Tel Dan Stele—Providential Ironies in Favor of King David (And You)

How a stone inscription offers encouragement to your spiritual life.

Sometimes archaeology gives us a gift. The ancient site of Tel Dan in Israel has a large, rock wall—a city gate from the time of Solomon’s temple. There archaeologists unearthed the Tel Dan Stele —a marvelous vindication to biblical history.

Tel Dan Iron Age gate near where the stele was discovered

(Photo: Tel Dan Iron Age gate near where the stele was discovered. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

In the courtyard of Tel Dan’s gate complex, a large engraved stone—an ancient basalt stele— gave hard evidence that King David was no King Arthur legend of Hebrew history.

It also offers encouragement to your spiritual life. Here’s how.

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Tel Arad—Israel’s Point of Impatience with God

How traveling along the path of the unknown gives us the chance to give God greater glory.

At Tel Arad, the whole land of Canaan lay before the Hebrews. They had waited and wandered forty years in the wilderness. The Promised Land was theirs for the taking. Right there before them!

Tel Arad—Israel’s Point of Impatience with God

(Photo: Arad Israelite fort, courtesy of Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Instead, God led the Hebrews on a major detour.

Tel Arad in Israel’s Negev offers many benefits to its visitors. It’s an oasis of ancient archaeology. It gives a rare glimpse of Judah’s idolatry.

And it speaks to us today of the need to tap the brakes on our impatience with God’s leading.

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How Jerusalem’s Mountains are Like God’s Presence in Your Life

Jerusalem's Geography Can Relieve Your Doubts

Life is full of moments that expose our doubts. In spite of all the Scripture we’ve learned and all the past victories the Lord has given us, occasionally something will happen that causes serious doubt.

How Jerusalem's Geography Can Relieve Your Doubts

(Photo: Jerusalem’s Temple Mount near sunset. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Maybe it’s a financial situation that undercuts future security. Or it might be a miserable marriage. Perhaps it’s a pastor or a leader who has failed. Maybe it’s our own failure.

Whatever the reason, seasons of doubts and confusion can come even to the most committed followers of Jesus:

  • John the Baptist struggled with doubts about his own beliefs about Jesus (Matt. 11:2-3).
  • The apostle Thomas found the resurrection of Christ something he had to see before he’d believe (John 20:25).
  • Some of the disciples had doubts about Jesus’ appearing to them, even at the Great Commission (Matt. 28:17).

I confess, I’ve had my doubts as well. Sometimes circumstances literally demanded I doubt God. A simple walk in Jerusalem one evening gave me an essential reminder.

I’m convinced it can help you.

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How to Apply those Odd Canaanite Names and Places

2 Lessons from People that Don't Seem to Matter (But Do)

All my life as I’ve studied the Bible and heard it taught, reading the odd list of Canaanite names feels like driving over potholes. I think, Why doesn’t somebody fill in those holes? Why should I care about the Canaanites this week?

Sorting Out Those Odd Canaanite Names and Places

(Photo: Megiddo’s Canaanite temple and sacrificial altar. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

In fact, most of the time when I hear preachers read the list of “Canaanites, Hittites, and Jebusites,” they typically add “Termites” to the list just to get a laugh. We chuckle because—if we’re honest—including those Canaanite names seems a bit ridiculous—and irrelevant.

What difference do all those “—ites” make to us? In this post I’ll give a simple overview of these names, who they were, and where they lived.

But more importantly, I’ll share what difference they make to us today.

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Jerusalem’s Water Gate—Where the Source of Truth Gushed

Why You Need to Wall Off Your Time with the Bible

The best way to make sure we respond positively to the opportunities God provides us is to prepare ahead of time for them. But how do we anticipate those moments? The Lord has shown us how.

Jerusalem’s Water Gate—Where the Source of Truth Gushed

(Photo: Scribe copying the Scriptures. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

At the end of the exile, God moved the heart of the pagan King Artaxerxes to allow Ezra—a scribe and priest—to return to Jerusalem in 458 BC. Fourteen years before Nehemiah returned to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, Ezra returned to rebuild the people. He did it by calling them to return to the Word of God.

Ezra shows us both how to prepare for the opportunities God provides and how to protect ourselves from what threatens them.

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How God Turns Unfair Criticism into a Blessing for You

From Bahurim to Susa, the Lord’s Providential Ironies Flow from Benjamin’s Tribe

It’s tough to hear criticism—especially when it’s wrong. One of the dark moments of King David’s reign saw him shuffling barefoot over the Mount of Olives, fleeing rather than facing a fight with his rebel son Absalom.

From Bahurim to Susa—God Turns a Curse into a Blessing

(Photo: Sunrise over the Mount of Olives. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

After David made his way over the summit, he passed below the Benjamite village of Bahurim. There a loudmouth named Shimei hurled rocks at David’s passing entourage. But the curses Shimei chucked hurt worse.

David’s response was stellar:

My son who came out from me seeks my life; how much more now this Benjamite? Let him alone and let him curse, for the LORD has told him. Perhaps the LORD will look on my affliction and return good to me instead of his cursing this day. —2 Sam. 16:11–12

Centuries later, another Benjamite named Shimei would play a role in providing blessing to David’s line. In fact to all Jews.

And to you.

Has someone criticized you unfairly? Here’s what you have to look forward to.

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What’s Your Motive? There’s Only One Way to Tell

How Tisha B'Av & the Burnt House Examine Us

What’s your motive? In Jerusalem, one site always begs the question. I find it fascinating that when the New Testament talks about God judging our motives, it uses the metaphor of a burnt house. 

How Tisha B'Av & the Burnt House Examine Us

(Photo: The Burnt House in Jerusalem. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Some call it coincidence. Some call it Providence. But according to tradition, both the First and Second Temples (in 586 BC and AD 70) were destroyed on the same date in history. Tisha B’Av marks the 9th day of the month of Av—the fifth Jewish month. During the exile, the Jews instituted a fast to commemorate the Temple’s destruction. After they returned to Jerusalem, they asked God a question about Tisha B’Av:

Shall I weep in the fifth month and abstain, as I have done these many years? —Zechariah 7:3

Their question made sense.

They had observed the fast in exile, but should they continue to fast on Tisha B’Av now that they were building the Second Temple? God’s answer to their question reaches beyond them to the heart of why we do what we do.

One question gets to the heart of our heart.

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The Levitical Cities—God’s Word Made Accessible to You

Finding it is the easy part. The next step is the tough one.

I am convinced God is far more concerned that we know His will than we are. In fact, He has gone to great lengths to help us understand what we need to know. It’s always been this way. Here’s why. 

The Levitical Cities—God’s Word Made Accessible to You

(Photo: Tel Jokneam, one of the 48 Levitical Cities. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

God’s will is found in God’s Word. If we want to find His will, we must read His Word. It’s often that simple—and yet, it’s also difficult. But it needn’t be.

In fact, God has always made His Word accessible to us—today more than ever.

It’s an incredible opportunity for us. 

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The Plains of Moab—Remember What God has Done in Your Life

Looking back offers some of the best help for moving forward.

The time always seems right to receive God’s blessings. After all, we could use some. But sometimes, we need to pause and remember what God has done already. The Plains of Moab give us that much-needed view. 

Plains of Moab—Remember What God has Done in Your Life

(Photo: Sunset from Mount Nebo, overlooking the Plains of Moab. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

When we focus so much on the needs of right now, we can lose sight of the fact that God has already brought us so far. Without that truth firmly rooted, we may miss the right-now blessings in front of us. 

After wandering 40 years in the wilderness, Israel camped on the Plains of Moab, poised to enter the Promised Land. But before receiving the blessings ahead, they needed to remember the blessing that lay behind them.

Here’s how you can do the same.

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Kadesh Barnea — How to Push Your Faith Past the Border of Fear

Two essential decisions will help you move forward.

We come to the line every day. It’s a border. Fear keeps us from stepping over it. What we see feels more compelling than what God has said. Kadesh Barnea was such a place.

Kadesh Barnea — How to Push Your Faith Past the Border of Fear

(Photo: Kadesh Barnea. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Two decisions at Kadesh Barnea determined the future. Twice God’s people stood on the edge of their future. The first time, the Hebrews made the decision; the second time, Moses did. Nobody made an announcement of what would happen at Kadesh.

No one knew how significant the transition would be.

As you face the day before you, you have the same two decisions to make.

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