Thursday, June 28, 2012

Nazareth and Mt. Carmel

While in Nazareth, we visited the Basilica of the Annunciation, a modern Catholic church built over the cave where it is believed the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary:
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” – Luke 1:26-33

Nazareth is also where Jesus spent most of his boyhood and grew into a young man. After being baptized in the Jordan River and the temptation in the wilderness, Jesus returned to Nazareth where his first recorded sermon was preached:
And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed,
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.” – Luke 4:16-19

Leaving Nazareth, we went west to Haifa, one of the most beautiful places we visited. Haifa is located between the Jezreel Valley and the Mediterranean Sea.

Upon arriving at Haifa, we took a cable car ride to the top of Mt. Carmel.

This is the site where Elijah, full of faith, knowing in his own strength the fire would not come down, but that God would provide, challenged the prophets of Baal (see 1 Kings 18:20-46). I love this story of faith and can relate to how, even after Elijah had a tremendous victory, he cycled into a time of despair:
But Elijah went up to the top of Mt. Carmel; and he crouched down on the earth and put his face between his knees. – 1 Kings 18:42

Just when Elijah intensely feared that perhaps God had forgotten about him, he sent his servant to look for rain:

 He said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” So he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go back” seven times. It came about at the seventh time, that he said, “Behold, a cloud as small as a man’s hand is coming up from the sea.” And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, so that the heavy shower does not stop you.’”In a little while the sky grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy shower. And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel. Then the hand of the Lord was on Elijah, and he gathered up his garment and outran Ahab to Jezreel. – 1 Kings 43-46

Just like Elijah, I have had some highs and some lows, and when my greatest fears, worries and moments of unbelief try to take me over, I’m looking for one small cloud and believing that yes, God has not forgotten me and a heavy rain is coming. I'm not sure what the view from Mt. Carmel looked like in Elijah's day, but I certainly enjoyed thinking about his story and walk with the Lord and my own walk with the Lord as I stood and looked out at the beauty of the Mediterranean coast.

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