The enemy was near. He could hear their foreign cries as they broke through the city walls and raced to the slaughter. “The city will soon be taken. We must hurry” Jeremiah said breathing heavily as he led his band of Levites up the stairs and through the temple doors.
The Levites quickly placed their poles through the loops of each golden piece of temple furniture. “Cover them with something” he commanded. They tore down curtains and wrapped them around the furnishings. The men paused as they looked towards the Holy of Holies and Jeremiah saw their hesitation. “Go in, but do not look upon the ark.”
The men backed their way behind the curtain with their heads lowered, keeping their eyes straight ahead. They emerged with their hastily wrapped package on poles upon their shoulders.
“What is this?” a voice boomed across the hall. “How dare you desecrate the temple of the Lord!”
Jeremiah turned to see the high priest standing at the threshold. “Get out of our way” Jeremiah commanded with the authority of God in his voice.
The elderly priest’s eyes widened “The prophet Jeremiah! Why do you do this?”
“The Lord has commanded it. Now let us pass!”
“I will not!”
“Then the Lord remove you!” The priest suddenly fell back against the wall and slumped to the floor.
“Come” Jeremiah ordered. His men lifted the poles to their shoulders and followed him out, carrying their holy burdens from the sanctuary.
The solemn procession walked swiftly through the city streets. Behind them they could hear the screams of the slaughtered. Jeremiah wept and cried out “the glory has departed from the temple. The glory of the Lord has departed”.
Frightened women and children came to their doorways to watch the procession pass by. With the realization of what they carried the women began to wail and break down in tears. Some followed behind wailing in lament “The Lord has abandoned us.” “The Lord has turned his face from us.” “The judgment of the Lord has come and none of us can stand.”
Half the city was now burning. Thick black smoke blotted out the morning sun. The sickening stench of burning flesh reached their nostrils as the ash rained down with the wind.
“This way” Jeremiah called as he led his men down a narrow path and down a steep stairway to an underground cellar. “Behind that wall” he pointed. His men pulled back some wooden panels to reveal a tunnel. “Where does it go?” asked one of them. “Beneath the city walls. The Lord has prepared a place.”
It was strangely dark. A stiff breeze blew lifting and snapping the Roman standard as it stood upon the hill. Various people had gathered to watch the condemned men in their agony.
The earth moved slightly and the people looked at each other wondering if others had felt it too. Suddenly the earth jolted and heaved, shaking the crosses violently like trees in a storm. A large crack broke open at the base of the middle cross but the cross stood firm. The blood of the condemned man streamed down the rough wood and ran into the newly made crack in the earth, dripping down into the darkness, falling, falling until it splashed.
“Put the ark of the covenant here” Jeremiah’s voice echoed in the natural stone cavern. The men placed the ark down where they were told. “Leave me now.”
The room dimmed as the men took their torches from the room. The shadows flickered violently on the walls as Jeremiah held up his sole torch and looked around. Everything was in its right place just as the Lord had commanded him. He pulled off the cloth covering from the Ark of the Covenant. “Lord, here now is your Holy of Holies. I pray the day will come when you will once again allow sacrificial blood to sprinkle upon this mercy seat and atone for the sins of your people.”
He turned to leave, tears streaming down his face. “Seal the chamber.”
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