Israel Trip 2019 – 004

Israel Trip 2019 – 004
Matthew 3:13-17 • Dr. Andy Woods • March 31, 2019 • Israel Trip 2019


Dr. Andy Woods

Israel Trip 004 2019

3-31-19     Matthew 3:13-17

Let’s pray. Father, we are grateful for today, grateful for Your plan of salvation and grateful for what You’ve disclosed to us in Your Word, and I just pray that you’ll be with us during Sunday School and also the main service that follows as we seek to study Your Word and be illuminated by Your Spirit.  We’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory.  We ask these things in Jesus’ name and God’s people said…. Amen.

You might want to take your Bibles and open them to Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 3:13-17.  And we’ve been continuing to study, this is part four believe it or not, a recent trip I took to the nation of Israel, my wife and myself, and my daughter.  And I’m just trying to show you the main places and their biblical significance that we saw in the order we saw them in.  In Part 1 we looked at Tel Aviv, Joppa, Caesarea Maritima, Mount Carmel, and Megiddo.  And then in the second week we looked at Sepphoris and then we moved into Upper Galilee, up north of the Sea of Galilee, we took a look at Caesarea Philippi, and the Tel Dan, the Sea of Galilee and the Mount of Beatitudes.  And last week we spent some time on the Sea of Galilee by looking at a couple of locations, Capernaum, and a place called Tabgha.

And so today if time permits we’re going to look at the Jordan River, I can’t promise you a swim in the Jordan River but at least we can see it from a distance.  Bet She ‘An, Jericho, and then we’ll go down south to the Dead Sea and take a look at a very important place called Masada and why that’s significant to the nation of Israel, as well as a place called Qumran and I’ll show you the significance of what was discovered in Qumran.

You’ll notice the map there on the far right, we’re now leaving the Sea of Galilee and we’re headed down south along the Jordan River.  And there’s a place where the Jordan River joins the Sea of Galilee, or I should say the Sea of Galilee joins the Jordan there at the southern tip of the Sea of Galilee, and it’s a place called Yardenit. I have the spelling on the screen, Yardenit, and Yardenit is basically an outlet if you will from the Sea of Galilee into the Jordan River.  The Jordan River goes all the way down and connects to the Dead Sea down south.  So that’s kind of where we are geographically and it’s generally believed that this, although there’s a baptismal area set up there, I’ll explain that in a second, this probably was not the exact place where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River.  You’d have to keep traveling south down to Jericho where the Jordan River hits Jericho, that’s probably where Christ was baptized by John.

But nevertheless, there was a group there that started baptizing people at Yardenit, further up north, just as that river is leaving the Sea of Galilee, and they chose it because you look at it it’s sort of a picturesque place for a baptism.  And they tried baptizing people there for a long time and what started to happen is the current started to pull the people away that were doing the baptizing.  So you can see there in the pictures, the bottom left, there’s kind of an area there that’s very near the shore with some railings and things like that where it’s common for people to go and get baptized there.  There’s nothing special about this place in terms of magic.  It probably wasn’t even the place where Jesus Himself was baptized by John but it’s sort of an ideal location. And I think it was a Calvary Chapel group, if I have the story right, that built the facility there and now it’s kind of a tourist attraction or a place where  you can go and get baptized in the Jordan River should you desire to do that.

And you’ll see there the middle picture in the top row, there’s Dr. David Hocking and myself.  He’s about as tall as I am, six foot six.  And there’s little Angela, and we were trying to baptize Angela, we had to have her stand on something I think. And there’s another picture if you kind of look down, bottom right corner, that’s myself and Bill Perkins on another trip, probably around November of last year if I’m not mistaken.  And there we are baptizing my daughter, Sarah.

So even if you’ve already been baptized it’s still okay if you want to the experience to get baptized there.  And on my honeymoon I actually baptized my wife in 1998 in that same location. In the bottom right picture  when we got into the water it was very easy to accommodate but in the upper picture with the circle in the middle it was just icy cold. And I felt really bad for the baptismal candidates because once you’re in you kind of get used to the cold water but it’s a shock to the system and so I couldn’t figure if we were baptizing people or torturing people there.

So this is kind of like a location, it probably isn’t the exact location but it’s kind of like a location where Jesus Himself submitted to water baptism, which always raises an interesting point—why in the world do we water baptize people?  Well, we water baptize people because it’s part of the great commission.  You know, Matthew 28:18-20, says, “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. [19]“Go therefore and make” what?  “disciples” notice it doesn’t just say make believers, but “make disciples of all the nations,” and then it specifically says “baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, [20] teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

So when we water baptize people we try to use language like that, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”  We believe that these are instructions of Christ before the age of the church.  Now as you probably know water baptism in and of itself doesn’t justify anybody.  Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves,”  it is what? “it is the gift of God; [9] not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  So we don’t teach water baptism plus faith as a mechanism for becoming justified before God.  When the gospel is presented in its simplicity many times in the Bible, for example, over in Acts 16:30 where the Philippian jailor asked life’s most important question, [Acts 16:30] “What must I do to be saved?” What was the answer from Paul and Silas?  [31] “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” He didn’t say believe plus get baptized.

So if water baptism doesn’t contribute anything to justification why get water baptized?  Well, we think it’s a step of obedience for the new Christian.  It’s right there in the great commission.  [Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” Matthew 28:19]

And water baptism, all it is is an outward symbol of an inward reality.  So it symbolizes basically what God has already done on the inside of a person.  And people say well, I don’t want to get water baptized.  The reality of the situation is you’ve already been baptized, whether you believe it or not, it’s called Spirit baptism and that’s over in Romans 6:3-5.

And this takes place immediately when you place your personal faith in Christ.  Paul writes, “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? [4] Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.  [5] For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection.”  [Romans 6:3-5]

So the moment a person places their personal faith in Christ is the moment they are spiritually baptized into the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.  In fact, Paul over in 1 Corinthians 12:13 describes this Spirit baptism and he says there, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jew or Greek or slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”  So the word “baptism,” all it means in the Bible is identification.  The moment you place your personal faith in Christ as your Savior for personal salvation is the moment you are put into a transaction.  You are identified with Christ’s death, burial, resurrection and ascension.  That is your new identity.  In other words, when He did who else died?  You died.  When He was buried who else was buried?  You were.  When He rose who else rose?  You did.  And when He ascended who else ascended?  We ascended.  In fact, the Book of Ephesians, chapter 2 verse 6 tells us that we are currently seated with Christ in the heavenly places.  [Ephesians 2:6, “and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”]

So when a person submits to water baptism all it’s doing is it’s an outward symbol of that inward reality.  Water baptism can’t do those things for you, only Jesus can do them for you as you place  your faith in Him for salvation., but water baptism symbolizes that reality.  And so we believe water baptism is not something that one just do to be justified but we think it’s an important step for the new believer.  And one of the things that’s very interesting is Jesus Himself in the Jordan River submitted Himself as the Son of God to the ritual of water baptism.

Let’s read that story very fast if we could.  That’s why I had you open up to Matthew 3:13-17. “Then Jesus arrived from Galilee” now we were just in Galilee weren’t we, up north there around the Sea of Galilee, so notice the place of geography.  “Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. [14] But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” [15] But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”’ An interesting statement he makes there.  “Then he permitted Him. [16] After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately” notice it’s full immersion, that’s the way it reads to me, He comes up out of the water and so when we baptize people at the Jordan we made sure it was, even though it was very cold, that all of them was immersed.  Some of the shorter people it was easier to do that and with the taller people.  But it says, “after being baptized Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, [17] and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

So you notice a lot of good things happened in Christ’s life when He submitted to the command of baptism.  And I think baptism is just like any other step of obedience, when  you take it God always blesses in some way the believer’s step of obedience.

So if Christ had no sins that had to be done away with, why would He get water baptized?  Well in this particular case Jesus was just identifying with the message of John the Baptist.  And what was the message of John the Baptist?  Matthew 3:2, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  In other words, the King was present, the kingdom was being offered to first century Israel at this particular point in time, and Jesus was identifying with that message as the very king that the Old Testament predicted would come.  So it’s interesting, Jesus didn’t have to have any sins forgiven obviously!  We do, we trust in Christ, our sins are forgiven, and then water baptism is just an outward symbol of an inward reality.  Jesus obviously didn’t have to have anybody die for His sins but He wanted to, I believe, be baptized by John in the Jordan River to identify with John’s message, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

And you’ll notice in Matthew 3:15 it says, “But Jesus answered and said to him,” in other words John was initially resisting, I’m not going to baptize YOU, “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Permit it at this time for it is in this way it is fitting to fulfill all righteousness.”  And that statement has sort of puzzled a lot of people but I would connect it with what Jesus said of John the Baptist later on in Matthew’s Gospel.  Jesus said of John the Baptist in Matthew 21:32, “For John came to you in the way of righteousness” so John came as God’s representative, God’s ambassador if you will, to offer the kingdom to first century Israel and John’s ministry is looked at by the Lord as coming in the way of righteousness.  And Jesus wanted to identify Himself with that righteous message and so He submitted to water baptism.

And this is what got the early church in trouble because you start to see water baptism practiced very early on in church history, Acts 2, and when people began to be water baptized they were submitting to or identifying with the message of the church, the brand new church.  The message is Jesus is the Messiah and the nation of Israel got it wrong in rejecting Him as their King.  And so when they made that public statement they got into all sorts of trouble with the unbelieving Jews who didn’t like that message because of the guilt it pointed at first century Israel.  And so that’s what got a lot of early Christians in trouble, not so much trusting in Christ but submitting to the ritual of water baptism.

But anyway, that’s just a little bit of information on water baptism and there’s where it all took place, with Christ at the Jordan River, probably not at Yardenit, probably a little bit further down south in the Jericho area but it would have been a location exactly like you see there and it’s just sort of an ideal place if you want to be water baptized to submit to that.

So we move now away from the Jordan River, actually we’re continuing to travel down the Jordan River in a southern direction and we come to a place called Beth-She’an and you might want to open your Bibles to 1 Samuel chapter 31:8-14 and if you’re a diligent listener you might recall when I made reference to this in last week’s sermon.

1 Samuel 31:8-13, this is a location about 17 miles south of the Sea of Galilee and it contains 18 levels of ancient cities dating back probably around three thousand years.  And so as you walk around that area it’s one archeological dig after another in progress.  And this was a tribal area, remember where Joshua went into the land, conquered the land, and the land was divided up amongst the twelve tribes.  I don’t have Beth-She’an highlighted on that map anywhere but according to Joshua 17:11 this is an area that was given to the tribe of Manasseh, you see Manasseh there and Beth-She’an is along the Jordan River, very close to the Jordan River in the tribal area of Manasseh.

And it was a very popular stopping place for Jews as they were traveling to Jerusalem.  Well why would Jews be traveling to Jerusalem?  To celebrate the various feasts; if I remember right three of these feasts required the Jews to show up at the central sanctuary which became Jerusalem to celebrate at least three of those feasts.  And when you go through John’s Gospel you’ll discover very fast that Jesus was not a Presbyterian, nor was He a Baptist, or a member of a Bible church.  Those things didn’t exist yet.  He was a devout Jew and you’ll discover Him in John’s gospel five times, I have the Scripture verses there for various feasts where he went to Jerusalem from Nazareth to celebrate these various feasts of the Lord.  [Passover, 2:23, Unnamed, 5:1, Tabernacles, 7:2, Dedication, 10:22, Passover, 13:1.]

And it’s very, very likely that Jesus stopped at Beth-She’an many, many times and He probably did this also a little further south in Jericho which we’ll get to in just a moment, because it’s pretty well known that that was a pretty popular stopping place for Jews as they made their regular rituals up to Jerusalem to celebrate the various feasts.  And in fact, in your Bible, we have the Book of Psalms, how many books do we have in the Book of Psalms?  We have five books, and Psalms 120-134, study those sometime; 120-134 are what we call the Psalms of Ascent. Why do we call those Psalms of Assent?  Because these were the psalms that the Jews were singing or chanting or verbalizing as they made their pilgrimage up to Jerusalem to celebrate the various feasts.  So these were the Psalms that no doubt the Messiah, Jesus Christ Himself read regularly and He made that trip to Jerusalem and He probably stopped many times in Beth-She’an and He probably stopped many times in Jericho as well.

The only time Beth-She’an really shows up in the Bible is in the passage I had you open up to, 1 Samuel 31:8-13.  [1 Samuel 31:8-13, “It came about on the next day when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. [9] They cut off his head and stripped off his weapons, and sent them throughout the land of the Philistines, to carry the good news to the house of their idols and to the people. [10] They put his weapons in the temple of Ashtaroth, and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth-She’an [11] Now when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, [12] all the valiant men rose and walked all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-She’an, and they came to Jabesh and burned them there. [13] They took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.”]

In fact I don’t know if I have time to read all of it but you probably know the story.  It’s where Jonathan and Saul’s bodies were displayed after being slain by the Philistines.  Now the normal practice in Judaism is burial,  I mean, everybody that dies is given a proper burial.  Stephen, the first martyr of the church age was buried by devout Jews, Acts 8:2. [Acts 8:2, “Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him.”]  And the fact that Saul and Jonathan weren’t even given a proper burial initially demonstrates the total disdain that the Philistines had towards Saul and Jonathan.

And as you keep reading 1 Samuel 31:8-13 what you discover is there were some devout Jews that were so disturbed by the fact that these two were not buried correctly that they fasted, I believe it says they mourned for a number of days and they took their bones and gave them a place of proper burial.

[1 Samuel 31:8-13, “It came about on the next day when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. [9] They cut off his head and stripped off his weapons, and sent the throughout the land of the Philistines, to carry the good news to the house of their idols and to the people. [10] They put his weapons in the temple of Ashtaroth, and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth-She’an. [11]  Now when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead heard [f]what the Philistines had done to Saul, [12]  all the valiant men rose and walked all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-She’an, and they came to Jabesh and burned them there. [13] They took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.”]

And last Sunday you might recall I tried to tie that into the two witnesses who will die on the city streets of Jerusalem and it says there of their dead bodies people will not permit their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb.  [Revelation 11:9 “Those from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations will look at their dead bodies for three and a half days, and will not permit their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb.”]   And the only other time I can think of in biblical history where that happened is 1 Samuel 31:8-13, related to what the Philistines did with Saul and Jonathan and just kind of hung their bodies on a wall there in Beth-She’an and so it demonstrates the total disrespect that the world is going to have towards God’s two spokesmen during this time period in the tribulation period.

So a lot of times we would be traveling and David Hocking would say to me, oh yeah, can you teach on this site, can you teach on that site, you know, we’re like five minutes from the location and I’m like yeah, sure, I can do that.  So I’m always in prayer, Lord, what do you want me to say?  Everybody is getting all the archeology and history from the guides, what do You want me to say. And I thought the Lord wanted me to always bring in spiritual applications so when I was teaching at Beth-She’an one of the applications I brought up is we reap what we sow.  You know, Saul’s life, when you study it, really didn’t end that well.  I believe he was a believer and I believe he had many, many victories in his life but the end of his life is a downward progression.  And in fact, I believe he shouldn’t even have been picked as the first king because the kings are supposed to come from which tribe?  Judah, Genesis 49:10.  [Genesis 49:10, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.”]

And the nation of Israel selected him even though Saul came from the tribe of Benjamin.  Now why did they select Saul?  They focused completely on his looks, I mean, he was tall, he was rugged, he was handsome, he had the best resume from the right seminary, he had a pretty good portfolio, maybe he was successful in the business world.  And so they picked this guy and they weren’t really consulting what God said.  And I think that’s significant because you can do this in a church, you can pick the wrong people for the wrong reasons and it’s always a disaster.  We pick people because of resumes or some kind of outer thing and what we need to do is wait on the Lord and pick the one that the Lord wants.  And had the nation waited on the Lord they could have gotten a David, but they rushed things and they laid hands, as the Bible says, too quickly.  First Timothy says don’t lay hands on someone too quickly, before you know their true character.  [1 Timothy 5:22, “Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.”]

And the nation of Israel made a bad decision right out of the gate and Saul went into rebellion and his life ended tragically, he was not even given a proper burial, he kind of hung up there on a wall.  And some Scriptures that came to my mind as I was thinking about this are Numbers32:23 which says “your sin will find you out.”  [Numbers 32:23, “”But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the LORD, and be sure your sin will find you out.”]

Now Galatians 6:6-9 which says you reap what you sow and you put bad seed into the ground you’re going to get bad fruit eventually.  [Galatians 6:6-9, “The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him. [7] Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. [8] For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. [9] Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”]

And then Proverbs 13:15 which says, “Good understanding giveth favor: but the way of transgressors is hard.” [ KJV] Sin markets itself as liberation and freedom and excitement and all these things and it probably appeared that way to Saul but the end thereof is death.  Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”   And so that’s how Saul’s ended tragically, at least in terms of not even given a proper burial initially at a place called Beth-She’an.

So we continue moving southward down the Jordan River and we come to a place called Jericho.  Now you know about Jericho, right?  Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, and if you go back to the Book of Joshua, chapter 6 and verse 1 you learn about God’s miraculous military plan and how the walls of Jericho eventually fell.  But it says there in Joshua 6:1, “Now Jericho was tightly shut because of the sons of Israel; no one went out and no one came in.”  And then as you drop down to verse 25 it says, “However, Rahab the harlot and her father’s household and all she had, Joshua spared; and she has lived in the midst of Israel to this day, for she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.”  So Jericho was originally known as the place of fragrance; it became known as the city of the Palm trees and this is the famous city that was conquered by the Israelites around the 14th century.  And there’s actually some archeological remains; there’s a big battle as to the date but there’s some burnt over areas and things of that nature that archeologists have discovered over time.  And so a lot of people think it relates to the battle of Jericho.

And this was an area, you can see the sign there that they have, bottom left, I don’t know if you can read that, but it’s something to the effect of oldest city in the world, something like that.  So it has cities there people claim date back ten thousand years.  In other words, when Joshua entered that area it had cities there dated back for some time.  And so think how old we would look at it now.  The area was eventually given to the tribe of Benjamin and you see that circled there, Jericho and the tribal area of Benjamin, according to Joshua 18:21.  [Joshua 18:21, “Now the cities of the tribe of the sons of Benjamin according to their families were Jericho and Beth-hoglah and Emek-keziz,”]

It’s a place of what’s called Elijah’s spring, 2 Kings 2:1-22 and it’s a place where a paranoid ruler, and we’ll talk about him as time permits, a man named Herod, built for himself a winter headquarters.  And because it’s on that path, if you will, up to Jerusalem it’s generally believed that this is also a place that Jesus frequently visited.  Of course, as we mentioned before the feasts, three of them, (if I’m not mistaken) were mandatory in the sense that you had to show up at the central sanctuary to celebrate, which would be Jerusalem.  And I already made a reference to the fact that the Gospel of John enumerates at least five times where Jesus went to Jerusalem to celebrate the various feasts.

And so since that is true and the Lord Himself passed through Jericho many times it’s no wonder to discover that a lot of the miracles Jesus did, or interactions He had with people, took place in Jericho.  For example, it’s in Jericho that He met the two blind men, Matthew 20:29-30.  [Matthew 20:29-30, “As they were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed Him. [30] And two blind men sitting by the road, hearing that Jesus was passing by, cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!”]  He met blind Bartimaeus in Jericho, Mark 10:46. [Mark 10:46, “Then they came to Jericho. And as He was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the road.”]  And Luke is sort of giving a different rendition and just calls him blind man, Luke 18:35. [Luke 18:35, “As Jesus was approaching Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the road begging.”]

And it’s in Jericho that Jesus had a wonderful interaction with a reject of society, a tax gatherer who climbed up in a tree, Zacchaeus, and take a look at Luke 19:1-9.  It says, “He entered Jericho” now why is he entering Jericho?  Because it’s a common stopover place for Jews as they traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate the various feasts, and as they were celebrating the various feasts they were singing which songs?  The Psalms of Ascent found in Psalm 120-134.  It says, “He entered Jericho and was passing through. [2] And there was a man called by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich.”  Now how he got rich is explained in the passage.  [3] Zacchaeus was trying to see who Jesus was, and was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. [4] So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way. [5] When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.”

And that’s an amazing statement because what you see is Christ is not just the God that dies for the world generically; He does that, but He’s also interested in particular people, He’s interested in human beings as individuals, just like He’s interested in you.  And it says, He “said to him,” it doesn’t say He said to the crowd, it says He “said to him.”  It’s a personal ministry with this man Zacchaeus.  “Zacchaeus, hurry down for today I must stay at your house.”  [6] And he hurried and came down and received Him gladly. [7] When they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”  I mean, how dare Jesus hang around with these sinners.

[8] “Zacchaeus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.” [9] And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham.”  And then I love verse 10, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

And what you have to realize is when Jesus bestowed grace upon Zacchaeus He was bestowing grace upon somebody that the whole society had rejected.  That’s why the crowd is grumbling; it’s probably why this little short man had to get up into s tree to see what’s going on because the crowd probably wouldn’t even let him in or near Jesus.  And Zacchaeus as we know was a tax collector and what did that mean? It meant two things; if you’re a Jew and you were a tax collector the first thing it meant was you were a traitor because you were working for the occupier, Rome.  And the Jews hated Rome, they hated suffering under the boot of Rome and wanted to see Rome overthrown and if you were one of theirs working for Rome the whole culture looked at you as a traitor.  You know, kind of like the name Benedict Arnold in American history, it doesn’t conjure up positive imagery.

And beyond that you were a thief, we’re told he was rich, and we’re told how he got rich. Verse 8,  “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.”  How did this guy get wealthy?  Well, he got wealthy based on the privileges tax collectors were given by Rome.  In other words, you can extract money from people to cover the Roman taxation which was very, very high, and then if you wanted to extract more money from people for yourself you were given the privilege to do that.

So the whole culture looked at this man as not only a traitor but a thief.  It’s sort of like how we in our culture today would look at an abortionist or a pornographer, you know, the low of the low, someone that’s a member of the mafia.  And it’s amazing to me that the Lord bestowed grace upon this man, Zacchaeus, and the statement that the Lord makes here in this exchange, “the Son of man has come to seek and save that which is lost.” [Luke 19:10] I believe is the key verse for all of Luke’s Gospel which is describing this aspect of Christ’s ministry and also all of Luke’s sequel called The Book of Acts where Jesus continues to perform this ministry at the Father’s right hand in heaven.  And the whole thing is taking place right here at this very special place called Jericho.  So Jericho is not just the area that Joshua conquered in 1400 B.C., it’s the area where Jesus saved, bestowed grace upon a man named Zacchaeus who didn’t deserve it.

And I think we need to be teaching this a lot more aggressively because there’s many, many people out there that think that somehow, they’re outside of the reach of God’s grace, somehow they’ve gone too far and God doesn’t love them anymore or God is not interested in them anymore and nothing could be further from the truth when you look at how Christ interacted with this little short man, Zacchaeus.

And not only did salvation come to his house but Jesus, I think, if I’m reading this right, showed up at his own personal house for dinner.  Can you imagine that?  I mean, could you imagine showing up at the house of someone that runs a prostitution ring or a pornography business?  Or an abortion business and bestow grace upon them?  That was just an amazing Godly serve, amen!   And so there it is all happening in Jericho.

And we continue now to move in a southern direction, all the way down the River Jordan, away from the Sea of Galilee, and we come to a place called the Dead Sea.  See where it is on the map, Galilee up north and Sea of Galilee down south and the river that connects the two is the Jordan River.

The Dead Sea we’re talking about shows up many, many times in the Bible, I don’t know if we have time to look up all these references but you can jot them down.  Sometimes it’s called the Salt Sea, (for obvious reasons we’ll get to) you see that reference in Genesis 14:3 and Numbers 34:12.  .  [Genesis 14:3, “All these came as allies to the valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea).” Numbers 34:12, “’And the border shall go down to the Jordan and its termination shall be at the Salt Sea. This shall be your land according to its borders all around.’”]

Sometimes it’s called the Sea or Arabah, Deuteronomy 3:17, Deuteronomy 4:49.  [Deuteronomy 3:17,  “the Arabah also, with the Jordan as a border, from Chinnereth even as far as the sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, at the foot of the slopes of Pisgah on the east.” Deuteronomy 4:49, “with all the Arabah across the Jordan to the east, even as far as the sea of the Arabah, at the foot of the slopes of Pisgah.”]   The King James Version refers to it as the Sea of the plain.  [“And all the plain on this side Jordan eastward, even unto the sea of the plain, under the springs of Pisgah.” King James Version]

And it’s also called the East Sea, that would be east of Jerusalem, now if that’s the East Sea what would the West Sea be?  I think that would probably be the Mediterranean ocean wouldn’t it?  And it’s called the East Sea in Ezekiel 47:18, Joel 2:20, Zechariah 14:8.  [Ezekiel 47:18, “The east side, from between Hauran, Damascus, Gilead and the land of Israel, shall be the Jordan; from the north border to the eastern sea you shall measure. This is the east side.”  Joel 2:20, “But I will remove the northern army far from you, And I will drive it into a parched and desolate land, And its vanguard into the eastern sea, And its rear guard into the western sea. And its stench will arise and its foul smell will come up, For it has done great things.”   Zechariah 14:8, “And in that day living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and the other half toward the western sea; it will be in summer as well as in winter.”]

And finally, what happened around the second century is the name “Dead Sea” just sort of caught on and so that’s what’s used to describe it today.  It’s very, very big, it’s 53 miles long, the Dead Sea, it’s 9 to 10 miles wide, it’s probably can be up to about 50 feet deep. It is located 1,350 feet below sea level.  And so it’s considered to be the lowest place on the earth, the Dead Sea.  And what feeds into the Dead Sea is the Jordan River and the reason the sea is dead, as we’ll talk about in a minute, is it has no outlet.  It’s got an intake but no outlet.

And I kind of use this as a sermon application, I heard another pastor use this, I can’t remember who it was so I stole it, but he says the difference between life and death, because everything in the Sea of Galilee is alive, everything in the Dead Sea is dead, I mean, why the difference?  Well, the Sea of Galilee has an intake and an output, the Dead Sea only has an input.  And I think there’s a little bit of a sermon application there, don’t you think?  What gives you life in the Christian world or the Christian life?  It’s not just receiving things from God but it’s also giving those things away.  And when we get into the business of just receiving, receiving, receiving and we never give away what we have then our life that God would like in the Sea of Galilee just disappears and our spiritual life sort of gets dried up.

So this is sort of the danger that you run into in a church like ours, a Bible church which focuses so heavily on Bible teaching.  You know, people come and they receive and they’re blessed and they sort of forget, it’s easy to forget that the reason they’re receiving these things is so they can be a blessing to somebody else.  So not only is receiving things from God important in the spiritual life but being in a place of giving is important as well.

And, of course, the Lord’s Words are recorded, aren’t they, in Acts 20, it’s better to give than to what?  Than to receive.  [Acts 20:35, “In everything, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus Himself: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”]  A lot of pastors will use this to tell people to sign up for this ministry and that ministry and we have a lot of need too by the way, just and FYI, children’s ministry there’s always a need.  But even if you’re not involved in any ministry at Sugar Land Bible Church you need to pray that the Lord would put you around people in a position where you can give as opposed to just receive.

The salt levels in… well, the normal salt levels of a water body is about 4-6%.  The salt levels in the Dead Sea is about 30-33%. So it has obviously a very high salt content.  I wouldn’t try when you go in there to taste it because it’s nauseating and it’s sort of like oil on the skin, and if you get out and you haven’t taken a shower right away it’ll kind of dry on your skin, kind of like as a thick crust.  But it does have this amazing ability to buoy you up, in other words it’s impossible to sink.  And you’re kind of walking out there wondering if it’s going to really work for you, I thought I’d be the first person to sink in the Dead Sea, but  you just kind of kick your legs up, you know, like  you’re sitting down, pretend a chair is behind you and kick your legs up and sure enough, it’ll push you right to the surface and  you’ll actually have a very comfortable seating arrangement no matter where you are in the Dead Sea.

By the way, those mountains in the background, what country would that be?  That would be Jordan.  So it’s interesting that the Israelis actually can see into the neighboring country of Jordan, just across from the Dead Sea.  So there’s a picture of Angela and Sarah, now Sarah is having a great time, she laid down completely, and myself floating in the Dead Sea. You say well where is Anne?  Well, there’s Anne, next to me, floating in the Dead Sea.  This is on another trip, and there’s another picture of Anne and we’re just having a great time there being buoyed up on the so called Dead Sea.

And there’s an astounding prophecy in the Book of Ezekiel, chapter 47, let’s take a look at that just for a minute.  Ezekiel 47:3-12. It talks about that in the millennial kingdom there’s going to be amillennial temple in Jerusalem and from that millennial temple is going to come a river, they call it the millennial river.  And it’s actually going to flow into the Dead Sea.  And why do we call it the Dead Sea?  Because everything in the sea is dead, and it’s a prophecy that once this river flows into the Dead Sea the Dead Sea is going to come to life and it’s going to team with fish and marine life and it’ll be just like the Sea of Galilee.  So you can read on your own verses 3-12 which describe all of this but I’ll just pick it up there in verse 8.  This is part of Ezekiel’s vision, it says, “Then he said to me, “These waters go out toward the eastern region and go down into the Arabah;” now that’s the Dead Sea, “then they go toward the sea, being made to flow into the sea, and the waters of the sea become fresh. [9] “It will come about that every living creature which swarms in every place where the river goes, will live. And there will be very many fish, for these waters go there and the others become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes.10]  “And it will come about that fishermen” I mean, there’s no fishermen today in the Dead Sea, “fishermen will stand beside it; from Engedi” now Engedi is a nearby area where David fled from Saul and we actually visited Engedi and maybe we’re going to have some pictures of that as this series continues, “from Engedi  to Eneglaim there will be a place for the spreading of nets. Their fish will be according to their kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea,” now I think “the Great Sea is probably the Mediterranean, or it could be the Sea of Galilee, “very many.”  In other words, the Dead Sea is going to be made just like the Mediterranean and it’s going to be made just like the Sea of Galilee as the Lord takes death in the millennial kingdom and brings it back to life.

And isn’t that God’s specialty?  Doesn’t God take dead things and bring them back to life.   I mean, isn’t that the whole business of being born again?  We’re dead in our trespasses and sins, we trust Christ, we receive the Spirit, we receive a new nature and we are brought to life spiritually.  Can’t God do that with a business?  Can’t God do that with a church?  I mean, that’s the kind of thing God does, He takes things that are dead and He brings them to life spiritually.  And a lot of the amillennial types that don’t believe in a future kingdom, they have no idea what to do with this passage.  They neither spiritualize it and allegorize it and say it’s not literal or what people will do is they’ll try to drag it, the fulfillment of this prophecy, all the way to the right-hand side of the chart, and say well, it’s not going to be fulfilled in the thousand-year kingdom, it’s going to be fulfilled in the eternal state.  Well, there’s a problem with that—the problem with that is there’s no ocean in the eternal state.  I mean, there’s the water of life and that’s it, there’s no sea, Revelation 21:1.  [Revelation 21:1, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.”]

So in our kingdom series I’ve been teaching on the doctrine of the kingdom on Wednesday nights and we’ve been able to make some charts like this, showing that there are many, many passages in the Bible that clearly are not being fulfilled right now if you take them literally.  The Dead Sea coming to life, being one.  I can testify to that since I floated in it myself, probably three times as I’ve gone to Israel.  They’re clearly not going to be fulfilled in the eternal state, they don’t fit the eternal state.  So where do you put them?  The only place they logically fit is in this intermediate period of the thousand-year reign of Christ where Jesus is reigning over mortal sinners but before the present earth is dissolved and that intermediate time period will last a thousand years.  That’s the only place where these verses could possibly fit, if you take them literally.  Now if you don’t want to take them literally you can make them fit anywhere.   But the more literally you look at many Old Testament prophecies you see very clearly, they don’t fit today, they don’t fit the eternal state either, the only place they could logically be fulfilled is in the intermediate time period, the thousand-year kingdom.

And if you listen to kingdom deniers talk they make you feel as if there’s only one verse in the Bible or one paragraph in the Bible that teaches the thousand-year kingdom.  That’s Revelation 20:1-10.  And they say you build your whole theology on one paragraph and what a bunch of nonsense that is.  The doctrine of the millennial kingdom is evident all the way through the Old Testament with prophecies like this that don’t fit anywhere else.  The one-thousand-year kingdom in Revelation 20:1-10 is just the end of the matter.

[Revelation 20:1-10, “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. [2]  And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; [3]  and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time. [4]  Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of ]their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. [5] The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. [6] Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.  [7]  When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, [8]  and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore. [9] And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them. [10] And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”]

It just gives you the duration, that’s all it gives you.  But the doctrine of the intermediate kingdom in-between the second advent but before the dissolution of this present world and the bringing of the new heavens and new earth, that doctrine is very clearly taught over and over again in the pages of the Old Testament, Ezekiel 47 being one place.

Squeezing in one more if I could, you go to the southwest corner of the Dead Sea and you travel to a place called Masada, every heard of Masada?  Masada in Hebrew means fortress and it is located atop an isolated cliff overlooking the Dead Sea and the Judean wilderness; it is 190 feet above sea level, which is pretty high up there considering that the Dead Sea is the lowest place on the planet.  It is 190 feet above sea level is probably about 1,500 feet above the Dead Sea and the only way you can get up there is via a tram.  You take a tram ride to get up there.  Now there is a very narrow path that you can walk up, and Angela, to her credit, took that narrow path and it took her… is she here today?  It probably took her, I don’t know, forty-five minutes, maybe, to an hour to get up that narrow path.  As for me and my house we believe in the path of least resistance and so we took the tram to the top.

The only source that really documents what happened here is two survivors of a mass suicide and their words, and the story of what happened here is recorded by Josephus, a first century Jewish historian, in his book, The Wars of the Jews. So what is this Masada thing all about?  Well, Herod the Great, who was a tremendous builder, I made a reference of the palace that he built earlier at Beth- She’an.  There’s actually a reference to him refurbishing the second Jewish temple; it took him 46 years to do it, John 2:20.  [John 2:20, “The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”]  So he was a leader that liked to build things, kind of like our President, right, President of the United States, Donald Trump, real estate expert.  Herod the Great was a builder, he was also extremely paranoid, probably one of the most paranoid people that we can think of in ancient history.  And he built a place up on Masada, the year would be about 37-31 B.C. and he build it as a refuge for himself and he had in it storehouses and large cisterns, in other words, he could survive in this fortress called Masada if anybody came against him.

Now seventy-five years after his death we come to the war of the Jews, A.D. 66-70,  you know about A.D.  70, right?  How the Romans came against Israel according to the predictions of Jesus Himself about forty years earlier, and toppled the nation of Israel and probably about a million Jews died in the process.  During that time period as that war was breaking out a group of Jewish rebels overcame the Roman garrison at Masada.  So they took it over and they were joined around A.D. 70 by Zealots, or people that didn’t like the fact that Rome had taken over and they were going to use this sort of as a military base, or as a last stand for the nation of Israel.

And so from Masada having taken over this area from the Romans they raided and harassed the Romans for about two years.   And about A.D. 73 the Romans had had enough so they marched against Masada, around A.D. 74 they built a rampart and a battering ram which pushed up this rampart and the ended up reaching the wall and coming into this fortress called Masada.  And the only reason we know what happened is there were two survivors, two surviving women and this story gets picked up by Josephus.  And what happened at Masada was once those that had taken over Masada, the Jews, the Zealots, figured out they were going to lose they did a mass suicide.  And probably about one thousand men, women and children started to burn Masada and they engaged in what today we would call a mass suicide, ended their own lives.  And they cast lots for who would remain and finish the job and there were ten men selected to kill the remainder, and then they chose one man to kill the ten and then to kill himself.  And this becomes a very significant place in Israeli history because it demonstrates that the zealots within Israel would rather die than live under Roman occupation, Roman idolatry, Roman enslavement.

And the story as I was thinking about it reminds me a lot of the words of Patrick Henry, an American history who said “Give me liberty or give me” what? “give me death!”  I mean, these people really meant this.  When they saw they were going to lose and the Romans had come they would rather commit mass suicide than live under Roman law.  And so this becomes a very significant part of Israeli history because the Israelis have a saying, Masada shall never fall again.  And they would have actually, I’m not sure if they still do it, but graduation ceremonies up in this area, this fortress called Masada, as a reminder that we are never going to let this happen again to our country. We’re never going to be put in a position where we have to choose between living under Gentile dominion or not and we have to choose death as a result.

And what is so interesting about Masada is there is a synagogue that’s been excavated up in that place called Masada, this fortress, and what they discovered is Hebrew fragments of the Bible, Hebrew Bible found buried under the scroll room floor.  In other words, of all the sections of the Bible that the Hebrews could be thinking about before they did this mass suicide what sections of the Bible were they thinking about?  What were they reading?  And what we discovered is they were reading Ezekiel 36 and Ezekiel 37.  Isn’t that interesting?    You know about Ezekiel 36, it’s the prophecy that God would gather the Jews from the four corners of the earth and put them back into their own land.  And they were most likely heavily focused on… in fact, the way the true God explained it this was the passage they were most likely looking at, Ezekiel 37:7-11 which is an illustration of Ezekiel 36, the valley of the dry bones, the bones coming together, breath coming into the body and the Lord saying there in verse 11, these bones are the whole house of Israel.

[Ezekiel 37:7-11, “So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. [8] And I looked, and behold, sinews were on them, and flesh grew and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them. [9] Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life.”’ [10] So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.”]

And as they were thinking to themselves although the Romans have the upper hand right now it’s not always going to be that way.  And so they were holding these passages out in terms of eschatological hope.  And so it’s very interesting to look at the things people are studying and reading at the very end of their lives.  It shows you where their values are.  And Masada is the outworking of the curses of the Mosaic Covenant.  Israel, in her disobedience was disciplined by various Gentile nations whether it’s the Assyrians that gathered in the north, the Babylonians that took the south into captivity, and the Romans that came in A.D. 70.  And in fact, when you study the words of Christ in Luke 19:41-44 you learn exactly forty years in advance the way the Romans would come against Jerusalem, build a barricade against it so the Jews couldn’t get out.            

And I think that perhaps the Lord was not just thinking about Jerusalem falling to the Romans in A.D. 70 but I think in His mind He could have been thinking about what would happen a few years later at Masada, because virtually the same thing happened and this is the outworking of the discipline of the Mosaic Covenant and it took place there on the southwest edge of the Dead Sea at a place called Masada.  And so if you mention Masada to an Israeli or a Jewish person it’s very much part of who they are and part of their history, just like in our history we have certain events that stand out… the American Revolution, things like that.  But Masada becomes a big deal.

I was hoping we’d have time to get over to Qumran but we don’t have time to let me close us in prayer.  Father, we’re grateful for geography, history, and Your Word reminding us that this is not Veggie Tales, this is not Jack and the Beanstalk, these are real things that happened in real time and help us to be mindful of that as we continue this series.  I ask that You’ll be with the worship service that follows. We’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory.  We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said…. Amen!   Happy intermission.