High Five Thursday!

Have you ever been reading a story in the Bible and thought, “Man, if only I could have been there!”

Top 5 Biblical Fly-On-The-Wall Moments

Elemental Escape (Exodus 14:15-31)

How awesome would it be to be standing in the crowd with God on one side in a blazing column of fire while Moses is on the other side blasting an interstate highway through the sea? The chaos, the terror, the power, the elemental forces being tamed and manipulated right before your eyes.

It gives me chills just thinking about it.

Now You See It… (Joshua 6)

There one minute; gone the next. The impenetrable walls of the mighty Jericho stood before the Israelites in all their pride and glory. After some lovely afternoon strolls around the city, a bit of yelling, and some Louis Armstrong, Jericho was reduced to a pile of rubble and ashes. Well, except for that one brothel.

Americans can’t get enough of destruction films in which the White House, the Capitol Building, and the Empire State building are destroyed by natural (or unnatural) forces, e.g. Independence Day, Deep Impact, 2012, etc.

This would be better than any of them.

The Original 300 (Judges 7)

Long before Leonidas and his merry band of Spartans held off hordes of Persians, ninjas, and rhinos (???), there was Gideon. He was chosen by God to lead Israel’s armies in a counter strike against the evil Midianites, all 150,000 of them. Israel turns out 32,000 recruits to defend their nation. Even with that they are outnumbered 5-1. Through a series of questions (Are you afraid?), and grueling physical challenges (drink from this stream), basic training narrowed the field to 300 men, armed with nothing more than a pot, a torch, and a trumpet. Sounds like they got their battle strategy from the latest issue of Martha Stewart Living.

Anyway, the part of the story I would love to overhear and see is the conversation between God and Gideon as he explains his whole plan of attack. A saner man would have just walked away, but I guess Gideon was just crazy enough to believe that God knew what he was doing.

The True Underdog Story (1 Samuel 17)

This is the story to which all other underdog scenarios are compared. The battle of David and Goliath.

We all know the story. The little shepherd boy (who for some reason always looks about 9 on the flannel graph) musters up the courage to fight the giant in a head to head (or head to waist) battle. One little stone goes up, up, up, and the giant comes tumbling down.

The part I wish I were there for is the part we don’t talk about in the children’s songs or Sunday school. After Goliath falls, David runs up, takes Goliath’s ginormous sword and beheads the not-so-friendly giant. Like a boss.

Seeing is Believing (John 20:24-29)

This scene has always fascinated me. We know that Jesus experienced a physical resurrection, yet his body no longer seems to be bound by the laws of physics. He still eats and drinks, he still walks and sits down, but he can also walk through walls or something. Not quite like Casper, but somehow able to appear and disappear in the blink of an eye.

Well, the apostles are all gathered together behind closed and locked doors (rough neighborhood?), but this time, Thomas is with them. As if on cue, Jesus appears and shows Thomas his battle scars. I’m not so interesting in seeing the resurrected Christ. I don’t need to see to believe. I’m more interested in the physical, spiritual, and emotional response given by Thomas. His is the most sincere and profound confession in all the gospels. “My Lord, and my God.”

Temple of Luxor

This was one of the highlights of the trip for me. During the time of Moses, Luxor was the capital city of Egypt, and subsequently the Temple of Luxor was both the religious and educational center of Southern Egypt where Moses grew up and received his education. We know for a fact that if the story of Moses is accurately recorded in Exodus (as most believe it is) then this Moses spent the first 40 years of his life in and around this Temple, both worshipping and receiving a top-quality Egyptian education.

We visited the temple during at night when it was illuminated, and the yellow lights playing off the statues and columns with the clear night sky overhead was beautiful. In front of the temple are two gigantic statues of, who else?, Ramses II, followed by more gigantic statues of Ramses II and others inside the main courtyard area. All Egyptian temples are laid out in the same basic format: large front gates (called pylons) followed by an open courtyard where commoners would come and offer sacrifices and worship; then comes a half-open pillared/roofed section where only priests can enter; then comes a vestibule area reserved for the maintainence of the god (washing, feeding, etc.); then the holy of holies where the idol is kept. What makes the Temple at Luxor different is that beyond the first enclosed area for the priests comes another open courtyard area. This is where the royal family’s children would have come to receive an education, and this is where we know Moses spent most of his childhood. We were able to sit around the very place where Moses was and have a short singing devotional. For me, this was the climax of the entire trip. Everything had led up to this moment where we we sitting in the place Moses had sat some 3000+ years ago.

Valley of the Kings

The Valley of the Kings is really the most visited site in all of Egypt, surpassing even the Great Pyramids in tourism. I find it interesting that the two most visited sites in the country have to deal with death and human efforts to preserve whatever they could.

The days of the Pyramids had long since passed by the time the tombs in the Valley of the Kings were dug. The Pharaohs of the Pyramid era (Old Kingdom, before the time of Abraham) were believed to be the full manifestation of the gods on earth, so their tombs were much more elaborate, much more magnificent, and much more a target for grave robbers. By the time the Middle Kingdom rolled around, the Pharaohs only considered themselves as half-gods, or demi-gods, yet it is clear from reliefs and tomb paintings that the Pharaohs held a lower position to the gods of the Egyptian pantheon. The Valley of the Kings contains 64 known graves of Pharaohs from the Middle Kingdom period, and interestingly enough, the first ruler to be buried in the Valley of the Kings was Queen Hatshepsut.

Everyone probably knows the “famous” King Tut, whose tomb was found in this valley still completely stocked with gold and all sorts of possessions. Yet King Tut, who was only about 18 when he died, had the least elaborate tomb in the entire valley, so it is theorized. Of the rulers buried in the valley, there are at least 4 different dynasties, including around 11 or 12 tombs of rulers bearing the name “Ramses”, including Ramses the Great (the II). It’s hard for me to even fathom how much more elegant and elaborate Ramses II’s tomb must have been compared to King Tut’s.

We did get to go down into three of the tombs (some people paid extra to go into Tut’s tomb). Of the three tombs, one belonged to a ruler named Thutmosis III who actually became Egypt’s most powerful Pharaoh ever and could likely have been the Pharaoh under whose rule the harsh persecution of the Hebrews and Semitic peoples began. If it is the case that Thutmosis III was the Pharaoh of the persecution, then it is likely that Queen Hatshepsut was the princess who drew Moses out from the Nile.

I know that the discoveries and excavations of these tombs have contibuted quite a bit to our understanding of Egyptian theology, ideology, and every day life, but it is at the same time (for me) a bit depressing to realize that these men and women went to such extreme measures in search for eternal life. I guess they have pretty well toward achieving that goal beacuse now they are lying peacefully, forever enshrined within glass cases for thousands of people to stare at.