I was quiet, but as he turned through a gate in a street half a mile away from the pub he glanced around. It was the house next to the church. I think he saw me, even though I tried to look unconcerned as if I was just wandering along minding my own business. He didn’t acknowledge me, nor make any sign he had noticed me, but I just had a feeling.
The fact that he was connected with the church concerned me and I wondered why it bothered me so. I could not get this young man out of my mind. Perhaps, if he was involved with the church I could see him again on the following day – in a crowd, in a service. I tried not to go, but something pulled me there. It was as if an irresistible force dragged me through the doors.
I slipped in to the back of the church, and sat down. I had my hoodie pulled over my face. I had no idea what had happened to the foreigner. I didn’t care either. But this young man intrigued me somehow.
There he was. At the front. People sang a bit and someone read something out of a big book – I supposed it was a Bible, but I don’t know much about that sort of thing. Then the young man stood up and began to talk.
He said he had a story to tell that morning. He thought those who heard it may find it unusual or different. But God had laid it on his heart to share it with the congregation (whatever that meant) and so he was going to put aside the sermon he had prepared and tell his story.
This was new to me. I had heard the occasional sermon at a funeral or wedding and they were all rather stuffy. But a story may be different. I sank down in my seat and prepared to listen. This is the story he told as if it was his story – without a single note he began to speak and I found myself listening, like a small child listens to a bedtime story.
The day came when I had to make the journey. I felt a certain reluctance to go. My wife, my beloved, was with child for the first time and I was eager to be there when my son was born. Yes, you may think that was strange. What does a man care for womanly things? But second only to Yahweh, Rebekah was the light of my life – and, although she said nothing – I could see the fear in her eyes when I spoke of leaving.
But I had to go. My father insisted that I go personally to deal with the growers of dates and the bee-keepers to purchase the very best quality fruit and honey that we could find. I had travelled with him often as a boy and in recent years as his representative. I knew what I needed to look for – the men I needed to see – and those I needed to avoid.
So I packed my bag with the necessities for my journey, and with funds to pay for my purchases. I bade Rebekah a fond farewell. She clung to me and fought the tears, but she is a strong woman and she held them back. I was proud of her – she would bear me a fine son.
Leaving the cool shelter of my home, I would normally have made a slight detour and gone to the Temple to pray to Yahweh for protection. But this time I was in a hurry, and so I prayed as I walked. I slipped into a doorway to avoid two Roman soldiers. I did not want to be waylaid or diverted by being told to carry their packs for them! It was a law that really annoyed me – being used like a beast of burden and having no option – but let me not get into that now. I could keep you here all day!
I had made good progress, leaving the walls of the city as the sun rose, tinting the hills with that special light that I love so much. There is artist in me – I seem to appreciate beauty more than other men – but there – that’s who I am.
Striding along the familiar road, I sang the old songs of my fathers:
“Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love for I have put my trust in You.
Show me the way I should go, for to You I entrust my life…
Rescue me from my enemies, Lord, for I hide myself in You.
For Your Name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life in Your righteousness, bring me out of trouble;
In Your unfailing love, silence my enemies destroy all my foes for I am Your servant”.
I was singing my heart out to Yahweh – well you do, don’t you, when you’re alone and life is good and your first son is about to be born – when I realized there were men on the hillside above me, coming down to the road – fast. As far as I could see there was no-one else on the road and I panicked and ran. But city life had slowed me down and these fit hill-dwellers gained ground and surrounded me.
I remember thinking ‘Rescue me from my enemies, Lord,’ when the first blow landed and the world went dark.
 Psalm 143