The Greatest City
Located at the most critical mountain pass on the Via Maris, Megiddo was the greatest city in the ancient world.
In ancient times, Megiddo towered above the Plain of Jezreel. It was located along the Via Maris, the primary trade route of the day, making the city and economic and cultural powerhouse. Traders from Egypt, Babylon, Assyria and Persia all had to pass through the crucial mountain pass at Megiddo.
Controlling Megiddo meant having enormous influence over the ancient world, and people often vied for its control. Archaeologists have discovered seventy-seven layers in Tel Megiddo, each representing a time when the city was battled for, destroyed, and rebuilt.
The Hebrew Testament tells us that King Solomon gained control of Megiddo (1 Kings 9:15). No doubt a great deal of Solomon's wealth and power came from his control of this strategic city.
Megiddo was truly one of the greatest cities of the ancient world. By giving it to the Israelites, God put his witnesses at a primary and strategic place in the world.
Battles fought for Megiddo were fought, literally, for the control of the world. The city symbolizes the spiritual battleground between good and evil.
Some scholars believe more battles have been fought in the Jezreel Valley than in any other place in the world. Battles for Megiddo were fought, literally, for strategic influence on the entire world.
But Megiddo represents more than physical control of ancient culture and economics. Megiddo also stands as a symbol of the spiritual battleground between good and evil, a battle for the souls of people around the world.
Using the Hebrew term for hill, "har," Hebrews referred to the hill of Megiddo as Har Megiddo. John used this term when he wrote, "they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon [Har Megiddo]" (Rev. 16:16). John used Megiddo to show his readers that the final battle would be for ultimate control of the world.
Jesus grew up in Nazareth, just a few miles from Megiddo. Perhaps he looked at the Jezreel Valley from time to time and reflected on the spiritual battle it represented-a battle that would ultimately take his life.
Because of Jesus' sacrifice, Christians today know how the final battle of Armageddon will end—the Messiah will return in glory and gain the final victory over evil.
Baal worship distorted two of the most beautiful gifts God gave humans: life and the sexual relationship of husband and wife.
Before the Israelites entered the land, Megiddo served as a prominent high place where Canaanites worshiped fertility gods. Archaeologists have uncovered a large platform where these pagan practices occurred.
The Canaanites believed that the rains and fertile soil of the coast came from a god named Baal. According to their beliefs, Baal lived in the underworld during the dry winter season. When spring came, Baal returned to earth to sleep with his mistress, Asherah, so that rains would return to the land.
To encourage Baal's return, the Canaanites sacrificed their firstborn sons, burning infants alive. The priests and priestesses of Baal publicly engaged in sexual relations with each other and with the people, hoping to entice Baal and Asherah to mate. The pagans committed these abominable acts for one simple purpose: to gain personal and material prosperity.
Canaanite worship distorted two of the most beautiful gifts God gave humans: life and the sexual relationship of husband and wife. God placed his people in Canaan so they could confront the evil practices of pagans with God's truth and love.
Mixing Righteousness with Evil
The Israelites angered God by participating in the pagan worship while claiming to honor God.
As a nomadic desert people, the Israelites trusted God as the God of wilderness. But as they settled in fertile areas like the Jezreel Valley, they became attracted to the promises of the Cannanite fertility cults.
The Israelites gradually made Baal worship a part of their lives. Seeking personal success and fertile land, they participated in temple prostitution and Baal worship. Both King Ahab and Manassah were so immersed in pagan religion that they sacrificed their children to Baal.
But even as they committed these detestable acts, the Israelites still worshiped God in the Temple. Through the prophets, God expressed his anger: "On the very day they sacrificed their children to their idols, they entered my sanctuary and desecrated it" (Ezek. 23:39).
God hated to see innocence and purity destroyed by his very own people: Instead of fighting against evil, they were participating in it. The Israelites eventually paid the consequence for shedding innocent blood: Foreign powers invaded and brought Israel into captivity.
Same Issues, Different Era
Although we live in a different time and place than the Israelites, innocence and purity are still sacraficed for personal gain today.
Today, most people find it unthinkable that a culture once burned innocent children alive for the sake of their material prosperity. But when we look closely at our own culture, we see that innocense and purity are still sacrificed today.
The entertainment industry promotes sex with nearly every movie, television program, and CD they create. Pornographers produce magazines, web sites, and films that show blatant disregard for God's sexual values. Why? Because there are fortunes to be made by selling perversity.
Our culture also cheapens life. Abortion takes hundreds of lives each day. Cloning and embryonic stem cell researchers destroy tiny innocent lives in the name of scientific progress. And these practices are socially acceptable because our culture values convenience, choice, and prosperity more than the gift of life.
As Christians, we must fight such twisted beliefs. Where God's sexual values are distorted, we must point to the beauty of purity. And where the debates about human life occur, Christians must be engaged.
Knowing that the battle between good and evil will untimately end in God's victory, Christians should fight to bring God's values to the Megiddos of our world.
Though ancient Megiddo now stands in ruins, the battle for control of the world continues. In our era, there are new "Megiddos," strategic places like Hollywood, Washington DC, and New York, that have tremendous influence on the world. Our own families, schools, and workplaces are also significant Megiddos.
But it is difficult to honor God in these places. The selfish values of our culture are attractive. Resisting them is hard. How much easier it is to allow sinful patterns into our lives, to sacrifice others for the sake of our own success, just as the Israelites did so long ago.
Fighting for Megiddo demands our all, and it is exhausting. Many of those around us will tell us it's not worth the effort: "Just give in." "Do what feels good." "Do what's right for you." But God's faithful fighters can take heart. Because Jesus died and rose again, we know how the battle of Megiddo will end—God's goodness will triumph.
Consider what sinful values need to be confronted in your "Megiddo." What side of the battle are you on?