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James R. Stout

The Allegory of The Man and The Snake

            A man was walking through a vast forest. He came upon a deep gorge. He had brought with him a backpack filled with trail mix, camp cooking utensils, a small pot for coffee, a bag of coffee, and other items that he thought he might need if he decided to spend the night in the forest. He also had a small shovel, a long nylon rope, and other items. As the man walked closer to the edge of the cliff in order to look down into the gorge, he got down on his hands and knees and edged up to the precipice. When he looked down into the gorge, he immediately became excited by what he saw. Lodged within the top of a large tree about 50 feet down, a tree growing out of the side of the cliff, was what appeared to be a large wood and iron chest. He suddenly had visions of a fortune in old coins or jewelry inside the chest. Surely the person or persons who had thrown the chest over the cliff had done so in order to hide their treasure. After all, the area was consumed by the thick forest and was well off the beaten path. There was no telling how long the chest had been lodged below.

            The rope that he carried with him was 100 feet long. Ample length for him to repel down the side of the cliff and fetch what could only be a fortune. He quickly took off the backpack in order to free his movements down the cliff and then he tied the rope to a tall Western Hemlock tree about 15 feet from the cliff’s edge. The man got his climbing gloves out of the backpack and tested the rope. It was well secured. For just a moment the man stood holding the rope and looking down at the chest. It was as though a small voice spoke inside his head telling him not to do what he was contemplating. He finally shook his head and muttered to himself, “You’re just being paranoid.” He then stepped over the cliff’s, edge grasping the rope tightly. He had made up his mind.

            As the man slowly made his way down the side of the cliff, he had to avoid rocks, roots, and other such obstacles. It was slow going, but he was making progress. He was about halfway down to the chest when he realized that he should have emptied his backpack and worn it so that what ever was in the chest he could transfer to the pack making it easier to retrieve the contents. For a moment he thought about going back up to the top and getting the backpack, but finally decided that he might as well go down and take a look at the chest contents first. He had the rope tied around his waist and it began to chaff him somewhat, but his excitement about finding a treasure all but erased the rope burns that he was enduring. Finally, he reached the tree, a tree growing at an angle out of the side of the cliff, and he tested his weight on the trunk.  It seemed to be sturdy.

            When he inched out onto the trunk of the tree in order to reach the chest, he realized that he had made another error. He should have brought his small axe in the event he needed a way to open the chest. He could only hope at this point that he would be able to open the chest without having to climb back up to the top of the cliff. He stooped down to access the chest and realized that it was secured with a large, but very old lock. He pulled on the lock and it appeared to be secure. He stood there for a moment trying to think of some way to get into the chest without having to climb back up the cliff. Finally, he noticed a large grapefruit sized rock lodged in another limb on the tree. He reached up and grasped it and was completely shocked when he saw something written on the flat side of the rock. It read: “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves.” Luke 21:25

            The man stood there looking at the scratched lettering on the underside of the rock and was confused. How had the rock come to be there? Surely, it was left by some other person who had discovered the chest sometime before. What did the message mean? He thought about it and then realized the truth. He laughed out loud as he decided the person who had left the message had been unable to get into the chest and had likely gone to get equipment he would need to get inside the chest. The man thought to himself that this other person didn’t even think about using that rock itself to smash the old lock on the chest. What a fool! The man grasped the rock in both hands and stood over the chest taking aim at the lock. He brought the rock to bear against the lock and what happened next was a mixed jumble and a ball of confusion for the man. First, the lock popped open and fell into the gorge. Then the chest rocked with the force of the blow and incredibly it slid three feet down the tree trunk. The man started to give chase and was stopped cold. He had run out of rope. It must have been farther down than he thought it was. In his excitement to see the contents of the chest the man didn’t even think about what he did next. He untied the rope which freed him to move to the chest. He didn’t dare look down though because it was at least 200 feet or more to the creek that ran through the bottom of the gorge. He bent over to open the chest and that’s when it happened. A loud and horrible cracking sound erupted from the tree and the man found himself free-falling to the bottom of the gorge along with the chest and a large portion of the tree. He bounced and flailed against the side of the cliff as he tumbled down the gorge. He was vaguely aware of a cracking sound that was in fact his right leg breaking. His arms, face, and legs were being subjected to tears, rips, abrasions, and deep cuts. He landed in the bottom of the gorge half in the creek and the other half laying twisted and broken on a small bank of the creek. He passed out for a few minutes, but agonizing pain awoke him.

            He tried to straighten up but found that nothing worked like it should. Only the terrible pain all over his body allowed him to realize he wasn’t paralyzed. He took stock of his situation. His right leg was obviously broken. A compound fracture was confirmed by the sight of his femur protruding from the skin. His left pants leg was ripped and torn open revealing deep cuts and abrasions. He tried to lift his right hand to touch his face, but the hand wouldn’t work. His arm was dangling by a thread from his shoulder. He found that his left hand and arm worked, but there were cuts all over them. He felt of his face and something seemed to be wrong. After nearly passing out from the effort, he managed to maneuver himself so that he could see his image in the small clear creek. His scalp was dangling sideways, his nose was misshapen and definitely broken, a large cut on his right cheek had ceased bleeding, but his cheek was swelling badly. He was a mess. It didn’t take him long to realize that he would soon die. Nobody had a clue where he was and there was no way he could get himself up to the top of the gorge. Even if he did, he wouldn’t be able to walk the several miles through the forest to get to his car. His cell phone was smashed and most likely there wouldn’t have been service anyway. He realized that he had been a fool to try to get the chest. That’s when he looked at the remains of the old chest that was laying open a few feet away. There was nothing in the chest except for what appeared to be a small book. With his left hand he took hold of a stick lying next to him and was able to drag the book out of the chest. He realized then that it was a book featuring the books of Ecclesiastes and Proverbs. How strange, he thought.

            The day was getting late and he was in physical shock. As the day grew dim the man laid prone and was dying. He started to hallucinate, or so he believed. Surely what was happening as his laid there dying couldn’t be true. Because a rather small Northern Copperhead snake laid curled in front of the man’s face and was talking. Actually, he was mocking the man.

            “You are such an idiot.” The snake said. “I can’t believe you fell for the old treasure chest rube.” The snake continued. “If you weren’t already so far gone, then I would point out to you the remains of more of your kind along the bottom of this gorge. But you’re nearly gone now.”

            The man clearly heard the snake talking, but the meaning had not registered. How could a snake be talking anyway? I must be delirious, the man thought to himself. He gathered all of his strength and focused on what the snake was saying.

            “You people are so easy. You’ll fall for a lie and turn your nose at the truth every time. All I have to do is dangle a few baubles and beads in your face and you stupidly do my bidding. Let me tell you what’s about to happen. You’re going to take your last breath. When you do, you’re going to stand before God. Guess what? He’s going to judge you and I’m here to tell you that you won’t pass judgement. You never believed. Oh, you had your chances, but you thumbed your nose at His son. Hey, I’ve met the guy. I tried to tempt him like I did you with that treasure chest, but he’s the only man that I couldn’t at least temporarily tempt. Well, you didn’t believe in Him and that’s good news for me. Because I am going to own you forever. Yea, it’s going to be a lake of fire. Yadda-yadda-yadda. But the point is that I’ll own you. So, see you in hell, Buttercup!”

            The man laid there in the final moments of his life and listened to the snake. Then much to the snake’s dismay the man started to pray. “Dear God, I am so sorry for all of the sins that I committed. I do believe in your Son. I remember hearing about him in Sunday School when I was growing up. I do believe in Him. Please forgive me for my sins.”

            “YOU FOOL!” cried the snake. “You’re too late. He can’t save you now!”

            Then the man breathed his last breath and as the snake jealously watched, he saw the man standing before God. Standing next to the man was God’s Son and He was acting as the man’s advocate! As the snake began to slither away disgustedly, an eagle spied him from above and took aim.

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