Importance of Geography
Happy Passover and Easter everyone! We know everyone is celebrating in a unique way this year but isn’t it a comfort to know that Jesus died and conquered death? Praise the Lord that we have peace and comfort in knowing our Messiah, Jesus! This week we are starting a new series that we hope will be an encouragement. Chris will be teaching us how to read our Bible. We thought we would go back to the basics as we’re all home and have extra time to hopefully spend in God’s Word. Chris will walk us through the importance of geography this week.
Chris explains it this way, “The land of the Bible almost functions as it’s own character in the Scriptures. The land can be understood on a map but it should also be understood theologically. God has a purpose for the land in the Scriptures, it should be thought of prophetically.” This is why learning to properly read our Bibles is so important!
Chris Katulka: The Bible is not about you. You are not the center of the Bible. If you read a passage and then insert your name into that passage, you're actually limiting the work of the Scriptures in your life. So let me start there, the Bible, it's not about you.
Steve Conover: Welcome to the Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover and with me is our host and teacher, Chris Katulka. As you all know already, we are living in uncertain days and here at the Friends of Israel Today we've had to adjust in how we do ministry like many of you have during this season. As you listen to our broadcast or podcast, our team is producing the program remotely from our homes, which is something we've never done before and you might notice a change in the audio quality. But praise God through technology, we can continue to bring you new and relevant teaching during this time of quarantine. I want to invite you to visit our website, foiradio.org. We're praying for you and we want to hear your prayer requests. When you go to our website, there is a prayer form you can fill out and when we receive those prayers, we will pray for you privately. These prayers will not be mentioned on air, but our team will bring them before our loving heavenly Father. Also, while you're at foiradio.org, you'll find a new video from Chris, Tom, Sarah, and me, talking about what we love the most about creating these radio programs and podcasts for you.
Chris Katulka: Now, while we're all hunkered down in our homes, this is such a great opportunity for us to turn to God's Word and to invest in knowing God more through the reading of His Word as things have slowed down a little bit. What a great way for us to study the Word of God more. You know what? We want to help you in that. We want to encourage you in the studying of God's Word because sometimes studying God's Word can be difficult. We're removed by thousands of years of geography, of culture, and history. I think the more and more that we understand these concepts, the more and more we can know God more and understand his plan that he has for us as we continue to serve him and dig into his Word. So, for the next couple of weeks we're going to be looking at the best way of how to read the Bible.
Steve Conover: We're excited for this series, but first in the news, the water level of the Sea of Galilee continues to rise to levels that the Israel Water Authority hasn't seen since 2004. This year, rainfall totals in Israel are seeing up to 150% more rain than expected for the time of year with more rain to come. Also Mount Hermon, which supplies water to the Sea of Galilee, saw heavy snowfall this winter and will raise the water level of the lake this spring and summer.
Chris Katulka: Well, here's my take. In 2018, the Times of Israel reported that Israel's Water Authority warned that the Sea of Galilee was drying up as a result of low rainfall, and it actually even warned that it was approaching the black line. Well, two years later, Israel's Water Authority is mulling over opening the Degania Dam to release the water down the Jordan River. Rain in Israel is often associated with God's blessing. I believe this is good news that we need right now, God's blessings raining down.
The other day I was watching the news and I stumbled across a press conference that was being held at The White House. President Trump had business leaders talking about the work that they were doing to help during the coronavirus season that we're in. One of the leaders was Mike Lindell of My Pillow. His company has converted his factory in the United States to making face masks for medical professionals. During his speech, Mike Lindell turned to the president at the very end and he said to him, "Mr. President, I'm going to go off script here a little bit." You could tell President Trump looked a little concerned, what's he going to say here? But this is what Mike Lindell said, he turned right to the cameras and he looked at the American people and he said, "I want to encourage you to use this time at home to get back in the Word, to read our Bibles and to spend time with our families."
I want you to think about this for a minute, Mike Lindell, the CEO of a pillow company, reminded America of something great. Don't waste this time binge-watching television shows and movies online. Instead, take this time to invest in reading the Scriptures. Get back into God's Word and spend time with your families. This is so applicable to what we're going to be talking about over the next few weeks. If you're home and you're doing your civic duty by just staying put, then you have some more time to give to the reading of God's Word. In doing so, I wanted to see if I could encourage you a bit by helping you with the reading of God's Word. So, over the next three weeks, we're going to be doing a series, How to Read the Bible. This is a basic overview to help you understand the Scriptures more clearly. Now listen, God's Word never returns void, it will always encourage you. God's Word will always build you up. It will even challenge you in your life.
But I believe that when you understand what the Scriptures are saying, it will deepen your relationship with the Lord and give you a better understanding of how God is working in your life. Let me start here, because I'm going to mention this at the very beginning of every episode for our series here, it's this, the Bible is not about you. You are not the center of the Bible. If you read a passage and then insert your name into that passage, you're actually limiting the work of the Scriptures in your life. So let me start there, the Bible, it's not about you. But with that said, there are a couple aspects that we want to highlight over the few weeks to help you better read the Bible.
First, the geography of the Bible, biblical geography. That's what we're going to look at today. And then we're going to study the culture of the Bible, the Jewish culture of the Bible. And then finally we're going to look at the context. We need to look at what's going around the author when he was writing and the people the author was writing to. I believe this is going to be a profitable study for all of us during this coronavirus season. I actually think, when I talk about the fact that the Bible is not about you, this is important because actually the Bible is speaking to you. It's not about you, but it's speaking to you. So, we want to know exactly what the Scriptures are saying, what God's Word is saying to us. Okay, so let's start with our first important aspect of how to read the Bible, geography.
Now, let me just say that when we use the term geography, I'm sure in your mind you automatically think of maps and locations in the Bible, like where is Jerusalem? Where is Nazareth? Where is the Sea of Galilee? While that does help, I think we need to think about geography a bit differently, especially in the Bible. See, the biblical lands are more than just the geographical backgrounds to the stories of the Bible, the land of the Bible almost functions as its own character in the Scriptures. The land can be understood on a map, but it should also be understood theologically, God has a purpose for the land in the Scriptures. It should be thought of prophetically, God has a future for the land. The way the Israelites actually responded to the law of God determined how God would use his chosen people in the land. If they disobeyed God and his commands, God would bring a famine to the land of milk and honey, God would allow enemies to enter the land, God would even kick his chosen people out of the land.
See, the land is more than just geography, it's this unique relationship that is bound by a promise that God made to Abraham, that God would give Abraham descendants, which are the Jewish people, that God would bless them and that God would give them a land. Again, when we're talking about geography in the Bible, we are talking about more than just maps, we're talking about an often overlooked character in the Bible. Let me give you an example. Let's start with the general idea of geography in the Bible. Let's look at a city that we're probably all very familiar with, Bethlehem. If you're listening to this broadcast or podcast right now, when you hear the City of Bethlehem, I'm sure your mind races right away to the birth of Jesus. Maybe you go back to the Bible and you venture to the maps there and you find Bethlehem of the first century and you see Bethlehem is just five miles South of Jerusalem, they're practically sister cities.
But see, there's so much more to Bethlehem than just the name or the location on a map. See, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, that location is screaming out certain truths about who He is. There's a lot of history in theology and prophecy wrapped up in this tiny town. Matthew tells us that Jesus wasn't born in Bethlehem by accident, it was actually by divine providence that he was born in Bethlehem because the prophet, Micah, who wrote 700 years prior to Jesus's birth, he prophesied that the King of Israel would be born in that city. Micah 5:2 says this, "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth from me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days."
Okay, so Micah gives us some prophecy here. This city matters. It's more than just a pit stop on your way up to Jerusalem. Micah lets us know that prophetically this city has meaning and significance. The future ruler of Israel, the King of Israel, was to be born in Bethlehem. Okay, so good, we know that much. But now we have to ask another question. Why? Why out of all the cities would God use Micah to let us know this is where the Messiah would be born, the King of Israel? Why did God pick this city? See, this is why looking beyond the map to see the deeper meaning of some of these places in the Bible matters. Micah's prophecy wasn't simply to get the Messiah Jesus to be born in Bethlehem, there was meaning behind God choosing this city.
This is where digging into the history of Bethlehem matters. If you go back to the Old Testament, Bethlehem actually appears even before Micah predicted that Jesus would be born there. There's another major biblical character who was born and raised in Bethlehem. This character in the Old Testament, he occupies many books of the Bible. His name is mentioned all throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament. I am sure that you are dying to know who this character is. Okay, good, well then you're going to have to hang around. After the break, I want you to stick around, because I want to let you know who was born and raised in this little town of Bethlehem.
Steve Conover: With COVID-19 taking over the headlines and effecting the daily routine of our lives, we want to remind ourselves that God is greater than this virus. Many of us have had extra time during the quarantine and it's a good time to catch up on our reading lists. That's why we want to offer you 19% off your purchase along with free shipping in our web store. Go to foiradio.org, and there you will find a link to take you to our web store and we'll ask you to use the code Psalm19 at checkout.
Chris Katulka: Now, COVID-19 is something that might actually instill fear and you know what? We want to redeem it for a moment. We want to redeem it from COVID-19 to Psalm 19, from fear to faith, to remember Psalm 19 is a great psalm, it's about God's creation. He's over all, he's created all things, that his Scriptures are alive and well and they can change us from the inside out, they're perfect, and that we want to be used by God. We want to be a servant of God in these times. I love how Psalm 19 ends, "May my words and my thoughts be acceptable in your sight, oh Lord, my sheltering rock and my redeemer." This is a great opportunity to redeem COVID-19 with Psalm 19, remembering who God is.
Steve Conover: Again, visit our website foiradio.org. That's FOIradio.org and at checkout use the code, Psalm19 that's P-S-A-L-M-1-9, all one word, for 19% off your entire order and free shipping. A reminder, this is only valid online to U.S. residents through the month of April, 2020.
Chris Katulka: Welcome back everyone, we are beginning a three week series on how to read the Bible. There's no better time than now, as you're quarantined in your house, to start reading the Scriptures. We want to help you with that. Today, we've been talking about how to understand biblical geography and to help that enhance your Bible reading. But see, it's more than just reading maps, the biblical geography is more than just reading maps and understanding where places are in the Holy land. It's about understanding history, it's about understanding theology and the prophecy of the land. Really, the land, as I said earlier, is one of the most overlooked characters in the Bible. Earlier we were looking at the city of Bethlehem, the town where Jesus was born, a place that the prophet Micah predicted that the Messiah would be born, 700 years prior to Christ's birth.
But we have to look at the history of the town too, and there was a very important biblical character who was born and raised in Bethlehem. His name is King David. King David was born, raised, and even anointed the King of Israel by Samuel in Bethlehem. God made a promise to King David that he would have a son who would sit on his throne forever, 2 Samuel 7. That's why when the gospel of Matthew opens, I love this, it starts with the genealogy of Jesus and Matthew, and the very first verse of the New Testament highlights two very important figures that Jesus is connected to, and it says this in Matthew 1:1, "The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham." The king of Israel, think about this, the king of Israel must be a son of David, and Jesus is that one son God envisioned for David. Additionally, Jesus was born, think about this, Jesus was born in the town of Israel's greatest king in their history, King David.
Let's go back to Micah for a moment. What do we see from this little town of Bethlehem? Well, number one, Jesus was born, humbly, in Bethlehem, but he was also, by being born in Bethlehem, he was showing us that he is royalty by following in the footsteps of his great, great, great, great, great, great, I think you're getting the point, but his great grandfather, David. Second, Micah also tells us in Micah 4:8 that the king would be born in an area of Bethlehem that is unique, a specific area of Bethlehem, honing in on one particular area of Bethlehem called Migdal Eder.
Ancient Jewish texts tell us that this specific area where Jesus was born was where special flocks were kept for Passover. The lambs that were there around Jesus were actually determined for slaughter in the spring. They were being watched by special shepherds to make sure there were no blemishes on these lambs as they were going to be going to Passover later on, and here is this place where Jesus was born. Jesus was born right in the center of where these lambs were kept. So not only was Jesus born in the place of King David, showing that he is royalty, but the location, the geography, also shows that Jesus was born where the lambs were destined for sacrifice for the Passover, giving us the picture of Jesus' destiny to be the lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. Finally, Micah threw a little caveat at the end of his prophecy, says this about the one who would be born in Bethlehem. It says this, "This one, his coming forth is from of old, from ancient days."
See, Jesus might've been born in Bethlehem, but he didn't start in Bethlehem. Jesus is God and he's eternal and his comings forth are from of old and from ancient days. Micah is trying to tell us this one is eternal. From one little town, one little location, the geography, we've learned that Jesus' birth in Bethlehem shows his royalty, that he's the king of Israel and sovereign over all, it predicted his destiny to be our sacrifice on the cross. Micah even reminds us that though Jesus was born in Bethlehem, he didn't begin there. Jesus is eternal as the gospel of John wants to show us. See, when you read the Bible, you got to make sure to dig into the locations of the Bible, dig into their history and the role they play in the biblical story. Because knowing where you are locationally and theologically in the Bible will help you better understand how God is speaking to you from the Bible.
Steve Conover: Israel, on the verge of becoming a state, a teenage Holocaust survivor arrives on her shores alone. His name is Zvi Kalisher. Little did he know his search for a new life in the Holy Land would lead him to the Messiah. Zvi, enthusiastic to share his faith, engaged others in spiritual conversations, many of which can be found in our magazine, Israel My Glory. While Zvi is now in the presence of his Savior, his collective writings from well over 50 years of ministry continue to encourage believers worldwide. Now, Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the life of Zvi.
Mike Kellogg: Every year my home is completely full on Passover evening. Before the readings, I gave a short testimony about the meaning of Passover. My children played music and everyone sang. The feast lasted until 1:00 AM and many of our neighbors after hearing the music and singing stood outside listening also. The unbelievers thought they were going to see and hear things completely different from their own celebration, but there was a prize to learn, we believe in the same God and what's more, we followed the real Passover Lamb, Jesus. Leviticus 17:11 clearly depicts the atonement, "For the life of the flesh is in the blood and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls." The only difference between their feast and mine was that I put meaning into it, emphasizing the paschal lamb, which is the real atonement. I read from the Bible and told them our celebration is all about that lamb. This was very hard for them to understand.
I read to them only from the Old Testament, such as Job 19:25, "For I know that my redeemer lives and he shall stand at last on the earth." This was the first time they had heard about the resurrection. Then someone asked the age-old question, "How can we know this when no one has ever come back from the grave?" I replied, "The Lord rose from the grave." "No," the questioner said, "we don't want to hear that example. We want to hear from the Bible but not from the New Testament." So I quoted the prophet Daniel who wrote, "And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake. Some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. You can have the Lord's mercy. You can have real atonement through his death and resurrection."
They did not understand how God could be born and die and come again. I told them the Bible speaks of all these things. Micah 5:2 and Isaiah 9:6 foretold his birth. Isaiah 53 foretold his suffering. Zachariah 12:10 foretold his death. King David prophesied of his resurrection in Psalm 16:10 and Daniel 7:13 predicts his second coming. I showed them all of these things without once opening the New Testament because God has given us a very clear picture of the Lord, our Savior and our Passover in the Old Testament. I then told my visitors, "You can see the way we have celebrated the Passover today. It's not taken from our imaginations, but from the Holy Bible, the same Bible you read. The Lord has promised he will come again and he has told us to watch and pray so we will be ready for his coming." By the end of the evening, some of my guests changed their minds about me and we all sang together the popular song of the Passover taken from Psalm 118. It was truly a blessed Passover feast.
Chris Katulka: The impact is Zvi's life and ministry in Israel. It didn't end when he went home to be with the Lord, in fact, Zvi's legacy lives on. Our Friends of Israel Ministry representatives continue to share the gospel in Jerusalem, Israel and, really, all throughout the world. We also serve Holocaust survivors and their families. We provide free food, medicine and clothing and we even promote the safety and security of the State of Israel and the Jewish people everywhere. So when you give to the Friends of Israel, your donation actually allows us to advance the gospel of our Messiah, Jesus. You can give online by visiting foiradio.O-R-G again, that's foiradio.O-R-G. You can click right there on our donate link. Also, be sure to let us know where you listen when you contact us.
Steve Conover: Thanks for being with us today. Chris, tell us where we're headed in our series next week.
Chris Katulka: Yeah, this is something that I love to talk about, it's the culture of the Bible. Sometimes I think we can input our own culture into the Bible, which is totally okay, that's the beauty of who Jesus is, he transcends culture. But to fully understand the Scriptures, I believe you have to know the culture of the Scriptures and the Scriptures come from a Jewish culture and background, so we're going to be looking at some aspects of how to read the Bible with a cultural understanding of what was going on then.
Steve Conover: Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione, co-written by Sarah Fern, Mike Kellogg read Apples of Gold. Our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong. I'm Steve Conover, executive producer. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide evangelical ministry proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.
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With COVID-19 taking over the headlines and affecting the daily routine of our lives, we want to remind ourselves that God is greater than this virus!
Many of us have extra time during the quarantine, and it’s a good time to catch up on our reading lists. That’s why we want to offer you 19% off your purchase along with free shipping in our webstore. Use the discount code PSALM19 at checkout.
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It’s Passover, and a few weeks ago Chris Katulka and our North American Ministries Director, Steve Herzig hosted an online Passover live on Facebook. If you would like to watch how a Passover meal is done and its significance, you can watch it by clicking the button below.
Apples of Gold: The Pesach Lamb
Zvi’s Passover celebration was always a blessed feast. Sometimes it would go into the early hours of the night. Many of his neighbors would listen outside expecting the Kalishers’ Passover to be different than what they are used to. But to their surprise, it was the same! When Zvi tried to show them how the Messiah is our Passover Lamb, they asked him to only show them from the Old Testament. Zvi did just that and they were amazed, giving him a chance to share his faith in Jesus with them.
Zvi’s story is available in Elwood McQuaid’s book, “Zvi: The Miraculous Story of Triumph over the Holocaust,” available at our online store.
More stories from Zvi are also available in his book, “The Best of Zvi,” available at our online store.
The Friends of Israel Today and Apples of Gold theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.