From time immemorial, mankind has always sought to communicate forward to the generations that will follow after. Ancient caves show pictographs of how the peoples of antiquity live and survived as hunter-gatherers and in agrarian development. Carvings on ancient stone posts called steles are unearthed bearing a complex structure of symbols and images that we find even now hard to decipher, yet we call these ancient peoples primitive and falsely assume they are unlearned. Messages from those ancient times have survived the ages because they were carved into stone. It seems that the writers of antiquity were trying to tell us something that would outlast the test of time, so they chose a medium that represented something that to them would last. One form of communication that has proven time-resistant through the ages, is communication of values through story. This usually begins from parent to child and so on, but in the Surface World that practice is breaking down. There is an impediment to traditional communication, or a speech impediment, if you will. Despite the myriad forms of new ways in which to communicate, the historical tradition of transferring values from one generation to the next is under assault. There are competing voices clamoring for attention. Sights and sounds that dazzle, delight and shock. Modern generations are losing their ability to hear and seek wisdom from prior generations. They are told any message the old has to offer the new is faded and out of date and no longer connected to the new norm. But despite what you might be told, people do not change that much, despite whatever “progress” might be happening around them. They are losing the answers that past would have already provided them—To equip them to handle the advent of “progress” in their brave new world. Languages are being lost to antiquity. Their words no longer easily form on the lips of the modern youth. Words are being snatched away from their meanings, like a child torn away from their birth family and having their heritage and identity dissolved into society’s modern progressive “System”. Languages, once lost, are difficult to learn again. The tongue of one culture, even in modern society, finds difficulty pronouncing the sounds passing as language in another. This is not because of ignorance, but because the way words are phonetically produced requires mouth and tongue movements that are only perfected by repeated and habitual practice. We may smile at the Asian learner’s difficulty in perfecting the “L” sound of the Latin alphabet, or the English speaker’s difficulty of approximating the “Ж” sound of the Cyrillic, or the buzzing and rolling “rr” sound of the Latin languages. These distinctions of the ability or inability to produce such sounds were used to reveal the culture and background of the person to which one is speaking.
In the time of the Judges, as told by the Ancient Text, there was a judge whose name was Jepthath who used this linguistic challenge to root out enemy spies from a neighboring tribe who were seeking entrance into their lands to cause them harm.
“Then the people of Ephraim mobilized an army and crossed over the Jordan River to Zaphon. They sent this message to Jephthah: “Why didn’t you call for us to help you fight against the Ammonites? We are going to burn down your house with you in it!” Jephthah replied, “I summoned you at the beginning of the dispute, but you refused to come! You failed to help us in our struggle against Ammon. So when I realized you weren’t coming, I risked my life and went to battle without you, and the LORD gave me victory over the Ammonites. So why have you now come to fight me?” The people of Ephraim responded, “You men of Gilead are nothing more than fugitives from Ephraim and Manasseh.” So Jephthah gathered all the men of Gilead and attacked the men of Ephraim and defeated them. Jephthah captured the shallow crossings of the Jordan River, and whenever a fugitive from Ephraim tried to go back across, the men of Gilead would challenge him. “Are you a member of the tribe of Ephraim?” they would ask. If the man said, “No, I’m not,” they would tell him to say “Shibboleth.” If he was from Ephraim, he would say “Sibboleth,” because people from Ephraim cannot pronounce the word correctly. Then they would take him and kill him at the shallow crossings of the Jordan. In all, 42,000 Ephraimites were killed at that time.” [Judges 12:1-6 NLT]
In this way, the families of the tribe of Gilead, were preserved, because they had a means of revealing the enemy concealed among them. A test that they could give which would expose the danger in their midst. There are many tests that can be put to the challenges you face ahead. I have told you of some of the ways the philosophies work among the cultures here, to prepare you, and equip you to discern attempts to deceive you and lure you in. The battlefields we have to cross below and ahead are not just those in geographical locations, but of a mental sort as well. Everyone is new to you here so you may not recognize the enemy who seeks your harm when they walk among you. The Ancient Text implores us:
“Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.” [1 Thessalonians 5:20-22 NLT]
To discern good from evil and friend from foe, you must be able to test for its presence. This is essential for your survival. Yours and ours together.
When I purposed to be part of this journey and answer its call and challenges, I knew I could not do it on my own wisdom. Some of you have asked, why I use the Ancient Text so much? Why do I seem to be joined to the past and the words written in another world? Again the Ancient Text provides me with the answer I must give you in this moment.
“Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written, “THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.” For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.” [1 Corinthians 2:6-13 NASB]
There is a transcendent truth that is being communicated and has gone out for centuries before I was even born or thought of by my parents or their parents. These ancient truths, some say are out of date. I would simply have to agree because they are timeless. Dates have no meaning in the light of Truth. We have access to One who speaks forth from Eternity. What measure does time and location present to Him? He can answer in our moment or provide the answer ahead of us or behind us in our past. We merely have to be humble enough to seek it and it will come to us like a refreshing breeze on a sweltering summer day. We are called to be discerning, to expose deception, and to recognize evil when it presents itself in disguise, but to do that you have to know and embrace the truth taught by the Ancient Text. The words I share with you, if you are ready for the challenges ahead, should not be new to you, but should resonate with the knowledge you already carry from your own personal experiences and study. The question I pose to you all and myself included is this: How well do you listen to the instructive and experienced voices of the past in your own journey and story?
The Ancient text says this, following the text quoted above:
“But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ.” [1 Corinthians 2:14-16 NASB]
Where does your own insight come from? A timeless source? Or a finite one?
What attitude does that person providing you with these insights you embrace have towards you? Are they building you up or tearing you down? These are questions you and I have to ask ourselves because we are being continually tested moment to moment.
“By what right do you have to test us?” asked Will, the young man now grown more emboldened.
“Who gave you this authority over us that you dare to question our loyalty to the quest?”
“Aren’t you the one who admitted that you have betrayed countless stories? That you murdered and dismembered many that we will see on this journey? Aren’t you just the convicted serial killer being forced to reveal the hidden gravesites where you left your victims to rot and be devoured by scavengers? Why should we trust that you are committed? How do we know that you are not leading us into a trap of your own? What right do you have to lecture us on recognizing what is good and right and decent? Who are you to say whom we should follow, or what we should do? You, yourself are a hypocrite! You have more blood on your hands than we do, so you have no right to even speak to us. Let Begglar lead. He, at least, lives here and has a stake in this fight.”
I looked over at Begglar and he laughed nervously and raised both hands, palms outward, “Not me, laddie. I’m fat and old. That is why I run an Inn. Or, at least, did so before all this. I have more skill with a cook spoon than a sword.”
I turned to Will with the others watching. What I was about to say would gain me no friends and would test the ones I had made already.
“You are correct in what you say of me.”
I could tell he was prepared for many responses, but he wasn’t expecting this.
“As I’ve said before. I didn’t choose me. If you have a problem with staying, you are free to go. Seek your own ease. If you plan on staying, but want a different guide here, then you will then have to take it up with the One who chose me for the task. What you do not know is that I do have a stake in this. I can die in this world and in this conflict. I am also held accountable for the services I render in leadership. If one is to lead, he must become the servant of all who would follow. As a servant of those who choose to follow, I must protect their interests and well-being. We are a volunteer force in this plane of existence. We share the journey and the mission. We succeed when we work together for a common goal. If there is disharmony, I must protect against it. United we stand, divided we fall. It is as simple as that. If you choose division, those of us who chose unity will have to say goodbye to you. You may choose to remain and explore here, but you will not do so in our company or share in our provisions. You must make your own way and join the group that suits you. If we meet upon a battlefield and you have aligned yourself with the enemy, you will be treated as such by us. Choose you this day, what cause you will serve: Your own, or that of this shared company?”
As I used the term “we” I realized that this term could very easily come to represent a much smaller group from this moment forward.
They all remained quiet. Thinking over what I had said.
A man in the back of the crowd muttered, “I don’t have time for this nonsense. I’m going back. Keep your little quest, or whatever it is. I’ve too many responsibilities back in the Surface World to spend any more time following this whatever it is,” and with that he turned to go, trudging back up the hill towards the crest in the direction of the Inn.
He turned and looked down on us when he had gone about fifty paces. He addressed Begglar, ignoring me, but looked meaningfully at the rest of the company.
“You said we could help ourselves to a libation when we were back at the Inn, didn’t you?”
Begglar nodded, “Aye, I did, sir.”
The man, somber-faced looked hard at me, and then nodded and tipped his forehead to Begglar, “Good. I think I could use one before the journey back. Any of you others are welcome to join me.”
Turning his back on us again, he continued up the hill road to the Inn.
Two or three others followed him, but the rest remained.
The woman, with whom I had spoken before, asked me, “Why do you seem to be driving and showing us away? Don’t you want our help on this quest?”
“This quest is not about me. But it is something I must do…feel called to do. There is a place called Excavatia. All you have is my word on it. It is real. But we will have to dig through these tunnels of experience, tragedy and struggle to get there. There are armies being drawn together ahead of us. If they meet on a shared plain, under the current climate of suspicion of each other, that ground will quickly become a battlefield that will escalate into the war that has been steadily brewing for the last few years. Xarmnian, Capitalian or not, we will all get swept into it.”
“What are you saying? You’re afraid for us?”
“I am worried. I do wonder if you all would be safer going back. Pretending that nothing was happening here, going about your lives with no thoughts of this elsewhere. Just because I have the calling to go, does not mean that I have the right to put you all at risk.”
“I don’t remember being forced here,” and she turned to her companions and our company at large.
“Do any of you remember Mr. O’Brian, compelling any of you to come? Do any of you remember him saying that this would be safe and easy?”
The response was mixed, but by and large in the affirmative though not coordinated enough for me to be certain of what I heard.
The woman turned and folded her arms and nodded as if her point had been clearly made.
“See. We are all in agreement, save those who left. We are here because of our own choices. Quit doubting yourself and us. It is not fair of you to do so.”
I looked at her seriously and the sober faces around her, nodding in agreement.
I couldn’t help it. I chuckled to myself.
“Well, if you put it that way, I certainly want to be fair and not rude to you all. In the service of fairness, I suppose I do not have any other choice, now do I?”
“No, you really don’t,” she said with an impish grin. “You spoke of Gideon, Mr. O’Brian. Are you planning on having us all drink from the river to narrow our company down a bit?”
“Ha. Ha,” I said, “Good reference. Did you know that the particular account of Gideon was the original group of 300 warriors in 1194 B.C., long before the 300 Spartans in September or August of 480 B.C. (714 years later) fought in the Battle of Thermopylae against the Persians? Gideon’s group of warriors were the ‘Original 300’.”
The Ancient Text says this:
“The LORD said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, for Israel would become boastful, saying, ‘My own power has delivered me.’ “Now therefore come, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is afraid and trembling, let him return and depart from Mount Gilead.'” So 22,000 people returned, but 10,000 remained. Then the LORD said to Gideon, “The people are still too many; bring them down to the water and I will test them for you there. Therefore it shall be that he of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go with you; but everyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.” So he brought the people down to the water. And the LORD said to Gideon, “You shall separate everyone who laps the water with his tongue as a dog laps, as well as everyone who kneels to drink.” Now the number of those who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, was 300 men; but all the rest of the people kneeled to drink water. The LORD said to Gideon, “I will deliver you with the 300 men who lapped and will give the Midianites into your hands; so let all the other people go, each man to his home.” So the 300 men took the people’s provisions and their trumpets into their hands. And Gideon sent all the other men of Israel, each to his tent, but retained the 300 men; and the camp of Midian was below him in the valley. … Now the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the sons of the east were lying in the valley as numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as numerous as the sand on the seashore.” [Judges 7:2-8, 12 NASB]
Gideon began his quest with 32,000 warriors, and systematically reduced them down to 300 through a series of tests. The Master wanted only those who were committed, so he had Gideon send those with fear and lack of commitment to the cause of the fight, home. The 10,000 that remained he divided among the kneelers and the lappers. Now think about that for a moment. If your face is down in the water, what can you see ahead of you? Not much but your own reflection in the shimmering pool. But if you kneel, you are still scanning the horizon and watchful for the threat ahead, as you bring your hand from the water up to your mouth. The kneelers had a sense of the danger ahead. The lappers were concerned only with the fact that they were thirsty and attended to their own needs. This said a lot about the two kinds of people in Gideon’s marshaled force of warriors. If you were in command, and were as fearful as Gideon was, which group would you pick to go to battle with? The kneelers or the lappers? Well, guess what? The Master chose to send Gideon to battle with the self-centered lappers. Doesn’t seem to make sense does it? But The Master was doing something with Gideon, that we might miss if we’re not careful. He was stripping Gideon’s trust in everything else away from him, so that victory over the Midianites and Amalekites, appearing in the valley ahead like a swarm of locusts, “numerous as sand on a seashore” could be gained in no other way except by Divine help. I have quoted it before, but it bears repeating.
“Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.” [1 Thessalonians 5:24 NASB]
One other thing that The Master did, which further demolished any confidence Gideon might have had in the 300 lappers who remained with him to bring about a victory against overwhelming odds. He was told to give each of them a trumpet and a clay pot placed over a torch. Each of you has a torch. The Ancient Text says:
“When the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers, they held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands for blowing, and cried, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!”” [Judges 7:20 NASB]
One of the young boys in the company, seeming to be in some measure of distress, raised his hand, and I nodded to him to ask his question.
“But Mr. O’Brian, sir. I don’t know how to play a trumpet.”
Begglar laughed a big-throated belly laugh that shook his whole body. The others nervously smiled at me and looked about in puzzled amusement.
“Don’t worry, laddie. We’re fresh out of trumpets, fifes and piccolos. But if ye have a mind ta try me bag pipes, ye’ll find those need a might fixin’ as well. Honk like a goose, they do. Ha, ha, ha!”
Another spoke up, “For one who agreed not to insult us, you are certainly not off on the right foot. Are you saying we are lappers?”
“Not at all. Not at all,” I assured the speaker, a teen-aged male, not far from boyhood and just on the cusp of being a man.
“I am merely trying to point out that when you are called to do something you believe is beyond your own ability, consider whether or not the task to which you are called is within the scope and ability of the One who calls you to it. If so, you can be confident that it will be in His power that you will find your success, if you choose to follow that call. Like the lappers, did not make the best kind of warrior, so it is that God does not require the skill of one over another to accomplish what He calls you to do and will do through you. As I have said, I am ill-equipped for this quest, but that does not limit the One who called me to it. Understand?”
He shrugged and then stepped back into the company.
There is a reason I told you of the warrior tests. It is not necessarily to see who is the bravest or most competent to continue the quest, but for another reason entirely.
There is one other customer that was not mentioned in “The Shopkeeper and Collector” story. It was not mentioned for a reason, because we could not give this kind a warning of what we are about to do.
That other kind of person is the villain, the thief that often does not come into your shop under the bells of the door, but flees from your shop under the sirens at the back of it. Running away from it with the precious items you protected from other customers as The Collector.
I do not want to alarm you unduly, but both Begglar and I have suspected something for some time now. We value you all on this journey. Especially those who wish to remain here with us to accomplish what we’ve set out to do. There is a simple question that Begglar will need to ask each of you, before we give you the arms and battle gear we are about to equip you with.
We shall have to ask each of you in turn and privately from all of the rest, because this question requires your honest answers with no copying or overhearing another’s response. For those of you willing to go forward, we ask that you follow Begglar one by one into that grove just yonder.
For those of you who feel that this quest is not for you, the others are still within sight if you wish to follow them up the hill road there back to the Inn. We won’t judge or condemn you. As the young lady says, I have not compelled or forced you to follow me, and I will not do so now, but if you are willing to follow you should know that I will ask you to do somethings along the way that may seem odd to you. That is merely something a leader must do to coordinate and delegate the tasks of the quest. So, if you are willing please line up and when called follow into that grove yonder. The sky is beginning to gray, so we may not have much time.
They aligned themselves in a sort of meandering line pointed towards a copse of darkened trees which formed a sort of oval shape into a darkening sky. Daybreak had seemed to come only a few hours ago, and it was odd that a gray dusk should be descending upon us so early and so shortly down the trail. At this rate, the sky would darken soon, and shadow would build up to the mountain peaks in the distance.
Whatever catch release Begglar had pulled within the granary storehouse should have unlatched the hidden weapons cache, but where was it to be found, and why did Begglar insist that our company be led through the copse and grove, before seeking the cache. There could be no other reason except to bewilder and confuse the enemy walking among us.
One by one, my fellow companions walked towards the grove and met Begglar under the shadows of the bare trees. Something gleamed in the distance between the two silhouettes as Begglar asked his private and mysterious question, waited for the answer, and then, satisfied, directed each person to proceed on to an area just out of my line of sight to wait until the testing was over.
When it came my turn at last, I met Begglar under the trees, beneath the light of a gibbous moon.
Very pointedly, he asked me the following question.
“O’Brian, I’ve know ye for most of yer life. You’ve been a faithful chronicler of this land and the truths and lies in it. You know what their facing ahead, same as I. But as I’ve asked all the others that are here, so it tis that I’m askin’ you.”
And here he took a breath, and stared hard at me.
“What are ye thankful for?”
Of course, that would be the most logical question to ask. And brilliant it was too.
This was our form of Shibboleth Test. It works almost every time in the Sub-World, and I nearly suspect it may work the same way in the Surface World as well. Everyone has lots to say about what they don’t like, but fewer and fewer take the time to say what they are grateful for. Gratitude is becoming a lost language, in the age of protests and angry demonstrations.
Xarmnian enemies here are incapable of expressing gratitude. They live under the illusion of resentful entitlement. They expect everyone’s love. They expect to be compensated. They expect to be enriched at everyone else’s expense. They believe anyone who has what they do not, achieved it through privilege or theft and disenfranchisement. Therefore, a Xarmnian, whose mind has been taken over by that mentality, will struggle to come up with anything that they are thankful for.
If you expect everything, then you will be grateful for nothing. No one owes you anything. You and I walk under the dispensation of the Master’s grace, whether we acknowledge it or not. For He holds the worlds that exist together under His will. He owes us nothing, yet He gave us everything. Your fellow travel owes you nothing. Be grateful when they choose to show you mercy and recognize that every gift of that mercy comes to you undeserved. That is my mindset. You do not own me loyalty, or friendship, or the time you have taken out of your lives to travel here with me. These things I receive from you as a mercy and a gift. I am not entitled or deserving of them…but I am grateful for it.
A humble, grateful person will understand that every good gift they are given, was provided to them apart from their merit. In the courtroom of life, we come not as the plaintiff, but the guilty defendant, and all we have left to us is to plead for the mercy of the court.
For everything in which you feel entitled, those things you become incapable of also being grateful for and appreciative of. In a culture growing more ungrateful and unappreciative of what sacrifices were made for that provision, the more closer that culture will be drawn into the state in which the very stones will cry out.
That gleam in the distance that I saw flash slightly ever so often was the shining blade of a sword embedded into the ground at the end of the copse. The sword had a red sash, that flapped in the breeze that reminded me of a bloodline. The hilt of the sword was a burnished gold forming a golden cross. The red sash though symbolic of a stream of shed blood from Immanuel’s vein, was also a lifeline. The wielder or the sword was intended to wrap the sash around his or her forearm and bind it there, so that the sword would never be lost in battle. It would be fixed to the hand and arm that bore it forth. That is why the sash was traditionally called The Bloodline.
Seeing it, and my trusted friend standing there, I freely told him all I was thankful for. Perhaps more than he wanted to hear.