John 1:1 – In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.
Years ago a traveling exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls came across the nation. Maybe you saw this exhibit when it came to Charlotte. I heard a story this week about the history of the Dead Sea Scrolls that moved me and I want to share today.
In the mid-1940s Bedouin shepherds, which are shepherds that lived out in the wilderness, were out tending their sheep and goats and one of their goats went into a cave. Before a Bedouin shepherd would ever go into a cave, they would throw a rock in there to be sure there wasn’t some kind of wild creature inside that would attack them. So they threw the rock and heard what sounded like the breaking of glass or pottery. One of the Bettuans went in the cave and found a set of clay jars lining the side of the cave. When they looked in them, tucked inside each one were leather strips that had writing on them. They were so excited because they had made this great find but they didn’t know what to do with them initially. They hung them in their tents and brought them out occasionally to show others in their families. Eventually, they took them to an antiquities dealer in Bethlehem but the dealer feared that they were stolen from the synagogue so he sent them away telling them they were worthless. They went to another dealer, a Syrian Christian, who offered to buy them.
Thankfully that is where they took them because it ended up that these were parts of scrolls and the writing was the actual writings of Essene priests who in fear of the persecution of the Romans went to this little place and hid these scrolls so that they would not be destroyed by the Romans.
Don’t you love that our Lord did NOT have these to be discovered by Biblical scholars or theologians or archaeologists but they were discovered by what I think is one of His most favorite professions – a shepherd? Because so many of those He used greatly in the Bible and throughout history and even today spent time as shepherds and had a humble shepherd’s hearts.
After the initial discovery from 1946-1956, 981 different texts were found in 11 different caves in the West Bank. These texts were the remains of between 825 to 870 separate scrolls. Not all the scrolls were Scripture. Some were community rules books and commentaries. BUT of the scrolls found there were fragments of every book of the Old Testament except Esther. 25 copies of Deuteronomy; 30 copies of Psalms; 19 copies of Isaiah –The longest scroll found was 26.7 feet and it was a TEMPLE scroll. They were made mostly of animal skins, papyrus, and copper and were written with carbon based inks. The book of Isaiah was the only scroll that was completely intact. And that intact scroll was 1000 years older than any other known copy.
If you go online and look at the images of the exhibits of the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibits they had fragments in glass cases along with the translations of them. Those translations are incredibly similar to what you and I hold when we hold our BIBLES. Part of the exhibit regarding Isaiah also contained Luke 4:16-21:
And HE (He being Jesus) came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto Him the book of the prophet Esaias (this would have been a scroll at that time). And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, this day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.
You can’t help but wonder if the scrolls that you see in the pictures of this exhibit is the scroll that Jesus Himself held in His hand that day. There are some scholars that believe that is the case.
But whether they are or not we don’t know. We do know that these scrolls are not just ANTIQUES; they are ANCIENT. And that moves me. It also moves me to think that these Words on these scrolls are God-breathed words, that were breathed into these men who wrote and that these men loved the Lord and His Word so much that they wrote each and everything as led by the Holy Spirit and they wrote them all so carefully. And revered them so much that they would when led by the Holy Ghost go and hide them.
When we hold this Bible in our hand, we can’t forget how long ago it was written, how it was written, and that these are HOLY Words. They are UNCHANGING WORDS. They are ETERNAL WORDS. They are not to be added to or taken away from…not in content but also not in our hearts!!! If the Word says it that needs to settle it for our hearts
whether we understand totally or not…because one day we will understand.
And I feel like the Lord wants me to say today – The Essene priests hid these scrolls because of persecution that they were facing by the Romans and because they feared the scrolls would be destroyed. Just as the Romans hated the Jews and Christians, we as Christians are becoming increasingly hated and under fire today even in our own country. The Lord says in Psalm 119:11, Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
Hide His Words in your heart!!! That is something He tells us over and over in His Word and is crucial in these days. Be led by His Holy Spirit even as these priests were led to getting it into your heart and do with it as He leads – speak it, write it out, hide it away. He will lead you and He will empower you. Put them in your heart and if called to do so, be it tomorrow or 10 years from now, be prepared that if He directs you to, hide the scriptures in the natural to preserve them. Don’t think it is a strange request!
But also hide His Word in your hearts to give you strength and to empower you in these days and so you don’t fall prey to the spirit of fear. I want to end with two short readings from that Book of Isaiah that were written on those scrolls.
Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary, and they shall walk, and not faint.
Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.