We’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain
There’s a flat-topped mountain overlooking the Dead Sea in southern Israel named Masada. A magnificent palace once stood there and even in its ruins, it’s breathtakingly majestic. My husband and I stood and looked out across the plains to the Dead Sea and the very air seemed charged with mystery and longing.
Longing can like be a stick with two opposing ends. One end gives and the other end takes. The giving end inspires a person to see beyond what is…to what could be. They take hold of what could be and change worlds. However, the taker is like a bottomless pit, longing but never satisfied. In their unfulfillment, what they have is never enough so they take what belongs to others.
It was this type of bottomless longing that led Herod the Great to seize Masada and build a magnificent summer palace. He wanted an imposingly fortified palace unequaled in grandeur and amenities. Floor were constructed with vertical tubes running between them to create hot tubs and saunas and the walls and floors were covered with intricate mosaic designs. Amazingly, some of the mosaics are still visible after all these years.
With an unlimited budget, no expense was spared and Herod seemed destined to finally reach the pinnacle of his desires. That is, until some hump-backed camels with a few wise men showed up and started asking questions. Word travels fast, even without internet, and Herod soon heard they were asking where to find the new king that is called, “King of the Jews.”
The wise men weren’t called “wise” for nothing and decided to move their hump-backs a little farther down the road. Herod, like all boasting egomaniacs, got really riled up when they stepped in his cheerios. So, in an unbridled fit of rage, he ordered every male child two and under to be slaughtered. What a night that must have been; a whole city of empty-armed mothers wailing for their children.
Herod’s longing wasn’t the only longing that took place at Masada. When the Roman soldiers overtook Jerusalem and the surrounding areas, a group of Hebrews fled there and drew the proverbial “line drawn in the sand.” However, it was “a little too late and a dollar short” to quote my mama. Sometimes it helps to place ourselves into the moment to comprehend the enormity of a decision. For the Hebrews, it must have been like Davy Crockett, James Bowie and William B. Travis at the Alamo. Knowing they were outnumbered and death was inevitable, yet they took a stand for a chance to be free.
The number of Hebrews who fled to Masada for this final fight is up for discussion; however, whether large or small, is not the issue of this story. What we do know is they did hold the Roman soldiers off and forced them to build a road up the side of the mountain to break down the walls. Once inside, every last Hebrew was already dead. So, essentially the mighty Roman army that ruled most of the world, was fighting corpses.
Many years past and due to the remoteness and its arid environment, Masada remained largely untouched by humans or nature for almost two thousand years. Between 1963 and 1965 an extensive excavation was led by Israeli archeologist and former military Chief-of-Staff Yigael Yadin – hold this thought because we’re coming back around the mountain.
The story of Masada may peak interest in history buffs but others may conclude it’s just that: history. If I leave you with anything, it’s to always look beyond the surface and question why. If you do, you will find the Who. That’s where faith arises. Faith is not blindly following because it’s the only ballgame in town. It’s arriving at the knowledge that the Man behind the words can actually be trusted. There’s a big difference between faith and hope. Faith is knowing you can trust the Man behind the words. Hope on the other hand, is waiting and knowing it’s coming. It may come today or it may be tomorrow, but it’s coming!
It’s time to come around the mountain now. Masada was the graveyard of ancient Israel, the last stronghold before they were lost and scattered to the wind. The years lost were not forgotten by God because He had left a mystery there to be found by none other than Yigael Yadin, the soldier and archeologist.
He found a portion from the book of Ezekiel God had hidden there 2000 years earlier. Historically, we know it happened just as God said it would: 9 Also He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” 10 So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army. 11 Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves and bring you into the land of Israel. 13 Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. 14 I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it,” says the Lord.”
The attack ramp still stands on the western side of Masada and can be climbed up on foot. I don’t advise it! It’s straight up and no guardrails. Apparently, they didn’t have safety inspectors in 70 AD!