He was a man of meager stature, sturdy, perhaps handsome to some. The desert sand spilt off his royal sandals as he walked, his water nearly spent. The sun had been merciless again… but he had hardly noticed. Caution checked him every time he mixed with travelers in his hasty journey, and it was seldom that water was alone.
The country was strange to him, he had only a vague idea where he was, or where he was going — but he was going… away. He knew from the stars and his studies in geography that he was in Midian, heading north east. The people here were nomadic; they could be friendly or hostile depending on the clan.
On the horizon appeared what might be a well. He slowed, squinting in the afternoon sun to observe a distant commotion. Was it indeed a well? Would it be safe to approach? Egyptian soldiers had been scouring the region for him on horseback for weeks, should he dare an approach in broad daylight? It had been over a month, perhaps he had finally evaded them. He could only keep this up for so long… was the God leading this way? He sensed an inner rest as he studied the scene and decided to move in.
He was walking away from the most powerful nation on earth, which he had disdained to rule. Having groomed him as its imminent head of state, this nation now hunted him as a traitor. To be found of them would be… well, let’s just say… that it was not negotiable. What had he defected to? What had he seen outside this beautiful land that could have enticed him so?
A hunger burned deep within him — a restless, churning hunger. His genius could never rest. Something was wrong, profoundly wrong. It haunted and taunted like the spirits of the palace. The God had chosen a people for Himself, and had them perpetual slaves to an arrogant, haughty, superstitious nation. This man himself was one of those chosen people; and was wrestling with the God. For ten generations, for over three hundred years, they had been in chains. The God was with this people… to watch without delivering, to study without comforting, to own without protecting.
The God was with this diplomat as well, though, certainly, he was no slave. Quite the contrary — steeped in lavish splendor, he had been given the best education and training known to Man. Even so, he had been secretly nurtured by his own slave mother in the ways of the God from the time he could remember. He was the first of a kind, really — of disgusting birth, of royal grooming, of sacred training… a strange election of the God, evidently for some sovereign purpose.
The God was to him a silent Hand to guide, a quiet Voice to prod and question… God was the hunger burning deep within; He was the Appetite and the Food to satisfy it. This God was separate… outside… ever close but distant, enticing, wooing, calling, strong and silent. Always pursuing, nurturing… relentless, pure, mysterious. It drove him nearly mad.
The God would not reveal Himself directly. He was not like the spirits of Egypt — foul, arrogant, haughty things that they were. To worship them was to become like them: it was a whoredom this regal could not bear. But this… this Being… He was the Father of spirits! The Creator… whose Hand and Eye checked every movement, every thought. The pulse of life was in His breath, the light of life was in His eye, the course of nations in His hand, time and sequence lay beneath Him. To know this One… Oh! to swoon and dance in Him! was worth forsaking Egypt, worth giving up a life of ease and pleasure… secure prestige… beautiful women… and splendor — wealth unmatched in any civilization… worth the insecurity of being vagabond in a strange land… worth being tortured for.
He did not know the God yet and he felt it keenly. He only knew about Him. There must be more to life with this God than knowing about Him. There must be more than oral tradition, more than stories, more than brotherhood. He would have the God… and know Him… and walk in Him… even if it meant having nothing else. That was the hunger.
What was so painfully wrong then? That the people of this God groaned, delirious in oppressive bondage. Their infant sons, the tender baby boys — the nation’s pride and strength, were tossed to crocodiles while desperate parents screamed in agony. Their women were heartlessly ravished, their men brutally worked to death. The humiliation and agony of this people was staggering… and the God was silently permissive. The spirit of this sparkling man could not rest. He groaned with them, and wrestled with the God for their deliverance.
It was a well… the commotion was of thin, dirty, sun-blackened nomads watering their goats and bickering over the water troughs and two lonely shade trees. He watched them carefully, studying their dark countenances for enlightenment as he came boldly into their presence. They were clearly puzzled at his lone approach, and taken by his Egyptian garb… Would their faces turn sly as they recognized some recent description of him by the soldiers? Their reward would be great if they were kin to his capture — he would rather not kill them… Nothing. These were ignorant, simple herdsmen. All he saw in them was fear. He was safe, and sat down on the well as they stared blankly at him.
He turned his back on them and drew from the well as if he owned it. His bearing was finely royal, that of a king — movement deft, precise, calm. He quenched his thirst generously, filled his pouch, and retired into the shade under one of the trees a comfortable distance from the well. They gave him space without a word, feeling threatened even further in his confidence among them.
To his surprise, they soon left and he was alone again. A splendid breeze kicked up and cooled him as he reclined in the shadows. He thought to himself to catch a light nap, but was soon disturbed by another band of cattle coming over the sandy hill to the north. Another small flock, with herdsmen behind and to the side, was approaching the well in the bright sunshine. What? Seven herdsmen with such a small flock? Carrying large pitchers? Not much for entertainment, but at least, having safely outsmarted his pursuers, perhaps he need no longer fear his acquaintance. He propped himself up a bit and watched with some amusement as the shepherds approached, chattering and calling to one another and the sheep, poking and directing the woolly amblings with their long goads.
Startled, noticing the tender movements of these herders, and their voices — he realized that these were women… seven of them… coming to draw water for the day! They had just noticed him and stopped, calling to the sheep and huddling together to confer. A traveler alone at the well? Lurking in the shadows? Perhaps they were alarmed… they certainly were beautiful, even from a distance. Good! They had decided to approach, cautious as they seemed to be. Water should not be common in this region — perhaps they had little choice. Watching their long thick hair wift about in the breeze under their veils, he remained in the shade and perused them as they approached. He had not expected such scenery in the desert!
As the women began to draw for the sheep, eyeing him quietly and curiously, another group of herdsmen and cattle cleared the top of the hill. Two rather burly men with a substantial herd and a couple of large dogs were approaching the well boldly. He watched as the men motioned to their dogs, which raced off eagerly in the direction of the women and the little flock. Barking and snapping, they scattered the sheep with delight, drawing blood but not doing any real damage: sport in which they seemed accustomed to amusing themselves. The women scattered in noisy fear, crying, dropping their pitchers in the sand, trying to protect and gather their sheep, fending off the dogs with their meager goads. Still unaware of the lone traveler under the trees, the brutes approached the well in hearty laughter, drove the remaining sheep and frightened women gruffly off, and brought their cattle up to freely enjoy the freshly drawn water.
Our traveler, delightfully enticed, reached for a large smooth stone protruding gently from the sand just beyond his elbow, and rose in stealth to his feet in the shadows. Carefully eyeing one of the mutts as she came prancing back to quench her thirst after the chase, he dropped it coldly — it never even whelped. The movement in the shadows drew the attention of the shepherds only in time to notice, not to warn. The beast lay still, blood running from its nostrils. Surprised and enraged, they squinted narrowly at this unarmed stranger and grimaced in vengeance. The other dog, already carelessly taking her fill at the trough, sensed the risen fury of her masters and snapped to herself, noticing her comrade dead in the sand. Instantly charged with livid rage she bolted at the empty stranger. No stave? Fool! It had been a while since she had tasted human flesh — she knew she had permission. The women, momentarily forgetting their pets and their fears, watched in frozen awe, not wishing the stranger harm. He had evidently stood in their behalf. It was happening so quickly.
Still smiling, glad to focus his tightly wound energy on a single target for yet another moment, he crouched and widened his stance in the shade. Without thought or craft the beast plunged into range to be terminated. He had thought to enjoy the fight for a season anyway, but decided to end it quickly — such foolish creatures did not deserve to be entertained. A well placed blow broke its neck and it flopped on past him to twitch quietly in the dirt.
Not yet warmed for a lengthy contest, he stretched his back and legs briefly as he surveyed the visage of the nearest shepherd. The poor soul did seem a bit beside himself — having lost both his drueling pets in a matter of seconds to a quiet alien — unpleasantly stuck between blind fury and twisted discretion, he was gripping his staff and lumbering toward a contest. The other was stunned and thoughtful, keeping his distance and beginning to circle, as if to study his new opponent. At least they should attack at once! This would not even be decent if he could have them one at a time! Perhaps it was time to… play — after all, it was a pleasant afternoon and he had an attractive audience. What more could one want?
Staff raised for a direct overhead blow, feet vulnerably parallel in approach, this empty-headed fellow had nothing but bulk and meager strength. Perhaps large for the people of this area, this dirty scrap had apparently missed an opportunity to learn much of personal combat: this was a treat to be savored slowly. Deftly hinting to one side to draw the blow off course, he moved to the other and caught the center of the staff in hand as it came down, encouraging it through its swing while spinning to place a light kick to the gentleman’s ear from the side. The momentum of the shepherd’s progress was unchecked by the blow, which knocked him cleanly off balance and sent him sprawling headlong into the sand.
The staff clattered noisily out of his hands onto a rocky patch of gravel nearby, inviting the warrior’s interest. He eased it up and held it with intent, turning it over in his hands to feel the solid distribution of its mass as he advanced purposefully toward the other shepherd. A smooth and sturdy rod, it would do well for making sport of these two bullies for his spectators.
This second opponent was not as large as the first, a bit more clever perhaps, certainly lucid enough to be frightened. He could still be approached with honor though. He was apparently unwilling to retreat and had his staff poised for a duel. It would be a short season for just the two of them before the first would be ready for more. It would be best to let him have the first move and show himself worthy of the fight.
Circling and studying, the man discarded his staff and drew a large knife, openly committing himself to be damaged. Perhaps he could not bear to have a stranger escape after killing his pets and humiliating him in front of someone’s daughters. That news would travel far too eagerly among the inhabitants of this lonesome region; the foreigner’s carcass must be left for the birds to eat. Brave thoughts for one so helpless.
The warrior edged into range with staff across his waist. Whipping it about his frame twice to check the advance of his opponent, he brought it round to catch a hand and part the assailant from his knife. A crisp snap followed as the shepherd’s wrist yielded to the blow, broke cleanly, and began dangling awkwardly, drawing out a gasping cry of pain from the fellow. The dirty shepherd fell to his knees in surrender as the first one started back to his feet.
Heading straight for the water troughs? yelling at the cattle and driving them back towards the hill… already? The boy had had enough? His broken friend followed painfully and the two made straight for the horizon and disappeared from sight, followed by the loose gaggle of cows and goats. Checking a light dismay at the sudden ending of the match, he turned to face the women huddled amidst their sheep, and motioned invitingly to the water troughs. Without waiting for their response, he began to draw more water and to fill the troughs for them. The sheep came running toward him and circled in to drink, with the women hesitantly following. Shy and quiet, they approached to thank him as he continued to draw for them.
The eldest spoke with what Egyptian she knew, “Thank you, Sir. We are very glad for your help.”
With a hearty grin, he responded in their Syrian tongue, as he turned from the trough to fill their trembling pitchers with the cool water. “You are all most welcome! It seems like you have given place to these rascals before?”
Delighted at hearing her own tongue from an Egyptian, another responded in Syrian, “They have done this to us many, many times! So many of the townspeople have suffered from their rudeness. Thank you!… Thank you so very, very much! That was very brave of you!”
He stood from pouring as he noticed her, this vivid little cacklebox. He was taken by her eyes — tender, sparkling. “Bravery only moves when there is danger, my sweet. Where are you all from? Are you sisters?”
“My name is Zipporah,” said this same bold, dark, sparkling beauty. “We are all the daughters of Ruel, the priest of Midian. A pleasure to meet you.”
“I am Moses…” he began. He hesitated. Was he an Egyptian? Was he an Israelite? How much should he tell these young ladies? His clothing was of royal refinement, everything about him was Egyptian — except his heart. He would not lie, they were certain to ask. Their questions would be his guide. “I journey from Egypt.”
“You are from Egypt then! I told you! I told you! I knew he was from Egypt!” squealed Zipporah — half to her sisters, half to the handsome stranger.
One of the sisters pulled her aside to quiet her while the eldest, Rebecca, composed herself to speak. “We cannot tell you how thankful we are that you have helped us this day. Those men with their dogs have treated us this way many, many times. It is my hope that your victory over them will not make things worse for us when they recover. Perhaps they have learned a lesson today that they will not forget. Cruelty is often rewarded in this life, as well as in the next. For today, our father will be delighted to have us home early. Your bravery and kindness is deeply appreciated. But now that the little ones have quenched their thirst, we must be going home to him. We wish you well in your travels.”
Zipporah could not believe they were going to leave him. She opened her mouth to protest but before she could speak she caught that look from Rebecca, that told her to hold her tongue, or else… Quietly they all began to gather the flock and prod them back toward the hill. Zipporah took her place at the flank and turned to gaze on Moses one last time as they crested the top of the hill. He had returned to the shade and seemed to be watching them still. She set her mind on how to convince her father to invite this man home for dinner.
Ruel, or Jethro, as he was sometimes called, moved uneasily about the tent, chaffed in another quarrel with Yzil, the wife of his old age. He had married her late in life, and they had been together for thirty years now, but in that time he had never managed to find harmony between them… much to his dismay. Old enough to be her grandfather, he had never won her respect — though be it plainly said that few mild-mannered men could have done so. It was to his private credit that he had managed to survive this long with her at all. Few outside the family were aware of the continual struggling in his home, though many frequented it. As residing priest of the region, he had somehow managed to maintain some outward semblance of domestic order.
He stood, gazing out the tent door, brooding over the contention and disobedience of his mate, when he noticed the little flock in the distance. “So soon today!”, he mulled to himself. “What has happened? They have never returned at this hour! If they have not watered the sheep, Yzil will be furious! Unless one of those dogs finally killed one of the little ones. Oh Father! No! …Perhaps You have blessed them today somehow.” As they neared, he could tell from their smiles that some providence had befriended them.
“How have you returned so early today, my angels?” he called to them from a distance. Zipporah, the youngest, broke from her post, let her pitcher down, and ran towards her father. “Oh, Daddy! You will not believe it! This wonderful man stood for us when Jakan and Balin came to run us off. He fought with them all by himself until they fled from him. He even drew the water for us!”
“Hold on, little one!” Ruel beamed, “Not so fast for your aging father. Semina, Rebecca, what has happened?”
“It is as Zipporah says, Father.” replied Rebecca, smiling as she approached. “An Egyptian passing by the well attacked and killed their dogs like a mighty warrior. When Jakan and Balin attacked him in return, he wounded them and they fled with their cattle.”
“What was his name? Why have you left him at the well? Why didn’t you invite him home with you?”
Zipporah said the expected, “I told you so!” with her eyes to Rebecca, while Rebecca smiled shyly. “You know how Mom is about strangers!”, argued Rebecca. “I wasn’t sure what to do! It is hard enough on her with the regular company and they don’t even eat with us.”
“True enough…” sighed the old man. “Take Zipporah with you and get going. If he is still there invite him home with you.” Rebecca raised her eyebrows to protest. “It would be an unspeakable shame to neglect him a few good meals and a warm bed after his kindness to us this day. Do as I say; I will deal with your mother.”
Zipporah bounced with delight and grabbed Rebecca’s hand as they moved off together toward the well again. Ruel watched them with pleasure until they disappeared over the hill, tarrying to enjoy the eldest and youngest of his beautifully grown daughters for a bit, while contemplating his next domestic challenge — how best to approach his wife… Should he come apologetically and wade through her contention? Should he stride up to her with some sort of confident boldness… and meet her head on? It was absurd to still be wrestling with this after so many years, but he had never settled on a path of least resistance with this woman. Perhaps she would be somewhat reasonable today.
He turned to enter the tent just as Yzil was getting the news from Semina. “This is ridiculous!” She exclaimed as Ruel moved hesitantly into range. “Can’t you think?? Why do you always have to be so hasty? Charging recklessly about without considering your family! I can’t believe you would invite this man to our home without checking him out first. You haven’t even met this strange fighting Egyptian and here you go offering him your home! What if he has leprosy? What if he is some sort of… some sort of criminal? What do you know?”
“My dear, sw…”
“Don’t get all sweety with me! If only you had to do all the work to clean this place up and make the meals you wouldn’t offer our services to complete strangers so quickly! You never consider my feelings do you? It is so much extra work when you have people over… it’s not fair that you make decisions like that without consulting me. You had no right to do this without asking me first.”
“I’ll be glad to help in any way I ca…”
“Some help you are! It would help if you would lead this family with some consideration for a change! You don’t even consider my feelings do you? Do you? You didn’t even ask my opinion about this did you? Always thinking about yourself, you are… Just want another man around for a while so you can go off blabbing about commerce or trade or start talking about your priesthood or some such nonsense. If people only knew how you treated me in this home! I don’t know why I put up with it.”
“Quit interrupting me! You never let me get a word in edgewise around here! Always butting in before I can finish… Can’t you listen?? or do you always have to be blabbing? Some priest you are; a great example for all of the other young husbands to follow! You are supposed to love me and lead me like God. God would not be endangering me and the girls like this. How can you expect me to follow you when you are so foolish! Next thing I know you’ll fly off the handle like you always do and start calling me rebellious! Just ’cause you’re the boss you just go around doing whatever you feel like without considering anyone else. If the neighbors only knew how you treat me! I can’t believe it!”
Ruel stayed calm as best he could, but he could feel her getting under his skin again and turned to go out of the tent.
“You get back in here! Don’t you go traipsing off to sulk in the sand while I’m talking to you! You never listen to me! You never try to work things out, never resolve anything, just go for a walk and leave me standing here while I’m trying to talk to you. Don’t you know anything about those arrogant Egyptians? Did you ever consider why this Egyptian is leaving Egypt? Did you?”
“Yes, uh… I did.”
“Nobody leaves Egypt alone unless they are in trouble! It is dangerous enough out here without you going about inviting criminals into the house. I wish you’d just give up on this crazy priesthood stuff and take us back to the city where we belong! At least we were safe there! You don’t do well enough for us to even eat decent and then you go giving our food away to bloodthirsty strangers! You go tell that man that he is not welcome in this place. Here, take some bread and water along for him if it makes you feel better! I’ll have to stay up late tonight to make some more, but what do you care??” She turned to go into the kitchen to find some scraps of bread…
Following her tensely, appealing, “Yzil, this man will not harm us…”
“Are you sure? Absolutely sure??”, she snapped as she darted back into the front room to confront him again. “Can you guarantee that this man is harmless? Tell me!”
“Well, who can say anything for absolutely sure? But this man has already…”
“Stop changing the subject! What could you do if this man does decide to turn on us! Do you think you could stop him if he takes one of our daughters into the back of the tent!! He beat up Jakan and Balin without so much as a weapon and what is an old man like you to him! You have invited a strange man into our house, whom you have never even seen, and it is obvious that he is some sort of a criminal or something. Just because he likes to fight and wanted to impress our girls you think he is trustworthy enough to invite him to stay in our home! God save us! Won’t you ever learn to ask my opinion before being so hasty with our lives?? You just don’t seem to have any common sense, do you? My father would never have done this! You are pushing me to the limit with this stupidity of yours! I have had enough of you, Ruel! I can’t stand living in this home any more! You never consider my feelings and are constantly endangering this family. I have no friends to spend time with and you never care enough to take us for a visit to the city. I’m sick of all this dirt and trying to keep sand out of the food — the water stinks and there’s so little grazing for the sheep. I never wanted to come out here in the first place! And all because you wanted to be some sort of a priest and didn’t fit in with the temple crowd back home! How did I ever get myself into this mess! And now you go inviting some vicious criminal into our home to rape me and the girls! I’d rather kill myself!” She moved angrily into the kitchen, weeping, grabbed a large knife, and began smashing the butt of it down on her cutting board while continuing to sling insults at him.
There was no use. This was going to be one of those days; he had already blown up once this morning. He had no intention of turning this guest away, even if it was a bit dangerous. There would be no rest with this woman now unless he defied all the rules of common hospitality… it would be a blatant sin against the God. He stepped out of the tent and let the wind drown her protesting whines. She would probably calm down enough to start putting some extra food out for the new guest.
She had threatened to kill herself often, perhaps one of these days she would… He busied himself nervously about the camp straightening the woodpile and picking up whatever appeared to be out of place, praying that God would be merciful and protect them if he had misjudged the appropriateness of an invitation to this wayfaring Egyptian.
Zipporah and Rebecca cleared the top of the last hill before the well. Rebecca, obedient as she was, quietly hoped that this stranger had moved on to other adventures. Zipporah, however, shared the hospitality of her father and was gleefully delighted to discover Moses asleep in the shade. She broke into a skipping run as she descended the hill calling out his name.
“Moses! Moses! You are still here!” She ran up to him as he raised up a bit from his nap, leaning heavily on an elbow. “I’m so sorry that we didn’t earlier, but we would like to invite you to our home. Do you think you could join us for an afternoon meal?”
He really had been sleeping soundly, surprisingly enough. Perhaps, after all the excitement, the stress of his journey was catching up with him. He had not noticed Zipporah until she was well on her way down the hill and calling out his name. He could forgive himself — he had not slept so soundly in weeks. He looked up into her face as she peered down at him with delight. What eyes!! The God was quite an Artist, He was. Had He spared nothing in this girl?
“How can I say ‘No’ to such a tender request, little jewel of the desert? What brings you back with such a beam in your eyes?”
Rebecca interrupted, “Good sir, our father, Ruel, invites you to be a guest in our home. You have traveled far in your journey and are doubtless both tired and hungry. Please rest yourself with our family for a few days to regain your strength for your travels. You are most welcome to come with us. We would be honored for you to be our guest.”
“You are most convincing in your appeal. You need not press me much. I would love to meet your father — may I presume that you have a mother as well?”
Zipporah’s heart began to sink. This man was truly impressive. His hands were so smooth, his build so strong. His voice was deep and resonant, his words so refined. His eyes were bright and pure… so confident and brave… Her heart a flutter, dancing inside, she was giddy at the thought of having Moses near for a time. She felt safe with him, drawn to him for some reason. Would he be the one she had always dreamed of? to save her from herself? from her mother? to teach her the ways of the God?
“In fact, we do indeed.” responded Rebecca confidently. “She will be most delighted to meet you and she is an excellent cook! I do hope you are as comfortable with Syrian food as you are with the Syrian tongue.”
“Fear not, my lovely sister, we shall do fine in this little proposal of yours. Perhaps your father would accept some labor from me in return for your kindness…”
“Oh! No! No! No! We would not think of it, kind sir!” exclaimed Zipporah, confident that she was answering as Ruel would have done. “You have already earned your keep for the week if you wish to think of it that way. Please come with us!”
“Coming! I’m coming… hold your chariot horses, girls! I’m not as spry and young as those young men you are used to entertaining with your curls.”
“What young men!?” posed Rebecca indignantly.
A hearty laugh was his answer as they started off together, Zipporah drifting along in the sand at his side — walking on air, wind rippling at her robes and playing with her long black hair. This would be a day that neither he, nor she, would ever forget. An era in his life was coming to a close and he sensed it as he walked beside her. A new dawn lay before him, a time to rest and seek his God. At forty years of age, he was more than ready to settle down. He was not ready… to be broken.
The camp was tidy and modest. The old man, this was Ruel? Perhaps a grandfather? The mother in the tent door… obviously hiding her violent apprehension as best she could. It would be best to set her at ease quickly. This was not an open invitation or there would not have been a second trip for the girls. The eldest was too reserved to be openly friendly, betraying her concern. This family was suffering, or had suffered, they were not comfortable with strangers, though perhaps feeling obligated by his “heroism”. His wisdom was coming in pleasantly handy: certainly he had judged aright. Moses eyed Yzil and gently smiled before focusing on Ruel. “You must be Ruel? A pleasure to meet you, Sir!”
“Moses! It is our great pleasure! Please come into our home and rest yourself!” resounded Ruel as the two men exchanged an invigorating embrace.
“Only with the permission of your lovely wife… ” Moses looked softly toward Yzil and approached her with a tender elegance, keeping a respectful distance. “Madam, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Moses, I am of the house of the Pharaoh of Egypt, and am passing through your lovely country. It is so kind of you to consider my want and to open your home to a passing stranger. I trust that I shall not be a disappointment to you, my lady.”
Yzil was embarrassed and taken with this calm politeness. My! He certainly was well dressed… a man of some means, evidently. She managed a smile of sorts and bit her lip. “A pleasure to meet you… Moses.”
“May I call you…?” There was silence. Yzil new it was expected of her, but she was just too nervous. “…mother?”
A great smile immediately broke out of her. “Of course not… ” she snapped in stunned amusement. “My name is… Yzil. You certainly may not call me mother!”
“Well, I thought you would never get ’round to it. It’s all the girls have called you… I thought perhaps…”
“Oh stop it!” she snapped in humored indignance. “Please come in and make yourself comfortable!” She was smiling broadly and motioned to the low furniture inside the tent with a polite and comfortable whirl of her arm as he entered. So, palace politics were useful after all… it certainly seemed to have a pleasant way in this feisty little woman. She went over and stood next to Ruel as they came into the tent behind him.
His eyes began to adjust to the dim light as he looked about… modest, immaculately clean, pleasant, simple. These were not people of great means but they managed well with what they had. Industrious, careful, hardworking… seven beautiful daughters… perhaps this was to be more than just an afternoon visit. He sat gingerly down on one of the woven rugs and crossed his legs the way he remembered from Syrian culture studies. Yzil, yet more astonished, disappeared through a partition in the tent wall and called to the girls to help her with final preparations for the noon meal.
As Ruel joined him on the ground with a bright smile and the two began to chat, the scurrying and clatter of a mild and peaceful domestic life began gently lulling Moses to relax. After some pleasant conversation with this simple, elderly man, a warm and tasty meal, an afternoon of guarded story-telling into the evening, a gentle fire as the sun went down, leftovers from the afternoon meal, Moses finally retired to a large warm mat as the family settled in for the night. A thin crescent of desert sand, visible through a slit in the tent door, was bright with the light of a full moon. That young girl had studied him intently, yet shyly, the entire afternoon. Her eyes were just beautiful.
Morning broke quietly in a glorious eastern sky as Moses woke nervously from restless sleep. It would be some time yet before his spirit would fully relax. He noticed Ruel through the open folds of the tent door in the early twilight, sitting quietly in the sand outside the tent, evidently the first of the family to rise. Perhaps he was praying to the gods of this place.
Gods… it was strange to have seen no relics, no carvings, none of the common trappings of Syrian idolatry in this home. He sat up and looked about in the weak dawning light more carefully… Hmm, nothing at all. No incense, no carvings, no special garments. What was this? In the home of a priest? Nothing of the common paganism of the Syrians would yield to his careful eye. There had been no ritual over the meals yesterday or as the day closed. No incantations, no sacrifices. He thought it simply to have been an oversight with all the commotion and excitement. Apparently not. He rose and moved about to inspect. There was absolutely nothing sacred in this place as far as he could tell. A priest with no religion? No ritual? No trinkets? This was truly interesting. If it was so, there was only one conclusion he could entertain. There was only one thing left to be a priest to… the God. No! It could not be! It was worth a chance.
He stepped outside and moved toward Ruel. The old man sensed an approach and raised his head to greet Moses with a tearful smile. He had been weeping, he eyes were bloodshot and moist. Had he been up the night? Surely there was no woman who could drive that type of fear into a man? He was suffering, he was lonely, perhaps he was searching for the God too. Perhaps he had even… found Him. Moses had never approached anyone directly about his hunger after the God. He had never really been open about it with any one at all. There was something compelling him here though, driving him to speak.
“The God… do you know Him?”
Moses was stunned… he had waited too long. Ruel had broken the silence. Still trembling, this old man was afraid, yet bold enough to speak intimately of what he knew, of why he was alive. The question was an awesome one, with a clear answer. It would be best to play dumb and learn what he could from this gentile before openly revealing himself. “You speak as if there is only one…”
Ruel waited thoughtfully, savoring the challenge from this sensitive stranger. Their hearts were already being knit together. “Yes, and He is… He is… amazing. I am continually overcome with Him. My soul cannot begin to contain the thoughts I have of Him. He is so beyond me.”
Moses feigned his mockery, as he elegantly planted himself in the sand next to Ruel. “And just what is it about this… God of yours that is so wonderful?”
Ruel sensed the superficial tact. He had felt something sweet about this man all afternoon as they had shared in hearty discourse the day before. Moses was unusual, clean, almost kin. Now he was being evasive for some reason, covering something precious with this pretended guile as if in play. But this friend was too pure to feign this with any success. “You love Him, don’t you?”
Moses was visibly taken by Ruel’s plainness, and could not hide his heart any longer. So brief was his cover… and what of it? “Your wisdom exceeds your years…” he replied, shrinking for some reason from the directness of Ruel’s approach. “Why were you afraid of me?”
“Forgive me, Moses. I am a weak, foolish old man. I yield to the fears of my young wife more than I should. My spirit knows better. I… I feel so ignorant and helpless at times… I begin to think she may be right. I do not know why I am trusting you with this… I feel… like I have known you for years… like I have been waiting for you to come.”
“Well, waiting for me or not, I have come… through a most unpleasant sequence of events I must admit… but I have come. Why here? I cannot really say, unless it be Him that has lead me blindly to this place. And you… you are right, I do love Him. Who would not love Him that has truly tasted Him? I live and breathe in Him, yet I search for Him and cannot lay hold of Him. I long for Him but He evades me. I trust Him, yet I wrestle with Him in agony to move for me in ways that seem counter to His Mind. I, too, am double-minded, as you confess. I know of Him, yes, and I love Him. But I am not content with that.”
Ruel, himself feigning ignorance undetected by Moses, wisely prodded, “What do you mean?”
Moses had thought to be asking the questions himself for at least the first little bit with this new friend, but he could not resist revealing his heart. He had perhaps set up the question without thinking, and now a sincere and thoughtful response was obliged. It had been so long since he had opened himself to another. Perhaps he had never really done so. What harm could be in it? “I do not know Him, as you have asked me. I only know about Him. I do know much about Him, details, facts, characteristics, principles. I feel the awe of which you speak… at His grandeur… His above-ness. My heart is easily moved to worship Him. But I am not one with Him, I am not in Him, I do not have Him the way He has me. He remains distant… it is intimacy that I long for with Him. He has placed no barriers between us… it must be me.”
“It will cost you… dearly.”
Moses, moved still further in an unanticipated surprise, asked sharply, “What do you mean?”
“Few, very few have a heart such as yours. It is the Giver that you want, not His gifts. It is not just salvation that you seek, but the Savior Himself. It is not the power that you desire, it is hunger for the ALMIGHTY HIMSELF that drives you. You will have Him as you wish. He has placed this hunger in you… it is a rare and priceless thing… and He will satisfy it. But it will cost you.”
“You speak in riddles, Man…” Moses agitated to his own surprise, almost desperately. “Friend, speak plainly to a hungry soul! What are you saying?”
“Words do not move elegantly in this realm we tread. This hunger of yours… will cost you… it will cost you yourself. You will be destroyed… no, it is worse than that. You will be slowly and painfully dissected, dismantled, disassembled, disembodied, crushed. You will be stripped and scourged and left to bleed, but you will not die… at least you will not die very quickly. Yet, having said that, it is a bargain… you will have Him.”
Moses was in distress. He had never heard such painful, confusing, nonsense. “How can you say such things? What knowledge have you of Him or of me in such matters? You do not know what I have been through or what I value? How do you know that I am not already broken before Him?”
“If you were broken, Moses, you would smile and nod in agreement with me. You would not be appalled at my words. I have sensed your hunger; it is mine. I know the truth of what I am saying, but I will not try to convince you… I could not. I can only testify of it — I cannot defend it, nor pretend to understand it. Though, one day, you will understand…”
This was much more of an initial soul-bearing than Moses had really bargained for at such an hour of the dawn. Unexpected and intense, it was welcomed, yet he was relieved to have it interrupted by stirring within the tent. The family was up and local company was expected for the day. “Looks like the girls are about and breakfast will be ready soon.”, Ruel distracted pleasantly. “Some men from the neighboring camps have a time with me today for counsel and prayer. You are most welcome to participate if you like. You will join us for at least a few more days before you continue on your journey? You are most welcome to stay with us as long as you wish… most welcome to stay with us.”
“Yes, yes, of course…” Moses stammered thoughtfully, still under the weight of the intensity of the encounter. “I have never felt such warm hospitality as you have blessed me with, and I have no pressing matter that drives me in my journey. However, kind as you are, I am not a man who is intent on imposing myself on the good will of another.”
“Nonsense!” laughed Ruel warmly. The brief conversation had balmed the remains of fear in him. “You will stay with us. Come, let us see what’s on for the morning meal.” They rose and Ruel embraced Moses in a fatherly way. “Your travels are a mystery to me still. You are, by all appearances, an Egyptian, but your heart betrays you. I have never met an Egyptian with a heart after the God, and certainly would not expect to find one such as you within the palace. You have deferred this matter discretely, and I respect your deference. But I’ll have you know that I am very interested.”
“There will be a time for that…”, Moses hesitantly offered. It was impossible to imagine telling all to this wise old man. Even a man of his years and wisdom would certainly find his heart incredulous at hearing the whole thing plainly. It would be a shame to offend or intimidate them when there seemed like such wholesome promise here.
“Let it be soon, my son. You intrigue me like none other that I have met.”
Zipporah stepped out the door and drew in a deep breath of the fresh morning air as they neared the tent. Moses felt his heart move in childish anxiety at her beauty. Her long black hair fell heavily across her full bosom as she stepped out into the bright morning sunlight to stretch, evidently looking for him. “Moses! There you are! Did you sleep well? You have been up with Father already? Have I missed any more stories? I’ll bet you are hungry! Come, come, come!”
This little chatter box was full of spry life, obviously a bit of a delightful handful for her aged father. His delight in her… in all of his girls… was manifest. Ruel intercepted her lunging interest, “Peace, Child! Hold the fire! We’re coming. We’re coming.”
“Good morning, Daddy!” she announced as she bounced over and hugged her father, eyeing Moses and waiting for his reply.
“I slept better than I have in weeks. Thanks for tending to my accommodations so well, I was very comfortable last night. How are you this morning?”
“Great! You are not leaving today, are you? Won’t you stay another day or two with us? Do you have to be going yet?”
“It is hard to think of leaving when there is food on the table and stories to tell and work to be done. I am sure you will not mind if I accompany you to the well today…”
“You had better! Who can tell what those bullies will try next. This is the first time I have ever looked forward to doing that chore. It should be marvelous!”
The other girls were also up and about as the two men re-entered the tent. Each began to greet their father and Moses with respect and politeness. Yzil was already busy about the morning meal and came to ask how the night had been for her new guest. It was plain that she was a generous soul at heart, though perhaps a bit fearful and uncomfortable. Moses was careful to keep her at ease as best he could and offered to help with some of the morning duties.
Breakfast was pleasant and the early morning passed without incident. There was plenty to do about the place and Moses busied himself in helping the girls with their chores, lending a hand where he could. It was plain that his formal training had not equipped him well for simple desert life, and it was quickly apparent to him that he had a great deal to learn if he were to remain in this country for long. Oratory, combat art, and matters of state would not keep food on the table in this pallid wilderness.
A late morning trip to the well was uneventful really; Moses and the girls came and went without any competition from the neighboring camps. The conversation, delightfully energized, was mostly questions from the sisters about Egyptian culture, interspersed with hearty detailed responses from Moses. Question after question about clothing, buildings, the palace, the construction of the great pyramids and Raamses, the condition of the slaves.
Zipporah, strangely, was quiet among her sisters. Moses was not sure what to make of it. Perhaps she was just shy around them, perhaps feeling beneath them somewhat as she was the youngest. Perhaps nervous at being around a winsome stranger. She was studying him, watching. Whatever her mind, it was his growing awareness that they were mutually attracted to one another. It was strong and pure. The God was interested in them, it was apparent in his spirit.
After the noon meal several young men arrived at the camp and sat with Ruel for a season of spiritual counsel and prayer. Some were concerned about sicknesses in their immediate families, some seeking advice about planting and harvesting, but all seemed genuinely interested in learning more about the God. Moses listened quietly and carefully with a provoked intent. The brief discourse at dawn had nagged him all morning and into the afternoon. It was plainly evident that the God had much to teach him through this elderly saint, and he quietly yielded to a growing sensation that this was to be his home for quite some time.
During his journey he had felt it would be this way… if he somehow managed to evade the soldiers. With no family or friends outside Egypt, no skills or experience in trade or husbandry, he would eventually find hospitality with some stranger, find rest and comfort to tarry a space, finally join himself to learn their trade and culture, marry into the family, and settle down to live out the rest of his life in obscurity as an alien in a strange land.
Where he would settle he did not have any sense, nor what his trade would be. It did not matter in the end; his only concern was with the degrading influence of the idolatry and paganism about him. His training had provided him with instruction in all of the religions in the Mediterranean region, and some sense of the texture of eastern religion and culture. There was nothing in any of it that even smacked of truth. He yet sensed that in each land there must be remnants of the elect of the God, the rare spiritual descendants of the Melchizedek’s, the Job’s, and the Elihu’s, chosen outside the people of His formal possession, but these few would be scattered and elusive. He had not hoped to find spiritual safety, much less guidance and instruction, apart from the people of Israel. His ultimate hope had been one of mere survival… this was spiritual feasting beyond his wildest dreams.
He sat among the young men quietly, brooding. Ruel was obviously delighted in their company and gave himself eagerly to sharing what he knew of the God with these men. Simple, obvious principles proceeded naturally from him in the context of their needs. Piecing each idea into place as it impressed him during the conversation, he sat still in contemplative awe.
Perhaps it was nothing plainly said, perhaps it was an obvious inference from the emerging picture of his spiritual state as he pieced it together during the afternoon. Whatever the source, slowly and vaguely at first, and then very plainly, Moses began to see that there was a very basic problem between himself and the God. Something was wrong even in this elementary foundation in his life. Besides the confounding from the endless slavery of his people, he now became aware of a more fundamental dilemma between himself and the God.
The God was unlike men, He was pure, righteous, holy, sacred… altogether perfect and spotless. Within himself there was nothing of this, however. Upon close examination of his heart all he could find was selfishness. He began to see that he was self-centered at the very core: pride was self-love, both fear and anger were self-protection, turmoil over the slavery was just an extension of these to near and distant kin. His attraction to women was unhealthy somehow, his ability to love and give as the God did was dead. Yet, it was not his natural state that was the most alarming to him as he sat and thought about it, it was his growing awareness that this alienated him from the God, and actually made them enemies. This was unacceptable.
In his awe of the God, even in his worship of Him, there was an alienation, a distance… the enemy of intimacy. There was periodic delight, but never rest, never one-ness. There was knowledge about the God and profound reverence and honest respect for Him, but not an intimate personal knowing and abiding in and with Him. The God was awesome in His deeds and nature, but He Himself was not precious to Moses. This could not be overcome by Moses himself since he himself was the obstacle. He could not change himself, purify himself, or change his affections or disposition any more than a leopard could scrub away its spots, or an Ethiopian could wash away the darkness of his skin. Something would have to be done by the God to rectify this. Perhaps it had already been done and was simply waiting to be discovered, or perhaps it was yet to be done. It seemed most apparent that it would be a matter of both somehow. God would have to reveal the remedy and then implement it, whatever it was. This was deeply precious revelation with him and he sensed its value keenly; it was not even common among the Israelites, the outwardly chosen people.
As Moses sat and continued to listen, Ruel began to talk of the coming “Seed”. Moses remembered hearing of this only faintly in his younger years. In straining to overhear private conversations among the Israelites as he had walked about their camps, he had heard this type of talk perhaps once or twice before. It had remained a mystery to him; now he listened with deep intent. Ruel explained how a very special Man would be born one day, a man like no other, a God-Man. He would be born of the nation now being held in slavery in Egypt, descendants of a man named Abraham who had died several hundred years before. His purpose in being born would be to die as the Substitute — he was to be a sin-bearer, a divine Sacrifice to take away sin. Though it was a future event, it was already established and completed in the mind of the God. All of the animal sacrifices commonly carried out in worship of the God were only a type and picture of this coming divine Lamb. Sacrifices were only valuable as a reminding picture of what the God’s final purpose was in dealing with our sin. Anyone believing on this Man, trusting in Him and what He would do, would be forgiven of all things, as if the divine sin payment and sacrifice had already been made on his behalf.
Moses could not believe his ears! It was so very simple and pure… it was exactly what he had been looking for! This was the answer to his problem with the God. He knew it must be true, but somehow he could not bring himself to rest in it. He was utterly amazed that truth of this value was to be found anywhere, especially in a gentile. Where had Ruel learned this? Who had taught him? The truth of it was as obvious as the noon-day sun, yet Moses could not make himself believe and trust. This believing must also be the work of the God. He was beside himself with wonder, and lost the remainder of the conversation as the young men began to ask further questions of Ruel. Their voices dimmed as he focused himself to seek this believing, this trusting, as itself a gift from the God.
Evening came on gently and the young men gradually departed, one or two at a time, going back to their camps and families. Moses, unaware that he finally sat alone with Ruel, was absorbed in the wonder of this new revelation of the God. He did not notice Ruel studying him, nor Zipporah, as she watched him from the tent door a few yards away. “A shekel for your thoughts young man… What brooding you are in!”
“This is spectacular! I have never seen such wonder before…”
“Yes… He is something else, is He not? Do you believe?”
How relentlessly direct this fellow was!
“You would not ask if I did believe, would you? I cannot believe, in my own strength or by my own will, can I?”
“You continue to amaze me, my most esteemed guest. How do you come by such insight so quickly!”
“That was my very question for you, Ruel! Where did you find this jewel of truth? I have never heard such spoken beauty.”
“From an old man when I was young myself. What does it matter?”
“This is not common, even among my own people… I never dreamed of hearing such preciousness from a gentile…” The words were out; it was too late. In the depths of his intensity, Moses had blown his cover quite handily. Ruel beamed in sudden excitement.
“You are an Israelite!? I cannot believe it! I knew it! I just knew it! You have Egypt written all over your outside, but your heart betrays your roots. You are of the seed of Abraham aren’t you?”
Moses blushed and smiled, “You are right. You are right. I am an Israelite. I am of the seed of Abraham…” It pained him deeply to be distracted from his earlier thought, but he did not wish to disappoint his host. “I …”
“Do not trouble yourself for more stories now, my friend!” interrupted Ruel wisely. “There will be time for that, plenty of time. I did not mean to distract you from your meditation, but I could not help the excitement of my discovery. I have always longed to know an Israelite personally, and I have earnestly wished to become acquainted with this people directly for many years, since I was very young. Please, pardon my intensity and continue with your subject. I will not forget to remind you when the time is right for this.”
Moses was deeply impressed with Ruel’s sensitivity… almost like the God dwelt within this old man, gently guiding him and touching him as he lived and moved in his dark withered frame. “That is most perceptive and kind of you, Ruel. Be sure, I will reward you richly with stories to your heart’s content… once my own is healed. This is a matter that cannot safely be left undone for any length of time at all.”
“True enough, my earnest friend. There is a dire need that this matter be settled within you promptly. Is there anything that I can do for you as you seek the Master?”
“Tell me more about Him, what you know of Him, particularly in this area of the Lamb. Let no truth be vailed if you can put words to it. I do not care if it is pleasant to the ear or easily received. Tell me the truth of what you know. My spirit rings so clearly in this truth, I do not fear to hear error from you in this matter. The God is big enough to filter your words for me if they need to be sifted. The ground is dry and parched within me; let the water of your words flow and I will drink and taste.”
“Very well!” Ruel sobered at the open invitation. It was an awesome thing to be listened to like this. He prayed quietly, set his eyes on the lingering beauty of the evening sunset, waited a moment for divine assistance with his words, then began very carefully.
“The God… created with simple expression all which you do see and hear about you. The sand beneath you, the stars above you, the sun that gives you light and life, the great mountains and the great oceans beyond them. He spoke this into essence and defined it from nothing. He created space and light, color, dimension and size. He created time, which we measure with sequence and duration as we watch the sun and stars move above us. He created all this with the movement of His Spirit in expression, as with the breath of His mouth, and it lays prostrate beneath Him. He is outside this realm and what we experience in it, and He is within it as well. He created the fish and the birds, the plants and the insects, the beasts of the field, the creeping things. All of the complexity of their instincts, and all of their mutual interdependencies came from His hand — from the flight of the eagle to the web of the spider, from the foundation of the springs of the rivers… to the restoration of that which we breathe out of the air. The wisdom and completeness of His design will never be fully explored at any time, by any mortal man, and it was as nothing to tax His strength or His understanding when He did this.
“The God… He created you yourself, with His own Hand, as it were, in the womb of your mother, and fashioned you after His own will and purpose. He made your body to grow, made your heart to beat and your lungs to breath, without your conscious will to guide them. He gave you an appetite to eat and a longing for that which would nourish and strengthen you. He taught you to suckle at a breast and to cry when you wanted. He gave you baby teeth just the right size for your baby mouth, precisely when you needed them, and then larger ones in appropriate timing as you became a man. He designed your blood to clot its flow when you were cut in work or play, and to cleanse and heal you with renewed life when you became sick. He created your brain to govern your members, to contain a mind to learn and relate, to discover and master His creation about you. He gave you a longing to rest when the strain of your work and play had taxed you. He gave you senses to feel cold and to shiver for warmth, to feel hot and to sweat for coolness, and to feel pain when you would harm yourself beyond your safety. He gave strength to your hands and fingers to clutch and to grasp, and eyes to receive the splendid color of his creation, to focus on your path as you walk with wondrous legs and feet in steady precise unison upon the ground that He has made. He teaches man to swim like the fish, to make a craft to sail the seas from one land to another using the wind however it blows, to use the horse and camel to traverse the land with speed. It is even said that he gave to those before the flood the wisdom to glide like the bird. He is exceedingly strong and wise in all of these things. His wisdom and kindness in His creation, both in designing the beauty and splendor about you, and in creating you yourself to master it, will never be fully explored nor understood.
“The entire reason that He has made you, that He has made all of these things, is that He is pleased to express Himself. The central focus of this expression is in the selection of His new bride, a small portion of the human race that He has chosen to Himself to lavish the splendor of His great love and mercy upon and to make one with Himself, while He leaves the vast majority of men to choose to be His enemies and to be eternally destroyed by Him. This is difficult to understand at first, but the more of this pattern that you see, the better you will understand His economy. He allowed the fall of Adam in the garden long ago. He could have stopped it. He did not. Adam, once the object of unbridled love, died unrepentant, the monarch of a fierce and rebellious strand of walking death. The God watched in open grief as Man grew unhindered and unrestrained in sin for a millennium of His patience. He could have changed this and turned millions of hearts toward Himself. He destroyed them instead. Of their rank He chose very few, only eight of their final number, to preserve and draw into His love. These eight have fathered the race that you now see, which is already darkened in rebellion toward Him again. Those wealthy chosen few who are seeking Him now are thinly scattered abroad. They are here, they are there, for sure, but seldom in groups of more than meager size in any region. You will find His pattern of permission and rare election mysterious at first, but it will become a delight to you as you come to know Him. It is only a very precious few that are thus chosen by his hand as His own, to relish the delights of divine passion. No one comes of their own accord to Him, though all are invited. As you come, mind that it is a rare and priceless thing to be drawn like this by Him, toward Himself.
“The God Himself… which you hesitate to approach, He is pure and holy beyond your wildest dreams. The ground on which you sit is loathsome to Him because you have walked its face. Even the very stars that give light upon your sin are unclean in His sight for what they have seen and known of you. He will one day destroy every created thing because of your polluting sin in His creation. He does not understand your sin, nor does He tolerate it in His economy. He does not make any excuse for it, nor does he see that it is appropriately stimulated by any devised, extenuating circumstances. Your transgression and rebellion appall Him deeply like nothing that can be illustrated or imagined in this life. No man has yet explored the depths of God’s holiness, nor the depths of his own depravity. We cannot know the extent of either of these extremes in our mortal frames; both are vast and profound in degree, and are in bitter eternal contrast and discord.
“Your very nature angers and appalls God in the depth of His almighty and holy Being, provoking Him to a continual burning rage as He suffers your sinful presence in His creation, and He never gets used to the way that you are acting before Him. He is continually angry with you and is constantly and profoundly grieved by you in all of your actions, thoughts, and motives. You have never done anything whatsoever that has been the slightest bit pleasing to Him or acceptable to Him. While He has mercifully restrained you in your rebellion toward Him by keeping a tight reign on your heart by His Spirit, you have consistently made the most wicked choice that He has allowed you to make in every decision that you have ever made. He has abhorred you and everything about you with all of the depth of His infinitely holy being from the day that you drew your very first breath because of this.
“It matters not how good you think you have been, nor what noble thoughts you believe you have entertained concerning Him. It matters not how well or poorly you think you have treated your fellow man. Your very nature and soul itself is grossly foul with the stench of your rebellion and wickedness before Him and you are absolutely detestable to Him in this condition. There is absolutely nothing that you can do to change this or to lessen its degree by any means. You are immeasurably abominable and filthy before Him in the very center of your being and nature, and you drink with unashamed delight the foulest iniquity in His almighty and holy presence as if it were so much cool sparkling water to quench your insane thirst. His hatred for you exactly the way that you are right now is so deep and intense that it cannot be compared to anything earthly, even between the most bitter, lifelong enemies. This hatred moves Him in a perfectly justified, indignant, vengeful rage against you continually. His almighty hand has been poised to destroy you since the very day that you were born. Only His infinite mercy has permitted His tolerance of your existence up unto this day. You fully deserve to be destroyed by Him, to be relentlessly crushed and furiously tortured by Him eternally in a dark fire that is excruciating beyond your wildest imaginations. If something is not done to change this condition and position that you are now in before Him, you will be eternally destroyed by Him like this. There is no escape from his hand.”
Moses trembled quietly, sitting motionless in the sand with his head in his hands, drinking in the sobering, painful words. This was exactly what his soul was thirsting for: truth. It certainly was beyond what he had expected, but what he heard rang clearly in him as pure. It was not pleasant, but it was truth — standing as vast, sleek, precise, and unchallengeable as the Great Pyramids themselves. Ruel continued reverently.
“Man does not experience hatred like this, for it is woven into the heart of God with a love that cannot be measured nor understood. Hatred and love are not opposites in God, as they are in perverted human souls. It is apathy and neglect that are the true counters of hate and love, and those you will not find in God. Though He hates infinitely, as the stars are numbered only in infinity, He loves as deeply and as purely and as infinitely as He hates. It is not that you are good or lovable or desirable to Him that moves His immense love for you. It is from His own nature that this love flows, and it comes to you unconditionally and unthreatened by your miserably wretched condition and nature. It flows as a deep and infinitely wide river in a course with banks on the far ends of the east and of the west, and it is as deep as it is wide. There can be no measuring of its intensity or of its fullness. There is nothing that He would not do for you, if it needed to be done. There is no pain or hardship that would be too painful for Him to endure for you, if it was needful to suffer for you. There is no way to measure how much He cares for you, not even in terms of the most endearing of earthly relationships. The love of a new mother as she caresses her suckling infant, or of the heart of the bridegroom as he passionately desires his ravishing new bride in the heat of human love — these pale to illustrate the depth and passion in the heart of God for sinful men. No one in mortal flesh has ever explored its first depths. No one ever will, while still with their dusty bones.
“The perfect blending of these two vast qualities is also found incarnated in the coming Lamb of God. This Man will be an incarnation, an enfleshment of the God, holy like no other, and will live and walk among us in complete and utter perfection. He will be born of a virgin woman and He will suckle at a woman’s pap. He will be poor, tired, and hungry, like the men and women that He loves. He will learn to read and write, and grow from boyhood to manhood in obscurity, and will even work among us, becoming employed by us to earn His own food.
“He will perfectly live out the standard of His own holiness before His entire creation, in our own sinful culture, and we will hate Him deeply for it. His presence among us will demonstrate and contrast His own holiness and our own sinfulness like nothing that we have ever seen. In our hatred of Him, we will attack Him and put Him to death. He will permit this and will die a brutal death at our hands, suffering the most extreme indecency and foul invention that man devises on earth to bring an end to life. He will do this because of His holiness. He will do this because of His love. He will do this in a body of flesh, but not because physical and emotional suffering have any value in and of themselves. This alone will not remedy the conflict between His holiness and our rebellion. He will do this simply as a picture to us of things unseen.
“He will do this because in the unseen realm, He will actually be suffering a spiritual death during His physical death at our hands. He will be suffering spiritually in ways that we cannot comprehend in our flesh. The ravaging devastation that He will suffer in His own holy spiritual Being will far exceed the most painfully brutal physical death that has ever been known to man at any time. While He is allowing us to scrape the physical life out of His flesh one drop of blood at a time, He will be fully suffering a spiritual pain that no one could know, imagine, or understand in this life. He will suffer a spiritual vengeance and devastation that mortal flesh cannot begin to contain due to the depth and intensity of it.
The God Himself will personally suffer His own furious vengeance toward the sin of His loved ones. He will suffer the full weight of all of the divine wrath and spiritual rage of His own holiness against the sin of his elect bride… please listen carefully… as if He has actually been thoroughly guilty of having that very sinful and rebellious nature Himself and as though He is actually guilty of actually committing all of those very heinous crimes Himself which his elect have committed against Him. He will suffer as One that has fully deserved the undiluted and eternal wrath that breathes from the firey depth of His own holiness and steams relentlessly against you because of your sin. He will die spiritually as you deserve to die. He will become sin, the sin of his chosen ones, and deliver them from it.
“He will die spiritually; He will die emotionally; He will die physically, carrying into His death those that He loves, and they will die their death in Him and through Him. The God of heaven and earth will beathe His last breath as a mortal Man and will give up the ghost, broken and bloody and destroyed, with all of His elect in Him. He will be peeled from the instruments of death and cast into the earth in burial, permanently sealed by us as if in good riddance, in defiance of the reality of His eternal existance. He will remain in the earth long enough to comfort the wicked in consumate victory over Himself.
“Then this awesome Being — this incredible, awesome, almighty Being, Whom we have crushed and broken with His own permission, He will rise again from the dead, shaking the chains and pains of death loose from His immortal frame, to show us the completeness and robustness of His sacrifice on our behalf. As He rises in victory over death, all that have died in Him will rise in Him as well. In this He will prove that His offer toward us is complete and genuine, that it is our path to union with Himself, our path to life from our death, to His love from our hatred. His victory over sin and death, on behalf of His elect, will be triumphant, complete, and eternal.
“It is a great mystery — that He has already done this for those that have believed on Him, even though He has not yet come to earth to die. Everyone that He has already died for has already died in Him, and has already risen again in Him, and is right now completely and eternally safe from all the consequences of all their sin against Him. He has fully met the demands of His own pure holy justice on behalf of all those who have received Him.
“Though he has done this for those who have believed on Him and received Him, he has not done this for you. You have not believed on Him, you have not believed on His Son, you have not received Him, you have not been conceived by Him as one of His own children. You were not one of those that He had in His mind when He died. You are still in very immediate and direct danger of the weight of the wrath of His fierce anger and rage toward you. He only died for those who believe on Him. He has not died for you like this… not yet… but He is willing to… even now. When you believe on Him, He will die for you and suffer everything that you would ever have had to suffer at His hand for your sin against Him. That is how much He loves you.”
“Though His Son has not yet come to earth from our view at this point in time, His death is eternally complete in His own experience, as He is outside the bounds of time in ways that we are not. When you receive Him and His offer to die for you, His free offer to take your just punishment upon Himself, believing on Him and receiving Him as your Savior and Deliverer, trusting in Him and yielding over your life into His hands, relinquishing your perceived ownership of your own life before Him, He will die for you outside of time and space. He will purchase you now with the death of His own holy Soul and the shedding of His own precious blood during His completed coming death experience.
“Once you have believed on Him, at that time, you will be eternally safe from His anger and His wrath, as safe as His own coming Son, the Lamb, who will have already died in your place before He comes. At that time, you will see that His death was accomplished for you before He began creation: before the beginning of all things, and you will also see that it already stands complete and perfected at the end of all time, after the end of all created things. In Him, dead in Him and alive in Him, You will begin to know the intimacy that you have longed for with Him, more intense and beautiful that you could have ever thought possible.
“Once you have believed on Him, the God will adopt you into Himself as His own personal child, place His Spirit within you to guide you and instruct you, and receive you to Himself as though you have never sinned or transgressed His holiness at any time in the whole history of your life, even beyond today. Your wickedness and transgressions will not only have been transferred to His own life for punishment, His own complete holiness and righteousness will have been transferred to your life account for His blessing and pleasure, such that He will treat you as an obedient and perfect child whom He is nurturing and grooming for Himself… like a bride that He finds altogether lovely and is preparing to wed. He will not only do this positionally in your eternal standing, but will in actuality begin to replace your old selfish, sinful nature with His new life nature and you will actually become more like Him during your earthly sojourn as He works in you His pleasure.”
“As you have already said, it is also true that this believing, this receiving, this change in your heart from unbelief to faith, is not something that you can do. It is like being born. While you were certainly actively involved in the process of physical birth, you were physically conceived and governed by Another who brought you to and through the physical birth process. You must be born in the spiritual realm just as you have been born in the physical realm. Your desire to be born spiritually like this, pure and clean within you, is itself a gift from the God, itself an evidence of His life at work in you. Just as the babe patiently struggles to be free of the tightness of the womb when the day to be delivered is come, you must wait with all diligence before Him as He brings your spirit out of darkness, into His marvelous light. Do not pretend to be born when you are not. Wait before Him, patiently seeking Him earnestly until the reality of your spiritual birth is found within, and it is as real as your own physical life.”
Moses remained motionless during this entire discourse, his hands covering his face for the holiness of what he saw through Ruel’s words, tears streaming down through his hands, over his forearms, and into his lap. He was moved beyond expression and sat motionless when Ruel finished.
Ruel, still watching the lowering clouds in the west as the sun set, smiled intently and turned to watch Moses struggling in the pains of birth. It would not be long. He waited for a moment, and then softly rose to go into the tent and pray for his friend.
An hour or so passed, and Moses still sat, quietly motionless. Ruel, emerging from the tent with Rebecca and Semina, motioned to the girls to prepare the evening fire, and went to the flock to get a young lamb. Finding the finest little one in the flock, which he had been eyeing for just such an occasion, he wrapped it gingerly up in his bosom and made his way back to Moses. As the girls worked quietly preparing the fire nearby, Ruel sat down in front of Moses and placed the struggling, uneasy lamb down on the ground between them. At this, Moses looked up, almost with horror, into Ruel’s eyes, sensing what he was about to do.
With a warm smile, Ruel stroked the head of the lamb as it calmed in his hands, and he ran his fingers tenderly over its back and shoulders. The lamb calmed quickly and stood motionless and content between them. It turned to look into the eyes of its master as one that it trusted and loved. Moses reached out a hand and joined Ruel in caressing the tender animal.
Ruel spoke softly as the two looked down at the lamb together. “A month or so ago, this was born ‘a lamb’ in our little flock. As it grew and I saw its perfection and its beauty, it became ‘the lamb’, for just such an evening as this. Now, my friend, this is…”, he paused intently.
Moses finished the sentence, trembling, “… my lamb! What an awesome God, this Being that cares for me! It seems almost heinous to ask Him to do this for me!”
Ruel pulled out a knife and handed it to Moses.
“NO! I cannot! You cannot ask me to do this!” Moses was instantly almost in a rage, withdrawing in horror and startling the lamb.
Ruel, checking Moses’ withdrawal, gently reached for Moses’s free hand, drew him gently back to the ground, and placed Moses’ hand delicately on the head of the little lamb. “This is a picture of your divine Lamb,” Ruel said softly. “Your God, He is here now to die for you. That is why He is born. Yield to His death as your own. Let His life become yours. That is why you are born. Until He takes your place He is wrongfully neglected, and you are dead. Do not tarry for fear that you are not worthy of this. That is His whole purpose in coming to you.”
With this Ruel rose, moved away, and left Moses and the little lamb together before the fire. He stepped back to the door of the tent to watch.
Besides the passion of the picture that Moses clearly saw at this point, he had never before taken a life like this. A pure and innocent life, vulnerable, and dedicated for his own good, stood simply before him, a living sacrifice. It was altogether different than killing an Egyptian soldier in vengeance for harsh brutality. He took the knife, trembling, and moved it around to the throat of the animal. To his surprise it turned toward him and looked up directly into his eyes and waited. Ruel noticed this in amazement — he had never seen this type of behavior with a stranger in a lamb before.
Moses’s eyes grew large in surprise, still damp from his weeping, and new tears flowed freely, dropping down into the sand like fresh rain in front of him. The lamb stared up into his soul with a purity that was downright embarrassing for Moses, as he stared back into its eyes and stroked its head. He looked up and noticed the fire crackling before him, just a few feet away behind the lamb, and began to feel the fresh heat on his face. What would the wrath of the God feel like? What impassioned vengeance, what dismal, furious end awaited those who disdained this provision for any reason? whether it be for arrogant pride or a false humility. There was no choice to be made. It had already been made. He looked back into the tender eyes of that little lamb as he brought the blade around to its throat again and held its head in his other hand. In almost a whisper, he trembled, “Thank You!”, and drew the knife up into the neck of the lamb, pulling it across its throat in a deft, clean sweep.
Instantly he felt warm blood on his face and hands, and he snapped his head back and withdrew from the bloody explosion in a reflexive reaction, wondering immediately if he had cut himself instead of killing the lamb. The lamb was silent… perhaps he had missed. He felt no pain, but dropped the knife and reached up with his hands to wipe the blood from his eyes and face so he could see again. He looked down, blinking to clear his vision, to find the lamb lying at his feet, a clean gash across its neck and blood still gushing from the wide open wound. The lamb was still, dying passively at his hand. He stooped again, smiling now. His spirit was already rejoicing in a completed divine sacrifice: Moses believed and he knew it. His God had died for him. The picture of a dying lamb had been a means of illustration to make it plain to him. His God had created faith in his heart, somehow, and he stood with a broad smile. He turned to Ruel, beaming.
“Beautiful! Isn’t He beautiful?”, offered Ruel in delight.
“I BELIEVE! I am alive! He died for me! Oh! God! I am clean! Oh, thank you God, Oh, Father… Oh, what a privilege to call you Father!…” Moses could not contain himself and leaped about, exclaiming and shouting praises in his exuberance, finally bolting into a dead run toward the hill until he tired a good distance from the camp.
Ruel watched in fatherly joy for a moment, and then went to gather up the body of the little lamb. Handing it to Yzil, who had just now come out of the tent upon hearing all the commotion, he instructed, “Please prepare this one especially for Moses for the evening meal. I have one more purpose in this picture before we are done.”
“But I was not planning any meat for dinner…”, complained Yzil expectedly. “I thought we would just eat light this evening and I only put out some fruit. It’s almost Sabbath… Now I will have to think of something to go with this for him; he can’t eat this all by itself. I am tired from all this extra work. I knew you were going to start doing this to me… I told you I didn’t want you to invite this man… Will you stop pushing me and just save this trick for tomorrow!?”
“I don’t have time to explain right now. Please do as I have asked. There is no need to prepare anything to go with this. There is a symbol in this broken body that I wish to show him while the joy of salvation is fresh in his soul. It is not for the pleasure of his taste, this is for his heart.”
Yzil looked back somewhat puzzled, annoyed at being given another task at the end of the day. “Well, I can see you don’t care how I feel about anything. I guess I’ll see if Rebecca is up to it. I’d really rather not.”
“I‘d like to…”, interjected Zipporah hesitantly, who had been watching and listening to the entire event, and had some inkling of how special this was going to be for Moses.
“You!?”, snapped Yzil. “You don’t know the first thing about preparing this type of thing, and you’d make a mess of it. You should take some lessons from your sister Rebecca!”
“Well, how am I ever going to learn unless you show me? I have been wanting to learn for a long time… but you never have time to teach me!”, pleaded Zipporah aggressively, a bit irritated at being compared to her sister again.
“Quit your complaining girl! I’ve had a long day and the last thing I need is for you to go making it longer. Rebecca is the only one besides me who can do this kind of thing right and I don’t want you butting in and distracting her. She will have to hurry if this is to be done before midnight. If your father was not so timely in his request, perhaps there would have been more of a chance for you. But I hardly think you should be practicing on our guest.”
Ruel was still thinking about the symbolism and the meaning that he wanted to show to Moses, and was not quite following the details of this new development between Zipporah and Yzil. Then, it suddenly occurred to him that the best way to prepare the lamb was to keep it entirely intact and to roast it whole over the open fire. It should not be prepared in the customary fashion. Interrupting as Zipporah was about to escalate the discord with Yzil, he said excitedly to her, “Zipporah! Get me a long sturdy roasting rod that we can use to turn this lamb. Yzil, where did we put those supports the last time we roasted some stuff?”
Yzil’s eyes widened. “Oh, no you don’t! Go offering our guests some weird concoction of yours! What kind of a cook will he think I am?”
“Nonsense!”, exclaimed Ruel excitedly. “This will be the most spectacular meal that he has ever laid eyes on!” he beamed.
Ruel had never intruded directly into the preparation of a meal like this before, and Yzil was speechlessly angered. “You don’t know the first thing about…”
“Zipporah?”, he interrupted without thinking, “Do we have one that will do, some kind of a sturdy green roasting rod? Can you get it quickly?”
“Well…” Zipporah thoughtfully hesitated.
“I won’t stand for it! I don’t like this one bit!” Yzil stammered helplessly.
“… I noticed a long sturdy stick in the woodpile this morning… I think I could find it quickly…”
“Great!” exclaimed Ruel eagerly. “Now where did you say those support rods were, Yzil?”
“Ruel!!” demanded Yzil arrogantly. “This is ridiculous! You’ll do no such thing in my kitchen!”
“Who said anything about a kitchen?” grinned Ruel, refusing to become angry with her. “This will be wonderful! Why haven’t I thought of this before?”, he exclaimed thoughtfully to himself as he turned from her.
He walked off to look for some support rods, leaving Yzil standing in the tent door holding the dripping lamb.
“You can’t do this to me!”, she continued relentlessly.
“I suppose you could try to stop me. That is… if you’re not too tired!” he called back warmly.
“That man is impossible! How did I ever get stuck with the likes of him?” she mumbled to herself loud enough for Zipporah to overhear. “And what in the world am I going to do with this mess!” she continued, looking down at the lamb. She thought to herself, “He has his mind set on embarassing all of us… it’s a shame to let him… or to throw away such a good meal. Why did he have to do this tonight! It’s ridiculous!” She finally went back over to the fire and dropped the bloody mass in the sand where it had first lain, and turned to go back into the tent.
Zipporah, watching her angrily, thought it best to let the argument with Yzil go this time, and to busy herself with whatever her father was so excited about. It had seemed like a good time to really tell her mind to her mother and to get things out in the open again, but there would be other days to confront her over Rebecca… like tomorrow. Well, on second thought, so long as Moses was around, this should probably be deferred in the interest of keeping face. There would come a time soon enough, and she could wait a few more days. After all, she had not brought this up for several years now. The last time she was just a child and was easily overcome by Yzil’s fierce manner. But now she was becoming a woman, and her resentment was deepening with the constant comparing and favoritism. She must prepare for another solid, nasty confrontation, but it would be hard to time it properly with guests around all the time. She started out for the woodpile to hunt for the stick.
Moses leaped about, dancing wildly in the sand over the hill from the camp as the sun set. His soul felt as if it would simply burst. He was clean and whole, bright and pure inside. The great evening star in the eastern sky seemed to dance with him. He was IN God, and God was IN him… at last… at long last! This was what he had been after for so long… love! Ah!! Love and intimacy with the divine Being, the God of the universe. It was all that he could possibly have imagined and more, Oh! so much more! He was weaping and moaning from the ecstacy. What a wonder!! What an awesome delight to have a Father, a Husband, a Savior… in GOD!! To be pure and clean, not an drip or a spot in any crevace of his newly born spirit… and it would be forever alive, and so utterly and eternally clean. This work was eternal and complete and perfect. He was as safe and pure as the Lamb Himself… safe from sin, safe from wrath, safe from himself… and it was free, an unconditional gift almost pressed upon him by His Maker. No more darkness, no more wandering, no more alienation, no more fear… no more being alone!
Profound thanksgiving and exctatic worship poured forth from Moses in wet, lush torrents for hours it seemed. He could not get used to the newness of his being… he really had been born anew, born again spiritually as it were, and it was as real and awesome as his own trembling flesh. He looked down with wonder at his trembling hands. He was a new creation, a new creature in a new realm. A living spirit, inbreathed by a Holy Spirit, throbbed with life within, entwined and enmeshed in the very fabric of a deep, holy, loving God. Finally, calming, he came to himself, lying in the sand, looking up into the darkened sky in starstruck wonder. It was time to learn to walk with this God, to take his first few baby steps in this new realm. He rose, fatigued by the exertion of his rejoicing, and moved back over the top of the hill in the direction of the camp.
It was dark as Moses approached, a warm glowing fire inviting him back into the presence of his friend. Ruel, alone, squatting patiently near the fire and facing the tent, was evidently tending to something in the flames, while it seemed the rest of the family had retired for the evening. Hearing Moses’ footsteps behind him in the sand, he rose and turned expectedly towards this approaching new life. Moses walked plainly up into Ruel’s presence and looked deeply into his eyes. For one brief but profound moment, neither spirit spoke. In the windows of their eyes they both felt and watched the pulse of divine life beating in one another’s breasts. Ruel rejoiced in heartfelt thanks, it was so good to see life again at last. It had been so long.
He stepped gently aside and, directing Moses’ attention, pointed down into the flames behind him. The carcass of the lamb, balanced about the spit, was roasting to a char above the glowing coals of the large fire. Moses was taken aback, having forgotten about the lamb itself, and sensed his own dismay at seeing the blackened body in the flames. “I want you to eat this,” began Ruel, expecting Moses’ reaction. “He has given Himself up for you, a whole and complete sacrifice. He has held nothing back from you, for you, and He has purchased you with His own life’s blood. Though his blood is spilt, a bone of Him shall not be broken, for you are a member of His body, of His flesh, and of his bones.
“You are no longer your own, you belong to Him; you are His posession, His creation, His workmanship, His seed — begotten by Him and produced from His nature. Eat this flesh, the tender flesh of this young lamb, whole and complete, as a symbol that you also have died in Him. You will no longer live your own life, or live after your own will, but you will yield yourself up to Him as a living sacrifice, risen again in Him to live only in Him and for Him, dying to yourself… to be consumed by Him and in Him as surely and as completely as He has given Himself up for you. As you eat the remains of this little lamb’s life, receive and ingest God’s life into your own. As you are one with Him in spirit, become one with Him in your mind, soul, heart and will as well, knowing and carrying His heart and life about in you, having His mind and will at work in you and through you, drawing your strength and energy from Him and His will for you.”
Moses stared blankly at the roasted body of the little lamb, still whole and complete… now utterly lifeless amidst the tongues of fire. It was dead, and so was Moses now — dead to his old ways, to his own life and will and flesh and pleasure. The little carcass was a perfect picture of his old way, an empty shell, void of life and strength. It was also a picture of how fully His God had committed Himself to his redemption. There was no reservation, no hesitation, no turning back. There was no choice to be made, it had already been made; the truth was plain and beautiful. Moses had already recognized his own death to himself. The picture would serve to illustrate it and help seal it in his own mind and heart. As the lamb had given its life for him, now it would give him its lovely death as well, becoming one with him in fleshy death for the rest of his days on this earth. He stooped wordlessly, marveling at the completeness of the picture and drinking it into his soul.
Moses stretched out his hand and drew the blackened flesh from the flames. He raised it to his lips and blew the steam from the charred surface in the flickering firelight. Deliberately, he bit freely into the warm flesh and began to eat, taking the body of the lamb into his own being to become one with himself in its death. He ate, with Ruel watching prayerfully, until he could hold no more, and laid the remainder aside. Quietly, as the fire dwindled and the coldness of the desert night moved in about them, Ruel prepared the lamb’s remains to store for the morrow, as Moses watched with quiet, curious interest. Finishing, Ruel turned to give Moses a strong brotherly embrace and both men retired for the evening.
Morning dawned to start his second full day with the family, and Moses awoke rested and refreshed, a brand new man. The intensity of his conversion the previous day had so distanced him experientially from the danger and stress of his escape that he had at last slept quite soundly. The family was already up and about as he rose from sleep, and all were busy about the minimal preparations for the Sabbath morning, anxious for Moses to begin to tell of his origins and background. Ruel, noticing Moses waking, wasted no time in informing him that he wanted no further delay in hearing of his experiences if, of course, Moses felt the freedom to indulge them. As the sun crept higher in the sky in another beautiful day, with all nine of his new acquaintance circled about him shortly after the morning meal, Moses began enthusiastically.
“Forty years ago, shortly after Pharoah had ordered the slaughter of all newborn males among my people, I was born a Hebrew slave in Egypt. My mother, knowing in her spirit that I was not an ordinary child, and fearing the exposure that would come upon me by using a midwife for my delivery, did not call for one when she went into labor, but bore me privately with the help of my elder sister Miriam in our little hut. It took a great deal of strength for my mother to bear me in silence like that… she was quite a woman, that lady was. I was very weak when I was born, due to the struggle and duration of the labor. Somehow my mother knew that God was interested in me and she did what she could to keep me alive. When pressed by the soldiers as to my whereabouts after it was plain that she had given birth, my father managed to convince them that I had been still-born and that they had already tossed my body into the Nile, while my sister kept me hidden in some weeds a good distance from the hut.
“The initial danger past, the family managed to keep me quiet for several months, which was perhaps easier than normal because of my weakness, but they soon recognized that it was hopeless. Since they knew that they couldn’t hide me indefinitely, they knew that they would lose me to an Egyptian sword soon if God did not intervene in some way. So, my dear mother, she reluctantly decided to float me down the Nile river in a small craft that she and my sister fashioned from the riverbank bullrushes. It broke her heart to send me off like that, and she just could not bear to watch me floating a way. My sister, however, could not resist following to see what would happen, which turned out to be the handy work of the God that day.
“Unbeknownst to them all, they had let me go out into the river at precisely the same time that Pharoah’s only daughter was coming down to the Nile to bathe a few hundred cubits downstream, accompanied by her servants. I was rather quiet from what Miriam says, which made it easy for her to follow me without drawing much attention to herself. Well, the God’s hand was upon that little boat, and He brought me squarely in front of the group of girls as they walked along the river bank. The princess spotted the little ark and sent one of the servant girls to fetch it. When she got it, and opened the lid, the brightness startled me badly and I began to wail in the most pitiful way, so Miriam says. It was no great suprize to anyone at that point that the princess fell in love with me. It was love at first sight, as they say: a budding young woman and a terrified, weak little baby boy.
“As she took me up in her arms to comfort me, I settled right down in her bosom and began to try to nurse from her, so they all claimed. Laughing and fawning over me as little girls do, they realized right away that I was one of the Hebrew children, and that some desparate parents were trying to give me a chance on life. Miriam was right on top of things, as usual, and asked the princess if she would like to have a nurse to feed the baby for her. I guess the princess could not resist this unexpected turn in her life and decided to keep me. Miriam ran and got my mom, who was immediately paid to feed her own baby! How the God can work sometimes!
“Well, Mom nursed me as long as she could, which was until I was about five years old. She loved me deeply and taught me only one thing before she brought me to Pharoah’s daughter to be her son. It is something I will never forget: it was that she herself was my real mom. It was a link that proved to be vital in my upbringing.
“As I grew up in Pharoah’s court, I had the liberty to get out of the palace after school and go about the Hebrew camps as I wished. During those glorious evenings I would often go back to Mom and sit with her. We would talk about what I was learning in the court school and how they were grooming me to be the next Pharoah. It seemed like the Egyptians forgot all about my Hebrew birth and really adopted me into the family. There were no other males in the family, as Pharoah only had one daughter and he was getting old, so they were investing everything in me. Why they did not supervise my visits with Mom, only the God knows: it was evidently His providence, it is the only possible explanation. It was during these times that she began to see what she thought was the Lord’s plan for me. She was constantly thinking about God’s promise to deliver us from Egpyt after so many years, and she thought that I was the one to do it.
“She carefully taught me all the stories of how the Hebrews had become a people through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and how we had ended up in Egypt during the riegn of our ancestor Joseph. She told me about Abraham and Lot, Melchisiedek, Jacob and Esau, Noah and the Great Flood, the trial of Job… story after story of all kinds. I’ll have to tell you them some time. They’re just fascinating!
“She also taught me the creation story and got me to memorize my lineage all the way back to Adam, just like all the other Hebrew kids did. She told me the story of Enoch, and how he had walked with God, and how he was taken up by God into heaven. It was then that I really developed a hunger to know and walk with the God like Enoch did.
“Anyway, every evening, Mom would get me to tell her whatever my tutors taught me in school and she would carefully straighten me out whenever they tried to teach me about the Egpytian religion. I know she prayed and agonized over me daily that I would not be overcome by the mysticism of Egyptian witchcraft and idolatry. The idolatry was so strong and tempting that many of the Hebrews were even polluted by it just by being around it in the Egyptian culture. Yet, here I was right in the center of the very strength of it all the time; she prayed me through it with all of her might, right up to the day she died.
“Well, to make a long story short, the Egyptians have taught me everything they know: their witchcraft, their astronomy, their geometry, statesmanship, history, art, ediquette, culture studies, languages, reading and writing, ethics, personal fitness, personal combat, military tactics, economics, you name it. I got it all. Yet, my mother’s prayers were strong. Every evening since the day she died, and that was when I was about twelve, I have walked about the Hebrew camps thinking about my mom, longing to walk with God and wondering how I was going to free the Israelites from slavery. Everyone had forgotten that I was a Hebrew and I didn’t want to remind anyone, but I would see the Hebrew men and women being mistreated and it troubled me that I couldn’t do anything about it. I was becoming more powerful in the court and was getting more and more responsibility, but I couldn’t think of any way to help my people and the feelings and frustration just got stronger and stronger until about a month and a half ago. It was then that I finally took matters into my own hands and got into trouble.
“One evening, on my regular walk, I noticed one of the soldiers beating one of my brothers quite severely. It angered me so much that I could not help myself. I looked around to see if there was anyone else around, and the coast was clear. I walked up behind the soldier and broke his neck before I had really thought about what I was doing. He dropped to the dirt without a whimper and before I knew it, I was standing face to face with a Hebrew brother… with a dead soldier lying in the dirt between us. He hadn’t actually seen anything since he was all hunkered over from the blows he was getting from the soldier. But it did not take any real smarts for him to figure out what had happened. He did not know I was Hebrew, or what was in my heart, but just gratefully nodded in thanks to me and ran off. He left me standing there with this dead soldier and I had to move fast. It was getting dark, so I dragged him over to a nearby wall and quickly buried him in the deep sand that had blown up against it. No one had seen me, except the slave, so I thought I would just play it cool and see what happened.
“Well, the very next day, again out on my evening walk, I saw two slaves going at it. One was beating the other and I could not resist. I walked up to them, grabbed the aggressor and pulled him off. “What are you doing!” I demanded, gripping him by the arm. “Why are you striking a fellow slave?” I was indignant and angry with him; he could tell I meant business and that I would back up my words. He retorted angrily, ‘Who made you our ruler and our judge?? You Egyptians think you own the world! You may be our task masters, but you are not our gods! What! Are you going to try to kill me like you did that soldier?’
“Well, when I heard that, I dropped my hold on him and let him go. I realized that the word had spread like wildfire among the Hebrews, naturally. What a fool I was to think otherwise. I had to get out of Egypt right then and there. I turned to go and both of the slaves ran off. I got a few things together and walked toward the city gate. I knew the guards well, but they wondered what I was up to as I left. I told them I just wanted to go for a long walk. They offered to accompany me for safety but I told them I wanted to be alone. They knew I could take care of myself and consented. That was the last I have seen of them.
“I knew that they would be hot on my trial within hours and it took all of the tricks in the book to evade them. Pharoah heard of my deed the very next morning and was hotly in pursuit by noon. Somehow I managed to evade them, traveling at night and sleeping in the sand during the day. I think the God confounded their search in some way. I really expected them to catch me but they haven’t. I think, after a month, that they have given up and counted me dead or lost by now.
Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months, and Moses became more and more a part of the family. Learning of their life and helping where he could, he began to understand the mind of the shepherd and was able help more and more with the work of living in the Midian wilderness. Zipporah and
In the pain and anguish of his crushing, as he groaned aloud and staggered up the hill, his spirit reached out somehow and began making love with his God, touching, caressing, flowing, penetrating, receiving, deep piercing intimacy that was altogether pure and holy and lovely. This was why he had been created, this was what he was alive for, why Moses existed… it was to love his God and commune with Him. This love was not just in the mind, not just an idea or a disposition, not just a state or a feeling, it was an activity.
To be continued …