Based on 2 Samuel 6:14-19 and 1 Chronicles 15,16
This short story uses some Hebrew phrasing: “Tziyon” for Zion, “Yerushalayim” for Jerusalem, “Yaakov” for Jacob, “Elohim” for God, and “Yehovah” for God’s holy Name.
“Yes?” Giliyah answered, squinting up at the eager face of her little brother Mikael, her hands in a bucket of brown water. A stained linen cloth covered her dark-brown, knotted hair, protecting her head and neck from the unrelenting summer sun. Mikael, now standing in front of her, looked as ragged as she did. As Giliyah stretched her arms, aching from scrubbing the few clothes they owned, Mikael eagerly blurted his news.
“Father just came from the neighbor’s house and said that King David is bringing the ark to Yerushalayim!”
“Really?” Giliyah squealed, hopping up like a startled rabbit.
She bolted over the dusty ground toward her house with Mikael running behind her. She looked down as she ran, leaping fleetly over stones, sticks, and tufts of grass. She did not notice her cousin and closest friend Chavilah who was walking toward her. The two girls barely avoided a collision.
“What are you doing, Gili?” she asked, looking at Giliyah with surprise. “You almost toppled me!”
“Did you hear?” Giliyah said exuberantly. “The ark is going to Yerushalayim!”
“Yes, I was going to tell you,” Chavilah said happily.
“I am going to ask my parents if we are going,” Giliyah said quickly, then hurried the rest of the way to the house with Mikael behind her.
Soon Giliyah burst through the door of their little stone house. She turned to Mother, who was sitting on the ground with baby Shalvah in her arms, and asked, “Is the ark really going to Yerushalayim?”
Mother’s soft brown eyes looked up at her as she confirmed, “Yes, Giliyah, it is true. Tomorrow the ark will go up to Yerushalayim.” Giliyah, trying to contain her joy, kept going up and down on her toes.
“You must be very excited, Giliyah,” Father said, grinning, as he ducked through the doorway, Giliyah’s older brother Yoel following him. “I am also. The ark of Yehovah is going up to the royal city, and we shall go too.”
“We will all go?” Giliyah’s sister Talyah asked, standing meekly in the dimmest corner of the small home.
“Even the little ones?” Mother added.
“Certainly,” Father said. “Matanyah and his family are going, and my parents. No one should miss this special occasion.”
The children cheered, delighted at the thought of going to Yerushalayim. For the rest of that day, it was all they could talk or think about as they finished their daily chores.
Everyone knew that King David had tried before to bring the ark to Yerushalayim, but had been unable. They had not handled the ark according to the rules in the Torah, so one man, Uzzah, had died because he touched it. For three months the ark had been kept in a home not very far from where Giliyah lived.
At dawn the next morning Father led the excited family out the door. They met up with Grandfather, Grandmother, Uncle Matanyah, Aunt Sarah, and Giliyah’s five cousins. They all farmed and lived on the same plot of land. Giliyah grabbed her little sister Rivkah’s hand while looking over at Chavilah, who similarly grabbed her little sister Miryam’s hand. Giliyah gave her an expectant smile. The group gladly marched up the hill in front of their land.
“Where exactly are we going?” Yoel asked.
“To Obed-Edom’s house, on the other side of the hill, where the ark has been kept,” Father answered, as they hiked briskly up the steep, dusty hillside. The sun was beating on their backs, but no one minded. They had known that heat all their lives. The clay ground along the path was pitifully dry and full of cracks.
“How much longer?” Miryam panted when they reached the summit. Her cheeks were red and flushed, and her hair was falling in her face.
“Look down,” Father replied. They all looked down at the valley below them.
“Look at all the people,” whispered Talyah. Her pretty, dark eyes widened. Down in the valley, crowds of people were moving toward one point–Obed-Edom’s house at the foot of the mountain. Giliyah’s family paused to eat some bread, then began hiking again, keeping their eyes on the valley below them.
“Wait.” Giliyah suddenly stopped and pointed. “Is that the ark?”
“Yes,” said Grandfather. “It is the ark!” They could see the ark’s blue covering as the priests carried it away properly from Obed-Edom’s house. Other priests, dressed in clean linen, surrounded the ark to make sure everyone kept their proper distance.
Feeling the urgency and excitement, the family started rushing down the clay-and-rock mountainside, dodging small shrubs, thorns, and acacia trees along the way. The closer they got, the louder the noises were. Almost there! Giliyah thought gladly. Rivkah, still holding her hand, tripped multiple times in the rush, but Giliyah helped her up and they kept running.
When the family reached the foot of the mountain, they were more rock-scraped and dust-stained than they had been at the summit, but nonetheless thrilled to have arrived at their destination. Giliyah smiled upon hearing the loud music. “The Levite musicians!” she said gladly. “I had forgotten about them.” Her heart leapt as the crowds began to swarm around her. She felt Rivkah’s hand tighten around hers. Neither of them had ever seen so many people in one place. Poor people, rich people, farmers like them, tiny children, older men and women, and well-dressed officials were in the crowd. The family slowly made their way through the people, listening happily to the harps, lyres, horns, and cymbals that played loudly. Talyah had brought her own little wooden flute and began to play along. Excitement seized Giliyah as the surging crowd grew larger. She was so glad that she had seen the ark on the hill, because the crowd was too thick for her to see the ark now. She looked down at Rivkah and smiled at her wonder-filled eyes. “Everyone is here!” Rivkah said in an awestruck voice. “It must be everyone in all Israel!”
“This is amazing!” called Mikael, his eyes as wide as Rivkah’s. Everyone started singing a song that Giliyah did not know, but still she tried to hum along. Smoke rose not too far away. “Are they sacrificing?” Ahavah, one of her younger cousins, asked.
“Yes,” Grandfather answered. Giliyah could barely hear him in the din. She stared in wonder at the majestic scene around her.
“Give thanks to Yehovah, for He is good! For His mercy is forever!” the crowd called. Giliyah proudly echoed the glorious words, for she knew them by heart. A surge of singing and dancing followed as the crowd followed the ark. Giliyah, Rivkah, Ahavah, Miryam, and Chavilah joined a group of ladies who began dancing right in front of them. Father, Uncle Mattanyah, and the boys joined a nearby group of dancing men. Everyone sang and laughed in the midst of the great celebration. They jumped, kicked, and twirled so much that at times Giliyah felt dizzy or tired. But at the clang of the cymbals and the loud cheering, her vigor and joy was renewed. It was such a marvelous spectacle; Giliyah sometimes felt like she was in a dream. She was glad when the crowd started singing a psalm that she knew by heart–a psalm that King David had written. She sang along with all her might.
I will bless Yehovah at all times
His praise shall always be in my mouth
My soul shall make its boast in Yehovah
The humble shall hear and be glad
Make Yehovah great with me
And let us exalt His Name together
The words flowed forth in beautiful harmony. They were all praising Yehovah together, just like the psalm said. Horns sounded majestically above the music. Giliyah soaked in all the sights and sounds; she had never experienced anything this lovely. When she spun she would see Talyah and other musicians playing along to the music. The crowd began to cheerfully shout out another psalm.
Come, let us sing to Yehovah
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of Our salvation.
Let us come before His face with thanksgiving
Let us shout joyfully to Him in songs
For Yehovah is a great El
And a great King above all the mighty ones
The words of the psalm came alive to Giliyah. They were entering His presence with thanksgiving, singing, and praise. Tears filled her eyes as the psalm continued.
For He is our Elohim, and we are the people of His pasture and the flock of His hand
How amazing, Giliyah thought. We are His people, and His flock!
As they ascended Mount Tziyon, the singing grew even louder and more people joined the procession. Giliyah could feel Yehovah’s precious presence as she danced in the midst of the crowd, which by now stretched further than Giliyah could see on every side.
The rejoicing crowd went up to the tall stone walls of Yerushalayim. As they squeezed through the eastern gate into the city, they began another joyous melody.
Sing to Yehovah a new song
For He has done wonders
His right hand and His holy arm saved for Him
Yehovah has made known His salvation
To the eyes of the nations He has revealed His righteousness
They danced through the streets, past the stone citadels, and to the tent King David had pitched for the ark. They continued singing and dancing in the large open area in front of the tent. The singing grew louder than ever as the priests offered sacrifices at the altar nearby.
Our soul waits for Yehovah
Our help and our shield is He
For in Him our heart will rejoice
For in His holy Name we trusted
Let your compassion, Yehovah, be upon us
As we will wait for You
Then suddenly everything got quiet as a man wearing a simple linen garment mounted some steps. “It is the king,” Giliyah heard a man behind her say. Raising his hands to the heavens, King David said a blessing over the people in the Name of Yehovah. Giliyah bowed her head in prayer. Yes, we are truly blessed, she thought. Blessed to be here, blessed to be the people of Yehovah.
Soon the crowd burst into jubilant chorus once more.
Let the ocean exult and all that fills it
The earth and those who dwell in it
Rivers will clap their hands
Together the hills will shout for joy before Yehovah
For He is coming to judge the land
As Giliyah was clapping her hands and singing, she noticed a well-dressed young man with a basket beside her. “Here, take some food,” he said, handing her some dates, raisins, and a little loaf of bread. “Gifts from the king.”
“Thank you very much,” she said, rather surprised. He proceeded to give others some food as well. Giliyah suddenly realized how hungry she was. She ate her raisins happily, looking around and wondering what would happen next.
Then Giliyah heard a song that she had not heard before. It was coming from some musicians that she supposed were Asaph and his brothers. They were playing near the tent.
Give thanks to Yehovah
Call on His name
Make known among the peoples His deeds
Sing to Him, sing praise to Him
Talk of all His wonders
Boast in His holy name
And the hearts of those who seek Yehovah will rejoice
Seek Yehovah and His strength
Seek His face always
Remember His wonders which He has done
His signs and the judgments of His mouth
Seed of Israel, His servant
Children of Yaakov, His chosen ones
They continued to sing about Yehovah’s eternal covenant to their forefathers and how He had always protected His people. Once again, the words of the song seemed to come alive to Giliyah. The song continued, telling of Yehovah’s goodness and splendor.
Sing to Yehovah a new song
Sing to Yehovah all the earth
Sing to Yehovah, bless His name
Proclaim His salvation from day to day
Declare His glory among the nations
His wonders among all the peoples
For Yehovah is great, and greatly to be praise
He is to be feared above all the elohim
It was a triumphant song of praise, and Giliyah could feel the greatness of Yehovah as they sang the beautiful ending.
And say, “Save us, Elohim of our salvation
And gather us and deliver us from the nations
To give thanks to Your holy name
And to boast in your praise”
Blessed be Yehovah
The Elohim of Israel
From the eternity and until the eternity!
Then the song was over and everyone shouted, “Amen!” They continued praising Yehovah and singing many psalms there in front of the tent and the altar. The Levite musicians, and also Talyah, played along to the singing with beautiful music. Their music rose up to Yehovah with the smoke of the sacrifices as the whole crowd worshipped Yehovah with one heart.
“This is the best!” Rivkah said, running to Giliyah and looking up at her with shiny eyes. The bread crumbs on Rivkah’s face told that she had gotten food too. Yehovah must love the simple heart of a child, Giliyah thought, finishing her last bite of bread and smiling at her sister. The two sisters then joined a nearby group of dancers, laughing, singing, and trying not to trip over other children.
When it seemed like the beautiful music would never end, Father’s hand tapped Giliyah’s shoulder. “It is time for us to go,” he said. “It is getting late.” All of the family gathered together and followed Father out of the crowd. Giliyah noticed that other families were also leaving in various directions. As the family left the gates of Tsiyon, Talyah played one last psalm on her flute and they quietly sang the words.
Those who trust in Yehovah are like Mount Tziyon
It will not be shaken, it will remain to eternity
Pondering the glorious day, no one talked much on the way home. Her littlest brother, Yosef, was sleeping on Father’s shoulder and Shalvah was sleeping in Mother’s arms. Before they descended the final slope to their land, Giliyah looked behind her to see the sun setting in brilliant pink shades.
“Oh, that was lovely,” said Chavilah quietly.
“Yes, so lovely,” Giliyah agreed, gently pulling Rivkah.
Finally home and laying on their blankets, the family discussed the exciting day. “I hardly saw you at all, Gili,” said Father. “You must have been dancing the whole time.”
“Oh, yes,” Giliyah replied.
“All that beautiful music,” Talyah said quietly as if in a dream. “I must learn how to play that new psalm on my flute.”
“Yes, it was wonderful,” Father said, sounding tired, yet pleased.
That was the best day of my life, Giliyah thought, as she closed her eyes. One by one, the family drifted off to sleep. Dawn’s break would bring another day of hard work, but this special day would stay in their hearts forever.