Day 8 – Dead Sea Sites
Balance. Today, this trip, our lives are about balance. The Dead Sea is fed by the Jordan River, but it has no outlet. It receives but doesn’t give. It gets filled up but never pours out.
The Dead Sea represents physically what can happen to us spiritually if we aren’t intentional. We can study, learn, gain all the knowledge and info about God and the Bible that we’re able, but if we do nothing with it, we become self-focused, self-righteous. Dead unto ourselves.
If we give, give, give and never let God pour into us through His Word, prayer, study…then we burn out, dry up.
But if we, like the Sea of Galilee, will let God pour into us AND we give of ourselves, we discover balance, fullness, purpose, and calling.
And let me just say, having now been IN the Dead Sea. That is NOT the life we want. Though from afar it looks kinda pretty, it’s really just gross. Gross, I say!
The strong concentration of salt and minerals burns, smells, and makes you feel all oily. Ariel describes the Dead Sea as sour. It has no life, literally – no vegetation, no animal/sea life.
It’s a fascinating phenomena. But I only lasted about 3 minutes in it. Then made a beeline to the pool.
Enough about that.
Around the salty mountains and salty lake are a few interesting sites. We tackled two.
The first was one of my favorites, Ein Gedi. The oasis in the desert!
Ein Gedi is now a natural reserve that preserves the wildlife, springs, waterfalls, pools, and tropical vegetation. In a desert that gets a mere 2 inches of rainfall a year (yup, I typed that right…2 inches a year), there stands this true-to-life oasis. And it is beautiful. We all enjoyed the break from the heat as there was shade and cool water.
Our hike worked us hard, but it was my kind of hike. Lots to see and enjoy!
From our oasis, we went to Masada, a fortified palace. I think, quite possibly, the hottest place on earth. Quite the contrast from our oasis!
However, Masada was impressive and interesting.
First of all, it’s WAY up at the summit of one of the flatter peaks in the mountain range there by the Dead Sea. Blessedly, we were able to ride up the mountain in a cable car, but we could see the “Snake Path” that used to be the only way up.
Herod the Great – great because he built so many buildings and structures during his reign as King of the Jews under Roman rule… in those years before Jesus’ birth. Ariel told us that Herod the Great was a megalomaniac and very paranoid.
As a result, the fortress he built atop this mountain was huge. Enormous food storage spaces. Impressive water catching and cistern systems. Living quarters for soldiers. A palace for Herod and his family. Even an elaborate bath house. And not just one wall, but two.
There were a lot of ruins to look at, so it was impressive. But there was no shade, so the heat really zapped us. We were glad when it was lunch time. Ahhhh—air conditioning!
The famous story of Masada (you may have seen the Peter O’Toole movie) happened during the Jewish revolt of 70 AD. 967 men, women, and children used Masada as a refuge. After a few years, the Romans decided to attack them (a pure power move). It would appear impossible for anyone to get to Masada, but these were the Romans. They had thought ahead to bring wood and dirt with them to create a manmade hill/ramp to reach the west side of the fortress.
Impressive. But who did they use as manpower to accomplish all that? Their Jewish slaves. As a result the Jewish refugees in Masada refused to defend themselves for fear of injuring their fellow men. When they could see that the Romans were going to reach them, a mass suicide plan was executed successfully.
We toured the ruins with all this in mind. The heat was enough of a distraction to keep us from being too somber. In the end, all we could think about was getting off the mountain and find something cool to drink. As we think back on it…Masada is nothing short of amazing.
We wrapped up our quick tour of the Dead Sea area with a quick dip into the famous salty lake. Despite the fact that I didn’t care for the water it was really fascinating that we could float so easily. I always, always sink in water. But not the Dead Sea water. I floated with the best of ‘em.
As we headed north out of the Dead Sea region the next morning, our pastor had us turn to Luke 17:32-33 for our devotion, where we’re reminded to “remember Lot’s wife….” Lot’s wife turned back toward the cities God had judged and condemned to destruction. Her look back was a disobedience to God, yes, but it was also revealing her heart – she hadn’t fully surrendered to God. She still sought to gain life her way.
She was like the Dead Sea. Salty and lifeless.
Let’s be more like the Sea of Galilee – we seek God and find our filling-up in Him; we pour into others, following God’s plan for our lives. We stay fresh and full of life.
And…that’s where we’re headed tomorrow!