As a special series, we’ve asked some of our friends to share their own special recollections and experiences while in Israel on tour with Immanuel Tours. This week’s special writer is Pastor Gunnar Hanson, Pastor of Grace Point Church in Valley Center, California who will share about Masada.
2020 was a year that delivered in a special way! I’m not sure what you experienced, but I know that all of us were affected by the Coronavirus. Personally, my life was thrown into turmoil as I had to constantly adjust in leading my family, caring for my father who is in an assisted living facility, guiding my congregation through the many changes of the year, and then ultimately having to make the decision to reschedule our upcoming trip to Israel, which was to take place in April of 2021. I’ve grown flexible on many issues and firmer on other issues.
I love traveling the globe! I’ve had the opportunity to travel the world as a Navy SEAL and as a pastor. Israel is one of my favorite places to visit and to return to as often as I can, last leading a group with Immanuel Tours in 2019. The land of the Bible is unlike any other location in the world. The lessons to learn are endless! The land itself has the capacity to impact you through the words of the Bible. When Immanuel Tours asked if I’d be willing to write a blog about one of the locations we visit on our tours, I jumped at it!
There is one location in Israel that is a bit different—you won’t read about it in the Bible, but it is significant. One of the locations you should definitely visit on your next trip to Israel is Masada. It is found in the southern part of the land, just on the west side of the Dead Sea. The space I have precludes me from sharing the historical details of this fortress, but it’s worth your time to look it up! My aim here is to share a couple points briefly to get you excited for your visit there!
The view is spectacular! Getting to the top of Masada requires an incredible hike up Snake Trail, or a 3-minute cable car ride to the top. Once you get to the summit, you have an amazing 360-degree view of Southern Israel and into Jordan. The view is stunning, but the best part is seeing the geography and vastness of the desert. Your mind can’t help but to imagine Israel’s wandering through the desert for 40 years; King David’s hiding in the wilderness as Saul hunted him down; imagining John the Baptist’s ministry where the Jordan River feeds into the Dead Sea; or simply looking at the vastness of the fortress in wonder of Herod the Great’s building capacity! The location is simply overwhelming.
The siege of Masada.
I trust that you are going to research what happened on Masada in 73A.D. It is a heavy story that pierces one’s heart. I imagine it to be on par with what one feels as they visit Auschwitz. It’s difficult to imagine what happened at this location. But this location helps me understand Israel through a certain lens and to answer a question I get asked about safety in Israel. As mentioned early, I’ve had the blessing of visiting many countries. Israel is by far one of the safest countries I’ve ever visited. Israel simply doesn’t have the privilege to be lazy concerning its’ citizens or its’ visitors. Masada is a location that highlights the long history of attacks that it has faced and why they are so vigilant protecting those within its’ borders. I have traveled there with my children and I feel completely safe doing so.
God’s hand of protection.
Standing on Masada reminds me that my only hope and my only security is found in the Lord. I can be a part of the most elite military force and yet lose my life. I can lead the most cautious life and yet lose my life. No amount of money or resources can bring me peace. Herod the Great accomplished much, but really accomplished nothing. The Romans came and conquered Masada, yet they ultimately left nothing. However, the lessons I learn at Masada come from a young man hiding with his “might men of valor” in the nooks and crannies of the base of Masada—the young soon to be King David penned the following words from this location for us to take to heart.
King David writes the following in Psalm 31:1-5:
In You, Lord, I have taken refuge;
Let me never be put to shame;
In Your righteousness rescue me.
Incline Your ear to me, rescue me quickly;
Be a rock of strength for me,
A stronghold to save me.
For You are my rock and my fortress;
For the sake of Your name You will lead me and guide me.
You will pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me,
For You are my strength.
Into Your hand I entrust my spirit;
You have redeemed me, Lord, God of truth.
I hope you will find yourself in Israel very soon and take the time to really embrace everything places like Masada have to offer your understanding and knowledge of the Lord, His Word and the land of Israel.