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Chapter 24

 

Simon, Ari and their party continued on the King's Highway, avoiding Amman the capital of Jordan. They had crossed the Jordan River without loss and were travelling south through Hisban about 40 kilometres east of Jerusalem, when the first tremors began. For them, God's timing was perfect. The earthquake would divert attention from them and their escape. They found shelter under cover of Mount Nebo's foothills.


However, with detours and rough terrain, fuel was low. Simon and Ari needed to supplement the supply if they were to reach their destination. With maps spread on the dusty vehicle, they agreed the best action would be to use the four wheel drive and travel to Callirhoe on the eastern shore of the Dead Sea. From there they could use one of the many abandoned boats to cross into En Gedi on the western shore. It was said drums of fuel and oil were left at a deserted depot, when the manager mysteriously disappeared.
"Tonight is not a good night for driving. Let's hope and pray the violent storm and tremors subside. The sooner we get under way the better."


After talking with the others they decided to take two men with them.   "Do you know the area well?" asked Ari, refolding the tattered map.   "It is many years since I passed En Gedi on the way to Masada. Some fellow Jews hired a bus for a day trip to the area. We wanted to return to the spot where many died long ago."


"What happened there Simon?" "Masada(1) is a mesa standing about 250 metres above the surrounding valleys. It was used as a stronghold by King Herod and later the Jews, who held it during the first revolt against Rome, during AD 66-73. After a long struggle to recapture this fortress, the tenth Roman legion raised an enormous siege ramp, only to break through and find 900 men, women and children had died in a suicide pact, rather than be taken prisoner."


"That makes our exploit tonight seem insignificant compared to their heroics," replied a much humbled Ari.   "Yes my friend, God asks men everywhere today to be courageous."


Dusk saw the truck edging its way over rocky ground towards the Dead Sea. Thunder continued to rumble overhead. As Ari drove, huge hailstones smashed into the truck, gouging large dents in the body. With a deafening bang the windscreen shattered, making visibility difficult. Lightning split through the clouds illuminating sky and ground. As they came near the Dead Sea(2), a clap of thunder preceded another electric shaft of lightning. It zig zagged to earth striking a tall tree, igniting it from top to bottom.(3) Within minutes, surrounding grass and bushes were blackened by heat and fire.


"Stop!", shouted Simon above the storm.  "We need to park in a burnt out area safe from falling trees and spot fires."


Flame leapt along the eastern shore as the four men ran, dodging falling branches and patches of smoking stubble. Hail bit into the hot ground sending spurts of steam curling around their feet.


"Stay close to me. I can see the boats bobbing up and down when the lightning flashes above the water." The grimy faced men tumbled over the side of an abandoned pleasure boat. Coughing and choking, they greedily sucked air into their smoke filled lungs. As they lay to draw breath, the sea around them turned blood red like a burning cauldron, as huge fiery masses plunged into the waters.(4)


Ari pulled in the anchor while Simon tried to start the sluggish motor. Salty crusts and moisture had collected on the neglected vessels terminals. Simon quickly wiped and replaced the points and spark plugs. The motor soon hiccupped and spluttered to life. Ari glanced back towards Jerusalem and saw a huge ball of light in the sky. It tore to earth like an enormous meteor and exploded like a gigantic atomic bomb, sending ominous white clouds across the sky as far as the eye could see.(5) The boat shook and heaved as great waves threatened to sink it. Salty water smashed onto the deck, flooding the cabin. Simon had ridden many storms on the Sea of Galilee, but had never seen the Dead Sea convulse like this.
The electrical storms and meteor like explosions ceased as suddenly as they had begun. Thick blackness and fog surrounded the boat as Simon beached it on the western shore at En Gedi. He was glad this strange unearthly darkness provided cover. He let his memory guide him to the place where he had once seen the large fuel drums. A crunch of gravel told him they had reached the abandoned depot. With a dull clunk his foot touched the full drums. Simon set a small laser lamp on the ground while the four men rolled drums of fuel to the water's edge. They made makeshift ramps with fallen trees and dragged the heavy drums aboard using chunky ropes found on the boat deck.


Simon knew the return trip would be difficult. He peered ahead into the tiny beam from the ship's light as it searched the inky darkness. The sea was calm now and the motor throbbed rhythmically across the vast emptiness. Although the air had cleared Ari felt as if he was being suffocated by the darkness. Simon's words broke the silence.


"We should see the glow of fires on the other shore soon. They will guide us back to Callirhoe. Our trip tonight, with darkness all around, reminds me of what I read in David's Bible. It says we need to learn to trust God, even when we don't know what is ahead. Sometimes trusting God is ALL we can do."(6)


Ari began to experience the soothing effect Simon's words had on him. An indescribable feeling of joy and relief bubbled up inside him. He threw an arm across Simon's shoulder as the glowing shoreline appeared on a black horizon.


Burning embers and hot earth scorched the four men's shoes as they rolled the heavy drums to the truck. It stood in the clearing covered with a thin layer of ash. Smoke stained the shattered glass giving the windscreen a stippled effect. The return trip to camp took longer than expected. Burning trees and thick smoke made driving extremely hazardous. When they reached camp the site was empty, except for powdery trails showing their friends departure. Glancing at his watch Ari noticed it was 8 A.M. It seemed like the dead of night as blackness clung to every rock. Ari took the wheel giving Simon the opportunity to rest. He was confident they would soon catch up with their holy band of travellers.


There were things Ari didn't understand about the sudden catastrophic upheavals. They were unlike anything he had ever experienced. The fury was intense and seemed supernatural. Simon turned on the radio for the latest news. In several parts of the world, the announcers garbled words confirmed that people had reported blood-red hail, fire and meteors. He broadcast some of the faxes received.   'Falling meteor destroys atomic ships - marine life destroyed.'    'Sea appears to be filled with blood after eruption on several Pacific Islands.'   'Many rivers and reservoirs have been poisoned after a meteor plunged to earth.'


'An unusual darkness filled the daylight - alarming people.'(7)
As the announcers voice rose to fever pitch, Ari turned off the radio.   "Simon, do you think this is the end? Has God caused this turmoil?"


Simon hesitated a moment before replying.
"I think there is worse to come Ari. I believe this could be God's last warning. He has waited so long for people to change their ways. Too many have ignored Him, wanting their own way. God alone controls the natural environment and weather. Surely people will turn to Him now they have seen His anger and power."
"Today was horrific," replied Ari.


His silent thoughts and prayers were for his wife and son. He must be strong for them, even if inwardly he trembled. The headlights of the truck picked up two faint red lights surrounded by clouds of dust. Within minutes they pulled up behind the stationary truck. The worried driver was busy checking the motor.


"Am I glad to see you. I hope you have some fuel," he joked with a quizzical smile.   Nicholas hung back while his Mum hugged his Dad, crying and laughing all at once. Ari caught sight of his gangly son and stretched out an arm to include him, thankful they had been reunited once again.


The NovelNotes Feature

These are a helpful feature of this novel. Their use is optional. They may be used if you want to understand more of the underlying Biblical aspects of the story, or the historical and factual material. However, you do not have to use these to follow the story line of the novel.
Chapter 24 NovelNotes

1. Masada is still sometimes used by the Israeli military when new troops are sworn in for service in Israel.

2. The Dead Sea is so called because it has no sea life at all as the water contains 30% mineral salts. Other nations have looked at this deposit with great envy.

3. This begins the second series of God's judgments on mankind. The details come from Revelation, Chapter 8, verses 6 and 7.

4. During this 2nd trumpet judgement, one third of all the sea becomes blood and there is at least one violent volcano. For details see Revelation, Chapter 8, verses 8 and 9.

5. The 3rd trumpet judgement from God has a star falling to earth and poisoning the water. See Revelation, Chapter 8, verses 10 and 11.

6. One of the best pieces of advice ever given by King Solomon, at one time the world's wisest man, is found in the book of Proverbs in Chapter 3, verse 5. It says, 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.' In matters as complex and important as those in this novel, no person can afford to trust their own judgements. We all need to rely on what God says in His word.

7. In the 4th trumpet judgement of God, the sun, moon and stars are all affected, limiting daylight on earth. See Revelation, Chapter 8, verses 12 and 13.

Continue to Chapter 25