My dear techie brother sent me his camera for my trip to Israel. He packed it with care and sent it on a fast track to Oklahoma. It was such a kind gesture. I didn’t have the heart to explain my history with cameras.
The day before departure, I spread out the contents of my suitcase on the dining room floor. Our daughter looked them over. She reminded me in her sweet way that I could save the space and use my Iphone’s camera. My homecoming pictures proved what we both already knew.
“Wow, that’s a lot of rocks, Mom.”
They were important at the time. I just couldn’t remember why.
There were some things I did remember, though. Things I couldn’t find on my camera. They were the friends my sister and I met. They were the messages I heard the Lord speak as we stood beside those rocks.
Our guide, Malcolm, told us stories of heroism, devotion to God, and sacrifice for what was precious. What I learned in those moments and at those sites became photos etched on my heart.
Masada was one of those places. Herod the Great constructed Masada, which means “fortress” in Hebrew. It was cut out of a mountain on the western end of the Judean desert, overlooking the Dead Sea. Herod was an insane dictator, but genius builder. He constructed it as a personal refuge.
Set upon a mountain in the middle of a barren wilderness, with its own water and food sources, Masada was impenetrable. Almost. Seventy-five years after Herod’s death a small group of Jews overcame the Roman garrison at Masada. After the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE, more of their people joined them. Over 1,000 Jews lived there for three years.
The Roman governor, Flavius Silva, had enough of their defiance. To penetrate the impenetrable he had to find a hidden weakness, a vulnerability to the fine-tuned warfare of Roman forces.
He found it. Thousands of Jewish prisoners of war were forced to build a massive rampart of stones and beaten earth that extended along the western side of the fortress. For over a year they worked unhindered while the Jews inside Masada watched. In the end, the same Hebrew slaves moved a battering ram up the ramp and breached the walls.
What the governor found was not a weakness. It was a virtue. Masada was taken because those who looked from the mountain fortress above refused to fire on their own people. The governor’s perverse scheme used loyalty and devotion against those unwilling to violate it.
Years before in the same land of Israel, Jesus’ disciples were at the end of a three-day ministry session to thousands. They were tired and depleted. They wanted everyone to go home. At the end of their strength, they were fresh out of compassion.
But love thought about a hungry trip home. Love fed a multitude at the end of a long day. Love gave when there were no resources left.
There is an enemy of love. It is competitive. It is rooted in poverty. It carefully measures everything given. After all, giving depletes my resources when my own supply is so meager. If I give kindness, what if I’m used? If I give forgiveness, what if I’m rejected? What if my loyalty is betrayed?
But love has a voice. “Start with a seed,” it whispers.
It’s taken me a long time to learn love by sitting in the presence of Love Himself. I tend to look at significance in big accomplishments. He sees the eternal in my every day decisions to choose love.
Six-year old Gracie looks at my hands. My veins bulge, age spots freckle and knuckles protrude.
“Nana, are you old?” she asks.
She’s just checking. She isn’t sure how old is old. She just wants to know if I’ll be sticking around.
I want to stick around. I want to extend love as a seed. Who knows where that harvest will go and who it will feed, if I’m brave enough to plant it and believe in its power.
Rooted in His supply, it travels farther than I can imagine. It extends where I could never go. It prevails over my poverty. It answers death when it comes. If an army uses my brother to breach my defenses, love helps me stand fast. It proves itself strong in every test the enemy launches against it.
Love arises with skin on every time I let His supply determine my giving. The Jews at Masada knew their end. Still, they chose love. In the end, they found the victory only love could win.