The tightness in his chest increased as Hanif knelt beside the crumbled rock. Without conscious thought, his feet had led him to this place at the foot of the mountain. Guilt clawed at his throat as he wrestled—this was his fault.
Why had he answered their questions? Because they asked—as a scribe, you had the training and knowledge. But, as every man knows his own faults, he knew the true reason lay in his desire to be accepted by the Israelites.
His chest constricted around his heart. He gasped.
There was no reason for ailment. He was healthy. Was he was about to die? Many had already. No Levites were around with their swords so he would die of the plague. He would have preferred the sword to dying here. Alone.
He had been raised by the Egyptians. Trained as a scribe, he had gained the esteem due to those of his profession, yet his birth was of unknown origin. He was not Egyptian, nor Hebrew. He had flown Egypt with the Hebrews, but his knowledge of their language and adaption to their ways had been useless. He remained a stranger, a foreigner—without a god, without a people.
He reached toward the stones; but pulled back. He felt the struggle within his chest, which was greater? The despair…or the fear? Even as Moses had descended to the base of the mountain, Hanif realized—that his lifelong dreams of belonging, of being a part of a people, were never to be.
They asked for the stories of the gods…they asked about the priest’s practices. From a child he had been trained in knowledge of Egyptians religious activities. Given his hatred of the Egyptians’ vile practices, he should have refused the Hebrews queries.
Why hadn’t he found a place among this people? A few days ago, he would have gladly given all of his costly papyrus’ to become a part of this people. He had watched in awe as the Hebrew God had performed one marvelous act after another. Before going the mountain, Moses had declared God’s commandments. Hanif’s attention had been caught by the admonishment to not “mistreat a stranger”, bearing in mind their own oppression in Egypt. Those words had given Hanif hope, hope that was now gone.
Hanif didn’t think he could ever scribe again. Something inside him had shattered when Moses broke the tablets.
His hand trembled as he reached out and picked up a piece of stone. A groan escaped his lips as he saw the fractured script within his hand. Imagine…the hand of God had formed these words. His heart felt as broken as the tablets. A wail rolled up his throat, as it sprang out of his mouth, others followed.
If he was to die, it would be here, now. He dropped the stone and forced his hands into the pile of rock. He believed. He believed that the God of the Israelites was the one true God. Hanif deserved to die; he had helped this people to sin against their God, and as a result many had died.
“Have mercy! Have mercy!” The words forced their way through his cries. Tears poured down his cheeks, and he pressed his face to the ground.
Cords of pressure tightened around his chest. Paralyzing pain stole the breath from his lips. He lay as one dead, his thoughts immobilized for long seconds by death’s grasp.
Slowly something released within him, and air began to fill his lungs. As his mind began to reason, he realized the pain and tightness was gone, but something was different. He didn’t know what he felt…or did he? It reminded him of the presence that had been on the mountain, the presence that the Hebrews had feared as much as he had. Only his fear was gone, and in its place was something strange to his experience. Could it be…the Presence? Inexplicitly, he knew it was…and that this was not his day to die.
Thank you! The thought exploded within him, and his heart knew that this God heard!
Blood welled from cuts as he pulled his hands from the rubble and rose to his feet. When able, he began his journey toward camp.
He would search for the Levites.
His course was set; he would not rest until he became part of this people—a people with a Living God. His heart whispered…a God who accepts me!
Quote from NKJV, Exodus 22:21.
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