“It is time for us to leave,” I said. “We must continue our journey, for the Spirit of God is drawing us toward Shiloh.”
“I suppose we must let you go, then,” Elkanah said. “How could we ever repay you for bringing our son back to us safely? We will always be in your debt. Hannah, too, is grateful beyond words.”
“You owe us nothing,” I replied. “If you are indebted at all, it is to Yahweh Himself. He is the One who sent us, and He provided the silver to redeem your son. Serve Him, and you will owe me nothing.”
“Then let the peace of God go with you, and may He guide your every step,” Elkanah said.
“I hope we will see you again soon, Sipporah,” said Hannah.
“Yes,” Peninah echoed. “You are always welcome here when you travel this way.
“Thank-you,” Sipporah replied. “It was good to get to know you.”
“If you do not mind, I will ride with you for a while,” Elon said, “for I too am on my way to Shiloh to consult with the High Priest. Shiloh is on the way to my home in Zebulun.”
“You are more than welcome to ride with us,” I said. “I will enjoy your company.”
We said our farewells and were soon riding north along the ridge toward Shiloh on the east side of Mount Ephraim. The day was warm and bright, and the time passed quickly as we talked of spiritual things, conditions in Israel, and things yet to come. Sippore flew high into the sky, and I soon noticed that two other doves flew with her.
I glanced at Sipporah. “Are those doves the same ones that were set free in Timnah?” I asked.
“I believe so,” Sipporah replied. “I wonder what they are doing here. Sippore seems to know them. They must have some purpose.”
Presently, we noticed a man sitting by the side of the road with his head in his hands. He seemed worn and dejected, even heartbroken. As we approached him, he raised his head and waved his hand in our direction. “Unclean! Unclean!” he shouted weakly.
Elon stopped his horse abruptly. “He is a leper!” he said. “Be careful. Do not go near to him. We do not want to become unclean while we are on our way to Shiloh.”
Pegasus and Pleiades continued toward the leper without stopping. Elon was more cautious and reined in his horse behind us.
“Unclean! Unclean!” the man shouted again, apparently wondering if we had heard him the first time. Yet he did not bother to rise.
“I hear you, my friend,” I assured him. “What is your name? Where are you from?”
“I am Bedan,” 64 the leper replied in a voice filled with despair. “I am a man of Ephraim—or I was when I was yet a man. I am now an outcast, judged by God, cut off from His presence at Shiloh.”
“Your name suggests that God has judged you,” I said, stopping before him. “Were you born with that name?”
“No, my birth name is Abdon, son of Hillel,” 65 he replied. “Those were the days when I was able to serve God. But now I am Bedan, for the eye of God is no longer upon me.” He raised his eyes for the first time and looked at me directly. Instantly, I recognized his face, for I had seen it on the Mount in the eye of the Angel of Life. I understood then that the letter ayin, or “eye,” at the beginning of Abdon’s name had been dropped, so as to shorten his name to B’dan, or Bedan.
“I am called Anava,” I said, “and this is my wife Sipporah. We are traveling to Shiloh with Elon the Judge from Zebulun. Shalom. Let the peace of God rule your heart.” 66
“How can I be at peace with God who has smitten me with leprosy? There is no peace between us, for I have been cut off from Him.”
“I have been to the Mount of God,” I replied. “There I looked into the eyes of your angel and saw your face. Yahweh has not cut you off.”
I slid off Pegasus’ back, stepped forward, and stood before him. “He has never cut you off! You are not alone. Never underestimate the love of God for all of His creatures. Never underestimate your value to Him. Never underestimate His power to save. No disease can separate you from the love of God. God believes in you more than you believe in Him or even in yourself. The God of Israel has sent us here to answer your prayer and to tell you that your affliction came upon you, not to destroy you, but to show forth His glory.”
I then reached out and laid my hand firmly upon his shoulder before he could object. Startled and surprised, he could only stare at me and wonder why I would defile myself by touching an unclean leper.
“No man, none of my family nor of my tribe, has touched me for eighteen years!” he exclaimed. “Why do you defile yourself on my account?”
“What tribe are you from?” I asked.
“I was of Ephraim before my exile,” he said weakly, “but that was a long time ago.”
But I said firmly, “Well, I am of Ephraim as well, and I carry the authority of our tribe to declare your restoration to fellowship. See my ring!” I held up my hand for him to see the ring of Ephraim that Chief Hiamovi had given to me.
Bedan’s jaw dropped. “Are you the Chief of Ephraim?” he asked.
“I am not the current Chief, for I am from another time and place. But I carry the authority of the tribe, nonetheless. The Chief of Ephraim who is now recognized by Israel wears an identical ring, but his ring pictures a golden calf that is patterned after the abomination which Israel worshipped in the wilderness. His idolatry has turned the tribe from Yahweh to the golden calf, and as an intercessor, you have borne the sin of Ephraim in your body.”
“Your sickness and pain was not on account of your own sin, but was because of the sin of your tribe—our tribe. But intercession always ends in victory, and it is the path toward spiritual authority. As you have borne the sin of Ephraim, so also will God grant you authority over them and over all Israel.”
“True Ephraimites,” I continued, “bear fruit that God desires. I come with God’s provision to restore your life in His Kingdom. You are cleansed by the God of heaven. I call forth the Angel of Life to restore all that you have lost. Go show yourself to the High Priest, 67 so that he may bear witness that you are healed and restore you to fellowship in the sanctuary.”
As Bedan looked at me and saw my confidence, despair began to give way to a flicker of hesitant hope. We had reached a nexus point, where opportunity intersects destiny and where divine courage collides with man’s weakness.
“Even if God should heal me, I cannot go to the High Priest without doves to offer for my cleansing,” 68 he said with hesitation.
“Our God will provide all that you need,” I said, “for He has healed you and He will cleanse you legally as well. And you need not worry about me. I am clean through the word which Yahweh has spoken to me. 69 I cannot be rendered unclean. Your heavenly Father has touched you and made you clean so that you would not render me unclean when I touched you. I am a priest after the ancient Order of Melchizedek.”
Elon stared in amazement from a safe distance. At that moment Sippore returned and landed on Sipporah’s shoulder. Two doves flew with her, but landed on Bedan’s shoulders. He was again surprised and amazed. “Where did these doves come from?” he asked incredulously.
“They are Yahweh’s provision for you,” I said. “They have come to you, because they now offer themselves to you, so that you may be cleansed officially by the High Priest. These doves are a sign of your healing, for if you were not healed, you would need no doves.”
Bedan looked at his hands and suddenly realized that they were whole again. His fingers were restored, and the whiteness of the leprosy had disappeared. “I am healed!” Bedan said softly. “Yahweh has healed me!” He jumped to his feet, dancing and praising God with his hands raised. He seemed suddenly to be energized, having a new strength that comes with renewed purpose in life.
The two doves flew into the air and circled overhead until he finished his victory dance. Then they returned to him.
“Why are these doves so tame?” Elon finally asked, when the time of rejoicing settled down into calmer enthusiasm.
“They too have purpose in life, for they are guided by the Angel of Life. They represent the Messiah who is to come,” I explained. “The Messiah is heaven-sent. He will come to fulfill the promises of God to intervene in the affairs of men. One of these doves, the male, will be killed so that all may have life. The female will be released into the open field, 70 representing the release of the heavenly Bride through a second work of the Messiah. He will be sent to bring the word of God to all mankind, so that He may become the Savior of all men.” 71
After a pause, I spoke again to Elon, saying, “You are of Zebulun. It is written in the books of heaven that the people of Naphtali and Zebulun, who dwell in darkness, will see a great light dawning upon them. 72 This is that light, the light of the Messiah, the revelation of His coming and the work that He is to do in Israel and in the entire earth.”
Then to the former leper, who by now had calmed down, I said, “Tell me more about yourself and your family. Surely you were not a leper from birth.”
“No,” he said, “I come from a godly family in Ephraim. “I served Yahweh all my life and did all that I could to help the poor. But I felt that I was missing something, and so I sought to know Him better. I prayed that He would reveal Himself to me in a greater way, but my audacity must have angered Him, because soon after this, He cursed me with leprosy. I was forced to leave my family and wander as a beggar, alone and forsaken for the past eighteen years.”
“You are no longer Bedan,” I said. “When you return to your home, you will again be Abdon, for all will now see that the eye of God has looked upon you with compassion. What you thought was divine judgment upon you, has been, in truth, an answer to your prayer. You wanted greater knowledge and understanding, but such things do not come without adversity or pain. Your condition does not mean that God forsook you, but that He was pleased with the cry of your heart.”
“What?” Abdon said. “How can that be possible?”
“A passionate heart utters cries too deep to understand or express in human language,” I replied. 73 “Such cries are music to God’s ears. God hears beyond spoken words and answers the real needs that are hidden and unspoken—unknown even to the one praying, He has shown you the condition of all mortal men, for leprosy is a slow death that represents the mortal condition. The law of cleansing lepers teaches us the spiritual principle by which men may come into immortality. You were afflicted with leprosy to teach you the hopeless condition that all men face apart from the true source of life. This was a divine revelation. But now the time has come for you to learn the grace of God and the principles of immortal life.”
“What do you mean?” Abdon asked.
“You know that it takes two doves to cleanse a leper,” I said. “But do you know the prophecy that is spoken through these doves?”
“No,” he answered. “I know only that I must present two doves to God in order to be pronounced clean.”
“The doves,” I said, “represent the coming Messiah and prophesy of His work that is yet to be done in the earth. He will come twice, the first time to die and the second time to bring immortality. His death will be on behalf of all mortal men, a perfect Man coming to die so that all men might live. He will then be raised from the dead, so that those who have faith in Him and in His purpose will receive life.”
“Are you saying that His resurrection will be His second coming?” Abdon asked.
“That is part of the answer,” I said, nodding my head. “It will be a beginning point—a promise of immortality for others as well. Men will secure His promise, but they will yet have to be patient, for the heavens must then receive Him for a season to fulfill other aspects of the law and of prophecy. When He returns from heaven, He will raise believers from the dead and give them immortality so that they will never again die. These will rule the Kingdom of Heaven and show the rest of humanity the ways of God.”
“How does the second dove prophesy of this?” Abdon asked again.
“As you know, the second dove is to be released into the open field after being dipped in the blood of the first dove,” I explained. “The work of the second dove is made possible by the first dove, for it is plain that the second cannot be released without first being dipped in the blood of the first. The field is the world. 74 The second dove does not have to die, but is released.”
“But why is this law necessary for lepers to be cleansed?”
“The death of the first dove takes death from mortals, who are spiritual lepers,” I said. “As a leper, you learned about the power of death, but when you were healed, you learned how the Messiah loved you and took this death, or leprosy, upon Himself, so that you might be set free. He loved you first in order to win your love. Knowing this, is not your love for Him increased? Do you not love Him because He first loved you?” 75
“Yes, certainly,” Abdon said enthusiastically. “Up to now, I thought that God hated me for daring to ask to draw near to Him. But now that I see His love in a new light, my original desire has awakened stronger than ever!”
“Love draws us all into union with God through His Messiah,” I said. “Those who fear God are yet servants. Those who love Him are sons. Fear separates and requires force to unify. Love is the greatest unifying force in the world and needs no fear to maintain unity. Unity means we are one with the Messiah.”
“The doves,” I continued, “represent the Messiah in His expression of love for lepers—all mortals. Those who love the Messiah are one with Him. The principle of unity means that what He does, we do, for the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you.’ Neither can the head say to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ 76 If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. 77 We are all one body. When one man weeps over the pains of mortality and leprosy, we all weep. When a leper rejoices over his healing, we all rejoice. By this principle, you are now one with your great Healer. Even as He identified with you through His death, so also you identify with Him through His life.”
“That is an amazing principle,” Abdon said.
“You would not have learned it, but through painful experience,” I said. “The pain, however, is not worthy to be compared with the joy of healing and restoration. You had to learn how to die to yourself before you could learn how to live in union with God. Rejoice, for few men have learned this truth. It has not yet been revealed to men openly, for only a few are privileged to know it ahead of its general revelation.”
“I am indeed privileged to know this,” Abdon said.
“Your soul had to die so that you could become a new creation,” I continued. Leprosy killed your soul, for you know that your soul lost all hope of life. You have experienced the pain of death even while alive. But you have also discovered that death was a door to life, a new beginning, and you are a new man today.”
“Yes, I see,” Abdon said excitedly. “I am certainly not the man I was just yesterday. I was dead while alive and had no hope of really living before I died. A new day has dawned.”
“Your soul has died,” I said, “and your spirit is now the real you. Follow the inner voice of your spirit, and you will find that you are a temple of God and that His presence is within you, guiding you into all truth. I charge you never again to underestimate the love of God. His love is a raging fire that is unquenchable. There is nothing you can do to make Him love you more. There is nothing you can do that would cause Him to love you less. Never again believe that you are beyond hope or that you are unworthy to approach Him. You must know this in order to know the mind of God toward all men. This is important because, as a door of life, you will judge the people of Israel in your later years.”
“How could I ever thank you for giving me such understanding?” Abdon said.
“Truth is in the Messiah who is to come. Yet for those who hear the inner voice of God, truth is now. The truth was in you from the start, but you did not remember it. I am only a reminder of truth.”
Turning to Elon, I said, “Take note of this, brother Elon, and learn from Abdon’s experience, for this is what you need to know as well to be an effective judge. Mark this man well, for he will be your successor as a judge in Israel, and in his days there will be peace. He will be known as the great reconciler between neighbors, for he will always carry a marvelous testimony of divine intervention that restored him to peace with God. He will know by experience that God loves all men from the least to the greatest of them.”
“Let us go immediately to Shiloh!” Abdon said. “I must begin my week of cleansing as quickly as possible, so that I may be reunited with my family. They will hardly recognize me after eighteen years.”
“Yes, it is time to go,” I said. I again mounted Pegasus, while Abdon led the way, walking and leaping and praising God. The two doves again flew happily in circles overhead until he was able to settle down, and then they again perched upon his shoulders. They had been set free of their Philistine constraints, but they remained bound by love, so that the High Priest might bear witness of Abdon’s healing.
But we had hardly gone a short time down the road when a strange tingling sensation came over me, and I looked at Sipporah. She returned my glance, and I knew that she had felt it as well.
“Farewell, my friends,” I said. “The Spirit of God is moving in us, and our presence is required in another place.”
With that, Elon and Abdon faded from view, and Sipporah and I and our faithful dove found ourselves riding alone. So we proceeded on our way toward Shiloh.
- 1 Samuel 12:11. Bedan’s name means “in judging.”
- Judges 12:13. Abdon was the judge who succeeded Elon, but Scripture seems to give him two names: Abdon and Bedan, each with similar meanings. Abdon means “servitude,” from abad, “to serve.”
- Colossians 3:15
- Leviticus 14:2, 3
- Leviticus 14:4
- John 15:3
- Leviticus 14:7
- 1 Timothy 4:10
- Isaiah 9:1, 2
- Romans 8:26
- Matthew 13:38
- 1 John 4:19
- 1 Corinthians 12:21
- 1 Corinthians 12:26