Chapter I.—Clouds and Storm.
JACOB, an Israelite; ZILLAH, his wife; DAVID, his little son; ITHRI-ISRAEL, a rich merchant of Jerusalem.
Scene—An Eastern farm near Hebron.
Jacob (aside).—Misfortune is but bent to track my steps. How constant have I laboured, and how anxiously, to avert this dire calamity! Yet loss and disappointment stamp themselves on all my schemes. What I had hoped were gains, proved worse than loss, and lthri-Israel comes to-day for satisfaction, for the debts that first were left me as an heirloom at my father's death, and have been ever deepening since. To meet him is my dread. My heart turns coward. Fain would I hide the bitter truth still longer from my faithful wife—the truth that I have kept from her as secret stolen treasure. Now all will out, and, I befear me, ruin, which has dogged me as a spectre, will assume a cruel form, and bind us one and all in debtor's chains. But here comes Zillah and my darling boy. Oh, that my failures never might be visited in trouble on their heads! Yet let's endeavour to be cheerful even now, though there's the trying task. [Zillah enters, leading her little son.]
David (gleefully).—Father, it is my birthday, and to-day I'm come to have my birthday kiss, and my loved father's blessing.
Jacob.—God's blessing on thee, child! And would that I could give thee all that love would fain bestow as easy as I give thee this. [Kisses him affectionately.]
Zillah.—Thou seemest not thyself to-day. Methinks thy smile, my husband, but conceals a heavy heart. What is thy weight? May I not share it with thee?
Jacob.—Did I not know thou soon must share it, I would not, could not, grant thee thy request; for sorrow seems more sorrowful when thou, my wife, art partner in the woe. Yet, truth to tell, thou must have known our home and prospects were beclouded with much debt.
Zillah.—Why, yes, I knew there was a something, but could not give it shape nor name. What is it? Nought serious, I hope.
Jacob.—Do you but listen, and the truth shall be thine own, as long it has been mine. Thou knewest, when I wedded thee, the farm I owned was in a measure not my own. My father's habits threw him into debt, and when he died, though all his property was mine, his debts were mine as well, for so it is in law. I struggled hard to free myself, and thus set free the land and thee from this hard obligation; but fortune, though it seemed to smile on others, frowned on me, and—well, why recount the stages on the road to ruin—my debts increased; and though I fondly hoped to wipe them out, alas! I find them like a millstone. To-day my creditor will come, and how to meet him is my fear. I fain would fly, but that would savour of dishonesty. What footstep do I hear? Even now he comes, and I must stand the brush.
[A turbaned Jew enters, carrying a leather satchel. Jacob rises, bids him welcome. Zillah and her boy pass out.]
lthri Ben Israel.—According to our promise, friend, we are come on purely legal matters; and as time waits for none, we needs must be to our end at once. These bills are all unsettled. [Opening his satchel and unfolding sundry documents.] They clamour for repayment. What hast thou to discharge them?
Jacob.—Alas! good sir, I have but what is thine. My land alone is left.
lthri Israel.—Then I must have thy land, since thou hast had my gold. I see, on reference to the Sacred Calendar, the jubilee is full a score of years ahead. Thy farm will hence be worth to me as many rents. [Casts up the total on the writing-table.] But this I see falls far too short of settlement. Hast thou here nought beside?
Jacob.—Nought, nought, my lord, save what these limbs bespeak.
Ithri.—Then thou and thine must leave the farm. I claim thee for the debt, and I will find thee work on my estate; while others farm thy land and pay their legal rent to me. [Ithri Ben Israel leaves. Zillah enters, astonished to find Jacob weeping.]
Zillah.—What ails thee, Jacob? Thou playest not the man. Trouble should strengthen us the more to fight and conquer; and conquest means a struggle. Come, cheer thee up; we soon will rise o'er all, and——
Jacob.—Ah's me! Thou knowest not; we're sold. Our land is now no longer ours. The home must now be left, and I, a bondman, doomed to serve. Henceforth, the brand of slavery will stain our name; and we who heretofore were born to rule, must now begin to learn to serve. The yoke of bondage is already on us. One only hope is ours, though that is far removed by years on years.
Chapter II.—The Rainbow in the Cloud.
NATHAN, a pious lsraelite; OTHNIEL, his nephew from Damascus.
Scene (twenty years later)—The Court of the Temple in the Reign of Solomon.
Othniel.—What gorgeous scenes! What buildings! Gold and cedar, brass and silver, seem as plentiful as stones and ashes. This surely is the beauty of perfection, the joy of the whole earth.
Nathan.—'Tis true, my son. But hush! the solemn service now begins. Seest thou that noble viaduct that spans yon deep defile, and joins mount Zion with the temple courts? Such is the path our king elects to tread when he doth come to worship in this place, and distant music telleth his approach. He comes, and with him see a crowned lady. She is Sheba's queen—a stranger visitor, who came from Africa's dusky tribes to prove the truth of that she heard of our good king; his acts and all his wisdom. Retire we to this portico and view them as they pass.
[King Solomon, with the Queen of Sheba and Zabud, the king's friend, walk past, followed by Jehoshaphat, the recorder, and Benaiah, the field-marshal, heading a bodyguard of attendants.]
Othniel.—Who is that patriarchal personage just come from out the temple doors, clad in white robes? He leads two bleating goats; and soon, they bind them to the altar horns. What means it, uncle?
Nathan.—He? Why that is Sadok, chief of all the temple priests. To-day is one of special import. The seventh month's tenth day is ever holy; but every fiftieth such exceeding so; for then the atonement-day proclaims the year or jubilee. Dost notice how the priests cast lots? One animal is now to die. The blood is poured out. He falls. Watch still. The priest unbinds the living goat; his hands are placed upon its head; and hark! [Zadok confesses aloud the nation's sins, the vast assembly kneeling.] Thou heardest solemn words, and these Jehovah hears; and as He hears from Heaven His dwelling-place, He graciously forgives.
Othniel.—But what becomes of yonder living goat? Is it to die as well?
Nathan.—Nay, nay, my son. Jehovah needs no second sacrifice; the debt in flgure has been paid. The full discharge comes next—Israel's reprieve. [A man in waiting takes the goat and leads it away.] See how it runs! And as it goes away, know thou it takes away our nation's sins with it. See now the brook is crossed, and next it mounts the hill. The ridge is reached; and lo, 'tis lost to view. Yet onward still 'tis driven, and doubtless will be left to roam at large among the crags of Judah's wilderness, to know return no more. But hush! the king stands forth. The priest from out the holiest has come, where sprinkled blood on and before the mercy-seat of gold proclaims that all is done; and hark! what saith the king? [Solomon, the king, reads aloud from a roll of parchment extracts from Lev. xxv. as follows:] "And thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years . . . Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout your land. And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof . . . and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family." (Lev. xxv. 8-10.)
Othniel.—See uncle, the priests prepare to blow the trumpets. [A loud and long blast in unison, echoed and re-echoed among the surrounding hills.] And did you note that woman yonder? How she exclaimed and clapped her hands!
Nathan.—I did, my son; and every reason hath she. Hard times have been her lot; but better days are hence in store for her. For twenty years they've served as bondslaves under debt; but now she runs to tell her husband, Jacob, that the great atonement being made, the day of their release has come.
CHAPTER III.— Sunshine.
The reader is taken again to the scene of Chapter I., near Hebron.
Jacob.—Dost bear in mind, my son, that dismal day that brought thy years to ten? and now thour't ten thrice-told to-day.
David.—It seems but as a dream of yesternight; 'tis all so real and fresh. A dark and cloudy day indeed. Egyptian darkness seemed to have blotted all else out. But darkness is God's covering, and clouds, the dust left by His feet. The bow was in the cloud and augured well, for sunshine lay behind. But tell us, father, where thou wast, and what thou didst upon the great atonement-day.
Jacob.—Thy mother brought me news of our release, or else I might have toiled to-day as when she found me in Ben Israel's field; for toil had robbed my faculty, and days and months were unobserved by me. But what I lacked in memory was overplussed in her; for ears and eyes had stood her in good stead.
Jacob.—She saw the sacred goats—she heard the king's decree, and clapped her hands for joy.
Zillah.—How could I otherwise, since then the yoke of legal bondage fell from off our necks.
David.—A cruel yoke, though law says only just.
Jacob.—And justice sets us free; the law can claim no more. Yet strange it was that when I sought my legal right because of satisfaction, Ithri Israel feigned surprise that I should press it so; and argued that my bondage was not sore, nor his demands severe. Why, he would make it lighter yet, and planned and promised fair—would give me all I'd ask, except my being free. He used his utmost craft to hold me still.
Zillah.—He would have bored thine ear I ween, and hadst thou but submitted, held thee now.
Jacob.—The chains of bondage pressed too hard. I knew and loved my liberty too well for that, and claimed and got my full discharge that day by righteous law—the king as witness.
David.—Nothing more sure and certain than our present tenure. No need to fear to face the world.
Jacob.—None dares to hold our right and liberty in question. We're justified by law, not pardoned merely, all is paid. We stand exempt from all reproach, though we may well reproach ourselves for what is past.
David.—Ben Israel's son cast scorn at me to-day, or thought to do.
Jacob.—How so forsooth?
David.—He had not heard of our release it seems, for business wants had taken him to Egypt. To-day he reached our farm, returning to his home, and claimed the fruits, the best of all, and called me slave, as erst his way, and bid me do his will as I was wont to do.
David.—Why then I simply told him I was free—the land was ours, the fruit, the sheep—and he had no control.
Jacob (smiling).—How relished he such savoury meat? Not much I trow.
David.— At first his wrath o'erleaped all bounds; but cooling down, he sought for proof of what I said.
Zillah.—How didst thou prove?
David.—Convincingly I ween; for when he saw, his speech seemed lost, and turning on his heel, he left.
Jacob.—What saw he to convince him so?
David. —Only the king's signed manual, declaring us as free. What more could he?
CHAPTER IV.—Reflected Light.
Leviticus xxv., Galatians iii., 1 Peter i. 18.
Scene: Everywhere. Time: Nineteenth Century. Persons: Believer's in Jesus with an open Bible.
How wonderful the truth of God! How simple, yet how sure! I see it all as clear as day. I'm free! Yes, free! True, I was once the willing slave of sin, and Satan bound me fast in captive chains, but now I'm free. The jubilee has come—the year of my release. I see it now, though all so dark before. This Book reveals my state in sin. 'Twas I that was in debt and cursed by broken law. 'Twas I that could not pay; and though I tried and tried again by doing good to counteract the ill, 'twas but to sink in deeper debt, to find myself more helpless still. The law cried, "Pay!" and I, who had not aught wherewith to bless myself, cried out, "Forgive." Yet righteous law could not forgive; it left me only where I was—accursed—to wait my doom. But, glorious truth! I read still more, that "what the law could not" (Rom. viii. 3), One did, by being made a curse instead, I see. The goat in ancient days prefigured Him who bore the load of sin, died in my place, and thus discharges me. Oh, God be praised, I'm free! Who shall accuse again? or who condemn? (Rom. viii 33, 34.) I’m justified by God, who now is on my side. My soul exults in this, that Christ hath from the curse redeemed me, by being cursed instead. (Gal. ill. 13.) "Sold for nought" I truly was, but now "redeemed without money." (Isaiah Iii. 3.) How "blessed are the people who know the joyful sound!" (Psalm lxxxix. 15.) My tongue must praise and shout for very joy, "I'm redeemed, I'm redeemed through the blood of the Lamb that was slain; I'm redeemed, I'm redeemed, hallelujah to God and the Lamb!"
To the reader.—Have you "received the atonement"—claimed through grace, your discharge? If not, why remain in bondage under the curse, when, by accepting by faith God's testimony concerning His Son, you may be "free indeed"?
“The Herald of Mercy” 1883