“Freedom is not easy”, ten year old Susannah decided as she stared across the plains to where the vast Hebrew camp gathered around Mount Sinai.
She felt like crying; and she buried her face into the woolly folds of her favourite lamb’s neck. The two month journey through the wilderness had done little to turn the hearts of the people to their God. “In Egypt my kin hated the Egyptian slave drivers and cried for freedom. Now Yahweh has set us free and I think His people have decided they hate Him.”
The silence was eerie. Only an occasional clunk of stone piled on stone could be heard at this distance. People were burying their dead. Susannah’s Papa explained that not long after Yahweh warned His people not to make idols, many turned around and asked a golden calf to be their God. That was terribly wrong and Moses was angry.
Another clunk of stone on stone thudded across the plain. And never before had ten your old Susannah known a Hebrew to be buried without loud wailing.
Cubits of fine linen spread out like a long white cloud across women’s knees and young and old alike sang and laughed happily amongst themselves as their needles and thread dipped in and out of the fabric.
Susannah watched in amazement as embroidered fruit and cherubim took on a life of their own.
Everyone had changed since Yahweh said He wanted a portable tabernacle where He could dwell with His people. There was hope now. The child could sense a purpose amongst the people and every willing heart had a part to play.
“Susannah don’t touch that cloth!”
Susannah heard her mother’s words but more than that she heard the tone. It was new.
Almost from the beginning of the wilderness trudge her mother had barely spoken. The child tried to remember. It was since the bitter waters at Marah that her Mamma had been solemn and fearful.
Yet no one whipped her father’s back anymore, as the task masters had in Egypt; and why Mamma didn’t even try to enjoy gathering the Mana was beyond Susannah. Not once had Yahweh forgotten to have it waiting for them. Except on the seventh day of course.
And water; Yahweh always provided water though sometimes He waited for the people to ask and show their trust. They hadn’t managed that yet.
Susannah studied the faces of the women as they bent over their section of cloth. Perhaps it was the battle at Rephidim with the Amalekites. Women don’t like war.
But hadn’t Joshua gone out under Yahweh-nissi and defeated them?
But still her Mamma did not smile.
Until the day Moses announced Yahweh’s tabernacle plans. Hidden in the instructions was a special job for Mamma.
The tabernacle curtains were to be embroidered with scarlet and blue and purple thread. Mamma was the only woman with purple thread.
Slave families rarely caught a glimpse of purple. Very rich Egyptians wore it, though in small amounts and only on special occasions. Papa said lots stinking sea creatures had to rot to get a tiny squirt of dye.
Somehow Yahweh made sure that a rich Egyptian woman gave Mamma all her precious thread as a form of payment and as an offering in the hope that she could stay Yahweh’s punishing hand.
Since then it had been safely stored in Mamma’s leather travel bag. And now Bezalel and Oholiab wanted her to supervise the other women and sew the purple thread into the tabernacle curtains.
Susannah smiled and ran her fingers over the recently embroidered cloth. It spoke of royalty and untold worth. Yahweh’s.
How like Yahweh to allow her Mamma to be involved in such a wonderful thing.
Shoshanna did you hear me?”
Susannah looked up and returned her mother’s smile. Overhead the Cloud of His Presence hovered and protected the women from the heat. In the distance Bezalel had started work stations where fires and hammers melted and shaped the gold and precious metals into Yahweh’s preferred instruments of worship.
“Yahweh”, Susannah spoke out loud, “thank You for giving the grown ups jobs. You seem to know exactly what we all need to do. Especially thank You for trusting Mamma with Your purple thread.”
A twitter of laughter followed the child’s frank address, but one Mother looked up at the Cloud and agreed.
(A story based on a child’s interpretation of some of the events in Exodus Chs:17-40)
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