Bible Snaps: Episode 20 … Good Soldier Trouble

Thrillers, Chillers & Sci-Fi Killers. Whether or not you believe the bible is true, it contains stories that trigger imagination.

Good Soldier Trouble

“We don’t need the whole army. Ai is a much smaller city.” My husband speaks gently as he tries to calm my nerves.

I focus on securing the flap of his travel pouch, but my tongue will not be silent. “Why so soon? Isn’t Jericho enough for now.”

His voice tone changes. “It’s been forty years, Maacah. We’re the ones who’ll finish the task. It shouldn’t have taken more than five years to accomplish.  Now that we’ve begun, we can’t stop. Our reputation is at stake. We must conquer the land God gives us.”

I sigh and mutter under my breath. “Now there’s an odd blessing. A gift of land that we must fight others to receive.”

“Maacah!” Shemuel’s stern warning prompts me to look at his face, but instead of anger, I see that he looks sorrowful.

I motion to Ziba. “Go.” Our son runs out the door. Watching us argue will not help him deal with Shemuel’s absence. He worships his father, but a new reality has come. If our men are to fight against every nation that occupies our promised land, then we’re no longer simple shepherds. Ziba is the child of a military man, and I’m a soldier’s wife.

Shemuel places his hands on the sides of my blossoming belly. “I’ll be back before you know it.”

His warm breath tickles my ears, but I pull away and say, “Of course, you will. If you don’t come back, our baby will learn the first truth about trouble.”

“What is that?”

“Trouble comes when you least expect it.”

“That’s not comforting.”

“I’m pregnant. Nothing is comforting.”

In the eyes of the man I love, I see myself. We are one, but if he does not return, I will be forever split apart.

The next day, Ziba comes to me and says, “I want to be brave like Papa. I want to lead an army against our enemy and win. How did papa learn to do this?”

I sigh. A good mother would try and talk her child out of such thoughts. Instead, I explain what it takes, so he’ll know what is true. “Your father first learned how to follow. A good soldier does exactly as he’s told no matter what.”

“How does following someone else make me brave?”

“It doesn’t. In fact, sometimes it makes you crazy and afraid. But if you carry out orders in spite of this, you are brave. Weaker men will follow your example. Soon you’ll be their leader.”

Six days later, the men return. I bump into Elidad on my way to find Shemuel.

“The men of Ai chased us just as we reached the gate. They did not let up until we were as far away as Shebarim. On the way back they caused trouble.”

“What kind of trouble?”

“They killed thirty-six of our men.”

I clutch at his arm. “Is Shemuel…?”

He shakes his head. “No. But… I’m sorry, Maacah. He’s not yet returned.”

Every moving detail in the world comes to a stop.

Elidad pats Ziba’s head. ““Your father probably stopped on the way back to gather fresh grapes from the vine.”

I smile and nod. “Of course he did.” I take Ziba’s hand, and we walk through the gathering crowd. The din of piercing wails from families who’ve lost all hope dominate the shouts of joy coming from those who see their returning loved ones.

All day long I listen to the words of family and friends who offer comfort and assurance. For Ziba’s sake, I try to keep a cheerful focus, but inside my heart, I’m mocked by the Dreadful Unknown. If God is so powerful, why does he let this happen?

My mounting insanity barters with an uncertain deity to let me die if Shemuel is gone.

In the evening, my sister comes and offers to wash my clothes.

Has she gone crazy, too? “What do I care about clean clothes? My husband is missing.”

“We’re all to get ready. Joshua told the leaders that the trouble with Ai came because of dealings with Jericho.

“What dealings and what does clean clothes have to do with it?”

“No one knows yet, but each tribe is to be presented in their best before God in the morning.”

“What about Shemuel? Is anyone trying to find him?”

When she does not answer my question, I leap off my bed. I tell her to keep Ziba safe, and I hurry to the house of Joshua.

My physical exertion brings on contractions. No God! Not now. Not like this. I won’t have this child now. I stop to catch my breath. Soon a woman carrying a water jug comes along the road. She rushes over to me.

“Are you alright, Maacha?”

“How do you know my name?”

“Your husband’s good name is well-known in the house of Joshua.”

“Then you must know that my husband is missing.” Her praise of him dissolves my composure, and fears spill out of my mouth in a torrent. “I told Shemuel I didn’t want him to go. So few of our men were headed to Ai. Now I know my fears were a warning. I should have stopped him.”

“The trouble with trouble is that it comes when you least expect it.” The woman’s words echo my thoughts.

“Exactly.” Another contraction peaks and my anxiety is replaced by another.

The woman sets down her jug, and she guides me over to a rock to sit.

When the pain eases, I continue speaking. “I know I’m fretting more than usual because I’m pregnant, but now that Shemuel is missing, I don’t know what to do.”

The woman does something strange. She stoops to write in the dirt.

Follow 

Then she stands and places her hand on my arm. “You’re right. The arrival of trouble is almost always unexpected, but the path we choose to follow affects the outcome. If you choose to do what is right, then you can trust that God will take care of the rest.”

“Just like that?”

“Just like that.”

It’s too simple, but I know she speaks the truth. Her words of advice are exactly what Shemuel would say.

She picks up her jug. “Come. If you want, I’ll take you to Joshua.” As she moves away, the light of the evening sun is no longer blocked. For a second, I’m blinded by the glow, and I close my eyes. When I look again, I see no sign of her.

Instead, I hear a voice behind me.  “Mamma?”

It’s Ziba. He flings himself against me with such force that I almost fall over.

My sister runs up and pulls him away. “He took off. I couldn’t stop him.”

“Mamma!” Ziba shrieks. “I want to do what you’re doing. I want to help Papa.”

I look for the woman, but if she is there, the dusk has concealed her.

Her presence and absence makes my choice clear. I pull my son to me and gaze into his little boy eyes. “Here’s what we are going to do to help Papa.We’ll go home and do what we know to do until he comes back.”

“Just like good soldiers. Right Mamma?”

“Just like good soldiers.”

I start the count of time. Every second, every minute, and every day will matter until he returns.

The first day after Shemuel is missing, we’re brought tribe by tribe to Joshua. When our tribe, the tribe of Simeon, receives his consent to leave, I return home to rest. Not even the sound of others marching past my door keeps me from sleep.

I am following.

Later, I hear the awful news from my sister.

The tribe of Judah was detained. Every household including Caleb’s were taken one by one to Joshua until the house of Zerah was selected. From them, God revealed Achan to be the man who brought us harm. Achan confessed to keeping a mantle from Shinar and silver and gold. He hid them in the dirt under his tent. He defied orders from Joshua and God. Our men were told to burn all that was in Jericho and keep only the gold and silver for the treasury. Joshua reminded the people that God’s power is our weapon of triumph over the lands, but his power comes with a price. Because Achan did not follow what God asked, the battle of Ai became a disaster. Thirty-six families lost their men. For his defiance, Achan’s and his family were stoned and burned.

The news makes things worse. Is Shemuel gone because of Achan’s rebellion? Worse still is my wondering about Shemuel. Did he keep anything from Jericho? Is that why he is missing?

For several housrs I search our home, but when Ziba asks what I’m doing, I stop. For his sake, I must do what I know is right.

I manage to follow- act calm and collected for twenty more days.

On the twenty-first day, Unknown Dread taunts me. “Are you sure this trouble is not a price being paid for something wrong that has been done? My self-examination begins, but Shemuel’s words from the past whisper comfort. “God is always clear with the things he asks us to do. We are the ones who disguise the truth.”

My bravery returns. I am following.

On the twenty-third day, I wake up in full labor. Finally, tangible agony comes to strive against the helpless pain of my heart. I fight a duel of unfair proportion. My husband is gone. My child is coming. How can this be?

Eventually, the wretchedness is over. My body curls around my baby. I close my eyes. I’ve no more fight left to give.

Hands shake me. “Maacah! Wake up! A miracle has occurred.”

“Yes, yes, my daughter is here.” I mumble in a stupor.

“No. It’s Shemuel. He’s here.  God saved him. A clan of merchants found him in a ravine. He did not remember anything, so they have been caring for him. Yesterday he remembered who he was, and now he’s here.”

I open my eyes to make sense of my sister’s rambling jumble of facts.

Then I see him. A man who looks like Shemuel with a bandaged leg sits near, cradling my baby.

There are no more words to be said.

My good soldier trouble is gone because love sweeps in.

 

 

This fiction short story is inspired by Joshua chapter 7.

 

 

My new blog series, Bible Snaps, are short fictionalized accounts of the more chilling stories in the Bible. There may even be a few “science fiction” type stories that reference biblical disasters that seem to conflict with the laws of nature. 

If you follow along, there’s a couple things you should know.

My “Bible Snaps” aren’t an attempt to settle the question, “is the bible true?” Each person must decide that on their own. My goal is to jump into the head of bible characters and try to imagine living the experience described in the story and then use fresh and personal words to tell it.

My other goal is to keep these posts “snappy” quick. In doing this, I might only “snap” a portion of the bible story to tell, but I’ll always give you the bible reference so you can read the actual bible text that inspired me.

There are also other reading options on my website.

If you don’t like my Bible Snaps Stories, then check out “Five,” my medical Sci-Fi supernatural thriller story. All 67 episodes (blog posts) are now available, and if you read them from beginning to end, you’ll have read the entire book and will be ready for my sequel, “Six.”

If you don’t like “Five”, then read my other short stories on this blog- (search word, “un-proverbial”) or Psalms blog posts. All of these were posted before January 2015.

Just read me. I’d be honored to have YOU in my audience!

One final thought.

Why do I re-tell the “bad” or chilling parts of the Bible?

We live in rough times. People suffer under injustice. It’s good to see how the Bible, an old book that many value as true, contains helpful stories of people who were oppressed yet managed to live, survive, and thrive.

Don’t take my word or anyone else’s word about the Bible. Give it a read for YOURSELF. You may be surprised by what you find.

Thanks,

Ann

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