Today we started at the Jordan River baptismal site. Research has shown this to be the site where John the Baptist was baptizing when Jesus came to the river. Brings back great memories of an earlier trip when I had the privilege of baptizing in the Jordan.
Our next stop was the Dead Sea.The Dead Sea is dying. The water has receded to levels so low that they have dug a trough to push water from the upper Dead Sea to the Lower Dead Sea. The salinity is about 33% which makes floating possible for most anyone. Drinking the water is harmful so no swimming is allowed, only floating.
Leaving the Dead Sea we then went to En-Gedi. In 1st Samuel 24 we read about Saul’s
pursuit of David. In verse one Saul was told about David being in the “wilderness of En-
Gedi.” There is a cave there large enough to fit about 200 men inside. You can read that
chapter and see where David could have taken the life of Saul but did not. The spring, the caves and the “wild goats,” they are all there.
The Dead Sea Scrolls…what a story! Qumran is Ann archeological site in the West Bank of Israel. Started by a group of strict Jews known as Hellenists in 104 BC and lasting for about 200 years this group removed themselves from the world to devote themselves to God. The community consisted of 200 men. As men died or left others moved in and the community lasted until Rome came after them in about 68 AD. Before they moved out they hid their most prized possessions in a number of different caves. They copied the biblical manuscripts and took those copies and has them in clay jars. They never returned. A Bedouin shepherd boy went looking for a lost sheep and found some scrolls. He went back and found more. After a bit and through numerous channels others went to search the site. One of the greatest finds was the Dead Sea Scrolls. Isaiah was the first one found and the entire Old Testament was found with the exception of Esther and about two years ago that book was found.
As we traveled south the nation of Jordan was always to our left. Prior to the Six Day War in 1967 Jordan controlled the area we are traveling in. We could see the mountains of Moab across the Dead Sea. Those are the mountains that Moses stood on when he looked over into the promised land. As I looked I saw where he was standing and I was traveling seeing what he could not. So much to learn, so little time.
One of the highlights of this trip for me was Masada. Masada was built by King Herod as a defense palace. Although he only visited about 5 times during his life Masada was always kept as a escape for him and his family. Masada simply means “fort.” He had large reserves of food and water there at all times. Three sides had a bout a 1200 foot drop and one side had a 300 foot drop. As Rome tightened its grip on the Jews and Jerusalem there was a band of zealots of about 1000 men, women and children that went and took over Masada. Rome sent the best they had, the 10 th Legion to go and destroy Masada and enslave the zealots. Jerusalem fell in 70 AD and Masada stayed a thorn in the side of Rome until 76 AD. When they finally breached the walls they found no one left alive among the zealots. They saw their choice as living free or being slaves to Rome. They lived and died on their terms. Today Masada to the Jew stands as a monument to triumph. Every Jew looks at Masada and says “Never Again.”
As the sun was setting we went to a mountain range that had a top layer of salt. Here we
saw what some believe to be Lot’s wife or the pillar she was turned into. The Bible is
intriguing about Lots wife. The second shortest verse in the Bible is “Remember Lot’s wife.” Why? Why would God put that there? Message in the making there…
The land of YHWH. Thankful to be here. Thankful for you.
Gary W. Hall, Pastor of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church.