July 24: 21 Tammuz
It was on this day in 1969 that the remains of 25 members of those who had committed suicide at Masada in the year 73 A.D. were interred at the foot of Masada with full military honors. To most Israelis, the story of Masada is equivalent to what the Alamo is to many Americans; the story of men and women who preferred death over slavery. Though inspiring in that sense, the reality is that the story of Masada gives glory unto zealous men whose decisions led to their demise.
Zeal is not necessarily a bad thing, in fact, sometimes it can be a very good thing. There are occasions, though, when our zeal, if untempered by wisdom, propels us into situations where we find ourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Masada just might serve as an example of this scenario. It was zealousness that provoked these Jewish men and women to flee the Romans and isolate themselves in the desert fortress and, though they were supplied with food, water and weapons, in the end, they all died, many of them by suicide.
Now let us juxtapose the story of Masada with the story found in the book of Daniel. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. When faced with the possibility of death or captivity at the hands of the Babylonians, these men didn’t flee to a desert fortress; they were taken against their will into a strange land. In other words, their zeal didn’t lead them to pick up the sword and take matters into their own hands. Their zeal for God put them a place they’d rather not be and, as a result of their compliance, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, acknowledged them as servants of the “Most High God” (Daniel 3:26).
The point is this: zeal might lead us to make what seems to be the logical choice. When feeling threatened, zeal might compel us to isolate ourselves, gather food and water and some manner of self-defense. It might lead us to go into the desert and fortify ourselves as we prepare to fight our enemies. But we must remember that our zeal, if it’s not tempered with wisdom, could put us in the wrong place at the wrong time. Servanthood, on the other hand, might require us to do what does not come naturally. It’s not logical or natural to want to go into captivity and find yourself in the heart of what you despise, as was the case with Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego.
None of them wanted to be in Babylon. But had they not been in Babylon and had they not been zealous servants of the Most High, how could the king of Babylon have come to know that the God of Israel is God? If they had not been in what must have seemed to them to be the wrong place at the wrong time, Nebuchadnezzar most likely would not have acknowledged God’s sovereignty. Their zeal for servanthood is what compelled them to comply with something that went against logic and what comes natural to a man. And so in their story, men are not the ones to receive glory; the God of heaven is sanctified in the eyes of men because they were willing to serve Him even unto death.
So the thought for today is this: how do we want to be remembered? Do we want to be glorified and honored by men? Do we long for others to acknowledge our greatness, our wisdom and our courage? Or, are we willing to decrease in the eyes of men that God might be sanctified by our service to Him? As believers, our life story should be one of servanthood to His purpose so that He alone is glorified. Many times that will require us to go against all of our logic and what seems proper. But if we are truly to be His servants, we must be prepared to defy our will and submit to His Will.