Who Is This?
Who Is This?
By Mike Chouinard
On a back street in a dinky unimportant town stood a small two room mud house that housed three generations of a family. Miriam, the grandmother, was now eighty five and blind, yet she worked the wool with her hands. Sightless eyes followed her family about, listening to the chatter as she sang psalms.
Her one son, Jacob, was helping a neighbor repair his roof that the previous week’s rains had damaged. Her other son, Simeon, was tending sheep in a distant pasture as a hired hand. At night, he would herd the sheep into the circular stone enclosure, the sheep fold, then lay across the narrow opening as he slept. Nothing would get past him to the sheep. This was his job, day and night. Take the sheep out to green pasture, lead them beside the still waters to drink, go after the straying lamb and lead them to safety for the night. He was prepared to give his life for the sheep. Such is the job of the shepherd.
Miriam’s nine year old grandson was in the street kicking a ball made of an old sheep skin and filled with hay. It had been the gift from his grandmother who, though blind, had sewn it and he had stuffed it, then she had sewn it shut. In the evening after dinner the family would tell stories of the heroics of Joshua and the battle at Jericho when the Jews took the land. Her grandson was also named Joshua. His favorite story was of David and Goliath. And this was the very town that King David had lived in, even though it was a small and unimportant town.
Jacob had finished with his neighbor as the darkness grew. He returned home to where his wife, Rebecca, and his twelve year old daughter, Elizabeth, were preparing a simple dinner of barley bread and beans, with some onions.
“Joshua, please take some hot dinner out to Uncle Simeon in the pasture to the south of town. If you hurry, the beans in the clay pot will still be hot. And take a skin of wine for him too. You can stay the night with him, but take your cloak to stay warm”
Joshua loved the task of dashing out to the pasture a couple of miles away to see his Uncle. Simeon always had new stories to tell him.
When he arrived, the sky was filled with stars, but the moon had not risen and would not until early morning. Simeon was delighted with the dinner and sat with Joshua leaning against him as he pointed out the stars and told Joshua the stories.
“ Yahweh (God) has written the past, present, and future in the stars. I want you to know the whole story, so let us begin. I don’t know all of the details, but I can give you a bit of it and maybe someday we will know it all when the Messiah comes.”
“Which one should we start with?”
Joshua pointed ,“That one, the one about water.”
“Oh, that is a good place to start. That one is Aquarius, the water bearer. According to our tradition this refers to Noah and the Flood. The world had become very wicked and Yahweh was going to destroy all of the evil and sin. He appointed Noah to build a great ark and he directed the animals to go to the ark two by two and enter it so the animals would not all be destroyed. Noah also had seven pairs of each of the clean animals we use in sacrifices and that Noah and his family and his son’s family would be spared”
“Did all of the types on animals go into the ark?”
“According to the ancient Book of Jashar, it says that the animals came, and only those that knelt before Noah and the Ark came aboard. In one place it says that two lion cubs came with their mother, and since only two were supposed to get on the Ark, the two cubs chased the mother away. Of course that is not in the Torah, but it might be true. But the world was flooded, because of sin. We still, sadly, have sin today.”
“Why can’t we see all of the stars at night?”
Each come in a different season. But I will tell you about them even if you can’t see them now. “Libra is the scales. Back in Daniel’s time, just before the Medes and Persians conquered Babylon, in fact that very night...”
“Oh I know, the wicked king was drinking from the Temple vessels and he saw a big hand write on the wall .. Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin.”
“Right Joshua. His sin was being judged and that meant you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting. That is the scales where Yahweh determines sin and sin must be paid for. The next one is Scorpio, the scorpion that stings. This one means that sin brings forth death. A pretty sad story so far, but it is not over.”
“Oh, then there is the Lady, right?”
“Yes, Joshua, but she is more than a lady. This is the virgin. The prophet Isaiah tells us that ‘Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.’ That seems impossible, but Yahweh has declared it so it must be true.”
“What about the Ram?”
“That is Aries. You can’t see it now, but its story goes back to Father Abraham. You remember when Abraham was told by Yahweh to sacrifice his only son? What happened?”
“Oh, he had Isaac on the altar and was just about the plunge a knife into him and Abraham heard a ram caught in the thicket and Yahweh provide a substitute sacrifice. So the stars tell us that there is a ram, a substitute sacrifice for sin?”
“That is absolutely right. Some day there will be a sacrifice for all sin.”
“You need to go to sleep now, Joshua”
“Uncle Simeon, just one more, Pleeeese!”
“Alright, lets think about Leo, the Lion. The Lion means a king. The Messiah will be a King. And he will be from the Tribe of Judah. The prophet Micah tells us, ‘ But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth from Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.”
“Really, from Bethlehem?”
“So this king will come from our small village some day. That would really be something to see!”
Simeon rocked Joshua to sleep and laid him on the ground, covering him with his cloak. He sat back and pondered the stars and what he had told Joshua. He began to doze when suddenly he heard a sound that brought him and his fellow shepherds wide awake.
An angel of the Lord appeared and the glory of the Lord shone around them. Simeon was terrified. It was said that if you saw and angel, you were about to die. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the city of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Joshua woke up with a start and saw the angel, and then suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
“Joshua, you stay with the sheep while we go to see about this.”
And Joshua stayed with the sheep and pondered what he had seen and heard.
Many years later when Joshua was 42 years old and had children of his own, he had come to Jerusalem for the Passover. There was an execution about to be held and a man was dragging his cross, so abused, beaten and worn out. Joshua watched as he heard the vicious crowd yelling, yet he was moved to compassion and followed the crowd to Golgotha. He watched the whole process. He did not know the man, but there at the edge of the crowd he saw his old withered Uncle Simeon, on his knees, weeping.
“Uncle, who is this man?”
His uncle looked up, “Joshua, this is the Messiah. Do you remember the angels in the night sky? They announced His birth in Bethlehem. At this point he is the Ram from the thicket, being killed for our sins. I do not know how Yahweh will work it out, but this is a very important day and this Jesus ,of who it is said, he is Immanuel, meaning God with us. This is the Messiah!