Exodus Day Twenty-Five
August 4, 2020, 5:00 AM

Plundered
Exodus 11:1-3

The LORD said to Moses,
“Yet one plague more I will bring upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt.
Afterward he will let you go from here.
When he lets you go, he will drive you away completely.

Speak now in the hearing of the people, that they ask, every man of his neighbor
and every woman of her neighbor, for silver and gold jewelry.”
And the LORD gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians.

Exodus 12:35-36

The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them,
for they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing.
And the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians,
so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.

In 1999, the Islamic authority (the Waqf) overseeing Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif) in Jerusalem began secretly, illegally, removing 9,000 tons of dirt from underneath the southeast corner of the ancient platform (pictured above). This is an area known as “Solomon’s Stables,” although Solomon never kept his horses there. The Crusaders thought he kept his horses there, thus it has been erroneously so called to this day. The Waqf was digging to make room for a larger prayer room in that corner of the Mount for the al-Aqsa mosque above, seemingly uncaring of the potential archeological treasure they were treating as valueless, common fill dirt. Muslims deny, as a rule, that the Haram is the location of the first and second Jewish Temple. To admit such would be to acknowledge Israeli claims to the holy space. It’s complicated. When this clandestine removal transgression was discovered by the Israeli Antiquities Authority, the 9,000 tons of dirt was recovered from a Kidron Valley landfill and transported to what has become known as the Temple Mount Sifting Project on Mount Scopus. To this very day, this dirt is being meticulously sifted through, bucket by bucket. A long, tedious, process. Check out the pictures we took of the operation in 2018.

 

During that 2018 visit to the Temple Mount Sifting Project, we got to run our hands through the fill dirt of Temple Mount. We recovered a single gaming die (pictured right) that probably belonged to a Roman soldier, so they told us. Pretty cool! However, to the present day, nothing from the Temple proper itself has ever been recovered. Fragments of pottery, etc. from the surrounding complex have turned up occasionally, building mortar sometimes, but nothing of the holy furniture or fixtures within the Temple itself. No Ark. No cherubim, no lampstands, no incense altars, and so on, and so on. Perhaps, if the ground beneath the central Temple platform was open to archeological digs and exploration, oh, the treasures that might be recovered! What lies beneath?! The Islamic Waqf does not permit even the thought of such apostate adventures. They will never allow any digs there. Temple Mount seems to be the only real estate in all the Holy Land, off limits to digs. And, it’s a shame. World War III might be triggered by such a transgression. There’s an abundance of hate and mistrust in the Middle East. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! The fill dirt from the southeast corner “stables” must suffice to sate curiosity at this time.

I thought about the lost treasures of the Temple when I read the passages cited at the head of today’s blog. Perhaps the thought never occurred – it certainly never occurred to me in my casual readings of Exodus in the past – but, exactly how did the previously enslaved Israelites have all the resources to construct and furnish the Tabernacle that will be exactingly described from Exodus 25-40? The Tabernacle required gold, silver, bronze and an abundance of exquisite fabrics. But then, we have this at-first-glance, throwaway note in chapters eleven and twelve: “Speak now in the hearing of the people, that they ask, every man of his neighbor and every woman of her neighbor, for silver and gold jewelry.” And the LORD gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians… So they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians[!]” What this communicates is that God not only delivered his people from bondage, but he made provision for the worship he would exact and expect. Every fine material needed to beautify the project; God put in their hands. When you think of it, God is still providing for the worship of his people. He provides the resources for beautiful worship spaces. I am pretty un-Protestant in my thinking on worship spaces. I believe God gave us artists and architects to express the majesty of God in their craft. (The older I grow, the more I disdain Puritan plain-ness in sanctuaries.) God provides beautiful voices to sing his praise. Preachers and teachers to faithfully proclaim the Word. Generous saints giving willingly and sacrificially to Gospel-ing. Missionaries extending worship to outposts all over the inhabited world. People called with every manner of heavenly gifting for the building up of the Church of God. All elements of the Body of Christ that make the Body of Christ the Body of Christ. God provides. All this. In reality: A beautiful “plundering” from the world.

And so, I cannot read any line in the Bible casually anymore. My grand hope would be that you would share that conviction. I think we need to always come before Scripture in awe, in expectation that God’s going to give us the un-expected. Subsequently, in the walk away from the encounter, knowing God and his purposes better. And being better in the process. May you be splendid “plunder” for the glory of God today.


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