It was on this day in the year 1799 that, in his campaign against the Ottoman Turks, Napoleon captured the city of Jaffa or, in Hebrew, Yafo, which means, “beautiful.” The city is indeed beautiful and I have been fortunate to have visited it many times. It’s not uncommon to see dozens and dozens of wedding parties throughout the city, especially along the coastline of the Mediterranean. The idea of being married in beautiful Jaffa is quite apropos, considering our topic, today. Jaffa has been the site of many beautiful and significant events. Perhaps the most significant theme connected to the city of Jaffa is that the testimony of the God of Israel and the message of His Messiah went to the nations from this place. We could say that something beautiful started in a place called “beautiful.”
This is the city where Jonah or Yonah, (meaning “dove”), embarked upon a journey to escape the command to go to “that great city, Nineveh” and preach repentance. Jonah, as you know, ended up going along with this task after a bit of persuasion. When he went to the city and preached repentance to them, to his great surprise, they repented in sackcloth and ash. Thus, Jonah became one of the first Hebrew prophets to be sent to the nations carrying a message from a place called “beautiful.”
Many years later, Shimon bar Yonah or Simon bar Jonah (better known as Peter), was in Jaffa when he was contacted by emissaries sent by a man named Cornelius. The following day Shimon bar Yonah (Simon, son of a dove), left Jaffa to go up to Caesarea to preach to a non-Jew, becoming the first Apostle of the Messiah to be sent to the nations. And after hearing their testimony, Peter said:
“In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all— that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached.” (Acts 10:34-37)
Isn’t it interesting that both messengers sent to the nations went forth from Jaffa? God used this very special place to send forth His message and two millennia later, countless numbers have come to know Jesus as the Messiah and Lord of all. That relationship has prompted many of them to make a pilgrimage to the land of Israel and see firsthand where the Messiah taught and where He walked. When you first arrive in Israel, one of the first stops many tour groups will make is the city of Yaffa or “beautiful.”
It seems that the Creator is now bringing things full circle. He sent forth a beautiful message from a place called “beautiful” and now those who have this message in their heart want to see the that beautiful place. This reminds me of a very familiar and popular reference from the prophet Isaiah:
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” (Isaiah 52:7)
From the very place the Creator sent forth this message to the nations, 2000 years later, those redeemed of the nations are coming back to that place and proclaiming the message to Zion, “Your God reigns.” Now, the message is coming back to Zion and that is a certain indicator that we are living at the end of days.