The Restored Sheep
It was noon on the sixth day of Sukkoth when we arrived back in Shiloh, full of elation at the wonderful works of God that had transpired earlier. Rebekah saw us first, as we made our way through the crowd.
“Sipporah! Come quickly!” she shouted as she waved at us. When we drew close, she said, “You have arrived just in time to eat with us!”
By the time we had arrived at their tent, Nathan, Eleazar, and Samuel had come out to greet us as well. We dismounted and introduced them to our new friend. We then spent the next hour in fellowship over a meal, where Shalam told everyone the story of his life and how God had restored his sight. They too were disturbed by Samson’s merciless judgment, yet they were comforted by the mercy of God which had turned tragedy into a time of rejoicing.
“I was a man born blind,” Shalam explained, “and the legalistic application of the law blinded me even more. But in the end, God had mercy upon me, opened my eyes, and now I see in more ways than one!”
After eating our fill, we then moved into the sukkah to prepare for the reading of the law. The horses joined with us as usual, and Sippore perched upon Pegasus’ head.
“Let us begin,” Samuel said. “This is the sixth speech of Moses: If a man has two wives, the one loved, and the other unloved, and both the loved and the unloved have borne him sons, if the first-born son belongs to the unloved, then it shall be in the day he wills what he has to his sons, he cannot make the son of the loved the first-born before the son of the unloved, who is the first-born. But he shall acknowledge the first-born, the son of the unloved, by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the beginning of his strength; to him belongs the right of the first-born. 158
He paused and looked around at our contemplative faces. “Anava has taught us the principles of the two covenants that Moses made with Israel. After hearing Shalam’s story,” he said, “it appears that this law, among its many applications, reveals his life. As a man of flesh from birth, he was a son of the first covenant that God made at Mount Horeb. As such, he was the son of the unloved woman, and God gave him many years in which to try to prove his worthiness to receive the heavenly inheritance.”
“But now,” Shalam said, “I am a new man. Yes! I am no longer the son of the unloved woman, but the son of the loved one! Is not this like Abraham’s wives? Is not this also like Jacob’s wives? In both cases, one was loved more than the other, and each produced children. Ishmael was older, but he was replaced by Isaac. Likewise, Jacob’s oldest son, Reuben, was replaced by the much younger Joseph.”
“Yes,” Samuel replied, “and in the case of Isaac, who had only one wife, he nonetheless had twin sons whose lives again illustrate this same law. Hence, the older son, Esau, was replaced by one younger son, Jacob.”
“Then,” Shalam said, “it appears that I have lived both lives within myself, for once I was a man of flesh, and now I am a new spiritual man. The old me is dead, and the new me lives and sees things that my old self could never see—with or without physical eyes.”
“Very good!” Samuel said. “But let us continue, for the next law speaks of the lawful cause by which the first-born son of an unloved mother may be disinherited: “If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them, then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his home town. And they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear of it and fear. 159
“My old self,” said Shalam, “was indeed rebellious and stubborn, and so he was rightfully disinherited.”
“So it is with all men since Earthyman first sinned,” Samuel explained. “None of us in our flesh has the ability to please God, for we have all sinned and have strayed from His ways. But God has made provision whereby we may all become new creatures. 160 The old man is dead, and the new man now lives. We have had a change of identity, all according to the divine law.”
“The law is amazing, once we understand it,” Rebekah observed.
“What is the next law?” Shalam asked, eager to learn more.
Samuel continued, “You shall not see your countryman’s ox or his sheep straying away, and pay no attention to them; you shall certainly bring them back to your countryman. And if your countryman is not near you, or if you do not know him, then you shall bring it home to your house; and it shall remain with you until your countryman looks for it; then you shall restore it to him.” 161
“That speaks of me!” Shalam exclaimed. “I was a lost sheep! You found me and took me to your house!”
“You were one of God’s lost sheep,” I said, “and He sent us to find you and to care for you. There were many who passed you by, because they did not understand the mind of God revealed in this law. They did not truly know whose sheep you were, for they believed that you surely could not be one of God’s lost ones.”
“And now,” said Nathan, “the house of Rephah has fed you with food and drink, and Samuel is feeding you with good spiritual food as well!”
In mid-afternoon, when the hour of prayer approached, Samuel said, “I have duties in the tabernacle this afternoon, and so I must cut short our discussion. Please excuse me.”
After further discussion of the law, we decided to go to the tabernacle to observe the evening sacrifice and to present our lost sheep to God. When we arrived at the gate, where Eli sat, Nathan presented Shalam to him, saying, “Your Excellency, we have found a lost sheep and have come to return him to his Owner, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
“Where is this sheep?” Eli asked, looking around, but seeing no animal.
“I am here,” Shalam said. “I was lost, but God’s people found me, healed me of my blindness, fed me, and loved me, as commanded in the law.”
“Are you not the blind beggar that has been seen around the country for many years? Are you the one called Haganav?”
“I was, Your Excellency, but I have been restored, and I am now called Shalam.”
“Who healed you?” Eli asked with suspicion. “Where is he?”
“A man and his wife made clay and anointed my eyes, and I received my sight,” Shalam said.
“Are there any witnesses to this miracle?” Eli asked.
“No,” Shalam replied. “It occurred in the countryside, for all had forsaken me as I was trying to find my way to Shiloh for the feast.”
“Then we cannot accept your testimony as true,” Eli stated. “Such things require witnesses according to the law.”
“All I know is that whereas I was blind, now I see,” 162 said Shalam. “There are many who know who I was, for they saw me in my blind condition.”
“Nonsense!” Eli retorted. “Unless you can produce a credible witness of your healing, I command you to remain quiet about this. Do not stir up the hopes of the people by your miracle story. Now leave this place. You shall not go up to desecrate the tabernacle with your presence.”
Shalam was speechless and shocked, but there was nothing he could do. “Come,” I said to him quietly. “Let us go. For judgment I came into this place, that those who do not see may see; and that those who see may become blind.” 163
We walked slowly back to Nathan’s sukkah. Shalam was crushed, but I explained to him that God had already departed from Shiloh, so it did not matter what Eli said. The glory had already departed, so God had to be found in another place of His choice. In fact, God had indwelt the hearts of true believers, and they carried His presence within them. Hence, God had already found him, and any further ceremony at the tabernacle was redundant.
“The gate of Shiloh, where the High Priest sits as gatekeeper, is not the true gate or door to God’s presence,” I explained. “God is too big to dwell in a small tent or even in a large temple. 164 His desire is to dwell in us, for we are the true temples of God. Eli could never guard the gate of a true temple, for there is only one Door into the presence of God. It is the Messiah Himself, whose Spirit has healed your eyes and restored your life.”
- Deuteronomy 21:15-17, the start of Moses’ sixth speech.
- Deuteronomy 21:18-21
- 2 Corinthians 5:17
- Deuteronomy 22:1, 2
- John 9:25
- John 9:39
- 1 Kings 8:27