Thursday, February 25, 2010

Salman's story

“So why has it taken you so long to get here?” asked Rahab. “Your people left Egypt a lifetime ago.”

“True,” Salman replied. “I’ve never been to Egypt. I was born in the wilderness, but I remember the stories.”

“What do you mean?” asked Rahab.

“I don’t even know where to begin. We were our own worse enemy - so quick to forget the faith of our forefathers.”

“But God parted the Red Sea. How do you forget that?” Rahab replied.

“Quite easily. The heart is a strange thing. I’ve seen good people go bad, and bad people come good. Anyway, a couple of months ago, strange things started happening. People were getting sick and dying from a plague we’d never seen before.

We found out some of our men were sleeping with Moabite women and secretly worshiping Baal. Often their family died first, like the disease had a mind of its own. But eventually it caught up with them. It got out of control - thousands died.”

“How did it end?” asked Rahab.

Salam hesitated to give his reply. Is she ready for this? he thought. What the heck, after tonight I’ll never see her again.

“People had to choose between Jehovah or Baal, life or death - although some of us made that decision a little easier.”

Salman spent the next hour taking Rahab on a journey to another world. He told her everything that happened over the last few months, filling in so many gaps and answering questions about a life she had never known. There were all these strange customs she had heard of but had no idea what they meant.

The Tabernacle, for example, was a holy place for the Hebrews, shrouded in sacred mystery. From the outside the outer court looked rather plain, consisting of curtains made from all sorts of animal skins suspended from large wooden beams.

The inner court had more ornate fittings, hanging oil lamps and incense holders. Only males could enter this place of prayer. They had to be washed clean and in perfect condition to present their offerings, prayers, and animal sacrifices for the atonement of sins.

At the very centre was the holy of holies, where only the High Priest entered on rare occasions, and only after undertaking a strict cleansing ceremony. The room was so sacred that a rope was tied around the priest’s ankle to pull his body out just in case he dropped dead. Such was the tangible power of God’s presence.

The Tabernacle was no ordinary place. A pillar of cloud towered above it by day, and at night it transformed into a pillar of fire that lit the entire camp with a soft warm glow.

As holy and revered as it was, the entire structure was portable, which suited the nomadic lifestyle the Hebrews had suffered over the last forty years. Where the pillar of cloud moved, the Hebrews followed. Whenever it stopped, they pitched camp - some times for day, sometimes for weeks. It was God’s way of guiding his children through the wilderness, and a constant reminder of his everlasting love.

One evening two months ago (as Salman recounted to Rahab) the outer courts were filled with men from every household and every tribe. It was nightfall, and all the elders had been hastily assembled to prayer because a plague had broken out in the camp.

No comments:

Post a Comment