A fun reference to the Ark of the Covenant rises early in Chapter 9. Benjamin’s tale of the Bethel relics draws from the biblical story of Shishak, told in 1 Kings 14: 25-26, and that of King Jehoash of Judah, told in 2 Kings 14: 8-14. Learn more about this in the glossary. To be fair, my adaptation also reflects a deep appreciation for a certain Steven Spielberg film that I must have seen (in pieces or full showings) more than 300 times, for it suggests answers to certain biblical holes.
Spoiler alert: this issue will rise again in The Jonah Cycle!
Let’s delve further into this issue of faith. One of my motivations in writing this novel was to show how an unbeliever may change his or her mind. While this “born again” process may differ from person to person, depending on their mindsets and circumstances, the roots in each case prove quite similar, for they draw from the same source: our one, true God. With Benjamin, we see these roots in Chapter 9, which starts with a reprise of Hosea’s advice: “You must believe, Benjamin. Nothing will make sense until you do.”
How would you respond if someone said that to you? Its circular logic mirrors the chicken and the egg scenario, which points to the same solution: God.
In a narrative that summarizes discussions over two years, Benjamin shares how he and Hosea talk long of wealth, wisdom, and God. They delve into the history of the Hebrew people, tales this young man once wrote off as legends and myths. Through this debate, the young man begins to recognize and trust this prophet’s knowledge. Benjamin ponders all Hosea shared with him, which leads to the testing stage:
“I opened my mind to all of this, and when he wasn’t plagued by that scandalous wife of his, Hosea taught me what he knew of life. And I dwelled upon it. I sifted dirt through my fingers, trying to imagine how, from this dry, dead dust, God created man. I looked upon the stars, wondering just what they were and why I could see their light, and even more, what was light. I bit into leaves of grass and flower petals and the bark of trees, hoping to taste the essence of Eden. I held onto mouthful after mouthful of water, praying I might feel its precious transformation into the blood of my veins. And with my eyes closed, my thoughts still, I would breathe deep of the evening winds and listen as my lungs filled my beating heart with life itself.”
Have you ever found yourself pondered such things? Did your curiosity spur such actions?
Benjamin’s thoughts may mirror yours: “It was so hard to make any sense of this. Where in all these experiences was this god Hosea so loved? What was his design for this world? Why were we even here?”
How would you answer such questions?
Hosea addressed that last one by pointing to the sick and wounded, asking Benjamin: “What would they do if we were not here?”
That logic mirrors frequent biblical calls for love and charity, as seen in Deuteronomy, the Psalms and Proverbs, the insights of Isaiah and other prophets, through the words of Jesus and letters of the apostles. Caring for the poor was a chief calling of the early Christian church, and should remain so today.
It may surprise some readers that as Benjamin considers all these things, Hosea leads him to also ponder God’s law and justice. As we discussed in earlier chapters, this juxtaposition remains a central concern for some Christians who frame all their “big picture” views within love. Hosea himself pondered this, praying for mercy as he warns of approaching judgment. Then Hosea reveals godly insight, setting their simple lives and concerns within a grand (and historically accurate) world perspective spreading hundreds of years into the future. Benjamin offers the most innocent answer possible, which Hosea welcomes yet sets aside with sound logic: “We pray that God’s will be done, and that we may have the strength to fulfill our part in it.”
Does that sentiment satisfy you? Many people in our pragmatic, proactive culture would respond like Benjamin, who spouts, “But we must do something!” People today often resist contemplating how “God’s will” may extend beyond our handiwork, attention span, imagination, or lives. Benjamin’s short-sighted response takes Hosea back to Jonah, and so he reveals Benjamin’s mission to the Dove. Once more Hosea states an open-ended goal – “As long as it takes” – that reflects the patient endurance behind God’s plans, and their dependence on His timing, not ours.
Have you ever taken up such quests? How did they turn out?