Chapter 16 - He Will Teach Us His Ways
Zivah sat pensively on a bench in her courtyard. She was irritated. Critically, she eyed a sandal thong which a leather worker had just repaired for her.
“Can’t that ridiculous man do anything right?” she muttered to herself. “Why, that sole came off the first time I wore the sandal, and now…”
Zivah stopped herself. The memory of Jesus and his piercing gaze flashed through her mind. She shook her head briskly, trying to erase the guilt she felt for the hundredth time since that day in Simon’s courtyard.
What is it about that Nazarene? Why can’t I seem to forget his words or his face?
Trying to escape the storm inside her, Zivah whisked her water jar onto her hip and headed towards the well. But even as she went, Jesus’ words echoed in her mind.
Love your enemies…to love only when love is returned to you is the way of mere men…God’s kingdom is very near, and unless you repent you’ll miss it….
Zivah sighed and put down the water jar as she reached the well. Love. What do I know of love? In her life alone as a widow, she hid behind her bitterness, her imagined perfectionism, her harshness. Her brother was a cripple, thought to be cursed by God. Jesse and his family—they were all she had. Then why do I treat them as if I despise them? Why do I feel the impulse to destroy all the good that I have? Zivah sighed again.
As other women gathered at the well to draw water, Zivah greeted them and let down the leather bucket. A young girl ran up, panting for breath.
“Jesus is back! He is teaching on the hillside!” she gasped out. “A crowd is already gathering!” With that, the girl ran hastily back out of the square.
Zivah’s heart skipped a beat. Then it sank. She had another chance to hear Jesus speak! But did she want to? The man’s words were challenging, even offending at times. Maybe she just wanted to see his eyes again, to see the kindness radiate from them. Suddenly, she dumped the water into her jar, heaved it onto her head, and set off for her house.
At home, Zivah poured the contents of her jar into her water cistern. Such was her haste that much of it splashed onto the floor before she was finished. Ignoring the mess on her immaculate floor, Zivah rushed out the door with barely a backward glance.
On the hillside, Zivah stood fiddling with her robe. Why am I even here? She recognized several familiar faces in the gathering crowd. She felt herself blushing as some noticed her. What they must be thinking! Then the leather worker she had been so angry with passed by. A flash of indignation flooded her. She reared her shoulders back as a familiar torrent rose to pour from her lips. But she bit her tongue.
Just then, she heard Jesus beginning to speak to the people farther up the hill. She moved closer.
“God blesses those who realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them. God blesses those who are gentle and lowly, for the whole earth will belong to them. God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy. God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God. God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.”
Each sentence felt like a blow to Zivah. Gentle and lowly? Merciful? Pure in heart? Peacemaker? She felt tears well up in her eyes. She was none of these. Deep in her heart, she knew that if she were to be weighed on the scales of God’s justice, like Belshazzar in the book of Daniel, she would be found wanting. The tears spilled over. She brushed them away impatiently.
“Hmmph!” The grunt of a nearby onlooker stole Zivah’s attention. She found herself gripped by the smirk of disgust written in the lines of the old man’s face. “Bah, peacemakers! Gentle, lowly… what fluff!” Zivah’s shock turned to horror as she realized she was seeing herself in this man. Shuddering, she tried to focus her mind on what Jesus was now saying.
“God blesses those who are persecuted because they live for God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. God blesses you when you are mocked and persecuted and lied about because you are my followers.”
Could it be that I am a persecutor? Like a flood, she remembered all that she had said to Ashira and others about Andrew, about Simon, about Jesus; the times she had scoffed inwardly and outwardly, the times she said things she knew were not the truth. Oh, she could not bear to hear any more! The ache in her heart was too strong. She brushed past others in her haste to get away. Maybe I can speak with my brother. He is a godly man. Maybe he can help me.
She ran blindly down the hill and through the city, propelled by a desparate urgency. Her route to Jesse’s house would lead her past the city’s central well. As she approached it, she noticed Ashira drawing water. Zivah at first shrank back in dismay. This is not who I want to talk to—not yet anyway. But she willed herself to walk toward the well. Her heart pounded and her throat ached.
Ashira’s face strained with anxiety. “Hello, Zivah.” With hardly another glance, Ashira continued to hastily draw water.
“Uh, Ashira…” Zivah ventured, “I was just at the hillside. Jesus is up there. Your father, too—and—” Zivah paused.
At the mention of Jesus and her father, Ashira drew in a sharp breath. Water splashed from the leather bucket as she choked back a sob.
“Are you all right, Ashira?” Zivah asked, perplexed at Ashira’s demeanor.
“No!” Ashira sputtered out. Catching herself, she quickly added, “I don’t mean to be disrespectful, Zivah.” She hurriedly sloshed water into her jar.
Zivah felt torn up inside. “No, dear, I’m sure you didn’t mean it.” In her own agony she didn’t see the tears streaming down Ashira’s face. She sat on the stone bench by the well, trying to express to Ashira what she had heard on the hill. “Jesus spoke of being humble, gentle, a peacemaker, merciful. I just want you to know that…”
Ashira interrupted her. “Zivah, please. I can’t listen now. My grandmother is very ill! I must go back home with this water, quickly!”
As Ashira lifted her water jar Zivah saw panic in her eyes. “Ashira! I knew Anna was ill, but has she worsened?”
“She’s dying, Zivah,” Ashira’s voice cracked with emotion. Without looking up, she turned toward home heaving the water jar onto her head.
“Can I help?” Zivah stood calling after her.
“No!” Ashira snapped, with the counterfeit courage of blinding pain. She bit her lip. She knew she had spoken too sharply. “I’m sorry, Zivah, there’s nothing you can do.” Swallowing another sob, she hurried on.
Zivah was stunned. With weak knees she reached down for the solid feel of the stone bench. She sat in utter despair. What have I done? Have I hurt them so much that they don’t want me near in their time of greatest need? Her own heart broke for Anna. I’ve hardly said a word to her in years. Anna, Yahweh, forgive me! Oh, God, please don’t let Anna die. Everyone dies eventually, but must it be now?
She groaned as waves of guilt wracked her whole body. I wanted to tell Ashira what I heard from Jesus, and she thought I was going to lecture her on her tone of voice. Zivah sank into deeper and deeper anguish.
Thoughts continued to torment her. I need to speak with Jesse. She rose from the bench. Looking into the sky she whispered, “I need You, Adonai. I realize that I need You.”
Can anyone fathom
What He has done?
Can anyone imagine
What He has won?
Though I was blind
I am starting to see
The depth of my pride
And I want to be free!
I want the Light
I see in Your eyes
I need Your truth
To break through the lies
I want to hear
I want to see
Can all that I’ve done
Ever be made clean?
Come shine Your Light,
Come loose my chains,
Lord of Love!
I choose to be nothing
For You, for You!
Lord, if You will,
You can make me new!