Chapter One (continued)





The Apache gunship arrived overhead just after dark.  Fully armed and equipped with night vision capability, the truck stood out in stark detail to the sensor operator of the gunship crew.  Protocol suggested that the truck first be identified as friend or foe before engaging, so the pilot dropped down to within a hundred feet of the truck.  A bullhorn commanded the truck to stop.  The disappointed passengers knew at this point that the gunship, with its massive weaponry including its 30-mm rapid fire automatic cannon and Hellfire missiles was way over-equipped for the task of reducing them to bloody shreds.  The enemy, safely ensconced within the nearly-impregnable giant insect, held all the cards.  They also knew that they had nothing to lose: nobody was going to go back to that camp.  To the man, they’d rather die.  One of the passengers had a riot gun that once belonged to a guard, a twelve-gauge loaded with six cartridges, each containing a lead slug.  In the darkness and focus on the truck, the crew missed the upraised weapon.  The man fired and sparks flew off a blade of the battle-hardened tail rotor.  He reloaded and fired again, which angered the pilot, who knew from the act that the truck below was definitely a foe.  The giant angry bee turned to position itself and the cannon head-on just as the shotgun fired for the third time.  Something happened, because instead of stabilizing in a position to bring the cannon to bear on the truck, the truck itself was almost tipped over by a strong gust of wind.  The gust was so violent that it almost ripped the shotgun from the shooter’s hands.  What it did to the gunship was more spectacular.  The ex-prisoners watched in amazement as the helicopter rocked onto its side and then went down the side of the mountain as if it had been slapped by a giant hand.  The Apache wobbled as the pilot fought to regain control.  The jerky motion rapidly morphed into a spin as the pilot lost control entirely, and the craft buzzed off down the mountainside, impacting on a ledge and blowing up.  The astonished passengers jumped off the truck and raced over to the edge of the roadway to see the spectacle.  They retreated back as cannon rounds began to cook off.  Jacob hurried them back aboard the truck and commanded the driver to resume.


“What a lucky break!” Sid exulted.  “I’ve heard of freak winds like that that come up as the coming of night changes the motion of air.”


“Don’t you think maybe that the timing was a bit over-the-top?” Joyce broke in.  “You might call it luck, but I’m thinking that we just witnessed the Hand of God.”  Her assertion gave them something to chew on, and they considered it in silence.


Not long after that the truck stopped and Jacob opened the door to the cab and stood up, facing the passengers in the bed.  “It won’t be long before they have another go at us.  They’ll know who we are and the next time they won’t wait to fire.  We’re going to have to leave the truck.”  The passengers dropped down from the back of the truck with reluctance, knowing that Jacob was right.  After instructing the driver to set the parking brake and to keep the engine idling in neutral, Jacob emerged from the cab with the other two occupants.  He led the forlorn group as they continued up the hill on foot.


They were about a mile away from the truck when they heard another Apache heading their way.  Jacob instructed the people to scatter, separating from each other as much as possible in the time available to minimize the heat signature.  As Jacob had anticipated, the idling truck served as a decoy beacon for the Apache, and they saw it hover momentarily and release a Hellfire, which utterly demolished the vehicle.  The gunship made a half-hearted attempt afterward to look for nearby victims, but quickly gave up and departed the area.


Without the truck they were forced to resume their trek on foot.  Jacob reassembled the scattered band and gave them a pep talk before they set out.  “The bad news is now we have to walk,” he told the group, “but there’s good news too.  Now that they’ve destroyed their target, they probably think that they killed us along with the truck.  If they do think so, and I don’t see any reason that they wouldn’t, they won’t come back after us.  To be on the safe side, though, we’ll move at night and stay put under cover during the daylight hours.   We’re not good on food, though so, we’re going to have to stock up in the next town, which I expect will be Duncan.  We’ve already come a good distance since leaving Bowie, so we should get there within a day or so.  I’d like to stay on this road, but it’s still about ten miles from Duncan at the intersection of this road with the highway, so we’d do best to strike out cross-country in a north-eastward direction over those mountains,” he said, pointing.


“Were you a Boy Scout?” one of the men asked.


“Well, no, but. . .”


“Then how do you know to maintain a northeastward direction?  I’d sure hate to march all night and find myself in this same spot.”


“Yeah, and what about the snakes?” someone added.


“Good point.  Let’s see by a show of hands who wants to stay on the road, even if it means another ten miles of walking.”  The response in favor of staying on the road was unanimous.  “Okay,” Jacob conceded.  I defer to superior wisdom.  Let’s go, then.”


When dawn broke they were still trudging up the dirt road.  The highway was still beyond their vision.  They decided to risk walking for another hour, and then Jacob held up a hand.  “Okay, people,” he said.  “Time to get under cover.  You with blankets, share them with others.”  There weren’t quite enough blankets to accommodate everyone.  At this place and time of day the air was chilly, but the ones left out bravely offered to stand watch for the others.  Jacob formalized the offer by establishing a roster and 3-hour guard schedule that would permit everyone to get under cover and rest for a significant period.


Earl had hoped to limit his blanket partner to Joyce, but discarded the self-serving desire and invited Sid and Irving to share their cover.  After Joyce fell asleep, Sid nudged Earl.  “Are you sleeping?” he whispered.


“Not now,” he replied, somewhat irritably.


“Sorry, Earl, but I need to know more about your – my – Jesus.  I think we didn’t recognize Him when He came in the flesh because we expected our Messiah to save us from the Roman occupation.  We wanted a leader who was willing to fight for our freedom.”


“Think about that,” Earl replied in a whisper.  “Jesus wasn’t interested in saving you from the Romans.  He plainly said that His kingdom was not of this earth.  He saved you instead from your bondage to your sin.  And He didn’t just offer salvation to you, but to all mankind.”


“Yeah, I get it,” Sid whispered back.  “But there are passages in our Scripture that portray our Messiah as a man of strength, not the humble Jesus that we saw in the flesh.”


“Jesus wasn’t always humble.  You do know the story of how He overturned the moneychangers’ tables in the temple?  Sometimes he was very forceful, especially when He was telling off the religious leaders.  But you’re right, His general nature was one of meekness.  But that was foretold, too.”


“How so?”


“If you read the story of Joseph in Genesis, you’ll see how Joseph prefigured Jesus’ love even for His enemies, those who wanted to hurt or kill Him.  But I’ll bet you never read Isaiah 53.”


“No, I don’t think I have.  It’s usually skipped as irrelevant in our readings of Isaiah.”


“Read it.  You’ll be surprised at how accurately Isaiah foretold Jesus’ nature for His first coming.”


“First coming?  What do you mean?  Are there multiple comings?”


“Yes, two.  I’ll get into that later.  First, about Isaiah 53.  I don’t know all of it by memory, but a couple of phrases I do remember, and they represent the general gist of the whole chapter.  To paraphrase the first, it says that He was rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and we hid our faces from Him.  Again, Isaiah says of Him that He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows, but we considered Him to be smitten of God.  The real clincher is the next, which I’ve pretty much committed to memory.  It goes ‘He we wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed’.  When Jesus came in the flesh, He pretty much fulfilled Isaiah’s description of Him and His mission.  This passage perplexed your theologians, because, as you said, other passages in Scripture portrayed Him as a mighty king.  In fact, they got to wondering whether there would be two Messiahs: one for the strength, the other for the selfless nobility.  Actually, in a way they were right about that.”


“Two Jesuses?”


“Just one, but two appearances.  In the first, which already took place, Jesus demonstrated the love of God toward us by humbling Himself and dying for our iniquities, just as Isaiah foretold in Isaiah 53 and Abraham foretold in his attempted sacrifice of Isaac, and Joseph foretold in. . . well, whatever, you get the drift.  I could spend all day pointing to references to Jesus in your Scriptures as the suffering Servant.  In His second appearance, what we Christians call His Second Coming, he will be a king, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, reigning over the nations with a rod of iron.  The closing chapters of the New Testament Book of Revelation spell out the nature of this Second Coming.”


“But what did Jesus have to say about that?” Irving spoke, entering the conversation.


“Shhh.  You’ll wake up my wife.  She needs her sleep.  To answer your question, it was Jesus who gave John the imagery from which he wrote the book of Revelation.  But Jesus also used Isaiah to give a not-so-subtle hint about it.  When He first started out in His ministry, He was given the Book of Isaiah to read aloud in the synagogue.  The account is in Luke Chapter 4, verses   He read from Isaiah 61, verses 1 and 2, saying the following:


          “’The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.’


“Having said that, He closed the book and sat back down.  I can imagine a whole bunch of eyeballs facing His way.  But then He compounded the commotion by saying to the congregation


          “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”


“Oh boy,” Irving said in a whisper, “That’s a pretty forceful statement.  But what does that have to do with His Second Coming?”


“I haven’t gotten there yet.  The connection is in what He read out of the Scripture, and what He left out.  He was reading from Isaiah 61, verses 1 and 2, but He stopped short of finishing verse 2.  The rest of Isaiah 61, verse 2 reads,


          “’. . . and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;’


“Oh.  So Jesus was reserving the fulfillment of the rest of Isaiah 61:2 for His Second Coming.  That makes sense.”


Earl let Sid and Irving mull over those new thoughts.  Turning around, he put his arm around Joyce and fell asleep.






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