Avi had been a thief for many years. As he pondered over the events of his life, there was no room for remorse. His father had died mid-age, horribly beaten to death by an Egyptian slave master. His mother upon hearing the news, had fainted slipped into a coma and eventually passed away. He was just past his twelfth birthday when life robbed him of the only people he loved, and loved him. He had no other siblings. At first, Avi lived with his widowed Aunt and her children. They never got along and he was sent to live with an Uncle whose morals were nothing to commend.
It was this Uncle, his late father’s brother, who introduced him to the dark side of life, associated with the poorest elements of the Hebrew-Egyptian community. Not that he needed much encouragement. The change from a life of relative security, to living without parents proved too much. Avi became increasing angry as the months and years passed. He was angry with his aunt and her children; angry with the Egyptians and angry with God. Not that he believed in God. If there was a God, He certainly did not seem to be doing a professional job. Too much suffering! No! Avi concluded, God did not exist.
As he stood watching the sheep mill about the pen, he could not help making the comparison between their sorry state, and the life to which his whole nation was subject. The people of Israel were living like sheep meant for the slaughter. Confined, restricted and afflicted. Life in Pharaoh’s Egypt, was no picnic. An ironic smile spread across his wrinkled face. “Like sheep, like shepherd,” he spoke to himself. “Men are little more than ‘glorified animals!’’
A hand alighted upon his back. He quickly pulled away, turning to confront the intrusion.
“ Ha!” his uncle retorted. “What’s the matter with you? You’re like the sheep; jumpy jumpy.”
Avi stared at his Uncle. The hostile look gradually turned to recognition. His time was not yet up. He had lost count of the number of sheep they had stolen. Deep inside he knew the day of reckoning would come. They lynched cattle thieves in this part of the world, and some of his friends had been unlucky. He counted himself fortunate. Narrow escapes! Yes, luck was on his side. The murky sheep stealing business, had sharpened survival responses and heightened his sensitivity towards danger. His nerves were constantly at a knife’s edge. Some day, he reasoned, he would give it up. But not just yet; it was such a lucrative business.
“Have you heard the news?” His Uncle’s asked. “You know that old Moshe, the so called Prophet?”
“Yea,” his uncle continued, “he’s giving some strange orders these days.”
Well, he says we ought to kill one of the sheep and place the blood on the doorposts. Says God’s gonna destroy Egypt- the first born. You’re a first born aren’t you?
“Well the blood‘ll save you from death!”
Avi lifted his head to the sky. Life was getting more perplexing by the day. He had heard the reports of destruction throughout Egypt. Terrible plagues, they said.
“Ok, let’s humor him then,” he replied. “One stolen sheep shouldn’t be too much of a sacrifice.”
“That’s right!” his uncle exclaimed. He slapped Avi on the back and burst into laughter.
“What are you laughing about?”
“Haw! Haw, haaaa!” His uncle held his sides, tears streaming down his cheeks.
“Haaa, haaaaa! Just think of it,” he said trying to catch his breath.
“Saved, saved by a stolen sheep! Haaaaa...”
And they both roared with laughter!
'For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast.' (Ephesians 1:8-9, Old King James Version).
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