It was in the mid-1980's, and I was hosting a pilgrimage group on a tour of the Holy Land. We had made the long drive from the Sea of Galilee to Jerusalem and had arrived in "the city of the Great King" exhausted.
It seemed like I had hardly gone to sleep when I was jolted awake by the telephone. Assuming it was my wake up call, I lifted the receiver and mumbled, "Thank you."
I was surprised to hear a familiar voice on the other end. "Hello, David, I'm calling from Texas!"
"From Texas!" I replied. "All the way from Texas?"
"Yep," answered my friend, "and guess what? They've found the ark!"
"No, dummy, the Ark of the Covenant."
Needless to say, that statement really woke me up.
My friend proceeded to explain that he had just read in the Dallas Morning News about the discovery of the lost Ark of the Covenant. It had supposedly been found on Mount Pisgah (Mt. Nebo) in Jordan by a religious group from Kansas.
It all sounded a little far out to me. I suspected that someone had lost touch with reality after having seen the currently popular movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Nonetheless, I rushed down to the hotel lobby to get the latest copy of The Jerusalem Post. Sure enough, there on the first page was the story. The writer evidently shared my skepticism because the headline read: "Thar's an Ark in Them Thar Hills!"
The story was right out of Alice in Wonderland. Some end-time sect from Winfield, Kansas, calling itself the Institute for Restoring Ancient History International, had issued a statement claiming to have discovered the Ark in a sealed passageway inside Mt. Pisgah.
They offered no evidence, even though they claimed to have taken photographs. They also refused to reveal the exact location of their find.
The leader of the group, who had a reputation for being anti-Semitic, said he was going to prove his good will toward the Jews by turning all his evidence over to David Rothschild.
When asked why he had selected Rothschild, he replied that he considered Rothschild to be the leader of the Jews (an old anti-Semitic attitude!). He also explained that he felt Rothschild had the power to help his group in dealing with the Jordanian government and the Vatican.
The headlines have since subsided. The Kansas group has returned to its anonymity in the wheat fields. And the movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark, has become an adventure classic.
But the incident and movie motivated a lot of questions, some of which relate to end time events. What was the Ark of the Covenant? Why was it so important to the Jews? What happened to it? Will it be found again? Is it essential for the rebuilding of the Jewish temple?
We will begin looking for answers to these questions in the next installment of this series on the Ark of the Covenant.