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We turned off the main road at Ramah where we had landed and walked toward the familiar house where we had brought young Samuel back to his house. That was many years earlier by their reckoning, though for us time had been compressed to a few short weeks.
“Anava! Pegasus!” a voice shouted from behind us.
“Nathan! Eleazar!” I shouted in return. They and their mother were riding toward us on a donkey-drawn cart. Dismounting, we walked toward him as he met us with open arms. “How are you these days? Are you well?”
“I have never been better,” Nathan replied.
“The spirit of death has not been able to catch me,” Eleazar added, “for I now know that every death is an opportunity to be reborn.”
“It is good to see you! I was unable to find you to invite you to my wedding, but I see you found your way here anyway!” Nathan said.
“The wedding?” Sipporah asked brightly? “I love weddings. Are you marrying Deborah?”
“Yes, of course,” Nathan said with a laugh. We have had our wedding feast at our house, and now I have come to claim my bride. Have you seen Samuel? How long have you been here?”
“We just arrived, so we have not yet seen Samuel, nor have we been to the house of Elkanah yet. But if this is indeed your time to claim your bride, I think you should do it with style. Why don’t you ride Pegasus and let us walk beside you! We will leave Pleiades riderless, so everyone will understand that she is for Deborah!”
“Oh, you are too kind!” Nathan said with a grateful heart.
“There is one more thing,” Sipporah said to me. “We should give them their gifts.”
“Ah, yes, the wedding gifts,” I responded. Reaching into my bag, I carefully took out the white silk robe that Chen had given me. “This is our gift to you for your wedding,” I said, holding it out to Nathan.
He took it eagerly, and when he felt the cloth, his eyes widened.
“What material is this?” he asked. “I have never felt anything so smooth and light. And what are these beautiful green jewels?”
“The material is called silk. The jewels are known as jade. The robe is from a land far to the east, where it was made long ago for a king. The king never had a chance to wear it, because he was killed. Those who made the robe kept it hidden for a long time, and one of their descendants gave it to me, knowing that I would need it on this journey. I was its final steward, and I now give it to you as a wedding gift.”
Nathan walked slowly behind the cart and changed into his new robe. When he emerged, he looked as stately as a king. “This material is incredible!” he said.
Rebekah stepped down from the cart and hugged him with tears in her eyes. “I am so proud of you!” she wept. Turning to me, she added, “How can I ever thank you?”
“Rephah gave me a gift a long time ago,” I replied, “a priceless gift from the cave, which was more valuable than money can buy. I am only glad to be able to give something in return to his son.”
“Here,” I said to Nathan, locking my hands together near Pegasus. “Let me help you get on your white horse! He is a steed fit for a coming king!”
Nathan mounted Pegasus, and we began our triumphal march to the house of Elkanah to unite a husband with his wife forever. Pleiades walked close to Pegasus, but about two steps back. Sipporah and I walked behind them as attendants. Rebekah and Eleazar followed behind us on the donkey cart.
As the procession came into view of the house, bustling with expectant anxiety and overladen with joy, a great shout rose up from the cheering crowd as they clapped their hands. “He is here! He has returned!” people shouted.
They lined up on both sides of the path to the door, and when Nathan arrived at the edge of the crowd, he dismounted and walked slowly through the crowd to the door of the house. He knocked on the door in the customary manner, and Hannah opened the door to welcome him into the house.
The rest of us followed Nathan into the house, except for Sippore, who preferred to watch from a nearby branch and sing her blessings in a voice too small to be heard, yet as effective as the roar of a lion.
“Welcome, my friend,” Samuel said warmly. “We have waited long for this day. Anava! What a wonderful surprise that you and your wife could join us today! I did not know if we would ever see you again after our final Sukkah celebration at the Mount.”
“You look like royalty!” Hannah said, admiring Nathan’s robe. “I have never felt such graceful material!”
“It is truly amazing,” Peninah added.
“It is certainly not something from this world,” Elkanah said.
“No,” Nathan answered. “It was a gift from a good friend, who brought it to me from another world.”
“May I see the bride before she is presented to her husband?” Sipporah asked. She was carrying something hidden in a heavy wrap. “I have a gift for her as well.”
“Of course,” Hannah said, taking her by the arm and leading her to a back room. Soon, Hannah opened the door, and Elkanah announced with a loud voice: “Behold, the bride, Nathan’s wife, The Immortal Queen!”
Deborah appeared at the door, dressed in a fine white linen robe. On her head was a golden crown having seven spires, adorned with a bright ruby that was flanked by a black turtle and a white tiger. On her feet were a pair of ornamented slippers, which Nathan had made for her earlier. Nathan waited for her as she walked slowly to him. He held out his hand to her, and she took it, looking into his eyes of love with innocent purity. He leaned down and kissed her tenderly.
“You are beautiful,” he whispered, “and you are flawless, a true queen, heaven sent. Long have I dreamed of this moment, when tears from wounds within and without are a thing of the past. I promise to love you always with all of my heart.”
“And I will be one with you,” she responded, “bone of bone, flesh of flesh. 51 I am your body.”
Hannah brought some hard barley bread, and Elkanah brought two cups of wine. Nathan took a piece of the bread and broke it. Deborah did the same, and they each gave a piece of their bread to the other and ate it.
Then they each took a cup of wine and toasted each other. “This is a blood covenant between us,” Nathan said. “We are now one blood, and my life is yours. My love can never die, for nothing can ever diminish my love, nor can time or space separate us again.”
A cheer went up from the rest of the family in the room, and the witnesses clapped their hands. One went out to inform the people, and soon a great cheer went up from the outside crowd as well.
“It seems that God has given Israel a king from Ephraim and a queen from our priestly family,” Samuel observed. “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper! Let us present the royal couple to the guests outside.”
Nathan and Deborah walked arm in arm out the front door, and the crowd cheered once again as the sound of a great waterfall. They waved as they walked slowly toward Pegasus and Pleiades, who waited for them quietly and patiently.
Eleazar and Rebekah came next, walking behind the bride and groom, followed by Elkanah and his wives, Hannah, and Peninah. Sipporah and I followed last, enjoying the atmosphere of triumphant love that prevailed undimmed by death or time. The celebration would continue far into the night, but our caravan headed down the winding road toward a future of hope and faith that was secured by love.
As Sipporah and I sat in the back of the cart with our feet dangling over the road, we again touched a ripple of time and we all found ourselves drawing near to the familiar cave in the Mount of God.
The cart stopped behind the horses. “My ear hears our Father’s invitation,” I said. “He wants to meet your bride, Nathan, and to give His blessing to your marriage.”
“Come,” I said to the others. “We are all invited into His presence.”
Throwing my Indie hat into the cart, I took Sipporah’s hand and led the way, followed by Nathan and Deborah. Behind them came Rebekah and Eleazar. We removed our sandals at the entrance to the cave and the horses followed us, walking upon the glowing sapphire pavement until the narrow passage opened up into a large room.
“Welcome, children,” the deep Voice rumbled softly from a light-filled throne on the far side of the den. On the right side a stately lion stood, and on the left a great lioness. When our eyes adjusted to the bright light, we saw a third lion seated on the throne. I looked at Sipporah, and she smiled knowingly, for we recognized our friends immediately. Then the lion on the throne was changed into a lamb, and as we watched, the lamb again became a lion. It was both, of course, for He who sat on the throne had gentle strength and the power of humility.
“Who is this woman?” the Lion asked.
“It is my bride,” Nathan replied, “bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh. It is the woman you destined for me to love.”
“Welcome, Deborah,” the Lion said. “I have called you as a queen bee to bring order to the chaos of human relationships, for My word is in you. You are an expression of My word. All that I have given to your husband, I have given to you as well, for you are one, even as we are one. You are a model for what I have determined for a time yet distant when an age dawns where I will rule the earth more visibly.”
“In accordance with that model,” He continued, “I have provided you with a heavenly sukkah, where you may dwell in My presence.”
As He said this, He turned His head to the left, and an adjoining room opened up, guarded by an awesome angel holding a powerful, flaming sword in his hand. The flame engulfed the entire doorway. Under normal circumstances, it would have been impossible to pass through the flame into the room beyond. But this was no ordinary place, and the invitation removed all fear of trespassing.
“This is the Power of the Flame,” the Lion explained. “He does not turn anyone away; only impurity is denied entrance. Those who enter must have the same flame within their own eyes, a flame which has already done its work of purification. If you are one with the flame, the flaming sword will do you no harm. Enter, for blessed are the pure in heart.” 52
Nathan took Deborah’s hand, and the two of them approached the attending cherub, who did not move, nor did he remove his flaming sword from the doorway. “Have no fear; only dross burns in my fire,” the angel spoke. “Dross is anything that hinders you from the fulness of joy, or that renders you impure.”
Hand in hand, they stepped boldly through the flaming curtain and disappeared from our view.
“They will sleep now,” said the Lion, “and when they awaken, they will find themselves in Nathan’s bed at home, fully refreshed.”
Then the Lion on the throne stepped down, and all three Lions came to greet us more personally, basking in our long hugs and many kisses. “It is so good to see you again,” Sipporah said. Then looking at the young Lion who had been sitting on the throne, she said with a puzzled look, “But the last time we saw you, you were dead under a tree in the land of the Philistines. Are you no longer there?”
“I left a body there in order to provide honey for those who seek enlightenment from my word,” the young Lion replied. “All who eat that honey take my presence into their hearts. But my place is here. My presence abides with all who are my friends. You are among my growing list of friends.”
“I wish everyone could be your friend,” I said.
“Time is our friend,” the young Lion replied. “Time was created at the beginning, not to put restrictions upon me, but to put limits on the rebellious ways of men. Time was created out of love, and so it defines the limits of judgment according to my law of love. The day will come when I will arrest all sinners and bring them to justice, so that they may no longer act according to their own will. My will in that day will be imposed upon them by law, and as my slaves, they will have no choice but to do my will.”
“No one wants to be a slave,” I commented.
“No, but when they see that their master loves them, they will change their minds about slavery very quickly. My love, once seen and experienced, never fails to turn the hearts of men. 53 When all things have been put under my feet, then time has served its purpose. It ends when love’s total victory is achieved.”
We enjoyed the presence of our Lion friends until finally, the young Lion said, “I have enjoyed your presence immensely, but it is now time for your return to the lower world. There is much work to be done, and much to be observed. We learn by experience, but we gain perspective by observing contrasts. I am sending you back to observe Samson and to be of assistance where you can.”
“Samson is a riddle,” I observed.
“Yes,” said the Lion, “but he is my riddle. He is a prophecy, and as such he must fulfill a destiny, a path that others too will follow until the time of the end. He is my son, though he does not really know me yet, for I have not yet revealed my heart to him. Yet he will be a source of encouragement to those who follow in his steps, for by his example, all will see that they are my children, even while they do not know me.”
“Their lives have purpose,” I said, “and it seems that you are able to put your Spirit upon them, even though their hearts are blind and their hands are bloody. That is, indeed, a riddle worthy of any philosopher’s time to ponder.”
“Well said,” the Lion answered. “But no one even knows that there is a riddle to be solved until I pour out my Spirit upon such unworthy people! Only then is the question raised in men’s minds, and once the riddle is proposed, it stimulates them to seek the answer.”
“What is the answer?” I asked.
“Love,” he replied. “Always, it is love. Love is the foundation of all truth. It is the answer to all questions. If you know love, you will know me, and all will be understood plainly.”
We were being dismissed with this summary of all things, and we walked reluctantly back over the blue pavement to the cart, where the donkey waited patiently for us.