“Where are you off to?” Zilpa yelled at a family dragging their fully loaded donkey along.
“Jerusalem,” the man yelled back, “it’s war!”
The baby on her back cried in protest when Zilpa rushed home to find her husband Shemaiah packing.
“Get the children and food you have, dates, figs, whatever. We’re going to the Temple.” He sounded tense. “The Moabites and Ammonites have declared war and King Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast for all Judah.”
“But I’m nursing,” Zilpa protested.
“I will fast for all of us.” He grabbed a basket. “Hurry, we have to leave already.”
“We’re going to Jerusalem?” Salman beamed.
“Yes, but not to celebrate.” Shemaiah adjusted the donkey’s load.
“Who’ll take care of the sheep, Abba?” Judith asked.
“Don’t worry; enough people stay behind. All Levites have to go up to Jerusalem.”
The new courtyard of the holy Temple teemed with people from all over Judah. Quietly and tense they listened to the king’s frightening news. A few women began to sob. Even the unusual subdued children seemed to sense the impending danger.
Suddenly one of the Levites stood up and began to prophesy.
Zilpa listened, goose pimples all over, as he shared a message from the Lord, “Don’t be afraid. The battle is God’s.” More was said, but those words stuck in her mind; they were enough for her.
A feeling of awe at being in the presence of the LORD swept over the crowd, and those assembled, including the king, bowed with their faces to the ground and fell down to worship the LORD.
Tears streamed down Zilpa’s face when her husband stood up and began to praise the God of Israel in a very loud voice. Soon others joined him and the beauty and holiness of the music enveloped the people like a protective covering.
Early the next morning, the wives and children assembled near the city gate leading to the Desert of Tekoa.
“Go with the Lord, dear Shemaiah!” Zilpa kissed her husband, and wondered if this was the last time she would see him alive. After quickly hugging the children, he ran towards the head of the army that had begun to move out.
Following the king’s orders, the Levites had to sing to the LORD and praise him for the splendor of his holiness.
Amazed that the king had chosen him to be part of this very dangerous, but surely holy occasion, Shemaiah felt a surge of God’s power. He sang with all his might, his deep voice blending with the other men, “Hodu l’Adonai ki tov, ki le olam chasdo - Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever.”
On and on it went. With the soldiers marching behind them, the Levites sang their praises to the God of heaven.
Finally they reached the place overlooking the desert, expecting to face the enemy troops.
After a stunned silence, the king finally exclaimed, “How is this possible?”
“My king,” Shemaiah said, “it’s exactly as God promised. We didn’t have to fight this battle. We stood firm, and look, the LORD delivered.”
“Is there anyone alive down there?” one of the soldiers wondered, noticing birds of pray circling overhead. He scanned the vast plain that seemed full of dead bodies.
It took three days to collect the plunder and on the fourth day the soldiers and Levites praised the LORD in the valley of Bracha.
“I hear them coming!” Salman yelled at his mother. Hurrying towards the main gate, the sound of singing grew louder when the army reached Jerusalem.
A tired and dirty, but beaming Shemaiah kissed his wife and children.
“Here, a present for you.” He pressed something in Zilpa’s hand. “Come along to the Temple. We’re going to thank the LORD for His deliverance.
Each time Zilpa looked at the golden pendant, skillfully made of gold filigree and set with turquoise stones, she remembered that special day. When she felt discouraged or afraid, she would take the pendant from under her dress, hold it and whisper, “Hodu l’Adonai ki tov! Ki le olam chasdo.” It brought back memories of that awesome moment in the Temple. “Yes LORD! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength are Yours, for ever and ever!” Then Zilpa would feel the heaviness lift from her heart and joy bubble up, “give thanks to the LORD, for he is good!”
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