God is Our Refuge

by Bruce Okkema

In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame. Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness; turn your ear to me and save me. Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. Psalm 71:1-3

MasadaMasada stands as a huge outcropping of rock jutting 1,440 feet above the desert floor on the western shore of the Dead Sea. It is located fourteen miles north of the southern end of the sea and eleven miles south of En-gedi. Masada remains today one of the Jewish people’s greatest symbols, and except for Jerusalem, it is the most popular destination of people visiting Israel.

Its history as a desert fortress goes back far into the past. David moved throughout this region of the southern Judean desert as he was hiding from Saul, and quite likely spent time on this mountain. Although Masada is not mentioned by name in the Bible, we see glimpses of it in several places where God is called a “rock of refuge,” or “my fortress.” Metzudah means “refuge” or “fortress” in Hebrew. (In addition to our text above, see also 1 Sam 22:4-5, 23:14, 24:22, and Psalms 18:2, 31, and 144:2.)

The remains that we we see today are from the time of Herod, who not only increased the fortifications, but built magnificent garden palaces on either end of the mountain. It almost never rains here, yet Herod built an elaborate water system to divert water that originated in the Judean mountains into cisterns at Masada. Servants carried water from there to upper reservoirs servicing the palaces, to an Olympic size swimming pool!

The reason Masada is one of the Jewish people’s greatest symbols is for what occurred there during the Jewish revolt against Rome during 66 – 72AD. A group of Zealots took Masada and it became a place of refuge for other Jews fleeing the Roman terrorism. For three years they were able to fend off the Romans and worship the Living God while enduring the rigors of desert life. Finally, faced with certain capture and torture, the group of 960 chose to take their own lives, rather than become slaves of Rome. “The valor of the Jewish zealots residing on Masada during the Roman siege is celebrated as the supreme example of self-sacrifice for the preservation of the nation of Israel. Today, when the recruits of the Israel Armored Corps take their oath of allegiance, they do so on Masada to remind each generation of the price their forefathers paid for their nation. They cry: “Masada shall not fall again!” (1)

Masada

A view of the snake path from the top of Masada

To climb the arduous snake path in the 120° sun, to imagine looking down helplessly from above on your fellow countrymen enslaved to build a siege ramp against you, to stand at the precipice thinking across history about all the many who have served the Lord at the cost of their lives is to wonder if I will have the courage to stand that test for my Lord one day.

Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. Psalm 2:10-12.


Additional sources for this article:
(1) http://www.ancientsandals.com/overviews/masada.htm
http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/masada.html
Josephus Flavius, Jewish Wars, Chapter 8 http://www.templebuilders.com

Longing for Moses

by Lois Tverberg

Therefore when the people saw the sign which he had performed, [the feeding the five thousand] they said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take him by force to make him king, withdrew again to the mountain by himself alone. – John 6:14-15

MosesThe story of the exodus from Egypt was a defining event in the life of Israel, when God heard their cries and saved them from their enemies. In Jesus’ time, it took on a heightened significance because the people were suffering under severe oppression of a foreign government, and they saw themselves as reliving the afflictions of Egypt. They prayed for a Messiah to come as a second Moses who would free them from bondage to the pagan ruler, just as he did before.

One way to see how much the people resonated with the earlier story is to observe how many people in the Gospels were named for the characters in the Exodus story. For example:

  • Mary (Miriam, in Hebrew), named for Moses’ sister.
  • Joseph was Jacob’s son who was sold into slavery in Egypt, eventually to reign there.
  • Elizabeth is derived from Elisheva, the wife of Aaron, Moses’ brother.
  • Lazarus comes from Eleazar, Aaron’s son who became priest after him.
  • James was actually Ya’acov, Jacob, the father of the twelve tribes
  • Jesus (Yeshua, also a common first-century name) is a contracted form of Yehoshua, which means “God’s salvation” and is related to the name of Joshua, who lead the Israelites into the Promised Land.

Ancient texts indicate that names of characters in the Gospels were very common first-century Jewish names. This suggests that they were hoping that the Messiah would be born among them very soon, and that God was placing in them a longing for redemption. At the very same time he was preparing to fulfill his many promises and send someone to answer their prayers. The redeemer, this time, would not just save them physically from their enemies, but for eternity instead.


Photo cred: Luca Volpi (Golmund100)

God is Our Refuge

by Bruce Okkema

In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame. Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness; turn your ear to me and save me. Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. – Psalm 71:1-3

Masada stands as a huge outcropping of rock jutting 1,440 feet above the desert floor on the western shore of the Dead Sea. It is located fourteen miles north of the southern end of the sea and eleven miles south of En-gedi. Masada remains today one of the Jewish people’s greatest symbols, and except for Jerusalem, it is the most popular destination of people visiting Israel.

Its history as a desert fortress goes back far into the past. David moved throughout this region of the southern Judean desert as he was hiding from Saul, and quite likely spent time on this mountain. Although Masada is not mentioned by name in the Bible, we see glimpses of it in several places where God is called a “rock of refuge”, or “my fortress”. Metzudah means “refuge” or “fortress” in Hebrew. (In addition to our text above, see also 1 Sam 22:4-5, 23:14, 24:22, and Psalms 18:2, 31, and 144:2.)

The remains that we we see today are from the time of Herod, who not only increased the fortifications, but built magnificent garden palaces on either end of the mountain. It almost never rains here, yet Herod built an elaborate water system to divert water that originated in the Judean mountains into cisterns at Masada. Servants carried water from there to upper reservoirs servicing the palaces, to an Olympic size swimming pool!

The reason Masada is one of the Jewish people’s greatest symbols is for what occurred there during the Jewish revolt against Rome during 66 – 72AD. A group of Zealots took Masada and it became a place of refuge for other Jews fleeing the Roman terrorism. For three years they were able to fend off the Romans and worship the Living God while enduring the rigors of desert life. Finally, faced with certain capture and torture, the group of 960 chose to take their own lives, rather than become slaves of Rome. “The valor of the Jewish zealots residing on Masada during the Roman siege is celebrated as the supreme example of self-sacrifice for the preservation of the nation of Israel. Today, when the recruits of the Israel Armored Corps take their oath of allegiance, they do so on Masada to remind each generation of the price their forefathers paid for their nation. They cry: “Masada shall not fall again!” (1)

To climb the arduous snake path in the 120° sun, to imagine looking down helplessly from above on your fellow countrymen enslaved to build a siege ramp against you, to stand at the precipice thinking across history about all the many who have served the Lord at the cost of their lives is to wonder if I will have the courage to stand that test for my Lord one day.

Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. Psalm 2:10-12


Additional sources for this article:
(1) http://www.ancientsandals.com/overviews/masada.htm
http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/masada.html
Josephus Flavius, Jewish Wars, Chapter 8 http://www.templebuilders.com

A Parable of a King

by Pastor Ed Visser

A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return … But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, “We don’t want this man to be our king.”
Luke 19:12,14

Near the end of a long day in the Judean desert, our tour group made our final stop at Jericho. Being a Palestinian city, entry was controlled by the Israeli military (in the last few years, Jericho was given over to Palestinian control). After about 30 minutes, we were given permission to enter — a rather rare feat. The city itself has been ruined by a poor Palestinian economy. Our interest, however, was a different sort of ruins.

Jericho PalaceWe made our way along Wadi Qelt (a dry riverbed) until we came upon the ruins of Herod’s palace across the wadi. What must have been magnificent in its day was in ruins and being over-run that day by a flock of goats. Just to our left (west), were the hills to which the Israelite spies escaped when scouting out Jericho (Joshua 2:16-24). In front of the palace and through these hills was the beginning of the road from Jericho to Jerusalem, made famous in Jesus’ Good Samaritan parable.

But our attention was drawn to a different story in the Bible. In Luke 19, just after Jesus had encountered Zacchaeus in Jericho, he continued on his way toward Jerusalem and the cross that awaited him. His route would have been the Jericho road. And, at some time, he and his disciples (and others making their way to Jerusalem for Passover) would have walked right past this palace of Herod the Great — now used by his son, Herod Antipas, when he was in town. But before Antipas, it was used by another son of Herod, Archelaus, who was king of Judea for about ten Beginning of Jericho Roadyears. As dreadful a king as Herod the Great was, Archelaus was much worse. After Herod died, Archelaus went to Rome to ask to be made king over Judea in his father’s stead. A delegation of Jews also went there to dissuade Caesar from naming Archelaus king. Once he was given rule over Judea, Archelaus had his enemies killed ruthlessly. Within 10 years, after another Jewish request to Rome, Archelaus was deposed.

As Jesus tells the parable of the minas in Luke 19:11-27, he puts it in terms of a man going away to be named king, whose enemies oppose him but are eventually killed. Given the fact that Jesus was leaving Jericho to go to Jerusalem, it is very likely that he used the occasion of passing Herod’s palace to tell a story right out of the pages of their recent history! While his point in the parable has nothing to do with Archelaus, we see the typical way Jesus taught: drawing on current events and local landmarks to teach truths about a very different King and kingdom — the Kingdom of God. It reminds us of the importance of being able to apply truths of Scripture to the events of our world & lives.

Metzudah – God is Our Refuge

by Bruce Okkema

In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame. Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness; turn your ear to me and save me. Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. – Psalm 71:1-3

Masada stands as a huge outcropping of rock jutting 1,440 feet above the desert floor on the western shore of the Dead Sea. It is located fourteen miles north of the southern end of the sea and eleven miles south of En-gedi. Masada remains today one of the Jewish people’s greatest symbols, and except for Jerusalem, it is the most popular destination of people visiting Israel.

Its history as a desert fortress goes back far into the past. David moved throughout this region of the southern Judean desert as he was hiding from Saul, and quite likely spent time on this mountain. Although Masada is not mentioned by name in the Bible, we see glimpses of it in several places where God is called a “rock of refuge”, or “my fortress.” Metzudah means “refuge” or “fortress” in Hebrew. (In addition to our text above, see also 1 Sam 22:4-5, 23:14, 24:22, and Psalms 18:2, 31, and 144:2.)

The remains that we we see today are from the time of Herod, who not only increased the fortifications, but built magnificent garden palaces on either end of the mountain. It almost never rains here, yet Herod built an elaborate water system to divert water that originated in the Judean mountains into cisterns at Masada. Servants carried water from there to upper reservoirs servicing the palaces, to an Olympic size swimming pool!

The reason Masada is one of the Jewish people’s greatest symbols is for what occurred there during the Jewish revolt against Rome during 66 – 72AD. A group of Zealots took Masada and it became a place of refuge for other Jews fleeing the Roman terrorism. For three years they were able to fend off the Romans and worship the Living God while enduring the rigors of desert life. Finally, faced with certain capture and torture, the group of 960 chose to take their own lives, rather than become slaves of Rome. “The valor of the Jewish zealots residing on Masada during the Roman siege is celebrated as the supreme example of self-sacrifice for the preservation of the nation of Israel. Today, when the recruits of the Israel Armored Corps take their oath of allegiance, they do so on Masada to remind each generation of the price their forefathers paid for their nation. They cry: “Masada shall not fall again!” (1)

To climb the arduous snake path in the 120° sun, to imagine looking down helplessly from above on your fellow countrymen enslaved to build a siege ramp against you, to stand at the precipice thinking across history about all the many who have served the Lord at the cost of their lives is to wonder if I will have the courage to stand that test for my Lord one day.

Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. – Psalm 2:10-12