terrain at Bethphage, with Bethany behind, and the Mount of Olives continuing to rise ahead.

Bethphage. Jesus passed through this area during His Final Week of ministry. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

I was glad to have the opportunity to visit Bethphage yesterday. There are also several ancient tombs located there.

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King David’s Tomb in Jerusalem (Traditional)

April 26, 2017

David was described as the “sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Sam. 23:1) and authored about half of the collection of the 150 psalms.

Sculpture of David near site of traditional tomb in Jerusalem. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Approximately 2,000 years ago on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), Peter said, “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day” (v.29, ESV).

Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit the traditional tomb of David in Jerusalem.

Sign designating David’s Tomb. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

This location is said to be a pilgrimage for Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Inside is a massive cenotaph where visitors pay respect.

Inside David’s Tomb in Jerusalem. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

The adjoining room is dedicated to reading/study.

Adjoining reading room. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Another text referencing David’s death is Acts 13:36: “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption” (ESV).

We mentioned this is the “traditional site” of David’s tomb:

In the 10th century a belief that David’s tomb was on the present Mount Zion began to develop among Christian pilgrims, who celebrated David’s memory along with that of St James, the first bishop of Jerusalem.

It was actually the Christian Crusaders who built the present Tomb of David with its large stone cenotaph. However, three of the walls of the room where the cenotaph stands are much older — apparently from a synagogue-church used by first-century Judaeo-Christians, which became known as the Church of the Apostles.

Gradually this memorial came to be accepted as David’s tomb, first by the Jews and later also by Muslims. (http://www.seetheholyland.net/tomb-of-king-david/)

The real point of the two passages cited in Acts above is that David, having served God’s purpose, died, was buried, and his body experienced decay. He was not the subject of those prophecies he uttered that spoke of a coming resurrection–he was speaking of the resurrection of Jesus, which is at the very heart of the Gospel message. Apart from the resurrection of Jesus there IS no Gospel!

In the first century in Jerusalem Peter said the actual tomb of David could be seen. David had died, his flesh went through the normal decaying process. I like the old English translation of Acts 2:24 in the KJV, “Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. Where David’s earthly remains are today at this point is not of primary importance to one’s faith or salvation. But the point was that it was certain that he could not be the object of those Messianic passages that foretold the resurrection–only Jesus could and did fulfill those resurrection prophecies!

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Tel Lachish, where King Amaziah of Judah Was Killed

April 22, 2017

“From the time Amaziah turned from following the LORD, conspirators plotted against him in Jerusalem, so he fled to Lachish. But they sent assassins after him and they killed him there” (2 Chronicles 25:27, NET).

Tel Lachish at center. View is from the southwest. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Our photo gives the geographical setting for the biblical text, which tells of the assassination of one of Judah’s kings during the “Divided Kingdom” period. Amaziah reigned 796-767 BC. He is described by one author as “a mediocre king who suffered the consequences of his compromises” (Shepherds Notes, The Kings of Judah, p.79).

Later the city of Lachish would be one of 46 fortified cities captured by the Assyrian king Sennacherib, in 701 BC. His siege-mound formed for that invasion can still be seen at the southwest corner of tel Lachish.

Click photo for larger view.

We previously wrote about Lachish here and here.


Antioch of Syria, Modern Antakya

April 11, 2017

This week I am enjoying the opportunity to present a Visualized Survey of the New Testament with the Mt. Olive church of Christ, in Mt. Olive, AL. Included in our studies is the book of Acts, in which we are told how the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch: “and when he [Barnabas] had found him [the Apostle Paul], he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians” (Acts 11:26, ESV).

Antioch of Syria, today’s Antakya. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

It is thrilling to read how that here at Antioch men were “preaching the Lord Jesus” (Acts 11:20). Further, “And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord” (v.21). Then the church at Jerusalem sent Barnabas to help: “When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose.” A Christ-centered message, a Christ-centered conversion, and Christ-centered focus and purpose. Such key verses go a long way in helping us to see a biblical definition of a Christian!

Our photo shows Antioch with bridge crossing the Orontes River in foreground. I took this photo in May, 2007.

I have previously written on the biblical site of Antioch here and here. Antioch/Antakya is within Turkey, but is very near the Turkey/Syrian border.