God is my rock, in whom I take refuge
Early morning, we gathered together, looking across Dead Sea waters toward Jordan’s Mt. Nebo, where God allowed Moses to see the Promised Land. Pastor Mike prayed that we too would be able to hear God and have eyes to see His promises and witness His glory.
Our first destination, Masada, Herod’s magnificent fortress atop an enormous plateau above the Dead Sea, testifies to greatness. It contained beautiful palaces, huge storehouses, barracks, 34 guard towers, sophisticated gymnasiums, an armory, bath houses, a caldarium, giant cisterns, engineering marvels and more. Yehuda, our encyclopedic guide, recounted the history behind this famous fortress. In the end, it fell to the Romans. Tragically, the Jewish rebels, 960 men, women and children committed mass suicide rather than becoming slaves.
This destination made the concept of “fortress” so vivid. Psalm 18:2 declares, “The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my Deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” While human fortresses eventually fall, our God endures forever!
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).
In the desert near Masada, Bedouins still herd their camels and sheep today. Sitting in a camel hair tent, we experienced a re-enactment of their ancient code of hospitality toward strangers as we enjoyed tea, coffee and fire baked pita bread. Strangers received expensive coffee—“black as night, strong as a man, and bitter as marriage.” They were welcomed for three days with pledges of “welcome, pleasure, and the sword.” (protection) Abraham practiced this extreme hospitality.
Hebrews 13:2 reminds us, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Biblical hospitality is the kind that blesses even the stranger. The Bedouin experience reflected that spirit.
Though God clearly told His chosen people, “I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from Me there is no God,” the ruins at Arad illustrate a type of idolatry known as henotheism. As we viewed an altar to God, built for appointed sacrifices by the Jewish people, we were shown, just a few feet away, their idols of stone to “lesser” gods. Pastor Mike challenged us to take an honest look at the gods in our lives that take our affections away from the One True God- “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139: 23-24
Like many cities in the Holy Land, Arad was repeatedly settled because of its strategic geographical location. Though situated in an area with little rainfall, Arad was inhabited frequently in ancient times because of its position along the routes coming from the east and southeast.
What a marvelous day of learning we had!
Written by Vickie Weinz