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It was yet dark when we awoke to the sound of a shout in the street and the smell of smoke coming through the window. We jumped out of the bed and dressed quickly. Peering through the window, we could see the town blanketed in a smoky haze. The faint light of distant fires could also be seen. Then Sippore landed on the ledge, and Sipporah brought her into the room.
“It seems that Samson has set the wheat fields on fire,” she said presently. Sippore saw foxes running around with firebrands tied to their tails.”
“The fox farm!” I said. “Samson has let loose the foxes! He has decided to devastate the economy of the entire country!”
“Apparently, he forgot the first part of the story of Moses, where he tried to deliver Israel by the arm of flesh,” Sipporah said.
“He has just loosed the spirit of death upon the Philistines,” I added. “He has decided to take vengeance into his own hands, rather than to leave it to God. He means to return evil for evil, and he has started by heaping literal coals of fire on their heads!” 58
We hurried down the stairs and out of the tavern into the street which was already filling up with concerned people. There was little that any of them could do about the burning fields, because hauling water in all directions was an impossible task. They could only hope that rain would come immediately to put out the fires.
A bell rang, and a Town Council was called in the Power Tower. “I think we should attend the meeting,” I said.
We walked to the Power Tower, where others were gathering. The noise, excitement, and agitation was evident everywhere. When the meeting was finally called to order, Baasha was the first to testify, since he was the prime witness.
“Samson came to our house last night and bound us all with ropes,” he said. “Then he released our foxes after tying firebrands to their tails.”
“Why did he do that?” the Council president asked.
“He was angry at Avoda for refusing to give him his daughter in marriage,” Baasha explained. “He was supposed to be married to her more than a month ago, but he did not come to claim her. He finally came yesterday with a feeble excuse, and Avoda refused to give her to him. This is why he set the fields and vineyards on fire.”
Baasha conveniently left out the detail that he now was betrothed to Eglah, for he knew their ways of justice and revenge.
“Then let us go to the house of Avoda and see if this is true,” the Council president said.
It was not long before a long procession of angry men with torches were streaming out of the town, crossing the bridge, and snaking their way along the main road to Avoda’s house. We ourselves took the horses and followed the crowd to see what would happen.
By the time the people at the rear drew near to the house, the others had already set the house on fire, and it was burning out of control. Philistine justice had already been administered. We rode the horses past the crowded bridge near Avoda’s house, hoping to cross the brook on horseback.
“Dogma!” I shouted. The Canaan dog was crying—howling, actually, as the Philistines would have perceived it.
“Dogma! Come quickly!” Sipporah shouted.
Our friend heard our voices over the din of the mob and the roar of the fire. Lifting his head, he looked in our direction, and when he saw us, he ran toward us. He swam the shallow brook, shook the water from his fur, and fell at our feet with a moan.
“What happened?” I asked. “Where is Eglah?”
“Dead!” he said sorrowfully. “They killed the whole family and burned down their house!”
“They blamed Avoda for Samson’s actions last night,” I said, shaking my head. “It seems that too many people want to administer collective punishment and are not interested in real justice.”
“These are ungodly people,” Dogma said. “They do not know the laws of God, for no one has ever taught them. However, in spite of this disaster, I saw something that gave me some comfort.”
“What was that?” Sipporah asked.
“I saw a white cloud above the burning house, and as I looked, a fire came out of it and descended to the earth. As the fire descended, I saw that it was a fiery angel, whose fire was more powerful than the fire that was consuming the house. This angel came down through the smoke of the fire, and I saw him pick up Eglah and ascend with her into a cloud.”
“It is the fulfillment of the Chief’s dream,” I mused. “Eglah was a type of Messiah in female form. Her sacrifice has been accepted. All the sacrifices, both male and female, have prophesied of the Messiah. In the end, the blood of the Passover lamb will be shed to determine the timing of His death, but the ashes of the red heifer will mark the location of His death. 59 Prophecy is being spoken this day in the midst of apparent tragedy and misplaced justice!”
For the next hour, we watched as the house burned to the ground. The people began to disperse, and as the sun rose, we were alone. A little spark, when noticed, can be put out with ease, but left untended, can cause untold harm and destruction. Vengeance is seldom a singular act, but is a chain of events, each increasing in intensity, back and forth, until it engulfs all who are in its path.
If men knew the consequences of their actions, if they could see around the corner of time, if they could peer ahead no more than a single hour into the future, much destruction and many deaths might be averted. Then would grace, rather than vengeance, seem a better alternative.
But grace speaks with a child’s voice. It gives the appearance of weakness and ineffectiveness in the halls of justice and on the fields of battle. Why should great men listen to the voice of a child, when great carnage may be inflicted upon one’s enemies? Blood is the ink of historians. No one remembers the voice of grace, for it is passed over without even a footnote to mark its existence.
After a long silence, Dogma spoke. “We are called to redeem, not to avenge; to restore, not to destroy; to save, not to kill. Justice ought not to be a blight upon the people. When laws are not based upon love, and when justice is not administered by those who love, the land is polluted, and the people enslaved and often destroyed by forces they do not understand.”
“Neither do they know how to cleanse the land, for they do not even know how to cleanse their own hearts,” I added. “Few these days know the laws of blood and how it both pollutes and cleanses the earth. Innocent blood pollutes the ground. Though blood is shed, it does not die, for it yet has a right to speak in the heavenly courts, if not on earth. Blood has a voice, 60 and it will speak until it receives satisfaction.”
“How, then,” Dogma answered, “can this innocent blood be satisfied? How can this land be cleansed? Who was more innocent than Eglah?”
“There is a deeper law that few have learned,” I said. “It is a law by which the Creator is able to bring good out of evil. When innocent blood is shed, the right is given, not only to receive satisfaction, but also the right to forgive and extend grace. Only such a victim has this right. No judge can acquit the guilty without doing further injustice to his victim. A judge is called to bring justice, but only a victim has the greater power to extend mercy. Only innocent blood can forgive, for the blood of the guilty ones can only bring a measure of justice for their own crimes. Their blood lacks authority to extend grace to others.”
“Eglah was innocent,” Dogma said. “Can she, then, give grace to others? Can her blood be used to cleanse the land or the unclean hearts of others?”
“Yes,” I said, “by the Power of the Flame, good may come out of any evil. But it must be done according to the mind, will, and law of the Creator Himself. Few are schooled in such things, certainly none here in the land of the Philistines.”
“Then tell us how we may accomplish this,” Dogma said with hope rising in his voice.
“First, let us find Eglah’s ashes,” I said.
By this time most of the embers had cooled. We crossed the brook and approached the ashes where the house of Avoda had once stood. Dogma led the way, using his nose and keen eyes to search the place. Then he stopped, cocking his head to one side.
“I hear Eglah’s voice crying from the ground,” he said. “It comes from over there.” Dogma’s nose pointed to one side of the house. Pushing aside the black timbers that had fallen, I came across a pile of ashes.
“Is this the spot?” I asked.
“Yes,” Dogma answered. “I hear her voice coming from these ashes. “She weeps, not for herself, but for her people. She weeps for Samson’s people as well. Her voice is full of knowledge, for she has crossed to another dimension, and she now sees with better eyes and hears with better ears. The big picture is now open to her. She now understands the earth’s pollution, and she cries for grace and life to be extended to her people and to all nations.”
“Then let us gather up her ashes and put them in a sanctified place,” Pegasus said, speaking for the first time. “I know just the place.”
We found an empty jar from another part of the burnt-out house and carefully put Eglah’s ashes into it. I stood up, holding the jar, and said, “Let us carry out her wish. Let us turn evil into good.”
We left the destroyed house, crossed the bridge once again, and headed down the road, past the turnoff to Timnah, riding east. Burned fields and vineyard were on either side as we journeyed down the road. When we finally came to the last vineyard, we turned left off the road and headed to the lone tree that stood in the distance.
As we approached the tree, we stopped for a moment, for the place was buzzing with activity. Then a bee drew near. “This is hallowed ground,” it said. “We have brought forth honey from the dead lion to establish justice by the word. Have you brought the ashes of mercy that alone can complete the construction of this divine court?”
“Yes,” I replied, “we have brought the ashes of the red heifer 61 by which the cleansing of Israel may begin.”
“Excellent!” the bee exclaimed in its small, powerful voice. “Now justice and mercy have kissed, and the Creator’s will is established. Come. Do as you have been called to do.”
I removed my Indie hat and threw it to the ground. Sipporah and I removed our shoes. Then we all stepped carefully into the hallowed circle. It was as if we had breached an invisible barrier between earth and heaven, the Bridge of the Red Heifer (as I perceived it), for we immediately found ourselves in another world.
The dead lion was now a Lion-Lamb sitting on a great white throne. A bright emerald-green rainbow arched above it, and twenty-four elders sat on their own thrones encircling the great throne. 62 The bees turned into myriads of angels in attendance, each carrying a specific word of truth being sent into the earth. Before the throne was a pool of living water that radiated light to all who drew near.
“This meeting of the Council,” the enthroned Lion said, “has been called to establish a heavenly court on earth, in view of the defilement of the Sanctuary in Shiloh. As in the days of Moses, the people have fallen into idolatry, and so I have removed My presence from them. Even as Moses removed the Ark from the camp and put it outside the camp, so also have I set up My court outside the boundaries of Israel.”
“True and righteous are all Thy ways,” the elders spoke in unison.
“Let the Power of the Flame approach,” the Lion commanded. Only then did I realize that I had become this angel, for it was the word of God given to me at the beginning of this journey. With a flaming sword in one hand and the ashes of the red-haired Eglah in the other, I walked across the pool of living water, clear as glass, and laid the ashes at the foot of a stone altar at the foot of the throne. There was another jar already there, and I could see that it contained blood. I remained in a kneeling position, head bowed.
“What says the blood of Abel?” the Lion asked.
“I plea for justice!” the blood replied. “Innocent blood of the martyrs has been spilled upon the earth.” 63
“What say these ashes of the heifer?” the Lion asked.
“Mercy!” shouted the voice from the ashes. 64 “I speak with the Power of the Flame. In me is untainted blood that can cleanse the land of bloodguilt. Let all men be cleansed! I claim the right of the victim to forgive both Israelites and Philistines! Lay not this sin to their charge!” 65
“Then,” the Lion said, “after hearing the witness of male and female, it is the decree of this court to reconcile all things. Let justice be done, but let mercy prevail in the end. 66 Time, come near!”
Time drew near, holding an hourglass, and the Lion said, “Time, you will work with justice and mercy and not sleep until all things are restored.”
The twenty-four elders shouted again in unison: “Amen!” 67
“Power of the Flame,” the Lion spoke again, “see to it that no one enters My presence until he can pass through your sword unharmed. Build a wall of fire around My City, 68 and stand at the gates. No one shall climb over the wall, but all who purify themselves with these ashes shall obtain mercy and be allowed to pass through the gates.”
“It shall be done,” I replied.
“Then it is finished,” the Lion said. “A gate of heaven has been established on the earth. Go back among the living dead, the impure, the unclean, the lepers, and show them the way into the Most Holy Place. Time will provoke and uncover much impatience, but the power of Time is limited, whereas my Mercy will never end.” 69
I stood up and walked backward across the still waters to where my wife and companions were standing reverently. We then turned and stepped back across the Bridge of the Red Heifer to the hallowed ground, marked by the lone tree near the vineyard in the land of the Philistines.
“I perceive,” Pegasus said, looking around, “that we have again moved ahead in time—at least a few weeks. I hear the marching of many feet, like an army approaching.”