Travel to Gezer, and learn what it means to stand at the Crossroads.
Gezer is one of the greatest tels in Israel. To stand on this magnificent tel is to stand on a part of history that existed as many as 3,000 years before our Messiah walked the earth. Its huge size represents how significant the city of Gezer was in ancient days.
West of Gezer lies the coastal plain of Israel, a fertile stretch of land that lines the Mediterranean Sea. To the east are foothills?called the Shephelah?beyond which lie the Judean mountains and the Arabian Desert. Only fifteen miles away from Gezer, Jerusalem is nestled among the Judean hills.
Egypt, a technologically advanced world power in ancient times, lay southwest of Israel. To the east was Mesopotamia, the home of many civilizations that also played a significant role in ancient history. The Bible mentions several of these Mesopotamian powers, including Persia, Babylon, and Assyria.
Crossroads of the World
Gezer stood at the crossroads of ancient trade routes. By placing Israel there, God gave his children a tremendous opportunity to influence the world.
Gezer stood at the crossroads of the ancient world. Egypt and Mesopotamia were powerful civilizations that needed each other for economic and cultural reasons. A key road connecting these two powers was the Via Maris—a coastal trade route running along the Mediterranean Sea.
Three Israelite cities stood in prominent locations along the Via Maris: Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer. Gezer had further strategic importance because it stood at the intersection of the Via Maris and an east-west road that headed toward Jericho.
People who see Gezer today may imagine it as a quiet, agricultural area. But because of its critical position at the intersection of two trade routes, the city bustled with commercial activity. The inhabitants of Gezer could strongly influence world trade.
When God gave his chosen people the land of Israel, he placed them at the crossroads of civilization. He wanted his children to occupy Gezer because he knew that people from many lands would pass through. In this strategic city, the children of God would have a tremendous opportunity to influence the world.
The Israelites failed to dominate Gezer. Instead, they allowed Caananites to live in the city, thus giving pagans major influence over world culture.
Before the Israelites entered the Promised Land, Canaanites controlled Gezer. Joshua 10 tells about Horam, the king of Gezer, and his attack against the incoming Israelites. But God was with the Israelites, and Joshua?s army completely destroyed Horam and all of his troops.
The Bible records another event that placed Gezer in Israelite hands. In 1 Kings 9, Pharoah, king of Egypt, attacked and captured Gezer. After killing the inhabitants and burning the city, he gave it as a wedding present to his daughter, King Solomon's wife. Solomon rebuilt Gezer's walls and probably used the city for storage of horses and chariots (1 Kings 9:16).
Unfortunately, the Israelites rarely controlled Gezer. They acted out of fear rather than trusting God to help them seize Gezer and influence the world. To avoid conflict with the Canaanites, they lived in the mountains and allowed the Canaanites to occupy Gezer (Josh. 16:10).
Thus the Israelites missed an incredible opportunity to impact the world around them. By failing to dominate the strategic city of Gezer, they gave pagans the major influence over their culture.
At Gezer, ancient people erected large standing stones to commemorate significant events that happened there, a cultural custom that was adopted by the Jewish people as well.
At the high place of Gezer, ten stones stand in tribute to a long-forgotten event. These gigantic stones, some more than twenty feet tall, give a glimpse into a custom that was popular thousands of years ago.
Long before the Israelites entered Canaan, pagans in the Middle East erected sacred stones to honor their gods, to declare covenants and treaties between cities, or to honor an important event that could only be explained by the supernatural. Any traveler who saw these stones would know that something significant had happened in that place.
The Hebrew word translated "standing stones" is massebah and means "to set up." To honor their covenant with God, the Israelites also set up standing stones as a reminder of God's supernatural acts on their behalf. The Bible records several of these significant events:
- Jacob set up stone pillars at Bethel in order to remember his powerful dream, in which God reaffirmed his covenant with him (Gen. 28:18—21, 35:14—15).
- After receiving the Ten Commandments and other laws, Moses built twelve standing stones at the foot of Mount Sinai (Ex. 24:2—4).
- The Israelites erected standing stones to remember their miraculous crossing of the Jordan River (Josh. 4:2—3, 8—9).
- Joshua built another standing stone when the covenant was renewed at Shechem (Josh. 24:27).
Living Standing Stones
In the New Testament, Peter challenges Christians to be living standing stones, active witnesses to the amazing things God has done
Today, Tel Gezer's standing stones still look tall and impressive,but their meaning is lost. Stones cannot speak for themselves, and there are no living witnesses to explain what happened there in ancient days.
In the New Testament, Peter builds on standing stone imagery when he describes believers as"living stones" (1 Peter 2:5). Although this passage goes on to compare believers to stones that are shaped and cut by builders, Peter probably wanted his readers to think of themselves as living standing stones as well.
If we faithfully obey God, we will be like standing stones, nonbelievers will notice that our lives are different. But if we fail to explain why we're different, we become ineffective, like the silent stones of Gezer.
Peter's words challenge us to be living "not silent" standing stones. We can and should testify to the amazing things God has done for us.
Standing at the crossroads today
God still wants his people to seize the crossroads. Christians should become powerful standing stones by shaping and influencing the cultural forces of our day.
God placed the children of Israel at the crossroads of the world for a reason. He wanted his people to influence their culture. And he wanted them to become living standing stones, a testimony of his love and power to the pagan world.
But the Israelites failed to conquer the Gezers of their world. They failed to be God's witnesses to their culture.
God still wants his children to stand at the crossroads of life. He wants us to live so publicly that we shape and control the areas of life that impact our world—from entertainment to politics, to the streets and hallways we walk each day.
God has placed each of us in a sphere of influence. No matter how large or small that influence may be, we can act in a way that shows others "the Lord is God." As we live godly lives, non-Christians will see God's work in us and be drawn toward him.
Just like the Israelites near Gezer, today's believers must make a choice. We can trust in God?s power to transform culture and work to shape the world. Or we can live in fear, isolating ourselves and allowing the Gezers of our day to be controlled by nonbelievers.
Which choice will you make?