We raced to the line with two minutes to spare, our 1:10 pm tickets in hand. After heading out on the road almost 30 minutes later than I had desired, we had navigated the highways, battled the Denver traffic, and miraculously found a parking space in the coveted main parking lot just in time. The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these ancient artifacts were just beyond those walls, and I couldn’t wait to share this moment with my girls. We were about to see the Dead Sea Scrolls.
For those unfamiliar with the Scrolls, they are ancient Jewish manuscripts found near the Dead Sea in the Qumran Caves in the 1940’s by some Bedouin shepherds. Their importance and value were not originally realized, and the story of the initial discovery, handling and care is truly fascinating and shocking. The Dead Sea Scrolls are significant to Christian culture because these manuscripts had writings that had been included in the Bible!
Included in the displays were artifacts from the time period including pottery, dishes, altars, and weaponry. They guided us to a small room for a short five minute explanation of the exhibit and what we were about to see. To say I was excited was an understatement! At one point in those first moments Peyton looked at me and exclaimed, “Are you CRYING?! ALREADY?!” I had to giggle and tell her to keep her voice down.
I just want to share with you a few of the pieces that pierced my heart, and put the Bible into such a new light for me. You know what I mean; you’ve read the Bible stories, you’ve heard the lessons. Yet, when it touches you in a new way, it feels fresh and new and….alive.
Sling-stones. Seriously. As in David and Goliath! The display contained approximately 15 of the smooth, nearly perfectly rounded spheres. As I gazed at them, I could see David praying to God for victory and choosing the best five stones that would surely bring the giant down. I could see Goliath in the distance with his sword and shield, laughing at the small boy they were sending his way with only a slingshot. Can you see it? The Israelites watching David closely as if he’s lost his mind, the Philistines amused at how easily the victory would come for Goliath. And in a brief moment, it was over. David landed his shot perfectly into Goliath’s forehead, and the giant lay dead at the feet of the shepherd. God gave David the victory and that man would go on to lead a nation as king. Goosebumps!
A small jug for oil. Did this slight vessel resemble the one that the widow stored the last of her oil in as she prepared the bread for Elijah? The widow only had enough for one more meal before her and her son would have nothing left and die from starvation. Yet the man of God arrived at her doorstep asking to be fed. No questions. God had directed her to feed him, despite the lack of ingredients to make enough for everyone. The scene became so vivid in my head. I saw this woman kneading what was left of the flour and olive oil together to make the small loaf of bread for the prophet, the words of God and Elijah running through her mind, weary from worry, that the oil and flour wouldn’t run out if she obeyed.
Coins. Coins were traded for the local currency that was needed to purchase the animals for offering at the temple. All of a sudden, the courtyard seemed to surround me. The animals, penned up and ready for purchase, the smell permeating the air. Israelite men arguing with the money changers over the interest they were trying to charge for the exchange. The buzz of daily life humming in my ears. I could imagine the Israelite men hoping that the doves or lambs they purchased were unblemished so as not to have to purchase another with what little money they had left.
And those Scrolls….the tiny Hebrew writing. The thinly laid, delicate parchment. The aging ink. Can you imagine the Jewish men hunched over in the dim light, putting quill to parchment? In this display, I saw the words from Isaiah—[He has s]treched out [his hand] over the sea, to shake the kingdoms… (Isaiah 23:11a). The Psalms of King David were found, and Psalm 121 was laid out before me in its entirety:
A song of ascents. I turn my eyes to the mountains; from where will [my help] come? My help comes from the LORD, maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot [give way;] and your guardian [will] not slumber; See the [guardian of] [I]srael neither slumbers nor sleeps at night! The LORD is your guardian, your protection at your right hand. By da[y] [the s]un will not strike you, nor the moon by night. The LORD will guard you from al[l harm,] He will gu[ard] your life. He will guard your going and coming now and for[ever.]
The words from the Bible were enclosed in a case right in front of me, proving to me just how true the words of God are.
As we rounded the corner towards the end of the exhibit, a large three-ton stone from the Western Wall stood in our path with a makeshift wall surrounding it. There, they had papers for people to write prayers to place in the wall (as they do in Jerusalem) that would be sent to Israel. As I put my prayer in a crevice of the wall, I asked God that this exhibit and His word would touch people the way it had touched me.
I pray, even now, that this experience never leave my mind and that it would have a lasting impact on me as a reminder that our God, our Bible, His words are alive and real.
I know not everyone will have an opportunity to see an exhibit like this. My challenge to you today is to ask God to open your eyes to a fresh perspective of His words in the Bible as this exhibit did for me. Read it as the love story that it is to you. It will change your life.