‘When I first came here,’ said the old man to his companion, ‘I really thought this was just a temporary place, somewhere I was passing through. I did not value it. Then, after a little, I realised it was a good place for taking one’s time. That was the first step.’ Silence fell. His companion shifted uneasily, and the old man looked at her with some concern.
After a while, he continued, ‘I soon realised that it was a place which was teaching me as much as it was teaching my companions. That was a great leveller. Then I came to see that in this place I could be near God, really near him, in a way I had never managed in the settled land.
Are you all right Rachel?’
Rachel did not speak, but silently got up, moved a little and settled with a small sigh. The old man waited, then went on, ‘I used to think that – this sounds silly. I am not sure I would tell anybody but you. I used to think I could kind-of manipulate God. Go back to places I had once found him, and find him there again. Do things he liked, and then have him protect me because of it. It was in this place I grew out of that. And the odd thing, Rachel, the really odd thing is that after I stopped looking for Him in that one place where I found a burning bush, I found him in every bush.
‘To me’ said Moses, excitedly, ‘every bush, every flower here is full of His glory.’ His companion looked at him disapprovingly. ‘Sorry, said Moses, ‘You are the important one just now. I’ll keep it a bit quieter. You know, I have never been happier. Every day, I feel closer to Yahweh. It is easier and easier to feel Him all around me.
‘I loved my people, I really did, but there was no space, and no peace. Now they are not here, it is as if a great burden is lifted. I am free to be myself for the first time ever. It is,’ he cast a glance at Rachel, and quietened his voice, ‘It is as though my spirit expands to fill all this space now I am alone. I know life in the Land is easy, but this is the place to be aware, to know Yahweh. You know, I think people will always come here when they really want to know Yahweh. I think it is here, and in places like this, that people can find him most easily. It is not a place to hurry through, hoping to get to an easy place. It is a place to come, and stay, until you can see small things, and enjoy small pleasures, and hear Yahweh without him needing to shout. It is difficult here, but if you can only love it, the very struggles of it make life sharp, true. Not having is the great richness.
‘And to think I used to fear being alone here! It is laughable. I have so many companions, not just Yahweh but all of you!’
The goat let out a small distressed bleat, and Moses sprang round to her tail, ‘Ah, not long now, Rachel,’ he comforted her.
On a ridge, far above the oasis and to the left, two men paused. ‘I wonder what terrible thing he did for his tribe to abandon him?’ asked one, ’Is he not a distant kinsman by marriage?’
‘Yes,’ replied the other, ‘he married the old chief’s daughter. I do not know what he did wrong, but it was no failing in his herdsmanship. He has the finest goats for cashmere that I know of, he tends them like a father, and his sheep have thick soft wool and spectacular fertility. He hardly loses a lamb. Yet he is old.’
‘One day he must die,’ agreed the other, ‘The right thing to do then would be to give him honourable burial as a kinsman, and afterwards to care for his flocks.’
‘Surely so fine a herdsman would want that,’ agreed the other, hopefully.
By the oasis, Moses was delivering Rachel of a second daughter. ‘Another fine, healthy kid,’ he assured her, ‘and your sister looks as if she will kid in a day or so. This year we have had a good time of it, haven’t we?’
He looked to the sky-line, and chuckled. ‘You know,’ he told Rachel who was ecstatically licking her twin daughters, ‘I used to worry over what would happen to all of you when I do die, but now I think that Yahweh has that sorted. Though I will put off dying for a year or too yet. There is still much to learn, and life is so good.’