January 24th was a very important day in California History. Do you know why?  

This year, on January 24, it was the 175th anniversary of James Marshal discovering gold.  On January 24th in 1848, James Marshall picked a small gold-colored nugget out of the American river.  He didn’t know it then, but he was about to make history.  He went down as the man who started the California Gold Rush.  An event that has shaped California and made us into the state we are today.Man and boy play instruments at campfire

A year after the first discovery of gold in the American River,  thousands of people swarmed to California.  People came from all over, by sea, across the country, to see if they could strike it rich and find gold. We call all the people who came 49ers because the year they all came was not 1848, but 1849 (back in that day, it took almost a whole year to travel from one side of the country to the other).

Sadly though, many of these people who came to California who were promised riches lived poor and destitute lives.  At first the hills literally were filled with gold and the pickings were easy.  Those who were already in California were able to strike it rich quite easily. But it wasn’t long before gold became harder and harder to find. Crime and violence also plagued the new towns that were popping up at alarming speeds.

History books are filled with story after story of successful miners striking rich, unsuccessful pursuits, dying dreamers, and quick-thinking entrepreneurs.  There is no doubt that the Gold Rush was an important part of California’s history.  But as it is now in the past, it begs the question, what can we learn from this interesting and unique time in our history and why is it still important to us today?

The Gold Rush Reminds Us About Our Hearts Condition

The Bible tells us that man’s heart is sinful.  Our Hears chase after things other than God.  All throughout history, we see man chasing after things that satisfy for a short while, but in the end leave us feeling more empty than before. There is a passage in Job 28 that vividly describes man’s empty pursuit and love for precous metals and then compares it to God’s wisdom that cannot be found in the things of this word:

12″But where can wisdom be found?
    Where does understanding dwell?
13 No mortal comprehends its worth;
    it cannot be found in the land of the living.
14 The deep says, “It is not in me”;
    the sea says, “It is not with me.”
15 It cannot be bought with the finest gold,
    nor can its price be weighed out in silver.
16 It cannot be bought with the gold of Ophir,
    with precious onyx or lapis lazuli.
17 Neither gold nor crystal can compare with it,
    nor can it be had for jewels of gold.
18 Coral and jasper are not worthy of mention;
    the price of wisdom is beyond rubies.
19 The topaz of Cush cannot compare with it;
    it cannot be bought with pure gold.” (Job 28:12-19)

Riches will never satisfy.  Gold will never satisfy. This is a truth that many men in the Gold Rush learned the hard way. It didn’t matter if you struck it rich and found gold.  There is a deeper “God-sized” hole in man’s heart that could not be filled with gold or riches. 

The Gold Rush can be a reminder to us of our longing to be satisfied.  It’s a call for us to look at our own lives and ask ourselves what is our “Gold rush” that we are trying so hard to find and be satisfied in. If our Gold rush is in anything other than God, then we will are chasing after vain pursuits. When we pursue the things in this world that we think will make us happy, we find ourselves at the end of our ropes, confused and empty. 

But there is good news for us too when it comes to the Gold Rush. There is something that satisfies us. There is something greater than gold!

God is Greater Than Gold!

God is greater than gold!  This is the theme of our 49er Fun program we have at our camp.  After learning that there is nothing in this earth that will satisfy us, no amount of riches or gold, we turn to the one who can satisfy us.  God and His word is the greatest gold mine there is.  When we search for Him we will never come up empty. God says in his word that all who search for him will find him.

Where then does wisdom come from?
    Where does understanding dwell?
21 It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing,
    concealed even from the birds in the sky. (Job 28:20-21)

28 And he said to the human race,
    “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom,
    and to shun evil is understanding.” (Job 28:28)

So I ask again, why is the Gold Rush important to us? 

The Gold Rush is important because it is an event in history that reminds us that chasing after riches will not satisfy us.  It gives us vivid examples of how the things this world tells us are valuable will end up robbing us of the things that matter.  The gold rush reminds us that our hearts long to be satisfied, but only God can fill them.  God is the greatest treasure there is and He is greater than gold.

An Invitation to Learn More About the Gold Rush at Our CampBoy crouched on river bank pans for gold on field trip

At our camp, we have an entire spring program dedicated to teaching young minds about the Gold Rush.  During our spring program, which is called 49er fun, 4th graders come and learn in a fun and immersive way about what it was like to be a miner in the late 1800’s. They get to time travel back in time with their guides, learn how to gold pan, make rope, and many more fun hands-on activities from the 1800s.  Not to mention enjoy some delicious homecooked meals! But most importantly, they will learn about the empty pursuits of many miners and how God is greater than Gold.  



If you would like to learn more about the Gold Rush and the 49er fun program we offer you can find more information here

Other blogs posts about our 49er Fun Program: