By John Hunt
The lingering haze finally lifted from the fields alongside the Jordan River Valley. Matthias and his son, Jacob, were herding their sheep early in the morning; a morning filled with golden reflections of sunlight that glistened off the thick dew, while the sweet song of the crested lark echoed across the meadow. The sheep had unexpectedly wandered onto the field alongside the Jordan River, just outside the city of Jericho. They had come upon the place that was told to them of old, the place that had stood there for generations, the place that many people had indeed forgotten about in that day and age: The Crossing.
"Father, why are there stones set beside the river?" Jacob asked.
It was a question that was simply asked, but not a simple question. The scope of the conundrum was plainly evident as Matthias searched for a reply.
The story of The Crossing had been told to Matthias long ago by his father, and by his father before him. In fact, it had been passed down for many generations now. But it had been so very long since Matthias had heard it, and so many things had happened in his life since then, that he himself had nearly forgotten it.
"That is where our people crossed over into the land promised to them by God," Matthias finally answered.
Jacob took this in. He was still puzzled. "But why did they put the stones there?"
Matthias was at a loss.
"Why did they put the stones there?" he wondered. A pang of guilt pierced through him for not remembering his heritage. Gently, he put his hand on Jacob’s shoulder. "We will see when we get home this evening."
That evening went by like so many others. There were chores to do – animals to feed and water, stalls to clean and hay to bale. Sometimes Matthias wished that he had just one extra hour in the day to get everything done. As the evening sun began to dip below the horizon, Matthias’s wife, Myra, called out to him. Dinner was ready.
Matthias appeared preoccupied while the three of them sat down to eat – his stare was distant and his thoughts were in another place. Myra couldn’t help but notice. "What troubles you, Matthias?"
Matthias was hesitant to reply. A reply would reveal what was on his mind – the anxiety that was pervading his thoughts. And to reveal that, well, that would make him accountable; not that he wasn’t accountable
"Oh, nothing," he said unconvincingly.
Jacob was busy eating his bread and steamed fish, seeming not to notice the conversation.
"Surely something must be bothering you. You’ve hardly touched your supper."
Matthias shrugged off that comment as he poked the fish with his bread. Jacob suddenly chimed in excitedly. "We saw the stones by the river today, mama!"
"Stones?" she asked. "What stones are these?"
Matthias scratched his thick black beard. He really wasn’t ready to answer that question. "You know – the stones – the ones put there by our patriarch, Joshua."
It was an uncomfortable subject, mainly due to their admitted ignorance of the story that they both felt they should know better.
Myra timidly responded. "Oh, those stones."
* * *
Late evening was always a relaxing time for Matthias and his family – the chores were done, the animals were safe in their stalls and little Jacob was done with his studies. On evenings such as this one, while a peaceful quiet settled upon the Jordan River Valley, Matthias would often tell stories – fantastic tales of far away adventures that he had heard from passers by. Myra and Jacob would lie on their pallets listening, wide eyed with excitement as Matthias’ tales took on life. Still other times, the three of them would sing and dance while Matthias played the cithern, a kind of harp. But on this particular evening, things were much different.
Matthias had known for some time that there was something missing in the life of his family. He had felt it, yes; but he had also ignored it. Whether it was due to neglect, or constraint of time, or just plain unease, it really didn’t matter. Whatever the case, whatever the irrelevant reason was for putting it off in the past, Matthias knew that he had waited entirely too long. As he read through the scrolls of animal parchment in the tent that night, the guilt that he had felt for so long quickly faded and he was filled with a peace that came from God. This year, he decided, we will go to the temple. We will worship our God. But first, he determined, he would teach his family what his father had taught him, and his father before him.
"Long ago," Matthias began as they all sat on their pallets, "Jehovah brought our people out of slavery in the land of Egypt. He brought them out to lead them into the land of promise, the land flowing with milk and honey, the land we live in today. But after crossing over the Red Sea, the people grew disobedient, and many worshipped idols. So the Lord caused them to wander in the wilderness for forty years, to teach them obedience and trust. When the appointed time came – the time when they were to be led out of the wilderness and into the Promised Land, they reached the spot in the river that Joshua had determined. Now, as you and I are well aware, the currents of this river are very strong and tricky. Why, nary a seafaring vessel could cross without being capsized. However, just as the Lord had done at the Red Sea, He parted the mighty waters of the Jordan, and the entire nation of Israel crossed over it on dry land."
Matthias casually took some stones from a satchel and placed them on the ground. "Joshua commanded the people to take stones from the river bed and set them alongside the bank as a reminder of what God had done for them."
Matthias continued to read from the scrolls and teach them how God had been with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and with his chosen people throughout famine and through years of slavery. He told them how Noah, and Abraham, and Jacob had built altars to remind them of God’s providence, of His deliverance, and of His faithfulness.
When he was done, they prayed, remembering all of the many ways that God had touched their lives throughout the years. In the still quiet of that peaceful night, they made their own altar of thanksgiving unto the Lord. It was an altar not made of stone, or of wood, or even of earthen material; it was an altar that was written on their hearts.
"Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the LORD; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart." (Jeremiah 24:7 NKJV)
2004© John Hunt All Rights Reserved
John Hunt is a freelance writer who resides in a state of near insanity when he isn’t in his home state of Indiana. He has written one novel, a medical-mystery prophetic thriller, which is begging to be - oops, I mean waiting to be published. His website can be viewed at www.imageofthebeast.net
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