Lion's gaze

Lion's gaze

Monday, December 29, 2014


Historical background tidbits: 
  • The Ethiopic empires had contact with Jewish travelers and communities for hundreds of years before Christ. It appears that some contact with and influence from Judaism is reflected even in the ancient practises of some of the ethnic peoples.
  • Tradition tells us that a number of the disciples traveled far and widely, maybe even to India. Historically, Christianity came to Ethiopia very early and changed the history of that region and it's peoples.
  • Some extinct Ethiopic languages and writings have never been deciphered and remain unsolved mysteries to this day.
  • Contrary to what a few Bible critics have claimed, camels have a very ancient presence in most of the Middle East.

Part 1 – In the Desert

75 AD - Ethiopia

Miniature clouds of dust swirled out from under dirty brown sandals as the uneven staccato thud of feet invaded the silence of the late morning. The leader of the little band lifted a wrinkled hand to shield his eyes from the glaring sun and peered into the shimmering, rocky landscape ahead. His steady pace slowed to a stop and leaning on his walking stick, he turned to look at the straggling forms behind him. The cloth-covered heads lifted as his voice reached out to the little group.

"We will rest here."  

He pointed to two scrawny trees at the side of the faint trail, offering sparse shade to the weary travelers. Making their way to the hard, pebbled soil beneath the branches, the tired forms shrugged off their heavy packs as their leader spoke again.

"We cannot be far now. I have seen signs of others on the trail."

Lifting her lined face to look at him from under her scarf, his wife's dark eyes sought his.

"Andrew, we are almost out of water."

Her soft voice was scratchy from weariness and her dry lips cracked and bled from the unaccustomed movement. The bags under her eyes spoke of exhaustion beyond words.

"Are you sure we are near?" she questioned.

"Rachael, God has always provided. He will not fail us now."

His deep voice carried over to the second tree and the others looked up, eyes shining from under their dusty cloth coverings. Two small figures struggled to their feet and made their way to Andrew's rock. Studying the little girl's trusting face and that of her brother, he suddenly reached out and embraced his two grandchildren, pulling them close. He buried his face in their robes, then looked heavenward.

"O Lord God Almighty, we are here because we love you and you have commanded us to go. We are tired and need water and rest. Please provide for your servants from your abundant supplies. In the name of Yeshua your Son we implore you, amen."

His simple prayer brought amens from the other three adults, and one by one they also sought the Lord in supplication. As they cried out to God, a small but insistent voice unexpectedly broke their reverent concentration.

"Grandfather, grandfather, something's there!"

All eyes jerked open and they turned to follow the finger of the excited little girl. Coming towards them in the distance was a strange figure, swaying back and forth, rocking like a boat on the sea. A camel strode purposefully in their direction and soon a light curtain around the box on it's back parted to reveal a dark, shining face. The golden glint of metal shone from the broad forehead above a bright, toothy smile. The conveyance and its beast drew near, and a soft command issued from the black face. The awkward contraption slowed to a dusty stop and protesting loudly, the animal splayed its ungainly legs and settled to the ground. Without a break, the dromedary immediately closed its eyes and began contentedly chewing its cud. Two very black hands spread the ornately adorned curtains and a handsomely costumed figure stepped from the box.

"Mashaka hilem Qwandoni" the powerful voice called out, and the figure bowed deeply from the waist as his hands came together at his face. He looked expectantly at Andrew's blank face, then after a slight pause, spoke again:


This time he spoke in the language of the Hebrews and Andrew jerked slightly with surprise, but answered quickly:

"Shalom alaikum"

His mouth hung just a little open and his squinting, leathery face revealed the shock of hearing the African speak his ancient language.

"My name is Andrew and this is my family." he stated. "We are coming in peace with important tidings".

"You are all welcome, may the Almighty's name be praised forever! Please come to my humble abode and wash your feet from your travels. My name is Jalef Adoni Malel and you are my honored guests!"

There was a tinge of exotic accent to the Hebrew words and the tall figure beckoned with a puffed, silver-adorned silky sleeve. His loose pants were gathered at the ankles and bejeweled hands promised more than just a "humble abode". He asked politely:

"Would the children like to ride with me in the rahala?"

He pointed at the box, glanced at the bright-eyed youngsters, then looked directly into Andrew's eyes. His kind face and honest gaze disarmed any doubts the Hebrew had, and he nodded his assent. The children ran quickly to the camel's side, then remembering their packs, returned to the tree, picked them up and looked questioningly at Jalef. He said:

"No problem for my strong friend! He can carry all that and more over many days travel, without complaint…well, without trouble anyway!"

He laughed and picked up the two packs and as he tied them on the sides of the box, said:

"We have been waiting for all of you! One of our prophets had a dream that you were coming and told us to wait for you today at this place. He said you had a message from God, may His name be praised forever, for us, so I came to welcome you. You are only a few hours from my home and the whole village is waiting!"

The adults picked up their packs, and as the protesting animal groaned his way back to his feet, they soon followed close behind the swaying red box. The children laughed and waved at their parents from the open curtains and a new spring seemed to be in everyone's step.


Part 2 – Messiah's messengers

75 AD - Ethiopian village

The unusual music once again stirred Andrew's soul and he felt as though he needed to join the dancers in their intricate steps. The gracefulness and synchronization of their moves and the flashing colors were the most beautiful presentation Andrew had ever seen. He understood some of the words and recognized different Psalms by the names of God and names for places in them. It was a tremendously moving way of acting out the message, and awakened emotions in his heart that he had only experienced many years before.

"It makes my heart cry out to God to see the beauty of what He has done for us so wonderfully portrayed! I never imagined such a way of telling His story. Thank you, Jalef." whispered Andrew as he leaned close.

Watching the dancer's finish and return to their places, the giant's face shone with wonder and emotion and the silvery lines reflecting down his cheeks revealed the tenderness of the heart beating within the silken-wrapped chest.

"May the Almighty be forever praised for His Word to us." he softly rumbled. "It is so precious and so living! Oh, to see His Promise come. To see our Messiah lead us into greatness again. We have waited so long..."

His earnestness touched Andrew deeply and the pressure in his heart could be contained no longer. He felt as though his chest would explode at Jalef's open and almost pleading look. He bowed his head and cried out to God for the words he wanted so desperately to share. Lifting his face to gaze through brimming eyes at the expectant looks of the men and women gathered quietly in the large room, he felt like bursting from the joy of the moment. His eyes fell on the tear-streaked face of his wife. She nodded vigorously and his spirit began to fill with the power of God as words came to his mind –

"Tell of Me. Tell them from my Word."

The whispered commands moved him so greatly he suddenly rose to his feet and lifted his hands and face to the heavens. Every eye was riveted on his shining face and he began to speak:

"To You Who fills my heart and soul…To You who brought us to these precious ones…To You who prepared their hearts for this moment…I give my praise and my love! Oh Holy One, let Your message flow out to them. May Your faithful love fill their hearts as it fills ours. May Your wonderful Truth now be revealed to these prepared ones. I ask this in the Name of Your Son, Yeshua, amen."

At the mention of a Son, several questioning looks passed between the men seated on the ornately decorated pillows in front of Andrew and he quickly began his story.

"My friends and gracious hosts, my heart is so full of the message from God to you I can hardly speak. For over a thousand years, we Jews have looked for the Promised One of God. For over a thousand years we have prayed for our King to come and lead our nation into glory and peace. For over a thousand years we have suffered at the hands of our enemies and cried out to God for the Holy One to come and defend us. For generations, our people have known of the promise of One being born in Bethlehem and of the Tribe of Judah and the family of David. A wonderful thing happened during the reign of King Herod. God's holy angel appeared to a young betrothed maid from the family and lineage of David, with the incredible news that she would soon be with child, though she was a virgin. God's messenger told her the child would be from God Himself and was the long-awaited Promised One!"

A rumble of shock and excitement flowed through the group and Andrew continued:

"This holy child was born in Bethlehem, just as the Word foretold. He grew up as a carpenter's son, but full of the Spirit and wisdom. When he reached 30 years of age, he was confirmed as God's Holy One by many miracles. He traveled about healing the sick, driving out demons, and even caused the blind to see!"

Andrew's intense expression was filled with wonder at the memory.

"We followed Him, knowing He was the Promised One, the Messiah. We saw him feed 5000 with only a few loaves, walk on water and even raise the dead back to life!" Andrew almost shouted the last sentence and many of the men jumped to their feet in excitement. "Yes, he even raised the dead to life and we saw it all! We saw Him, touched and heard Him, even ate with Him and followed Him for almost three years."

"Where is He? We will follow Him too!" the men cried as they heard Andrew's words.

Andrew tried to quiet the agitated group, but Jalef finally shouted them down with his deep, powerful voice and the room finally settled down to a dull rumble of voices talking.

"Remember the words of the prophet Isaiah?: 

 'Behold, my servant shall deal wisely, he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. Like as many were astonished at thee (his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men), so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they understand?'

"We could not understand these words and the ones that followed, for they seemed to be talking of our Messiah King, but the Prophet seemed to be talking about our people rejecting the Messiah! Of Him being crushed and killed! My friends, now we know why, now we know that He is indeed the Messiah! We were waiting for a King, but God was sending a Savior and King. We wanted a Messiah to remove the crush of the Romans, but God gave us a Messiah that removes the burden of our own sins. We were looking for a Lion; and He indeed is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, but God also gave us a Lamb. He is the Lamb of God, the Passover Sacrifice. He came not just to free our bodies, but to give our spirits life. But hear now what our people did to their Messiah: they spat upon Him and beat Him and hung Him upon a tree to die!"

"Nooooo..!" the wail of the voices was deafening and the despair of the men was almost overwhelming. Many of the robed figures ripped their clothing and held up their hands as though imploring Andrew to tell the truth, to correct his last statement. Some fell to their knees in dismay and buried their faces in their hands. Andrew continued loudly:

"Yes, we stood below that tree and watched His blood flow out. The blood of the Perfect Lamb of God. Blood shed by God's Holy One for us. Like you, we that followed Him, wept and despaired over His death. But there was something greater, something so wonderful you will now shout and weep for joy! Like the Holy Word says, God "...would not suffer His Holy One to suffer corruption" and He raised Him from the dead! He is alive, He is alive! We saw Him alive and even ate with Him and watched as He rose back into heaven! He is alive and will come back for those that love and serve Him!"

The stunned men were looking at Andrew in disbelief. "He is alive?" they asked. "How can this be?"

Andrew again explained the whole story to them, starting this time at Adam and Eve. Hours later, when he again explained the resurrection, there was silence. One man stood up and said: "I believe! I believe! He is the Messiah! I believe!" Another began to weep from joy and pulled the first man to himself in a spontaneous embrace. "I believe too! He is our Lamb, He is our Messiah!" As more and more of the men began to express their belief in Yeshua as the Messiah, some began to dance. Their faces were radiant and shone like spotlights in the dim, smoky light of the oil lamps. Soon, a group of the men had pulled Andrew and his wife and family into their dancing and they were caught up in the magic of that unforgettable moment.

As the night wore on, Andrew shared much more from the Scriptures with them. There were many questions and more expressed their belief in Yeshua as the Messiah, after Andrew had shown them the passages of Scripture telling of Him. The morning glow began to show through the windows to the east when Andrew asked for bread and wine to be brought for all. He broke the bread with them and they drank from the cup as Andrew explained those wonderful symbols. When they had finished and Andrew sat with his wife watching the sun rise over the distant hills, the
y bowed their heads and sat thanking and praising God for the miracle of His Perfect Son.
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