Thursday, February 25, 2010

Far from the Profound

I posted an update in my other blog Full Circle about how God is working in our lives regarding adoption. You can check it out if you like. For this blog, I decided to paste a short fictional story in connection with the passage I'll be preaching out of this Sunday. I hope you enjoy it.

“What happened?” screamed Nathanael’s wife.

Nathanael was kneeling in front of the stone wash basin scrubbing his hands furiously. Blood tinted the water and rag he was scrubbing with, yet his hands and tattered cloak remained stained.

“It was an accident, Miriam.” Nathanael’s voice cracked and shook. His tone and expression begged for mercy and understanding. “I was just chopping some wood, and the axe head––it flew off. . .”

Tears streamed down Nathanael’s face cutting their course through the dust and dirt on his cheeks. He turned his head and focused again on the seemingly hopeless task of scouring the stain from his hands and the sorrow from his heart. Miriam rushed to his side and knelt beside him. Tears now moistened her eyes also. She gently touched his shoulder.

“What happened, Nathanael? Tell me what happened?” Her petition carried a softer, calmer tone than earlier. Nathanael set the rag to the side and took a couple of composing breaths.

“It was Jonathan from the clan of Eliab. He was out in the forest cutting with me,” the pitch and speed of his voiced increased. “I didn’t even think––I never had any problems with it before. I’m sure I checked it––”

“Calm down, dear.” Miriam caressed his back. “Just tell me what happened.”

“I swung my axe back for a good strike on a stubborn log and the axe head flew off. It struck Jonathan in the head. It killed him. I’ve killed a man!”

Nathanael’s sobbing began again and Miriam’s joined in chorus. For the moment, that seemed like the most appropriate thing to do. The emotions poured out through the tears for a few minutes when suddenly, Miriam stopped.

“Shhh,” she said. “Listen.” The sound of people shouting in the distance broke through there momentary silence. It wasn’t the sound of celebration, nor was it the sound of mourning. It was the sound of revenge. Nathanael's and Miriams grief turned into fear.

“Nathanael, you must flee to Hebron,” Miriam said. “There you’ll be safe.”

In a flurry of activity, Miriam gathered a few supplies and placed them in a satchel. Nathanael changed into a clean tunic and cloak and slung the satchel over his shoulder. Just before he departed, Miriam placed her hand on his bearded face and said, “The LORD is full of mercy, Nathanael.”

“Pray for me my dear,” Nathanael replied and kissed her.

He hurried out the door like a mouse on alert. He walked through the wilderness to avoid his countrymen as much as possible. The avenger of blood would likely try and cut off the main roads to Hebron. If he could just make it there he would be safe. Caleb’s descendents were merciful and gracious to those in his situation.

A shepherd grazing his sheep noticed Nathanael. “Friend, share some bread with me,” the shepherd shouted in the distance.

“I would love to, my brother, but time presses me onward.” Nathanael felt horrible about rejecting the man’s hospitality, but feared for his life.

“Just a small meal, friend, to provide some company for a lonely shepherd.”

Nathanael turned and headed over to the shepherd. He knew it might cost him his life, but his compassion overruled his fear. The two shared a small meal of bread, wine, and figs. Nathanael attempted to engage in friendly conversation, but his eyes persistently scanned the horizon. He caught only bits and pieces of the shepherd’s conversation. As the sun sank in the sky, Nathanael rose to his feet and thanked his host.

“Thank you for your hospitality, Jehu, but I must be going now.”

“Well thank you for the company, Nathanael. Do be careful on your journey, though. Murderers lurk near Hebron.”

Nathanael’s face turned pale and his heart raced. Did this shepherd know? Nathanael turned and hurried off.

In a half an hour, Nathanael was at the base of Hebron’s walls. The city’s gates were just ahead––refuge. He quickened his pace. Two city elders mingled in the walls of the gate. Nathanael hurried and greeted the elders. “Shalom, my good brothers, I am Nathanael. I come to seek refuge here.”

“What have you done, Nathanael?”

Nathanael, tried to maintain his composure, but broke down and wept. Through the sobs of sorrow, he relayed the tragic incident to the elders. They lifted him to his feet and looked him in the eyes. “You have sought the mercy of God,” they said, “and the mercy of God you shall receive. Enter into this city of refuge that the LORD has provided for souls such as yourself. Here you will find the safety you seek.”

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