Visitors to the Holy Land following one of the many different EO itineraries will always be intrigued by the Sea Level signs. These signs are set for sea level at the Mediterranean Sea.
Several times the tour bus will pass a Sea Level sign either on its way down to Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee, or on its way down to Jericho, the Dead Sea, Qumran and Masada. And then, of course, on the way up again.
Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee are about 650ft below Sea Level and farther south the Dead Sea is the lowest place on the face of the earth, some 1,280 ft. below sea level. Actually it is a little healthier down below sea level as there is more oxygen in the air - so more oxygen for breathing, the heart, the brain and for better sleeping. Hence many health spas abound around the shores of the Dead Sea. It is also one of the few places in the world where an altimeter (in a plane) actually points downwards! Directions are interesting, too, as normally down is for south and up is for north but going north from Jerusalem one is actually going down to the Sea of Galilee.
Local folk have an inside joke about folk who, as we say, “don’t play with a full deck,” they point to a dumb act and smiling remark, “They are from below sea level.”
Some interesting spiritual truths and lessons come from below sea level. Jesus chooses to be baptized and begin his ministry while below sea level. The Jordan, where John baptized near Jericho, is pretty much the lowest place you can be on earth. Is this part of the divine humiliation (Phil. 2:8)? Consider the stark contrast to the plethora of gods that all sought the highest places, the hills and mountain tops for their status. Such as the home of the gods on Mount Olympus in Greece, or, in Israel, Baal and all the other gods also sought out the high places. Psalm 121 can be read in this way, “I will lift up my eyes unto the hills” – where the psalmist sees the pagan idols and immediately asks the question, “From whence cometh my help?” His answer is - not from this crowd but, raising his eyes above them continues with his answer, “My help comes from the Lord who made the heavens. . . “ Jesus rejects this kind of vanity. On the bus from Jerusalem to Jericho one passes a sea level sign and suddenly a new understanding of Jesus’ parable lights up, “A certain man *went down* to Jericho... “. Aha! 11 miles all downhill.
Below sea level swerves to reminds us of the Lord’s teachings about humility, seeking the lower place at the table, the servant being greater than the master, the paradox of being last in order to be first, and that of continually serving each other in love.
Being below sea level for a few days on an EO Holy Land tour is both a healthy and spiritually uplifting experience.
*Dr. Lee van Rensburg*
*EO Hospitality *
*Sea of Galilee, Tiberias.*