Joshua pulled hard on their makeshift rope. It seemed to be holding. He grabbed the rope as high as he could reach then leaned back and put his feet on the hard wall and began to walk up, moving hand over hand. Soon he was standing triumphantly on the ledge above. Sophia took her turn, trying to mimic what Joshua had done, but she wasn’t as strong. Joshua began to pull her up, and after much struggling he hoisted her over the top.
Then it was Rab’s turn. With much huffing he began his ascent. As he climbed Sophia and Joshua tugged on the rope. About half way up, Rab felt the knot where he was holding begin to come loose. As quickly as he could he grabbed above it with one hand. The rope came loose in his other hand and they all three watched the bottom part of the rope drop to the sand below. Rab was left twisting and turning while holding on with one hand. He was getting dizzy and the one hand holding on was getting very tired.
“I’m going to drop,” he yelled at them. “I can’t hold on.”
“Yes, you can!” screamed Sophia.
“Use your feet,” was Joshua’s advice.
Rab put out his feet and steadied himself against the black wall. It did take some pressure off his arm and he was able to get the other hand on the rope. With Joshua and Sophia’s help and encouragement he finally heaved the top half of himself over the cliff and hung there resting.
When the ground began to shake, Joshua and Sophia instinctively backed away from the edge of the cliff. “Hurry, Rab, hurry!” called Sophia as she retreated.
Rab, having recovered some strength, clawed his way over and swung his legs over the top and stood on the shaky rock. Joshua encouraged him, “Come quickly, Rab. Get off the edge. It’s not as unsteady here closer to the mountain.” He and Sophia backed up farther on to the grassy slope of the mountain and began to cling to a small sapling growing there.
On unsteady legs, Rab began to walk precariously toward them. But the rock was undulating under him and he fell to his knees. Sophia and Joshua clung to their small tree for the ground where they stood was also shaking violently. A loud noise reverberated in their ears and echoed from the top of the mountain. Rock began to dislodge from somewhere above them and beak apart when it hit the granite ledge. Dust from the fractured stones was everywhere making it hard to breathe or even to see.
Finally the trembling earth quieted and the grime began to settle. The two rubbed the powdery dirt from their eyes and looked for Rab. There he lay on the ledge covered with the debris from the earthquake, but he was moving. What was startling to them was what lay between them and Rab. Nothing! A great gorge had opened up as the granite wall had pushed the Sea of Woes back from the mountain. When he ventured closer to its edge and looked down into the giant ditch, they could not see the bottom. It was as far across as a wide river.
“Are you OK, Rab?” called Sophia.
“Are you hurt?” yelled Joshua.
Rab was beginning to stand and dust off his body and clothes. “I’m fine,” he shouted back.
“We will throw the rope to you, “ Joshua called over to him, but when he looked for it, the cedar tree and the rope had disappeared. Frantically Joshua and Sophia tried to think of some means to get Rab across to them.
Rab just sat down calmly and emptied pebbles out of his sandals. Finally he told them, “It’s no use, for a great chasm has been fixed between us so that anyone here who might want to come over cannot. I forgot that none of us can cross over to the mountain. We have all done very bad things. I, as my king’s chief steward, cheated and stole from him. Even worse, I accused the stewards under me of doing it, and many were sent to prison. At least here I follow the rules.”
When Rab had risen he hung his head in shame and turned to walk along the ledge away from them but then stopped and turned. “Go find your Lord’s Presence, but do one thing for me,” he said.
“Anything,” said Joshua.
“When you get back to your land, warn everyone not to come to this place.” Then he raised his hand in farewell as he left.
“We’ll never forget you,” called Sophia.
“Rab, Rab,” cried Joshua, “You saved us. Now save yourself.”
But Rab just kept walking away down the ledge of the granite cliff and the last they heard he was chanting” “Rules, rules, rules, rules. A line, a line, another line. Here a little, there a little. Rules, rules, rules.”
They turned to look up at the mighty mountain and wondered what awaited them between where they were and where they needed to be.