The steady rhythm of the music reverberated through the tiny house. Jenani pulled her black widow’s veil closer and curled up in the corner.
“Aunt Jenani? Dad says you’re to join us.”
Jenani ignored the child.
Almighty God, why? The only man I’ve ever loved - gone. We were only kids ourselves. Such hopes for the future – our own home, a farm, children. Crushed. The first battle he ever fought – a pawn in the hand of some Greater Power.
“Come on sis. Join the family.”
Hearing her brother’s voice in the doorway, Jenani spun around, stray wisps of unwashed hair escaping from the veil. Empty eyes gazed at the strong man whose figure was silhouetted against the late summer sunlight.
“Join in the fun, kiddo. You must come.”
The man stepped inside and squatted beside his distraught sister. Jenani recoiled both in body and spirit.
“Hey, Jen, I don’t know how to say this. Nobody expects you to be the life of the party. But … well … you must try to celebrate.”
Jenani looked at her brother blankly.
He has no idea. His pretty wife and cute kids are with him. What would he know? Anyhow, I’m not going to drag the atmosphere down like a flying duck hit by an arrow. Besides, how can I celebrate without my precious Benjamin?
“Jen, you don’t understand. How could you? You’re a girl. You know those classes by the priests that King Josiah ordered? The ones to teach us about the Law?* That's what this is about. Our clan has decided to live God's way. This celebration isn't just about fun. It’s about obedience to Jehovah.”
Yeah, fine. Camp if you want. See if I care. Besides, Jehovah doesn’t care about us.
“Jen, listen to me.” David reached out and turned Jenani’s pale face to his own tanned one. “Moses commanded it. We are to celebrate this feast, and we are to be joyful.** That command includes the fatherless and the widows. That’s you, princess. For seven days, we’ve got to camp out as a community, focus on who God is and rejoice. I know you can’t smile, but you can at least focus on God. Not because you want to, but because you are a good Hebrew girl.”
If you’re so smart, Mr Know-it-all, explain one thing. Why did God allow this to happen?
Dave pulled his sister up by the hand. Gently, he led her out the door into the harsh sunlight. “Come on, kiddo. We’ve made a fun little lean-to for you and Mother. You’ve got to be a part of the community for the week. That’s the Law. It is designed for our good.”
Several days later, Jenani, the dutiful Hebrew girl, sat outside her hut with her mother, watching a group of young people dance and sing. Their colourful clothes fluttered as they twirled. Rhythmic clapping interspersed the verses.
“Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy! How awesome is the LORD Most High, the great King over all the earth!***”
Not a lot to clap and shout about. But I guess that doesn’t change who God is….
“He subdued nations under us, peoples under our feet. He chose our inheritance for us, the pride of Jacob, whom He loved***.”
As if. We’re headed the same way the northern tribes went. To exile. The prophets have been saying that for ages. That’s why we lost the battle. I suppose we’re still His people though, whom He loves.
As the lively music worked its way deep into Jenani’s brain and soul, a miniscule trace of a smile twitched the edge of her mouth. The sun reflected off the brass instruments to her right. The atmosphere of the dancers and indeed, the whole community, was infectious.
Somewhere deep inside her, Jenani’s spirit picked up the song. “God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the LORD amid the sounding of the trumpets.***”
David danced wildly, spinning his youngest in the air with whoops of happiness. Each time he twirled, he glanced at the shadow of his sister sitting quietly by her lean-to. He hated having to drag her to the celebrations. And yet it was the Law. Moses had commanded the people to shift the focus off themselves and onto their Great King. He even commanded them to be joyful as they did so.
Noticing Jenani’s foot beginning to tap, Dave’s face broke into a huge smile. His family was not exempt from hard times, but God was in His rightful place.
They would be okay.
* 2 Chronicles 34 relates the rediscovery of the neglected book of the Law and King Josiah's desire for the nation to once again live God's way.
** Deuteronomy 16:14
***The song is taken directly from Psalm 47:1-5, NIV
Good job Suzanne, you paint pictures with words with a real artist's touch. This one was great: challenging, because it's so hard to praise God when things are bad, but good too, to hear the honesty of the girl's thoughts (I've thought them myself!) keep up the good work.
02 Jun 2006
Thanks Suzanne! That was a good reminder to obey and worship even when we don't fel like it.
Great to see the extended version of this, Suz. Loved the way you gradually bought your character around to 'toe tapping' and David's joy in seeing his sister released for a moment from her grief. Very strong sense of place, little details like the light reflecting off the brass instruments made this so real!