With the markets in turmoil, as we grieve the loss of 38 U.S. troops shot down in Afghanistan on Saturday, I found solace this morning in a drainage ditch. But not just any ditch—the 2,000-year-old drainage system in the Holy City which ran between the City of David and the Jerusalem Archaeological Garden.
Yesterday, the Israeli Antiquities Authority announced that a Roman sword in its scabbard had been discovered there, as well as an engraving of a Menorah on a piece of stone. Both date from A.D. 66, the year of the Jewish Revolt which led to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.
The etching was probably made by a person who had just come from the temple and saw the Menorah standing there. The sword undoubtedly belonged to a Roman infantryman serving in Jerusalem during the revolt. It is around two feet in length and was discovered in its leather scabbard (a very rare find) with some of the decoration on the sword still preserved.
We are left to wonder about the circumstances of both. Why would a person take time to etch a drawing of the Menorah into stone with a nail? Perhaps the revolt against Rome had already begun and this person somehow knew that the temple would soon be demolished, its Menorah stolen or destroyed. Why would a Roman soldier abandon his sword in its scabbard? Perhaps he was killed by a Jewish insurgent during the revolt before he could unsheathe it, so that it fell into the drainage ditch and was buried in its water and mud.
We’ll probably never know the stories behind these significant finds, but they teach us two lessons this morning. First, our trust is not in nations or buildings created by human hands. No one could imagine the magnificent temple of Herod destroyed, but it was. No one in Rome could imagine that their mighty Empire would fall, but it did. David noted, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7).
Second, the King is still on his throne. Jesus predicted the fall of Jerusalem and her temple (Matthew 24:1-25); nothing in this morning’s news surprises him. God is “our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). If we worry about nothing but pray about everything, he gives us his peace and meets our needs (Philippians 4:6-7, 19). If we follow him, he will lead us into his “good, pleasing, and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).
Nearly 20 centuries ago, the Holy City and her magnificent temple fell, but the Jewish people survived. Two millennia later, their nation was reborn and is today a place of economic, military, and political power and purpose. No matter how badly the markets did yesterday, the King of the Kingdom is still your Father. Are you his obedient child?