Just a short walk south from the bustling city of Tel Aviv lie the ruins of the ancient seaport of Joppa, one of the world’s oldest harbors. In biblical times this city, now called “Jaffa,” provided Israel with a vital connection to the sea and served as Israel’s primary coastal port. Its name in Hebrew means “beauty.”
In Scripture, we find multiple references to the port of Joppa. King Solomon had cedars from Lebanon floated down to Joppa and then transported up to Jerusalem for use in building the temple (2 Chronicles 2:16). The same process was followed later for the rebuilding of the temple (Ezra 3:7). In addition, the prophet Jonah boarded a ship in Joppa in his attempt to flee to Tarshish rather than obey God’s command to go preach to the Ninevites.
In the New Testament, Peter raised Tabitha (Dorcas) from the dead in the city of Joppa (Acts 9:36–43). He also had a vision on the housetop of Simon the tanner (who lived in Joppa) after the apostle had gone up to the roof to pray. In the vision, God revealed to Peter that the gospel was to be taken to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews. This led to Peter’s ministry in the home of a Gentile centurion named Cornelius in the city of Caesarea, which was about thirty miles north of Joppa (Acts 10; 11:1–18). The Church of St. Peter marks the traditional site believed to be the place where Peter had his vision.
In both the Old and New Testaments, Joppa became the place from which the Gentile world heard the good news of Christ—through a reluctant Jonah and an obedient Peter. As Christ has given us the same charge to take the gospel to the world, which of these men do we more closely resemble? God could have chosen to use angels, dreams, or dramatic miracles to communicate with a lost and hurting world. But He has chosen to use us. He has given us the privilege to be used for His glory.