“Miriam, is that Araunah I hear calling for me?”
“I am not sure, but I think so. He sounds distraught, dear. You must go to him.”
A worried crease cut across her brow as Hephzibah rushed out of her friend’s home to attend to her young husband. Hephzibah’s heart pounded with worry. She had never heard her husband sound so panicked. He was always so self-assured. His business was flourishing and despite his age, he was already well respected at the temple gates.
“Where are you? Heppphzzibah. Heph . . .”
“I’m here dear. I’m here, Araunah.” She looked up into her young husband’s frightened eyes. He was drenched in sweat; his breathing ragged. “Come, sit down. Tell me what’s wrong.”
The couple made their way to a bench. Hephzibah poured wine from a goatskin. “Here, drink. It will calm you.”
“Oh, Hephzibah. All is lost. The doves, the money. Everything. I don’t know what to do.” The cup of wine dropped to the floor; a bloody trail spreading in the dust. Araunah raked his fingers through his hair, rocking back and forth in despair.
“The Lord will provide for us.”
“He’s abandoned us. I spit on Him, Hephzibah. If you had been there at the temple you would’ve seen.”
She cringed. How could her husband curse the God of his people? She silently vowed to increase her Sabbath prayers on his behalf. “Seen what?”
“A crazy man entered the temple today, ranting and raving. His anger was like a cyclone. He took a scourge to several men and overturned all our tables. He was enraged. He set my doves free. Then beggars at the temple gate rushed in and took everything. This man quoted from the prophet Isaiah ‘. . . For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.’ He was making himself out to be God, Hephzibah. Can you imagine it? Blasphemy.”
“Was it Jesus the Nazarene?”
“Yes, that’s what his followers called him. He’s insane. How could he do this? He’s a fool.” Araunah trembled. His despair was turning to a vengeful anger.
“I’ve heard he heals the blind and lame. Maybe he is the true Messiah.”
“Blasphemy, Hephzibah. Don’t let anyone hear you say that. The Pharisees say he is corrupt, a deceiver. Maybe the man is possessed of a demon. If only you had seen him, then you would know. He had no respect for our rights, our business.” Araunah’s agitation was obvious as he rose and began to pace throughout the house. His brown eyes had turned black with rage.
Hephzibah feared for her husband. She bowed her head, silently seeking the God of Abraham in prayer.
Returning to his wife, he looked down upon her with disdain. “Give up your prayers, woman. Your God doesn’t hear.” And, then in one terrible instant, his hand drew back and struck Hephzibah square in the face.
Araunah faltered, gasping. His chest heaved with regret and fear.
It was in that moment that the spirit of the ultimate deceiver snatched him away from all he found dear--his home, his wife, and his God.
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