Walk by faith not sight
Our day began with a Mediterranean Breakfast of fish and salads along with traditional North American cereal, yogurt, fruit and eggs. Today we will be visiting Masada, Qumran, swimming in the Dead Sea and ending our night bringing in the Sabbath at the Western Wall.
We are continuing to pray for Richard as he is still in the hospital and for Katalin who’s luggage is also touring, but not with her.
Pastor Steve did our morning devotions. He shared from Numbers 13 where the spies were sent to the land of Canaan. Their report was mixed. The Land and its fruit were amazing but there were giants. The people refused to trust the Lord and wandered for 40 more years in the wilderness. The ten who gave a bad report saw the giants and were walking by sight, not faith. Hebrews reminds us that faith is the evidence of things not seen. As we live our lives we are to walk by faith not sight.
As we traveled south to Masada, Miriam answered a question about non-Muslim access to the Temple Mount. Everyone has access to the Temple Mount because it is imperative to Israel that all faiths have access to that special place.
Miriam was asked a question about the new arrival process into Israel and how they are assimilated into the country. She explained, the process includes teaching them the Hebrew language, which can take more than six months. Sometimes this process can also involve dealing with different culture changes too, as it is in the case with the Ethiopian Jewish families. Many do not possess skills that are translatable into Israel’s work force and need to be trained. Israel takes the assimilation process very seriously.
We traveled through the wilderness. There is reddish tint to much of the rock and sand along the way. The red is iron oxide in the rock. We saw some Bedouins living almost exactly the way Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob used to live. We passed Jericho on our left which we were told is the oldest as well as the first walled city.
We passed En Gedi where David hid from Saul. We learned that they the area was once famous for producing balsam into some kind of fragrance which was originally the Balm of Gilead. We saw the Dead Sea as we are driving and Miriam explains that it is receding approximately three feet a year because of a decrease in rain and increased use of the waters of the Sea of Galilee area.
The word “Masada” literally means fortress. This Hasmoneans were the first to fortify Masada but later it was modified by Herod. The area was pretty much left deserted until the late 1800’s. It was the place of Herod’s western palace because of it’s high location and being able to have a 360 degree view. He built a number of fortresses because he was paranoid about enemies, whether real or imagined.
During the revolt of Rome, almost 1,000 Jewish Zealots; men, women, and children took over Masada. There was enough food and supplies to stay up there for years. The Zealots and the Romans fought hard with the Romans building a ram of acacia wood and soft earth and finally breaking the wall. And the next morning as they went to take the people, they found everyone dead except for two women and five children. The men killed their families and then themselves so they did not have to go into slavery and be humiliated. It’s obviously a tragic story that shows the determination of the Jewish people.
The remains of 30 people were found up here were buried by the State of Israel with full military honors. We saw a first century Jewish Synagogue where old Bible scrolls were unearthed, including Ezekiel’s Valley of Dry Bone (Ezekiel 37). It was very possibly right in the Synagogue the decision was made among the leaders to choose death over slavery. We saw a storage cave for food and water.
The IDF used to hold their swearing in ceremonies here but they have since stopped because they want to celebrate life. At Masada a 2,000 year old date palm seed was found, planted and actually grew. This date palm was named Methuselah. It won’t ever bear fruit because it is a male and only female date palms can bear fruit.
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).
Our next stop was the Qumran caves where the Dead Sea scrolls were found. On the way to Qumran we saw some baby ibex. The scrolls were found in July 1947. Eventually every book of the Hebrew Bible was found except for Esther which was possibly left out because God was not mentioned, and because it is seen to some as a beauty pageant that ended with a slaughter of gentiles. 50% of the Dead Sea Scrolls is completely identical to our Scriptures today while 50% contains minor differences but not impacting anything of a spiritual, ecclesiastical or eschatological nature.
10 miles south of Jericho, Qumran was on a “dead-end street” and provided a perfect location for the isolationist sect of the Essenes to live.
The site was excavated by Catholic priest Roland deVaux from 1953-56. More recent excavations of the site have taken place under the direction of Hanan Eshel.
Many went into the Dead Sea for a float. As I was walking toward the shore I could smell burgers cooking on a grill with the sound of Hall & Oates playing in the background. It felt more like the New Jersey shore than I remembered. There was shopping, food, little children running around. It’s hard to believe we were at the ancient Dead Sea!
As everyone was entering the water I notice an interesting sign right next to our swimming location. It warns people that there are landmines. That was rather interesting, to say the least.
We ended the day down at the Western Wall watching the Jewish people bring in the Sabbath. It was exciting to watch the joy and enthusiasm exhibited by the Jewish people who gathered to welcome the Sabbath. They sang, danced and prayed. They seemed so happy, it’s a shame that believers in Jesus don’t have the same kind of enthusiasm on the Lord’s day!
The Western Wall is the most holy place accessible to the Jewish people because of Muslim control of the Temple Mount. Known in recent centuries as the “Wailing Wall,” this was built by Herod the Great as the retaining wall of the Temple Mount complex. The plaza was created as an area for prayer when Israel captured the Old City in 1967. At times tens of thousands of people gather here for prayer.