Friday, October 21

Chapter 33:

Svetha’s story
Svetha was only nine the day they crossed. She remembered it well, because everyone was nervous, from Joshua on down to baby Dolma. They all were nervous about whether God would come through for them. She had heard the stories from her father and grandfather how God had parted the Red sea, and made it a standing wall on either side of them, how God had provided manna and quail in the middle of nowhere, and how God had brought them water from the middle of a rock in the desert, not once, but twice under the leadership of Moses, but she was nervous. This was Joshua, not Moses, and in her day, she had not seen such miracles as were reported of how Joshua had God stop the sun while they defeated their enemies, or many of the battles God had won over the kings on this side of the river. She only knew what the Levites were telling them from joshua: they were a holy people who were going to cross over the river Jordan on dry ground.

"Mama?" she whispered, "will the waters really dry up before the Ark?"

"Hush," her mother told her, "the priests have just blown their trumpet, and are taking their first steps."

"But mama," she cried again, "I can’t see."

Her father was the one to respond. He lifted Svetha onto his shoulders, and from there she saw the priests lined up around their items: tabernacle cloths, tabernacle poles, the special things for inside the tabernacle, the various priests gathered around the sheep, and right up in front, about two yards in front of everybody else, were the seven priests who were carrying the covered Ark of the Covenant on two long wooden poles. Four in back, three in front. The one in front was the high priest who grabbed both poles: one in each hand.

As the sound of the trumpets faded, the priests were to walk into the Jordan river, but the sound faded, and there they stood. Still standing, still waiting. Joshua went forward to talk with the high priest, and then resumed his place near the water’s edge. The high priest took his first step, and the others followed. They began walking forward, closer and closer to the water’s edge, and still the waters flowed at flood stage as they always had before. The priests slowed a bit in their pace as they neared the water, then the first priest lifted his right foot, and brought it down into the river.

Immediately the water in the Jordan river stopped. No water came from downstream, and the waters quickly flowed away South. The sun shone down hot on the ground, drying the riverbed almost instantly. The priest’s foot landed on dry ground. All the people cheered, and we began to cross. But not those seven priests. They marched intot he middle of the river-bed, and stood there. They stopped in their tracks.

"Papa," Svetha asked, "why aren’t the priests going across?"

"They will Svetha," he said. "But we will go into the land before them."

"But I thought Joshua said God would go in before us."

"Ah," said her father, as he picked up the handles to their family’s cart, "He is. God is not confined in the Ark, but going before us. Do you not remember the pillar of fire, or the cloud?"

"Yes, papa."

"God will be with us even in this strange land." He smiled up at her sitting on his shoulders looking down, "He is before us even now."

It took three days for all of the children of Israel to cross the Jordan, and all that time, the Priests stayed firmly rooted in the center of the river carrying the Ark on their shoulders. It was not that the river was too wide, though it was at flood stage and a hundred feet wider than usual, but that there were so many of them to cross over. Svetha’s family had to camp in the middle of the river that night near the priests. Her father laid out their blankets, for, being summer, it would not be too cold for them to lie under the stars. Their family was not the only one to do so, but many of the people – tired from the long walk to get there – were camping where they had stopped in the river at nightfall. Many continued on as well, getting to the other side, just in case God decided they had long enough to cross already. But the riverbed stayed dry all that night.
Svetha found a small pool of water where a deep hole had been, and in it were two fish – not enough water for them to swim in, they merely lay there in the water still. Svetha crept up close to the fish and watched them for a while. She made up a story which she told to her parents the next day about the fish while the people broke camp and continued across the Jordan with their families, possessions, goats, cows, and sheep.

"The pretty fish was named Bertha," she said, "and she sings. The other was named Mr. Squid, and he was not nice to Bertha, but kept telling her that God was punishing them by leaving them in the small pool of water until it dried up, and they both died." Svetha’s mother was not happy with where she thought the story was going, but Svetha continued none-the-less. "But Bertha told him it was not a punishment from God, but a blessing. She even sang him a song. It went like this:
The Lord is good to his people
The God of all is before them
And even the waters obey him
And at his voice they fled
He will guide his people
He will make them happy
They will turn and praise him
They will sing his praise

"And then Mr. Squid told her, ‘I don’t believe you,’ and Bertha told him that he was a silly fish, because God had told all the people in Canaan, and even all the animals that his people would be victorious and conquer the land and kill off those who God told them to kill, and to not leave any of them alive."

"That is a good story," her father said as he picked up the handles to his wagon and they started walking towards the Western bank. "But I think you had better go and bring Mr. Squid here for our breakfast. You can cook him once we reach the shores."

When the last of the people had crossed, the priests also followed to the West side o the Jordan, and as they walked stiffly forward, the water filled in behind them until the Jordan river was once again flowing as usual. Svetha looked back to where Bertha’s hole had been, and waved as she held Mr. Squid over the fires with a long stick.

(Editor's note: If you are wondering about the names "Bertha" and "Mr. Squid" they are part of the writing assignment I had from my creative writing class -- to create a story about a singing fish in the Jordan river with the protagonist named "Bertha" and the Antagonist, "Mr. Squid". Thanks to Kelly for the idea os crossing the Jordan.)


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