Walking along a path one day in the countryside, I came up over a hill and I met a man. He was seated by the path and rose to go in my direction. He nodded and smiled at me but didn’t say a word. And so we walked together in contented silence.
I gazed round at the scenery which didn’t look like what I had passed before and I wondered where I was. This wasn’t completely surprising for I often ended up in places on my walks that were quite different settings from which I had anticipated when setting out.
The countryside changed from green to barren brown, the rolling hills to jagged rocky escarpments. Our path, if you could call it such, weaved along a gully between over-shadowing cliffs of crumbling rock. The temperature had increased exponentially and the air was dusty dry. I drew my flask from my backpack and drank some water. The man turned and saw me drink. Again he smiled. He had no backpack and no water.
I was about to offer him some of my water when he stepped up to a rock and spoke to it. Unrecognisable words. I was in the process of beginning to think I had met a madman when the rock gushed forth water and he drank it directly. Only enough water for his need. The moment he pulled away from the rock, the fountain stopped. Remarkable. We walked on. Miles of similar gullies. Every so often he stopped to get more water from a rock and I drank from my flask. When he saw my flask become empty, he filled it up from a rock. I nodded grateful thanks. He smiled and nodded in return.
The night quickly drew in, much faster than I had ever experienced it before. Having anticipated staying in the next town that night, I hadn’t brought food or tent with me. Just some nuts. That was fine. Nuts would do me until the morning and I could share them with my friend. And a cave to sleep in. We had passed many.
Up ahead we heard a noise, like an animal in trouble. The man neither slowed down nor hurried to find out what it was. We simply walked over to the grove of shrubs where the sound was coming from. By the time we arrived the small deer had died amongst the thorns. The man carefully removed the deer and carried it to a cave which lay before us. Outside the cave was a small bush. The man placed the deer in the bush and we stood back and waited. What was he waiting for?
Suddenly the bush burst into flames and it cooked the deer. When the deer was ready for eating the fire dimmed but remained glowing throughout the night. The man used some sharp rocks and sticks nearby to carve off chunks of meat which we both ate in satisfying silence. We lay down not far from the fire to sleep, the glowing embers staving off the coolness of the night.
My sleep was brilliantly refreshing. We woke at the exact same moment, had some deer, nuts and water for breakfast, and then set off once more. It was overcast. We reached a fork in the path at mid-morning and my friend didn’t hesitate but took the higher path. That left me with a choice. Follow him or make my own way on the lower path. For safety sake, I decided to stay with him at least until I knew where I was. I didn’t have long to wait to find out where.
An hour later we reached the summit with a spectacular view in all directions. We appeared to be on a long wide range of hills running north to south. To our west lay a large expanse of water and to our east more ranges with a long narrow river at the base of our range running parallel to it. That winding river emptied into a large blue lake in the hazy distance to the south-east.
I was definitely not anywhere near where I had expected to be when I began my walk over green fertile pastures the previous day. I ran the scene through the geographical database in my brain to determine where I was. Israel. Only place it could be. I was looking down at the Jordan River and Dead Sea on one side, and at the Mediterranean Sea on the other. Wow. I had never been here in the flesh. Closest I had been was to Mount Nebo in Jordan and to Tyre in Lebanon. I looked across to where I imagined Mt Nebo would be but it was a hazy day and the distant range unclear. Similarly turning and looking to where Tyre should have been, I couldn’t make out any town in that direction. I cast my eyes round the range I was standing on looking for Jerusalem or Bethel or any sizeable town but none were to be seen. Probably all lay hidden beyond the ridges.
It was time to say something. My friend was gazing towards the east. I wished I knew what he was thinking. He was remarkably content. As if he knew that where he was, was where he was supposed to be. As if he knew that every step he took, was the one which he should have taken. As if there was no choice in the matter. As if he knew moment by moment that God was with him. Surely the greatest hope of all.
I knew Israel’s God’s name and also that they didn’t like it to be spoken. But I took a huge risk and spoke it – “Yahweh Elohim.”
My friend kept looking towards the east, unsurprised by my utterance. He lifted his right arm and pointed towards the east then pointed at himself, and indicated he had travelled from the east to be here. He indicated by gestures of rising and falling suns, that he walked round Israel often. He finished his unspoken monologue by raising both palms face up to the sky, smiling and saying, “Yahweh Elohim.”
We then walked down the Jordan River side and, according to my limited calculations, would reach Jericho before too long. There I was wrong. Despite journeying down and alongside the river towards the Dead Sea, we passed no roads, people, villages and no Jericho. As if I had stepped into a time before any of them.
I came in front of my friend, indicating for him to stop and he did. I looked round to give him the impression I didn’t know where I was and where was everyone? He put his hand on my shoulder and simply said, “Shalom.” And great peace flooded my whole being. It was electric. Like the man had a power source inside him. And then we walked on. I stopped asking myself questions and just enjoyed his quiet friendship.
For days we walked, drank from rocks, ate birds and animals caught in thorns and cooked in fiery bushes, and slept under the stars. I never saw another human nor any signs of human habitation anywhere. We swam in the Dead Sea and laughed. We explored caves and ravines. And stood on peaks and let the awesome vistas enthral us. Not a word was spoken.
Then one morning approaching a small hill, my friend turned to me and said, “Thank you Murray. I have enjoyed your company. My name is Enoch. Shalom.” And he walked over the hill. I paused and drank in the moment.
Over the hill I found green pastures. Looking back, there were green pastures behind me. I was back in more familiar territory but Enoch’s walk with me would never be forgotten. For surely, Enoch walked with God.