DAY 5 – Understanding the Signs of the Times

Rising early is now second nature. By 7.30 we have successfully navigated a course through Tiberius to the plateau above and are heading west by south west, to the Yizreel Valley. Streaks of Mackerel scale over head and cloud banking low along the western horizon signal change is in the air. The weather till now has been ideal; mid 20s during the day, a comfortable 15 at night. That’s the weather: the only thing that is ever really certain is that it changes. Jesus was something of a weatherman himself, always encouraging a habit of watchfulness among seekers and followers alike, perhaps because the whimsical vagaries of wind and weather (Greek, pneuma), have features not so unlike Spirit/Breath (pneuma – see Jesus lesson in weather forecasting to Nicodemus, John 3). It’s true, we are usually pretty good at reading the weather signs, it’s “the signs of the times” that we find a lot more challenging. (Matt 16:2,3) As we arrive at Megiddo it occurs to me we may need the insight of the Sons of Issachar “who understand the times & seasons” (1Chron.12.32), as I suspect Hans will shortly give us a little weather forecasting lesson of his own.

At first glance, Mount Megiddo is hardly impressive – a mere mound of earth rising 200’ above the plain. But after some invaluable “priming” by Park Personnel, we have a finer appreciation of how this pile of dust is an archeologist’s gold mine. Better instructed, we begin our winding way though the rock and rubble of the ages, reading there among the artifacts, the rise and ruin of one civilization after another – at least 20 we are told, the earliest of which lies nigh the primordial stirrings of human history after the “Fall”. The place has a very ancient feel: as if we are walking on the actual remains of the mythical unfinished tower of Babel (Genesis 11), symbol of the age-old promethean striving of egotistical man against man intent on reaching the stars, and interminable internecine struggle, mayhem & death of the peoples of the earth – all of it, a pile of rubbish. A sobering speculation, something to ponder for my soul’s good. “For so did you ordain when you created me, saying, ‘You are dust, & to dust you shall return.’ All of us go down into the dust; yet even at the grave….” (Commendation: Funeral Liturgy, BAS)

At length our wanderings conclude at the south lookout of the Tel. The view from here is extraordinary; one vast valley, checkered with squares of blues (flax) and golds (canola), broad swatches of greens, browns and yellows ( grains & fruit, I’m guessing) stretching as far as the eye can see. Raffi reminds us that this valley was a central trade route uniting the two ancient civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia for mIllennia. From this vantage point, the features that set apart Megiddo as an ideal site for a fortified city are obvious: elevation, close proximity to a fertile valley and abundant food source. It isn’t hard to understand why kings and generals of the nations (Israel included), down through the ages, coveted this fortress, spending their energy and resources in the waging of battles, to gain and keep a controlling interest in the world’s commerce of the world that passed by their door. Glancing down at my bible, open to the Book of Revelation, I notice in a footnote, that Napoleon too was altogether captivated by the prospect of fighting a war (probably the Turks with whom he was currently engaged) on the plains of the Yizreel Valley, “the greatest battlefield he had ever seen.” Even in recent history (1918), Megiddo was of strategic military importance during the closing moments of World War I, “the War to end all wars”. General Allenby of the British army, after defeating the Ottoman Empire on this very field, humbly accepted (a little prematurely, in retrospect) the title of “Lord of Megiddo.”

That Megiddo, as a theatre of war, is prominently placed on the stage of world history, is interesting indeed. But, asks Hans, to what end does it point? He takes us to those relevant passages in the Book of Revelation (16:12-16; 19:11-21) where the climactic conclusion of that history is re-imagined in cosmic and spiritual terms. There, Megiddo (Armageddon) is symbolic of the boundless fury & concentrated hate that will summon armies from the 4 corners of the earth to engage in one final and decisive battle, an apocalyptic contest between good and evil. Happily, in the end there is no contest. The arrival of the true Lord of Megiddo, Jeshua, is the End, and eternal beginning of the Kingdom of heavens in earth. But how are we to read this? How does this Revelation enable us to rightly interpret the “signs” of the Kingdom’s approach in the here and now? Hans, quoting Jesus, directs us to Matthew’s Gospel (24:8). The key phrase is “sorrows”, or “birth pains”. I lean over at this point & whisper to Elaine: “You, mother of our 3 children, should be able to make sense of this!” She nods astutely. Hans spells it out: pains that accompany the birthing process, continue with ever greater intensity (more pain!) and increasing rapidity (shorter intervals to rest!) until the “Birth”. In the same way, we can anticipate that the closer we come to the Lord’s return, the more we shall be troubled by apostasy, morally compromised leadership at every level, wars and rumours of wars, always – but more & more of them; the decisive word is global! At the same time, there will be greater grace & blessing, unprecedented anointings of the Holy Spirit, revival will accelerate and engulf entire nations, the growing messianic witness in Israel will continue to increase, Jews in diaspora will continue to return in increasing numbers until all 12 tribes are gathered. Operative words: Birth Pains & Global. As we hear this we sense the Lord is very near, “at the door!” (Matt 3:2, 10:2) Hans, always pastoral, concludes with a practical word of encouragement: “If you want to maintain your watch, i.e., grow in the anointing of the Sons of Issachar and in your ability to read the “signs”, include God in your calendar, daily – for LIFE!!” All this is a little overwhelming. And it is still only 10 o’clock in the morning!

The wind is up. Presently, we are again under way & tracking North West upward along the base of the limestone ridge of the Carmelite mountains to the place of prayer that releases fire from heaven (Elijah)….

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