Friday, June 25, 2010

The Second King - Chapter 3: Two Brothers

copyright ©2010 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

(Continued from Chapter 2: The Tempest )

“Before I chase him down, what should I know about King Ahaziah?” Ginath asked his sibling as he prepared to depart the larger army. Obed looked at his younger brother. Although Ginath was only slightly younger, he almost could have passed for Obed's son. Lean and tall with jet black hair and a beard, Ginath looked to be in his late twenties rather than upper thirties.

“Are you only taking two warriors with you and the king?” Obed asked.

“Ah ha! I see what King Jehu means: do you always avoid answering?” laughed Ginath with a huge smile piercing through the thick, black beard.

“I was not avoiding your question, I only wondered...”

Ginath interrupted him: “Relax, Obed! You are always so serious! I am taking the only two riders who can keep up with King Jehu and me. Should Ahaziah reach his own army before we catch him, I will regret not having this entire army with me. But speed is truly critical, so I must ask you to talk quickly.”

“Ahaziah is a scared boy who will run quickly to his mother's chambers. However, if pressed to fight, he is skilled with the sword and even better with his bow. Although I think if you get close enough to cross swords, he will die of fear before your blade can touch him. But a note of caution, my brother: beware his arrows. I am told they are dipped in poison. And I have seen him fire with great accuracy from a moving chariot on more than one occasion. Go with God... and return quickly!”

“And may our God protect you as well, Obed!” Ginath's chariot started quickly in pursuit, but stopped abruptly as the younger brother turned back to say: “Being a general suits you, my brother! It is long overdue, and I have meant to tell you for some time just how much I...” Ginath paused searching for words that would fit, but he could think of nothing that would convey all that he wanted to convey. So after a pause of more than a second, Ginath abandoned eloquence and finished his thought: “Well... Obed, I have always admired you.”

“Hmmph. I am only a general over these troops until you return,” Obed smiled warmly and completed his thought “and I would have my brother return quickly and safely! The Lord protect you!”

And with that, Ginath started swiftly with the three other riders, pursuing the dust cloud of Ahaziah's chariot in the distance. The southern king would not escape!

The clatter of the wheels and the clippety clop of hooves were strangely quiet to Ginath, a comfort after the thunderous ride with the larger army. He often rode to relax, enjoying the thrill of movement and the feel of wind on his face. Aside from the relaxing effect it had on him, he did it to hone his riding skills and condition his horses. This had given him a tremendous advantage over others when fighting from the chariot, and his skill in this discipline was rivaled by few. Jehu and the two others on this mission had followed Ginath's example in this area, increasing their own battlefield advantage. Ginath had learned it from Obed.

It was Obed who had kindled Ginath's equestrian passion at an early age, teaching him how to choose and train his steeds. It was Obed who had introduced him to many things, all of them good. He had often wondered why he, Ginath, found favor that lifted him to a position of great authority while his mentoring brother reached an early plateau. The fact bothered Ginath, but he was sure it disturbed Obed more. How could it not?

As they were growing up, he often found ways to get under his older brother's skin, and he had suffered many a bump and bruise for his efforts. However, as he matured, he came to understand and appreciate just how much restraint Obed had used when administering justice upon his younger brother. Perhaps Obed knew at a deep level that Ginath's childhood pestering stemmed from his desire to be WITH and LIKE his older brother. In Ginath's eyes, there was no one who seemed to know as much or who was endowed with so much ability as his older brother... at least among the youth. How must Obed feel to have his younger brother out-rank him now?

Even in their youth, although both Obed and Ginath looked athletic, they were surprisingly still more powerful than they appeared. At the ages of 10 and 7, when their father entertained a friend from the army, the boys good-naturedly challenged the visitor to a grappling match. Before their father Jesse could warn his friend, Ginath had tripped the soldier, allowing Obed to surprise him with an arm bar hold of unexpected power. Ginath was never sure if their father's friend ended the contest in mock defeat or in legitimate surrender, but family friend never wrestled with the two boys again. He did, however, recruit the both of them into the army as they each respectively came of age.

By the time Ginath joined his brother in the army, Obed had already befriended another young officer with similar tenacity and integrity: Jehu. It was good for Obed to have a friend. As they were growing up, Obed's serious, analytical nature did not win him popularity. Without exception, anyone was happy to have Obed around when experiencing a problem, yet the capable soldier was often overlooked when his own difficulties arose. Perhaps, no one doubted Obed's ability. Or maybe Obed was too quiet about his own burdens. Yet he was just never really close enough to anyone for them to know when he also needed help.

By contrast, Ginath never had that problem. He was always surrounded by many friends, and he never took issue asking for help. He was a central figure at any event and never shied away from attention as his brother often did. Although Ginath – and others – considered Obed the more talented one, it was ultimately Ginath's out-going nature and positive outlook that won him a larger following.

When Obed had first introduced Ginath to Jehu, it seemed as if they had found the long-lost brother that combined their better traits. Jehu was as out-going as Ginath and as focused as Obed. Although he had the integrity of Obed, Jehu carried it like a banner that drew others toward him while Obed often seemed the lone standard bearer. In the end, that is exactly what Obed had become: a lone voice of goodness within the corrupt, Royal Guard. Indispensable and yet barely tolerable, Obed had no chance of leaving or being promoted within the palace.

Meanwhile, Jehu's favor in the eyes of men increased as he continuously led the army into victory after victory. And obviously, with the events of the past day, King Jehu had gained favor in the eyes of God as well! Long live King Jehu!

At the thought of his friend, Ginath looked in his direction. The new monarch even rode with a kingly stance, a man to be admired! He rode without helmet, his straight, black hair blowing in the wind, and his eyes were intent on the cloud of dust before him. Always focused, always ready, riding furiously forward. They were nearing Beth-Haggan and were closing the gap between King Ahaziah and themselves. The southern king had seen their approach and grabbed his bow.

“Do not let an arrow graze your skin, or you will join our fathers in paradise this day!” shouted Ginath, remembering Obed's earlier warning. “He treats his arrow tips with poison!”

King Jehu calmly grabbed his helmet and positioned it on his head. “Ride faster! Ride harder!” shouted the king to his three companions. “Shoot him down in his chariot! The king of the southern country will not see the end of this day alive!”

And with that, the four chariots picked up their pace. As they passed Beth-Haggan, Ahaziah shot an arrow in their direction. It clipped the breastplate of Ginath's companion to the right. They rode on, harder and faster still, approaching Ibleam to the south. However, the chariot to the right started to slow, prompting Ginath to look back at his slumping companion, a small trickle of blood on his left arm where Ahaziah's arrow had grazed the bicep.

“Clang!” went the sound of Ginath's own breastplate from another arrow as it fell harmlessly to the floor of the chariot. Drawing his own bow, he fired at Ahaziah, hitting him in the upper left thigh shortly after one of Jehu's arrows passed through Ahaziah's lower back. The southern king slowed as he struggled to stand, and turning to fire again at his pursuers, he stopped short when King Jehu's next arrow pierced his lower right abdomen.

Ahaziah's eyes looked helplessly as he sat down in the wagon, holding his stomach, mouthing empty words and sobbing in short, painful breaths. Ginath set aside his bow and followed King Jehu on foot as they approached the dying man.

A soldier never discussed these things. It is not a joy kill another man. It is sadness. It is regret. But it is sometimes necessary, a duty to be fulfilled. The judgment of God is exercised by the governments He empowers, and it is the duty of the government official to protect the people, even with the regrettable expense of life, taking corrupted life to preserve innocent ones. So it was with Joram. So it was with Ahaziah.

“Your family shall no longer rule this kingdom. No longer shall your perverse ways lead others astray. I will not allow you the chance to come back and enslave it.” announced Jehu. “Mercy.” gasped Ahaziah. But examining his prey's wounds, Jehu continued: “I have seen you relish the slow death of your own enemies. Shall I show you mercy? Your grandmother has tortured God's prophets until they pleaded for death. Shall I still give you a quick end?” And with that said, Jehu turned back to his chariot, motioning his followers to do the same.

Silence. Sobbing and gasps from Ahaziah. Ginath was disappointed. Regardless of the rationale, he wondered how this could be right, and Ginath found that he regretted the slow death Ahaziah would suffer. He hated to admit it, but he was disappointed with Jehu. Still, who was he to correct a king? Who was he to rebuke God's anointed?

Gathering their fallen comrade and leading the empty chariot, the trio turned north to re-join the larger army. As they trotted back, Ginath turned back to look upon the fallen king. Ahaziah had managed to turn his chariot around toward the northwest, taking the road to Megiddo. He would die a very slow, painful death, but he would most likely live long enough to tell others about the recent coup in the northern country. And what would happen then?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Negative Voices

copyright ©2010 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)
You know that saying: “You learn more from kids”? Well, it applies to teachers as well as parents. In the late ‘90s, I taught at a Christian school in Central Florida, and I learned more from one class than I ever passed on to them. Now as a father of 5, all my children are my favorites, and as a teacher I tried not to show any favoritism. But the reality of life is that we sometimes click better with some people than others, and I really enjoyed the kids in this one particular class. They were some of my “favorites”. Then a new student entered the class and the whole atmosphere changed.

This new kid really wasn’t bad, and outside of the classroom, I truly liked him. But in class he was very disruptive, even to the point where my once favorite class had become my least favorite. As this new kid criticized and complained, it seemed as if the entire room was filled with similar students. I don’t recall all the details, but I remember feeling completely alone against a class of angry students. Finally, despite some initial pressure from the administration to accommodate this student’s poor behavior, I decided to raise the expectations for acceptable behavior. It wasn’t easy, but things started to shift.

However, the big eye-opener for me was when one of the other students came up to me and thanked me. I listened in quiet dismay as I discovered most of the class had been annoyed with the disruptive behavior of the new kid. I had sensed their frustration, but I had always assumed it was directed towards me.

That’s what happens with the negative voices: they always seem to get amplified.

The truth in the situation was that one voice disrupted the whole group. Life can seem that way for all of us: one negative voice seems to echo from the faces of people who are ready to be our encouragers and supporters. It’s amazing the destructive power behind one negative voice.

But there’s also power in being an encourager. The student who came up and thanked me taught me more in that brief conversation than anything else that year, and I am extremely grateful for the little that was shared. Those words were life-giving to me, and I try to reflect this encouragement into others’ lives.

Each of us has a daily opportunity to offer life-giving words to others… or at the very least to avoid being that negative voice. May we choose wisely.