ALIVE: Chapter 74: About Failure

Israel continued to walk and talk and walk some more as if the Promise Land was a million miles away when in reality they were walking away from it.


In His frustration with this pack of ungrateful people, as faithless as Eve as weak as Adam, God’s fury subdued by the intercession of Moses, did not go unsatisfied. Moses and Aaron as they walked could not shake the chilling memory of God’s wrath when He said to them, “I will do the very things I heard the faithless fearful people say: their dead bodies shall fall in this very wilderness; and all the people from twenty years old and upward who have complained against Me, not one of them shall come into the land in which I swore to settle you, except Caleb and Joshua. But your little ones, who you said would become booty, I will bring in, and they shall know the land that their parents despised. But as for them, their dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness. And their children shall be shepherds in the wilderness for forty years, and shall suffer for their parent’s faithlessness, until the last of their dead bodies lies in the wilderness. According to the number of days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day a year, you shall all bear out your iniquity, forty years, and you shall know My displeasure.”


The memory of this haunted Moses who was both as disgusted with the people and as he was grieved by the sentence of forty years of this miserable trek. The notion that he was leading most of these people to their death was like a millstone hung around his neck as he walked. Moses suffered for the iniquity of the people Israel. How he suffered. Every painful step was a reminder of the wastefulness of disobedience and faithlessness, none of which was his own doing.


To turn the face of Moses forward God proceeded to dispense more and more rules of conduct and of worship and punishments with increasing specificity. God even gave Moses rules to follow “when they enter the Promise Land” as if he would remember.


One Sabbath day when the Israelites were camped, a man was spotted gathering sticks. Those who found him brought him to Moses and Aaron who put him in custody because it was not clear what should be done to him.


Moses inquired of the Lord Who replied, “The man should be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him outside the camp.”


Hearing the shocking sentence, Moses dispatched Korah and Dothan to tie up the man’s hands and feet with a heavy rope and to drag the convict away from the camp. The rest of the congregation solemnly followed gathering stones large a small along the way.


“This is far enough.” said Dothan and dropped the man who fell to the ground in a fetal position.


For every man and child surrounding him one or two stones was obediently hurled at the wretch who dared to gather sticks on the sabbath in defiance of the command to keep the Sabbath holy. Being stoned is a slow and painful way to die. More than an hour went by before it was certain that he breathed no more. His family wailed. When it was over, his father and brothers carried the body of their beloved to a soft rootless spot in the wilderness and buried it there as deep into the earth as they could manage with the tools they had, their grief subdued by hard labor.


The next morning Moses told the numb people, who killed their own tribesman on behalf of the God they often complain about, to pack up camp and start walking again. There was to be no period of mourning; they needed to remove themselves as far and as fast as they could from that unclean dead man. Moses was the first to be ready and took the lead allowing the thousands of others to catch up as they needed time to pack. 


As he walk Moses wondered, if not Canaan then where were they to go? Where was the Promise Land that flowed with milk and honey, and had weak people, rather than strong healthy people to displace? Where would they walk to for forty years that would take them back to the place they were leaving?


Even Caleb’s sister Hannah’s joyfulness slowly submerged into the malaise of movement as the bane of her existence. Eating manna, drinking water, and walking was all they could do. After the first year of this circular occupation day after day there was neither memory of the past nor hope for the future. The sons and daughters of Jacob became bonafide nomads.


Dramas popped up from time to time. One occurred when three men wanted to displace Moses and Aaron as the leaders.  God opened the earth which consumed these men and their families and all of their possessions sending them all to Hades to suffer for their hubris.


Another time, there was a plague in which thousands of people died. Some of the survivors wished death would free them from the bondage of their nomadic existence.


Miriam died at Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin. Aaron mourned her, as did Moses. They buried their sister’s frail white body deep in the earth and marked the place where she lay with stones. Upon her death, many shared the thought that they would still be eating onions by the Nile had Miriam not been the savior of Moses when he should have been killed by Pharaoh along with their own baby brothers. Instead they seemed to be in constant search for water.


Water, the giver and sustainer of life. Water in the desert wilderness was more precious than gold. God knew that they needed water. He could have made it rain every day, just as He rained manna and quail for them to eat. But He did not.


The people only had to ask, to pray for water. But they did not. Instead they complained and demanded it, as if Moses was their third rate travel guide. Many of the sons of Israel growled that they would start a party to return to Egypt.


For what felt like the hundredth time, Moses and Aaron went to the tent of meeting to ask God to provide water for the people. With tolerance and patience abounding, Moses and Aaron fell on their faces and as hoped, the glory of the Lord appeared to them. The Lord spoke to Moses saying “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and your brother Aaron, and command the rock before their eyes to yield its water. Thus you shall provide drink for the congregation and for their livestock.”


Moses went over to the wall of the tent and took the staff with which he struck the Nile. Then Moses and Aaron repeatedly glorified and gave thanks to the Lord as the luminous cloud of glory vanished from their midst in the tent of meeting.


Perhaps for the first time since that awesome morning when Israel  emerged from the Red Sea, Moses was fed up with the people and their complaints. 


Caleb and Hannah were among a small group milling around the entrance to the tent of meeting. Like infant birds in the nest waiting helplessly for a parent to bring them worms, these thirsty people waited for Moses and Aaron to give them water.


Moses emerged from the tent with his powerful staff clenched in his fist looking angrier than they had ever seen him. “People, follow me.” He bellowed to assemble everyone. He then hurriedly walked over to a big grey bolder and waited for Israel to catch up.


Aaron followed Moses feeling uncomfortable. He was reminded of how angry Moses was when he returned from Mt. Sinai to find them worshipping the golden calf that they had made. Only this time Moses was more wrapped up in himself, and uncharacteristically disconnected from God. Aaron could not shake a strange and awful feeling that something was very different and very wrong. 


As Moses waited for everyone to assemble he surveyed the crowd that seemed to be sucking the life out of him clutching the staff harder and harder until his fingernails pierced his own skin.


When the thirsty congregation was fully assembled and quieted all looking to Moses for relief he bellowed, “Listen you rebels, shall we bring water out of this rock?” Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his staff; water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their livestock drank and drank to their hearts content.


Gracefeld and Perambula looked wide-eyed at Moses in near disbelief, and then over to God and then to each other. As water rained on the parched people a deep crack had formed between Moses and the Lord. A fissure that could not be ignored.


Aaron thought to himself, ‘That is not what God told him to say.’ For even in his relative dullness of spirit Aaron knew that this time was different from the other time Moses struck the rock at Horeb to get water. Both incidents were said to be at Meribah, but last time Moses perceived that the sons of Israel tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” This time Moses took credit for producing the water. That was wrong. It was inaccurate and it was wrong. Aaron was concerned.


The angels heard God admonish Moses very loud and clear. Aaron heard it too in his own heart. God said to the brothers, “Because you did not trust in Me, to show My holiness before the eyes of the Israelites, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” At the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel quarreled with the Lord for water, and by which He planned to show His holiness, Moses’ in his frustration took the credit. 


For to the Lord, more precious and more critical than water to a thirsty man is knowledge of His holiness. For the people it was water, for God, the withholding and the giving of water was to be more proof of His providence, of His holiness, of His existence.


This was the crime of Moses, to attempt to take from God his holiness, the credit due Him alone for producing water from the rock. The humility that God loved about Moses devolved.


Let it be understood by this event that God has been known to withhold a need, a great need that He can easily provide, to demonstrate His holiness at the right time and in the right way. This is what it means to trust IN Him.


Nevertheless, the rock gushed forth water for all the people and all their livestock to drink. And they all rushed over to the geyser to grab as much of the watery gold as they could, letting it rain on them with open mouths facing up drinking it and feeling its cool wetness on their faces and on their heads. It was sublime. The people pushed and shoved to demand their turns at the cool water. Greed like the antithesis of life sustaining water filled their hard hearts even as the cool water saturated their dehydrated bodies.


Meanwhile, the Lord was angry. Angrier than He had ever been with Moses, the words echoed in the minds of Moses and Aaron for days and days, “Because you did not trust in Me, to show My holiness before the eyes of the Israelites, therefore you shall not bring the assembly into the land I have given them.”


The effect of this decision was not felt by anyone, but Moses kept it in his heart as he continued to walk and walk and walk, as days and weeks and months and years passed step by step. Moses walked knowing that he was walking long enough for the faithless to die, and that in the end, he would die too before ever seeing the Promise Land. Moses kept this sin in his heart for forty years. No sacrificial lamb would take it from him. Ultimately he would be the one to die with this heavy burden. Like an iron ball and chain tied to his leg Moses walked for forty years in a circle away from and back to the Promise Land of Canaan.

​ALIVE: Chapter 73, Spying out the Land

Hannah daughter of Malach of Judah was young and lovely with eyes as blue as the afternoon sky on a clear day, and long wavy chestnut hair that danced like a halo around her as she moved. More beautiful still was the joy that saturated Hannah’s heart and generated the smile that perpetually lifted the corners of her full lips up to her sparkling eyes. Hannah created a world around her that was filled with hope and enthusiastic anticipation of more and more reasons to be glad. She was blind to evil. Goodness hidden deep within hardships dared to creep out to reveal itself only to Hannah whom she often greeted with a silent knowing calm. To the women around her complaining of sore feet, and parched lips Hannah replied, “We must be close to the Promise Land! I feel it near. I think we will soon reach our new home! Indeed it must be right on the other side of that hill!”


Her friend Milcah shrugged her shoulders and said, “Hannah, that is not a hill; it is a mountain. I will be happy when I see the Promise Land up close. For now come with me to gather manna.”


“I can’t. I must return to Caleb to tell him that Moses wants to see him.” With that she turned and hurriedly went in the direction her heart told her to go to find her brother.


Caleb was busy splitting wood for the evening fire when he saw his beautiful sister approach hurriedly. “Caleb, stop what you are doing, Moses wants you. Go quickly.”


Hannah followed her brother to find out what Moses wanted of him.


Young Caleb spotted the elder Moses entering the tent of meeting and quickly caught up to follow Moses into the big tent where he saw his friend Hosea and ten other men.  Hannah stopped at the entrance flap to listen in. Men were chatting with each other, voices over voices made it difficult for Hannah to discern what anyone was saying. Then she heard Moses loud and clear say, “Okay, everyone is here. Quiet! I have an announcement to make. We have arrived! The Promise Land is near! The land of Canaan will soon be ours for our families. We can build our homes of bricks, and plant trees, orange trees! Fields of flowers will give us honey. Our cattle will have enough grass to produce plenty of milk to drink.”


Hannah heard guttural manly sounds of approval in response to the exciting news of the near end of the journey. Passover night, and crossing the Red Sea were a distant memory. Hunger and dust and the longest parade made men feel as if they were captives of a nightmare.


Moses went on, “From this Wilderness of Paran I want you to spy out the land from Zin at that mountain range over there to the west, (said Moses pointing with his finger as if seeing the mountain through the canvas tent) to Rahab, that mountain range to the east of Zin. Reconnoiter all of Canaan; it will be ours. We will ultimately remove the inhabitants to occupy the land that our God is giving us. Go and return to tell us what you have found. Now prepare for the journey. You will leave at dawn tomorrow. God be with you. Any questions?”


“What do we do if we encounter an enemy? Do we fight?” asked Hosea son of Nun.


Moses replied, “What’s your name? Who are you?”


“I am Hosea of Ephraim.”


“Well, you look like you should be called Joshua.” said Moses with authority. “Joshua, you will have no need for fighting. This is merely a spying expedition. All of you must avoid being seen. The Lord will make your path straight. Bring no weapons, but the shield of faith. Now go. Rest up for you will depart at dawn.”


Hannah ran away from the tent so as not to be seen eavesdropping. She was thrilled at the prospect that her brother Caleb would represent Judah to be among the first to see the land that flows with milk and honey. She remembered her mother telling her stories when she was a child about the Promise Land, promised to Father Abraham. How often she would return in her mind to find freedom and refreshment there when she was a slave.


Hannah ran directly to her tent to wait for Caleb. When he entered she jumped up and went over to give him a big hug. “Oh Caleb!”she ejaculated. “I am so happy for you!”


Caleb smiled because he had sensed that she was spying on the men who were being sent to spy. “You know Hannah, I don’t know what is better, to finally reach the end of this trek with all of these complaining people, or to land in a place of our very own far from Pharaoh.”


“You know Caleb, when you think of it, you will soon see with your very own eyes the land that was promised to Abraham centuries ago! What a long journey indeed. The Promise Land has been waiting for us since before Jacob worked for Rachel’s hand in marriage, before Joseph entered Egypt. The Promise Land is real and soon you will see it, my brother! But now you must rest. I will be quiet. Go to sleep.”


Caleb hugged his beloved sister and gave her a kiss on her forehead and then obediently walked over to his bedroll to sleep.


From the first days after he left, Hannah waited patiently but enthusiastically for Caleb to return. She tried to imagine where he was and what the Promise Land looked like. After a week or two many of the others worried that the men had been captured or that wild animals had overtaken them. Hannah imagined that the men were struck by the beauty of the land and couldn’t tear themselves from it to return to the squalor of this camp in Paran.


Days turned into endless weeks of monotony gathering manna every morning and quail in the evening. Sleeping and eating, going nowhere slowly frustrated even the children as they waited for the spying party to return, not knowing if they ever would come back.


Late one particularly hot and dry afternoon on the fortieth day, when most people had given up and just wanted to start a search party the band of men was spotted on the horizon. Children ran up to greet them. Wives wondered what their menfolk ate while they were gone so long.


Moses stood like a flag waving in the breeze waiting for their arrival. When they approached him Moses said, “Come to the tent of meeting to give me your reports.” The men followed Moses to the tent. Aaron in all his privilege joined them to be among the first to hear.


Hannah was at the outskirts of a gaggle of women who also followed the men and stopped at the entrance to listen in.


“The land is indeed rich and beautiful,” reported Azariah from Dan “but well fortified and the people are too strong for us.”


Caleb contradicted Azariah saying, “But brothers, if the Lord is with us I am certain we could prevail; let’s go back and look again.”


At that suggestion a chorus of NOs and grunts ensued.


Moses was furious at their report and in frustration ended the meeting abruptly.  “Leave me!” he shouted in distress.


The men filed out of the tent in ones and twos to be greeted by the crowd outside. Some men stopped to talk, others plowed through the crowd to go to their own tents to find their wives and to rest.


Once the bad report was widely known the Israelites were generally upset. They wailed and cried, after all that walking and waiting, to receive such bad news was devastating. It was as if spring was followed by a return to the death of winter instead of summer harvest.


Murmuring and complaints, and some weeping salted Israel with bitter disappointment. The most emotional women wailed out loud.


“We have had enough of this!” shouted Barak over the din of disappointment. “Who will lead us back to Egypt.” Barak looked around for such a leader while those men who agreed with the idea contemplated how to cross the Red Sea again. Returning to Egypt would not be so easy.


Caleb, hearing this knee-jerk reaction to the overly cynical report of foolish and faithless men responded loudly to be heard over the din of doubters, “Surely people! If the Lord who opened the Red Sea for us, who gives us manna every day, who brings up water from rocks, surely our God can give us victory over the Canaanites. Why oh why do you doubt Him? Why are you so weak?!”


The crowd quieted down to hear Caleb. Then Joshua (Hosea) added, “Indeed this Promise Land is exceedingly good land! I beg of you not to rebel against the Lord, and not to fear the people of the land, for they will be no more than bread for us when their protection is removed from them.”


Hearing that, the congregation threatened to stone Caleb and Joshua who turned in disgust and together boldly walked to Caleb’s tent where Hannah had prepared manna the way Caleb liked it best. “Hello Hosea, I mean Joshua! Come in! She said cheerfully when the men entered her tent. “I am so proud of you Caleb. Now tell me all about what you saw! How thrilling!”


“Sister, it was truly amazing. I saw cattle grazing in fields of lush green grass where hundreds of lambs were frolicking. Real houses! What we saw was infinitely better than what we left behind in Egypt.”


Joshua nodded and smiled as the memories erupted from the deep recesses of his mind as if what he saw was originally born in the imagination of Father Abraham and carried through the generations to pop up like spring crocuses in Joshua.


Meanwhile, Moses remained alone in the tent of meeting waiting for the Lord to reappear, which He did in all His Godly glory.


The Lord cried to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them? I will strike them with pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make you, Moses, a nation greater than they.”


Moses rebutted, “Then the Egyptians will hear that the people are all destroyed and they will tell the inhabitants of the land that the Lord of Israel was not able to bring these people into the land that He swore to give them. Remember Lord when you said that You are slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children to the third, fourth, and fifth generation?”


Perambula, listening to this exchange between God and Moses, was once again astounded at how Moses could keep God from acting on His anger with Israel. “Do these people have any idea of how Moses saved them from the wrath of God over and over again?!” exclaimed the angel.


“Absolutely not!” replied Gracefeld. “Their dullness of mind and spirit are precisely why they frustrate the Lord so much.”


“But why does Moses care?” asked Perambula.


“I can’t tell you for sure, but I suspect that Moses is simply a compassionate man; do you remember how he started on this road by killing the Egyptian in defense of a Jew?” said Gracefeld.


“Maybe he simply wants to defend God’s reputation among the people. That’s how he keeps convincing God to relent.” answered Perambula. “Shhh here He comes”


Gracefeld grinned. “Perambula, you know as well as I do that God heard everything we said.


However, God was too immersed in His exchange with Moses about the fate of the Israelites and their reaction to the great and awesome gift of the long awaited Promise Land to care what His angels were babbling about. Nor did God care at that moment whether this generation of Jacob entered the Promise Land or not. After all, He had waited for centuries and He could wait even longer. As the Master of Time, God could wait.


But Moses’s argument was convincing. It was important for God to be slow to anger, and to be respected which required that He be consistent. “Fine!” the Lord replied to Moses, “but none of those people, except Caleb, for his faith, will enter the Promise Land  to possess it! None, do you hear?! I will have them walk for another forty years, enough time for this faithless generation, for whom I did so much, who I saved on Passover night, to die out. I will allow only their children to inherit the Promise Land. And that is my final decision Moses! Now off you go. Tell them.”


Moses, feeling relief and sorrow in equal measure, sent young boys out to announce a meeting in the great tent. God had found a way for His reputation to be saved while still punishing the faithless.


Hearing the bad news, the people mourned and changed their minds and said that they would go into the Promise Land and occupy it.


“You fools!” said Moses. “Do you still not understand the power of our Lord? He said that you may NOT enter now. His protection will not be with you. If you go now the Amelikites and the Canaanites will destroy you!”


The hard hearted people decided to go anyway, because they felt remorse and because they wanted more to see the Promise Land than they wanted to respect God.


Perambula and Gracefeld were in shock over the stubbornness of these people. They had followed them all this time, and had witnessed much doubt and grumbling. But this decision to face the strong people they had feared, without the protection of God, was clearly the most insane decision yet. “Perhaps the sun has penetrated their minds and warped them.” said Perambula in jest.


Days later, Perambula and Gracefeld hovered over to watch the bloody scene of weak Israel being pummeled by the Canaanites and the Amelikites.


“Well,” said Gracefeld when it was all over. “At at least that’s some faithless people done away with who will never inherit the blessing of Abraham.”


Perambula smiled and nodded in agreement and then said, “If you don’t have faith that God’s promise is reliable, then you may as well dig a deep hole in this precious earth, climb in and go to sleep forever. Because you are less than a mustard seed. You are less than nourishing manure. You are only matter. Useless matter, rubbish waiting for the burn so you don’t take up room on the earth.”


Gracefeld replied, “Perambula, you sound so human all of a sudden! What has come over you?”


Perambula suddenly feeling particularly human added, “But, if you only want the Promise to be true, then you must act on it. You must demonstrate to the ounce of your doubting self that you believe. Don’t look at any the obstacles the enemy of man and God will set before you to dissuade you, to turn you into rubbish.


Not all of your wishes are promises to be sure. But when you receive a Promise, you will know the difference. A Promise comes from outside yourself. It is a ray of light, impossible to catch but luminous and revealing. Let the Promise enter your heart and hold it fast. Be happy and be patient. Sometimes it will be manifest in a bold miraculous way, and sometimes the appearance of the Promise will happen so gradually that you didn’t even noticed until years later that it came true. When you realize it, all you can do is smile and feel the warmth of joy generated by your heart.”


“Who are you talking to?” asked Gracefeld looking around.


“I am talking to the reader silly! Now let’s go for a ride. I’ll race you to that cumulus cloud!”


Before Gracefeld could ask which one, Perambula was off like a rocket. Gracefeld followed Perambula just for the fun of it.

Foolish Jealousy

Perambula and Gracefeld obediently returned to earth silently swooping through the air, invisible, inconceivable by either man or bird. It was very easy to spot Israel, that giant mobile village. The angels swooped down in tandem and honed in on Miriam and Aaron who were sitting on the floor of her tent sipping tea with sweet precious honey and gossiping.

 

“This baby brother of ours is really something else, isn’t he?!” started Miriam. “I often wonder what would have happened if I never suggested that pharaoh’s daughter take him as her own. We probably would be in our cozy homes eating baklava right now, instead of starving in this dusty desert.”

 

“Don’t be ridiculous Miriam.”

 

“Why did he married that Cushite woman anyway? Aren’t there enough lovely ladies in our tribe to satisfy his carnal desires? Humph.  A foreigner. How could God condone that and still speak to him?” snapped Mariam to add a cup more reason to the deconstruction of her unusual brother. “God picked you Aaron to be the mouthpiece of Moses. Why does He need Moses at all? You, and perhaps me, together we could just as easily receive messages from God to relay to the people, clearly and without that irritating stutter of his.”

 

“I don’t know why He speaks to Moses Miriam, but you’re right. I have heard God speak just as clearly as Moses has. He never hid His voice from me. If I am chosen to speak to the people, why do we need the middle man? I don’t know what makes Moses so important. This reminds me of the days of our youth, when I was a slave receiving lashes on my young back and Moses was eating grapes by the pool in the palace.  There was nothing I could do about the unfairness of it all. Shhhh. Do I hear someone coming. It could be Moses.”

 

Moses approached the tent and called, “Miriam, Aaron! Are you in there? What are you doing?”

 

“Yes, here we are.” replied Aaron. Come in.”

 

When Moses opened the flap and was about to enter, Miriam said, “Do you want some tea Moses? I am using a little of my honey today,”

 

“What are we celebrating?”

 

“Nothing, I am just in an indulgent mood. Have some, I’m also in a generous mood.” Miriam ungracefully leveraged herself up from the floor to fetch her brother some tea.

 

Gracefeld and Perambula listened to this conversation in awe.

 

Perambula, wide eyed as usual said, “How could these siblings be so mean and so wrong. It’s as if they are taking a sliver of reality and fabricating a whole evil fantasy from it.”

 

Gracefeld replied cynically. “This is what you get with humans Perambula. I don’t know why God bothers with them at all. Their inclination is only for their own egos. As if the whole world should be designed to please each person according to his or her own desires and pleasure.  No sense even thinking about how distasteful these people can be. We have our orders.”

 

“Not all people;” added Perambula, “the man Moses is very humble, more so than any man on the face of the earth. I like him. Not everyone is so bad. But I wonder how God expects us to put an end to this?”

 

“Since you can hear Me Aaron, and you Miriam; listen carefully!” bellowed God. To the angels He said, “make me a pillar of cloud and place it at the entrance of the tent of meeting.” Gracefeld and Perambula went right to work.

 

“What was that!”exclaimed Miriam, shocked that God spoke, the shock that thoroughly displaced her earlier bitter musings. 

 

“Go to the tent of meeting. I have something to say to you three.”

 

Moses who had not yet sat down followed the voice of the Lord without hesitation. Miriam, who was standing at her firebox getting ready to boil water froze in fear. Aaron slowly lifted himself from the floor. He went over to Miriam and clutched her forearm to guide his frozen old sister out of her tent and over to the tent of meeting which had been erected in isolation far off in the field.

 

As the siblings made their way to the tent of meeting they tried to look inconspicuous while passing children playing, women washing and men repairing, many of whom looked up to greet them without response.

 

Moses was the first to enter the large empty tent followed by jittery Aaron, then Miriam. They stood in dark cool silence for several moments while Perambula and Gracefeld were conjuring up the pillar of cloud. God waited patiently.

 

Finally the cloud was ready and God entered it and caused it to move in a rotating fashion. The people all looked up from their activities to see the cloud slowly make its way over to the big tent. There was murmuring and there was silence all mixed together creating a reverent hum. No one dared follow the cloud, but instead the people either sat and stared or forced themselves to return to what they had been doing.

 

When the God-filled pillar of cloud arrived, the sound of God’s voice was heard by all, “Aaron and Miriam, come forward!” He said, “Hear my words:  When there are prophets among you, I the Lord make myself known to them in visions; I speak to them in dreams. Not so with my servant Moses; he is entrusted with all my house. With him I speak face to face-clearly, not in riddles; and he beholds My form. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”

 

Moses gazed at his siblings with deep sorrow at this news of their disdain for him. He suddenly felt abandoned disconnected from them as if threads that had once connected them were frayed and split. Nevertheless he harbored these feelings in a deep state of semi consciousness.

 

That was all the Lord had to say. The pillar of cloud gradually dissipated into the unholy air. God was angry. He was angrier than He had been. For Miriam and Aaron insulted not just Moses, but dared to criticize Him, their Lord and God. Their sentiments reflected the height of hubris. They didn’t deserve to live, in fact that kind of talk was not life, it was anti-life. It was destruction of life, annihilation of the air. God could not think of an animal that would treat Him in such a disrespectful manner. But God doesn’t brood. He just departed leaving behind Miriam who had suddenly became leprous, as  white as snow.

 

Aaron looked at his freakish sister in shock, turned to Moses and said, “Oh my Lord, do not punish us for a sin that we so foolishly committed.”

 

Miriam was crying uncontrollably by then, her fear overwhelmed by guilt and shame. She fell to the ground and covered her face crying harder and harder with thoughts of what would become of her life. The shame, the isolation, the pain, and death.

 

Moses, in empathy looked up into the heavens and said to the Lord, “Please heal her. If her father had but spit in her face, would she not bear the shame for seven days. Let her be shut out of the camp for seven days, and after that be brought in again.”

 

Without reply, but in confidence that his request was granted, Moses lead Miriam far away from the camp, carrying supplies that she would need to survive alone in the wilderness.

 

The people they passed were in shock at the sight of Miriam all white and oozy. One by one, people asked Aaron what had happened. Aaron was not ready to talk about it.

 

Miriam was shut out of the camp for seven days, isolated, pensive, and in great pain while everyone else waited patiently and pensively before continuing on the journey.

 

Gracefeld and Perambula were once more surprised that God could be so easy persuaded by Moses’ plea on behalf of the ignorant people. Perambula said, “Maybe God appreciates his compassion and that’s another reason why Moses is so special.”

 

“True. Not being human, God has no idea what these beings have to contend with all the forces thrown at them by the evil one, and by their own weakness.”

 

“I really like that God allows Moses to influence Him.” said Perambula.

 

“Me too.”

 

“Would you angels please stop chattering and come here!”


 

 

 

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