1. A lesson about wandering
I have always been intrigued by the ancient Jews and their constant wanderings away from God and toward foreign idols of worship. Seeing the scrolls, and some of the foreign household idols that had been excavated, gave me new insight and compassion for the Jews of the Old Testament. As I wandered through the exhibit, I felt as if I was entering their world. I was immersed in a world of scrolls, and artifacts and descriptions of life in ancient times. As I studied the scrolls and observed many of the excavated items found in the caves of Qumran, near the Dead Sea, a clear picture was forming in my mind. I have been too critical of the ancient Jews, judging them too harshly for their constant turning from God, to pagan idols of worship. I knew that they didn't have the word to read for themselves, as we do today, and that their source of knowing and understanding God came only from oral tradition, spoken from prophets or priests or patriarchs. I knew that they often lived in fear of foreign rulers. And yet, I judged them harshly, I shook my head at them...how could they repeatedly turn from God?
Looking at the scrolls, and seeing the displays of how they lived, I began to understand. The picture that was unveiling in my mind was of myself. I saw myself as one of them. If I had to depend on someone else to tell me what God said, or who He really was, would I be faithful? If I had the fear of and the need for the favor of the foreign rulers, would I still worship my God? And isn't that so many of us today? We still depend on someone else to tell us what God says, the preacher, the teacher, the self-help spiritual book, (or blog!). We don't spend enough time with God, by ourselves, in His word, and in earnest heartfelt prayer. So we end up wandering away from Him, into the world, and we become complacent ~ a bit ambivalent about God in our everyday life. Eventually, that leads us to being fearful ~ a state opposite of trust. We become fearful of any number of things, in particular what others think, and we find ourselves living for the favor or approval of others. And so our hearts wander and seek other 'idols' to give of our time, energy, and yes - even- worship too.
So, we are really no different from the Jews, who wandered and turned from God, time after time after time. And yet He did not give up on them, ever! He was hurt, disappointed, sometimes angry, but He never gave up on them. And He never gives up on us today! Through the times we wander and don't spent time with HIM ( not talking about going to church) , I am talking about ONE on ONE, time with our God. He doesn't give up on us when we turn to other things to 'worship', giving far too much time, attention and energy to that 'thing' that is at the center of our life. And He doesn't give up on us when we judge one another too harshly, looking with distain upon others, seeing ourselves as the 'chosen' people today, which brings me to the 2nd lesson.
2. A lesson about being broken and chosen
So let's make this personal.
The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit opened my eyes to much more than a history lesson. We, like the Jews, can be wanderers, turning from Him. We, like the jars of clay, can become quite broken. Yet, in spite of our wandering, in spite of our brokenness, our sin, God never gives up on us. He slowly lovingly pursues us, and as we allow ourselves to be molded, shaped, pieced back together by the Master Potter, we become whole, a vessel purposed for a unique use in His kingdom.