Shabbat, May 31, Friday
The day begins in the evening…this is why the Sabbath begins at sundown.
On this morning of Shabbat, we are heading to our fist stop, by the evening, when the Sabbath begins we will be in the Holy city, Jerusalem.
But now, we travel up by gondola up, up, to the top of a fortress and walk the ruins; ruins of an amazing, enormous, colossal palace; a place where the remnants left behind paint a picture of lives lived so magnificently that we can only imagine; a life fantastic!
Do you know the story of Masada…the amazing palace that Herod built in 40 AD on an impossibly high mountain face in the middle of the desert? The size of it is massive, one half mile long, cut out of the mountain rock, 38 towers, and each 75 feet high. Inside there are store houses, barracks and cisterns to collect rain water. Built lavishly and lived lavishly where royalty of all kinds including Anthony and Cleopatra were entertained.
Here lies the story of Herod the Great, a megalomaniac, schizophrenic, egocentric who built himself a palace unparalleled to anything in this world as we know it. A structure of engineering importance for all of humanity to behold…amazing!
Do you know the story of Masada…an amazing abandoned palace that is taken over in 70 AD by Zealot Jews, a sect that believe they should fight back against the Romans. When they see that they are losing the battle and Jerusalem lies beaten into the dust, these Zealots retreat to the heights of Masada. Here they make their last stand against the Romans; 960 men, women and children, a remnant of the scattered Jews. In order to avoid capture; enslavement, rape and murder by the Roman soldiers, ten men are chosen and lots are drawn; and they proceed to murder their own families ending in the final death, suicide. When the Romans storm the fortress instead of finding a battle to be fought, they find silence…the sound of death.
Two amazing events of history, different times in the same place…in one we find the evidence of lavish living…extravagance beyond compare; Turkish baths, mosaic floors, and frescoed walls…life defying death. In the other we find the writings of a lost sect; the scriptures of Ezekiel, evidence of a simple life overlapping wealth...and the pot chards with names written on them, evidence of lots cast…death that hoped for life.
Coming down from this place we drive out to Ein Gedi, an oasis of lush wilderness, out of the desert and into a refuge for the wild goats and small Koni’s…a place where the acacia tree grows wild and the jujube plants thrive; one supplies wood for the tabernacle and the other a crown of thorns. It is a hiding place. David hides here from King Saul, up in a cave on the mountain edges overlooking the oasis, watching out, hoping for his freedom, lamenting for God to look down…worshipping, praising and waiting…it is a waiting place.
“David is in the desert of Ein Gedi.” So Saul took 3000 able young men from all Israel and set out to look for David and his men near the crags of the wild goats…”
1 Samuel 24:1-22
Driving from here to Jericho, the oldest city in the world, we see the remnants of the walls; the walls that tumbled down from the blasts of the horns, we see the embattled neighborhoods, depraved and war torn. And we see the villages of the Bedouin Arabs, their shanty towns along the edges of the mountains, squatters in this land.
In the blink of an eye we see the landscape change, we are ascending to the Holy City of Jerusalem, out of the desert into a green and fertile land, we see the change, we can feel it, coming in to God’s Holy city and the air itself begins to be filled with the Holy words of God.
“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God.”
I love that.