High above a pass in the Golan Heights sits Qala’at al Subeiba – “the castle on the cliff”. It was built by the Ayyubid Sultan Al-Aziz Uthman, the nephew of Salah ad-din, in the late 12th century. His successors then expanded the fortress in the early 13th century as part of an effort to repel the Sixth Crusade. The Muslims feared that the crusaders would land in Acre and from there attack the Ayyubid capital at Damascus, which lies only forty miles to the northeast.
As it turned out, the Sixth Crusade never turned into much. The German emperor Frederick II negotiated a peace with Sultan Al-Kamil who allowed Frederick to be crowned King of Jerusalem, but basically amounted to a paper victory. Within a decade, Acre fell to the Ayyubid forces and the crusades shifted their focus from the holy land to problems at home.
Qala’at al Subeiba was a massive fortress that never saw use. It was a defense against an attack that never came. It is ruins now, as it has been for over five centuries.
Our perceptions of danger is sometimes more than the danger itself, isn’t it? I think that it is all too easy for Christians to fortify the wrong places in their lives. We build great apologetic arguments and theological treatises, but we abandon justice and mercy. Jesus warned us about this, reminding us that it is hypocritical. “For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” (Matthew 23:23)
Our first priorities should be our commitment to Christ. Our second priority, which goes hand in hand with that commitment, is our love for our family, friends – and even enemies. Our defense against the attacks upon us should be grounded in these much weightier things.
There’s no point building massive fortresses high on hills if we are not first strengthening and stabilizing these vital ground-level points.