Have you ever been at a game night when somebody suggests a movie trivia game, and the room instantly fills with a mixture of “as long as so-and-so doesn’t play” or “as long as so-and-so is on my team?”
I have always loved movies—all kinds of movies—blockbusters, independents, foreign, drama, comedy, thriller, whatever. While (as my wife can attest) I can forget what I was asked to get from an adjacent room mere seconds after walking into it, I can remember things about movies that many normal, well-adjusted people don’t know.
“Raiders of the Lost Ark” is one of my all-time favorite films. Some folks talk about “comfort food.” For me, movies like “Raiders” are cinematic comfort food. I can watch them over and over, and they always entertain me.
Here are a couple of things you might not know about “Raiders.”
Tom Selleck was a front-runner to play the iconic Indiana Jones role, though it ultimately went to Harrison Ford. Can you imagine the swashbuckling archeologist with a “Magnum P.I.” mustache?
Filming of the foot chase scene in the Cairo marketplace was supposed to feature a big sword fight between Indiana and one of the evil henchmen. However, Ford was suffering from a debilitating bout of dysentery (along with much of the crew) and could barely walk. In the finished scene, the henchman waves his sword around for a few seconds. Indy just looks at him, pulls his gun and shoots him.
When Indiana is lowered into the Well of Souls, he falls to the floor and is immediately faced with a rearing, hissing king cobra (snakes are his only real fear). In the original VHS and DVD versions of “Raiders,” you can clearly see a reflection of the cobra, revealing the pane of glass between Ford and the snake. It was digitally removed from later editions of the movie.
I could go on. I’m that guy. And one of the reasons “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is one of my favorite movies is the last word of the title. The plot is about the race between Indiana Jones and the Nazis to find the lost Ark of the Covenant, containing God’s Ten Commandments brought to His people by Moses.
Another “comfort food” in my life recently has been a year-long study through the entire Bible. Exodus 25 and 37 contain very specific descriptions of the design and construction of the Ark.
In part, I wanted to see how closely Hollywood followed the divine blueprints.
“’Have them make an ark of acacia wood—two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. Overlay it with pure gold, both inside and out, and make a gold molding around it …. Make an atonement cover of pure gold—two and a half cubits long and a cubit and a half wide. And make two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. Make one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other; make the cherubim of one piece with the cover, at the two ends. The cherubim are to have their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim are to face each other, looking toward the cover’” (Exodus 25:10-11, 17-20).
After some pausing, rewinding and Bible checking, I can render my verdict as a Christian and movie nerd: Hollywood basically got it right!
The Ark in the movie lines up very closely with every description in Exodus. This makes me happy for a couple of reasons. First, it’s rare for a blockbuster (or any) Hollywood movie to treat Biblical history with any degree of respect and accuracy. When I see it, I appreciate it.
Even more than that, though, is the other lesson that reading Exodus taught me.
Details matter to God.
The passages that describe the design and building of the Ark are within the context of the Israelites’ epic trek through the desert after being delivered from Egyptian slavery.
Over and over, God told His people they were to be holy and distinctive.
This meant so much to Him that He included the precise plans for a huge, portable “tent of meeting” in which the Israelites were to worship Him wherever they traveled. In addition to the Ark, the Lord gave instructions for everything from priestly garments to the furnishings of the tabernacle—altars, basins, curtains and more.
Fast-forward several thousand years to the present. Unlike the 12 tribes, we are not living under the law—yet, we are still called to be holy and distinctive.
First Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
No one has to be holy and distinctive to get into heaven. All anyone has to do is give their life to Jesus, “the author and perfecter of our faith.”
But the closer we are to Him, the closer the details of our lives should be to His. And as our High Priest, the closer we are to Christ, the more distinctive we’ll be. Thankfully, we have the Bible to guide us along that path.
One of my favorite lines in “Raiders” is late in the story, when the Ark has been loaded on a truck that has just sped away.
Indy says, “I’m going after that truck.” His friend Sallah looks at him and asks, “How?” Indy replies, “I don’t know. I’m making this up as I go.”
We don’t have to make it up as we go. The Bible has the key to eternal life and the answer for every important question we will ever ask. It is the ultimate comfort food for the soul.
Bill Womack has been a member of Southeast Christian Church for 22 years.