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Sunday Sermon  -  May 28, 2000    Masada  -  Daniel 3:17



"Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us" (Daniel 3:17)

Masada is a relatively high mountain, surrounded by valleys, which overlooks most of the Dead Sea, in Israel.  Only 2 ways led to it at the time of the New Testament, with one of them called the "serpent" because of its’ dangerous twists and turns.  Some attribute the construction of the fortress on the top to Herod the Great, in the first century BC.  But Joseph the historian said it was built previously by Jonathan, the High Priest, and later reconstructed by Herod, who built a wall of white rock around the entire top of the hill.

In 4 BC, at the death of Herod, Masada was captured and turned into a Roman garrison.   In 66 AD, it was taken by a group we know as the Zealots, a radical political party (some say it was another, similar group).  One of Jesus’ disciples had apparently been a member of that group (the "other Simon", see Luke 6:15).   When Jerusalem fell, in 70 AD, a group of 956 Zealots (men, women, and children) took refuge in Masada, and were besieged by the Romans.

Josephus said the leader of the Zealots, Eleazer Ben Yair, was descended from Judas Maccabaeus, (who threw the Syrians off Israeli soil, during the intertestemental period).   Josephus was a Jew, by the way, who was loyal to Rome, and wrote from the camp of the enemy during the siege of Jerusalem.  Josephus tells us the two approaches to Masada were difficult to "impossible" for an invading army, and told us Herod had built great reservoirs there.  The place was stocked with water, food, and thousands of fine weapons.

Masada seemed like it could resist for years, but could it?  One of the interesting things we as people do, is to decide we are impregnable, indestructible.   We forget the aging process (which gets us all), and decide to not see how fragile we are.  When we trust in ourselves, we may have planned well, and even DO well for awhile, but suddenly, all is lost in a moment of time.

Eleazer and his people needed the Lord, rather than the "safety" of a fortress.  It is good to plan, but better to trust. It is excellent to live a clean life, but our great need is to be FORGIVEN, through the Savior sent to deliver us.   As I listen to patients in the Spinal Unit of the VA Hospital, I am struck by how quickly life can change.  Climbing a ladder, driving in a car, getting into a fist fight, and suddenly - all movement of the body is gone and life (as it was previously known) is over.

At Masada, the Roman commander Silva first had a wall built outside, around the whole place, to prevent any of them from escaping.  Then he ordered the army to bring dirt, and an earthen ramp was built.  It was not high enough, so another elevated work of great stones was built on top of the earthen ramp.  "Siege engines" were dragged to its’ top, and a tower was hauled into place, which was all covered with iron.  A hail of darts and stones came from the fortifications and the defenders could no longer effectively fight back.  A battering ram broke the wall.   Another wall was thrown up behind the first, but it was made of wood, and was set on fire.  It was now too late - all could see Masada was open to attack, and would be taken the next day.

When the walls of our "city" (our lives) are broken, we should see our need for outside help.  When our resources no longer help us, we need to pray.  Some do, and some don’t, for all too often we continue to try and do it ourselves.   The people in Masada knew of Christ (the Messiah) and His Sacrifice for them.   They should have seen, from their situation, "Our God, whom we serve, is able to deliver us" (Daniel 3:17) but they chose another, all too familiar road.

They killed themselves.  The men killed their wives and children, and they, grief-stricken by what they have done, were killed by other men, until only one was left, and he killed himself.  Right before my neighbor and friend killed himself, some years ago, he called me on the telephone and said "take care of my wife and children."  By the time we raced over to his house, he was gone.  And the survivors of my neighbor (there were a few survivors of Masada, also, by the way) were too full of grief to accept help from anybody.  My neighbor had a real problem in life, but what he really needed was the Lord.

We are vulnerable.  The enemy surrounds us, the siege works are built, and all IS lost, except our God has provided a Way, and He is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.  In Daniel 3, the speakers were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who were about to be thrown into the fiery furnace, for refusing to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image.  They were thrown in, and the fire was so hot, it killed those who did the throwing.  There was a Fourth in the fire with them, "like unto a Son of God" (Daniel 3:25), and you are not alone in your trouble, for He is with YOU, as well.

We need our Savior, Christ Jesus.  Knowing Him, we recognize "Our God, whom we serve, is able to deliver us" (Daniel 3:17).  With Him, in Him, we can bear all things, endure all things, and really LIVE, for the first time.  We see, through the "eyes" of the Holy Spirit of God, that our Lord will bring us through.   Alive in this body or not, healed or not, bills paid or not - whatever the burden or difficulty, our God will bring us through.

Trust in Him, today.

Ron Beckham
Senior Pastor
Friday Study Ministries, Inc.