Today began at Masada, an extremely high, isolated rock plateau where Herod the Great built a lavish, three-tiered palace complex which he would later abandon. When Rome destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD a group of approximately 1000 Jewish zealots fled here. Though the fortress offered Rome nothing strategically, they simply were not content to allow the Jews to remain there and put the city under siege. For three years they built an enormous ramp which allowed them to reach the heights with their battering ram and breach the gates. In an act of fidelity and solidarity the entire Jewish community committed suicide before the Romans were able to break through and conquer the city. It is an amazing and tragic story. You can see the three tiers of the palace to the top right of the plateau:
While most of the group took the cable car to the top…
Several of us opted to climb Masada instead:
We headed north along the Dead Sea from Masada to Ein Gedi which is a large canyon that contains a refreshing oasis in the middle of an otherwise oppressive dessert. There is a natural spring at the top which creates flowing water and beautiful waterfalls. This was a reminder to our group that God loves to put places of refreshment for us along our path of suffering.
The Bible describes that David hid in one of the many caves that appear in the walls of these cliffs from King Saul who was in hot pursuit to kill him. You can read that account in 1 Samuel 24.
One of the greatest discoveries ever made in the history of the world was the ancient library discovered at Qumran in 11 different caves. The thousands of fragments of Old Testament Scripture found here predated any known copies by 1100 years! This added major credibility to the reliability of the Old Testament text and Scripture copying in general. Scott talked to our group about the Essenes who had such a love for Scripture that they devoted their lives to copying and preserving it. Because of their efforts we can have even greater confidence in the reliability of the Old Testament.
Our day today ended with our arrival to the great city of Jerusalem!
We walked down the Mount of Olives to Gethsemane where we considered together the significance of Jesus bearing the cup of suffering in our place. The footage captured here will be used for an upcoming Community Group DVD, and we can’t wait to share it with you!
Tomorrow we will walk where Jesus carried our cross!