Miriam / Chapter Seven: The StrangerI Changed The World Book Series
The current of the Nile River was strong at some points. But Miriam’s mother had chosen a section of the river that was calm. Even so, Miriam’s breath caught each time the basket bumped into a log or bobbed about in the current.
There were wild moments where she was certain the basket would tip. In these moments, she thought she could hear the thrilled laughter of Amram.
While he was clearly unbothered, Miriam had visions of the basket upending and having to dive in to rescue her brother either from drowning or the Nile Crocodiles.
I’m not a great swimmer, and I have no idea how I’d fight a Crocodile, but I’ll do it if I have to! The thought terrified her, and so Miriam whispered prayers as she followed. God protect him, save him, steady the basket, keep him from harm.
There were moments when Miriam feared the basket would get away from her. Some parts of the river were swiftly moving, and, in these moments, panic rose inside her chest. At other times, the basket seemed to move at a snail’s pace. Her eyes flicked to the cloud-filled sky. At least it’s not too hot! The Egyptian sun could be brutal this time of year. Miriam stumbled and caught herself before falling. Pain seared through her burnt hands. She winced as she looked at her ruined hands, but she would not cry.
“Well, hello there,” a voice said from somewhere behind her.
Miriam squeaked, leaping around in fear. Just a few paces away was a man. He looked to be Israeli, but he was dressed in a cloak covered in patches of every conceivable color. The man was smiling at her as he raised his hands calmingly.
“Don’t be scared. I saw you following the river and wanted to make sure you’re alright,” The man said, offering a warm smile.
Miriam stayed wary. Her parents had taught her not to talk to strangers. But this man seemed kind.
The man motioned to the river, “Careful now; you don’t want to lose sight of your little brother.
Miriam spun, worried baby Amram had drifted out of sight. Thankfully this was a particularly slow part of the river, and the basket was moving extra slow. “Wait,” Miriam turned back to the stranger, “How do you know about my brother?” she asked. “Did—did my father or mother send you?”
“No,” the man laughed, “let us walk as we talk,” he motioned to the river again. “So we can keep an eye on baby Amram.” The Stranger kept his focus on the basket as he continued.
“Your parents did not send me, although I checked in on them this morning. Last night was horrible,” a wave of sorrow seemed to pass over the man as he spoke. “The evil that was done, the suffering—” the stranger wiped a tear from his eye. “There is much evil in the world, so much striving and sorrow. Much to atone, much to be reconciled.”
Miriam was confused. What was this man talking about?
“But that is not why I have come today,” the man smiled again. “At least, not the only reason,” the Stranger stopped for a moment and looked deep into Miriam’s eyes.
His eyes are every color. Miriam gasped. As though all creation existed there! It was a strange thought “Who are you?”
“That’s a good question. You will often ponder it in the years to come, but you already know the answer,” the man said thoughtfully, “I came to make sure you know who you are.” The Stranger continued walking. Somehow, the river kept baby Amram at the exact same speed as their pace. Miriam kept checking, but it was almost as if the basket were tied to an invisible leash.
“Miriam, of the Levi family. You doubt yourself, but Yahweh sees you, is for you, and lives within you. You are kind and good, strong and able, you are courageous, and I am with you!”
Miriam couldn’t explain it, but she knew to the core of her being that this Stranger spoke with authority and Truth. Then the Man turned his gaze to her, “You are Abba’s favorite—the one He loves!”
Something was happening inside Miriam’s chest. She could feel a warmth spreading through her. Sometimes people referred to the Jewish priests as ‘Abba,’ which meant ‘father,’ but she didn’t think the stranger was talking about a particular priest. He was talking about God. He was calling God, Dad. And she knew it was true. God was a Father.
“What happened to your hands?!” Miriam blurted out. It was an odd question, but she had noticed they were scarred. She was so overwhelmed by the intense goodness of what the Stranger had just told her that she thought it might be good to change the subject.
“I could ask the same of you.” The man responded.
Miriam immediately regretted her outburst. She knew it wasn’t polite to point out someone’s scars as they are often attached to traumatic experiences. The man’s hands bore gnarly scars as if they had each been pierced through.
The Stranger turned and looked at Miriam; then he gently picked up her hands. She winced in pain as he unwrapped one of her bandages to reveal the burned palm and blistered fingers.
Tears ran down His cheeks. Then He smiled and held his hands up proudly. “These scars take us back to the beginning of our conversation; they confront evil and speak to the restoration of all creation. They reveal a finished work that addresses death itself. They reveal a love you can know that is beyond understanding, a one-of-a-kind love our Heavenly Father has for you!”
Miriam’s head was spinning as she looked into the man’s eyes. Not even the High Priests talk like this!
“Mistress, what is that?” a woman’s voice called out from somewhere nearby.
Miriam’s breath caught at the sound of the voice. Her jaw dropped when she realized where they were! How did this happen? How are we here already? The thought thundered through her mind. Amram’s basket had circled all the way around to the Ramesseum, Pharaoh’s most ornate and elaborate royal palace on the west bank of the Nile.
“Oh no!” Miriam whispered, “We’ve come too far!” she croaked as she turned to the Stranger. She stopped, suddenly confused. The man had disappeared. She scanned the area, but there was no trace of him! Where did he go?
Miriam spun back around. The stranger was not her concern. She needed to protect her baby brother! Miriam searched the shoreline. There were people standing waist-deep in the river not far ahead. No, no, no! Miriam wanted to scream. Her mother had placed Amram in the basket to get him away from the Pharaoh, and now, the basket was floating directly past the palace!
“What’s this now?” another woman said, “Someone, go get that basket for me. I want to see what’s inside.”
Miriam’s breath caught as a young Israelite woman came into view. The woman was swimming over to the basket. When she reached it, she grabbed it with one hand and began swimming back to the shoreline. Creeping as quietly as a mouse, Miriam rounded the bend in the river and hid in the reeds,” A short distance away, a dozen or so women were bathing in the waters of the Nile.
The Israelite woman who had retrieved the basket was clearly one of the half-dozen servants. As Miriam watched, the servant girl swam to a shallower depth and stood. When she looked inside the basket, she gasped. “Highness! There is a baby inside!”
“A baby?” another woman gasped. “Oh, the poor thing! Is it OK?”
Miriam crept closer, trying to see the woman who was speaking.
“Yes, princess! It looks to be sound asleep,” the servant woman said.
“Bring it to me.”
The servant woman was clearly in shock as she waded over to the second young woman. As Miriam was finally able to see the second woman who’d been speaking, the words she’d been hearing struck home. Mistress! Princess! She must be Pharaoh’s daughter!
Fear gripped Miriam as she watched. All of Israel knew that Pharaoh was merciless. Her father had told her this Pharaoh was more brutal than any in living memory.
What will his daughter do? Will she drown my little brother or bring him to her father? Miriam could not keep the tears from her eyes. I am sorry, brother, it was a cold thought. I have failed to keep you safe!
Pharaoh’s daughter, the princess, reached into the basket and lifted Amram out, almost tenderly. He was still swaddled in his blanket. As she did, she met the eyes of her servant. “I cannot imagine the pain this child’s mother must have felt to make such an impossible choice. How horrible that this was her only option to save him from my father’s evil decree.” The princess placed a hand on her own belly; only now did Miriam realize the princess was pregnant.
“How do you know it is a boy, Highness?” another Egyptian woman asked.
The princess cradled the baby close as she turned to the woman. “You know as well as I the brutal decree my father passed. They may be our slaves, but what we have done to the baby boys is unforgivable.”
“What will you do, Mistress?” The Egyptian said.
Miriam willed her feet to move. She knew if she thought about it for even a moment, she would be too terrified to do anything but run. Faith, her mother had once told her, means you step out even before you know if there is solid ground in front of you. Faith is being sure of what we cannot see. Miriam wasn’t sure of anything, but as she moved, she heard a whisper, a still, small voice speaking to her heart.
YOU ARE STRONG AND ABLE. YOU ARE COURAGEOUS, AND I AM WITH YOU!
“Excuse me, Highness, but I might have an idea for you,” Miriam’s voice trembled as she spoke.
When the princess and all the rest of the women turned to face her, Miriam stepped out of the reeds and stopped in sheer terror. What was I thinking? She wanted to turn and run as fast as her feet would carry her.