Paul once said, “Rejoice with those who rejoice and hurt with those who hurt.” Romans 12:15.
This is just one of the themes that has been discovered of this trip. Right from the get go we have been celebrating our family’s achievements and coming around our family’s sorrows. I say family because that is what this is. Family. A community of people dependent on each other—who know one another’s struggles and one another’s victories. Though we have heard many of our members’ stories we still have quite a bit of ground to cover. Diverse ground to cover. Today we encountered the desert, which, isn’t just a place but a state of life.
Now when I thought of desert I thought rolling hills of sand. I was wrong. The desert in this land consists of large mountainous figures complete with cliffs, rocks and winding paths that can be slightly dangerous if you trip. Thank the good Lord above most of us are sure footed on these hikes despite the few tumblings by one Jackson Brown. ( It’s okay, he’s athletic. ) The desert is this place where we wouldn’t want to stay for very long nor the mountains something we would gladly climb every day. But this is the place that our God places His people. The desert is God’s special place. The chosen land. The land flowing with milk and honey. When I thought of a land flowing with milk and honey I thought of a place that was lush, packed with rivers, streams, overflowing with vegetation and fruits weighing down the branches of trees. This place, where every high place you look at looks the same and there are only traces of where water used to be and the vegetation has been stripped clean by passing sheep, not so much. But this is where we find God bringing His bride to Himself.
"Therefore I will allure her into the desert and speak softly to her." In this dry and weary land is where God brings His bride and makes a covenant with her. He promises that he will provide, he will never forsake her or leave her. Our God wants us to trust Him, to have faith in Him but most importantly to be dependent of Him. He says in Deuteronomy 8:2-3, "Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna which neither you nor your ancestors had known to teach you that man does not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." He brought Israel out to the desert to humble them, to expose their hearts. God wanted them to see their self-sufficiency and strip it away so the only thing they turn to is Him.
“When Jesus is all you have that’s when you realize that Jesus is all you need, and that’s more than enough.” Mother Teresa
In the desert, Israel struggled with fully trusting in God’s faithfulness. Manna was given to them, daily and only enough for a day. When they tried to collect more, it spoiled by the next day. We often ask why would they gather more than they needed when it was coming fresh the next day? Well, that is the self-sufficiency shining through. God is showing them that He provides just enough. Whether it be food, shelter, shade, water, it is always just enough to keep you going. God brings His people to the desert to humble them and teach them that He and He alone provides enough. We’ve all experienced these deserts in one way or another where God is stripping you of your pride and calling you softly to Him. In these seasons we need to savor the tearing away of scales on our hearts because we know the outcome will be so sweet and so full of God’s promises to us. Our dependency on Him is not a weakness; it is our strength.
Often times, as the Americans we are, we ask God to move the mountain we are climbing or to give us a deer to ride instead of feet of a deer to not fall. More often than not want to opt out of the hard part when, truly, the hard part is what we need the most. We want to skip past the hurt and jump right into the pot of honey God provides for us. We miss the most important and most intimate part of the journey if we skip past these hard moments and struggles with God. He wants us to struggle, only then can He know our heart, and in turn we can know our own hearts. God cherishes these moments with His people—it’s where He comes to know them, like a bridegroom comes to know his bride. Why would we ever want to skip past that?
This desert, this dry and weary place is where we find some of the most prominent people God uses in the Bible. Abraham lived there and wandered there. Moses brought all of Israel through the desert to the land flowing with milk and honey. David found refuge there for three years while he was running for his life and this is the land that he lived in when he wrote most of the Psalms. How many of those Psalms are praises to God mixed right in with David’s complaints and struggles with God? All of these men struggled, all of them had hardships in this desert but all of them God used to show the world His faithfulness and glory.
The Nahal Zin was the southern border of the land of Canaan that was promised to the Israelites. Numbers 34:3-4 (KJV) “Then your south quarter shall be from the wilderness of Zin along by the coast of Edom, and your south border shall be the outmost coast of the salt sea eastward: And your border shall turn from the south to the ascent of Akrabbim, and pass on to Zin: and the going forth thereof shall be from the south to Kadeshbarnea, and shall go on to Hazaraddar, and pass on to Azmon.”
Sure, today I wanted the mountain of Masada to be flatter and the water in my pack to be cooler but the honey of this hike wouldn’t have been as sweet. We saw first hand how hard it is in the desert, the vastness, the dryness, the emptiness. We saw the how crucial water is and was thousands of yeas ago. Then, we saw God’s sweet provision, for this year we had clouds and to my knowledge this is the coolest it has been on the Masada hike. The cloud coverage didn’t stay all day but it stayed just enough. The view from the top was breath taking and completely worth the strenuous hike. The best parts were the quiet moments we had to think about our times in the desert, to sit and feel the wind. It wasn’t much but it was just enough. Just enough.
The summit of Masada sits 190 feet (59 m) above sea level and about 1,500 feet (470 m) above the level of the Dead Sea. The mountain itself is 1950 feet (610 m) long, 650 feet (200 m) wide, 4,250 feet (1330 m) in circumference, and encompasses 23 acres. The “Snake Path” climbs 900 feet (280 m) in elevation. From the west, the difference in height is 225 feet (70 m).